My Brooklyn neighborhood, in which I have spent a good deal of my life, boasts stretches of treeless depressed areas that are truly awful. I've tried to see the good in them -- some sense of quaintness -- but I really can't. It cannot be psychologically healthy for any person to live among some of those surroundings. And these lifeless patches of spare residential buildings, a myriad of disjointed storefronts, and sidewalks that seem to permanently host the aroma of ancient garbage, are surrounded by the most beautiful Victorian-styled houses and verdant walkways that you can possibly imagine. I live in a schizoid neighborhood, one in which I have, up until about six months ago, lived on the "wrong" side of.
A fancy restaurant opened up across the street from my block. The storefront used to be a candy store I remember frequenting in my youth, buying Marino ices and bubblegum cards. Then that candy store was either set on fire or simply abandoned outright, I cannot recall which. I just remember it as a shell, on the edge of where the Victorian houses began, a border between two worlds that people would visit at night to dump their garbage illegally in front of.
But, now it's a fancy restaurant. Suddenly, my neighborhood, according to some magazines and websites, is "hip." Though some reviews of the restaurant in question describe the trip along the same lines of a stealth mission inside some sort of war zone, barely hiding their disgust at having to "brave" the visit (even if it's for some damn fine steak).
If my neighborhood continues to travel down the road of hipness, the rents will eventually go up. How do these gentrification things go, exactly? Quickly? Incrementally?
What happens to the literally hundreds of little children who cover those dry streets on a summer afternoon, and the ones who play in the hallways of my building because the parents think it's dangerous for them to play outside? Kids who ride their bikes and play ball in the narrow tiled hallway of my building? (My parents did the same thing with me.)
There has to be some healing done in that neighborhood. It can't just be that the developers go in, create the hipster bars and boutiques, the native residents get pushed to the borders, and *poof!* we get another Williamsburg.
Oh sure, every once in a while the neighborhood development association hosts a little fair for the children, and they play folk music and make little balloon animals for them and paint their faces. And they hang flyers and banners about developing the neighborhood, about bringing in new business.
Development is all well and good. The question is, with all the new money coming in, is there going to be any positive impact on the poorer people in that community?
I'll be honest, I feel like people, young and old, are being left behind in this scenario. A fraction of them will eventually have the money to leave on their own steam, but a bunch are going to be left behind.
See, I hang out with the newer residents of my neighborhood, I dine where they dine, I sip expensive coffee where they sip, I type at my Macbook in their coffeehouses -- but I'm really a spy, a double-agent. I'm a native, you see. And not from the verdant walkways --but from the dry sidewalks and patchwork storefronts. I've quietly watched this neighborhood on and off for 30+ years. I'm in the middle of a transformation, just as this area is. I could, in the name of "evolution," leave a bunch of things behind, make a clean break.
I could. But, there will be ghosts.
The questions: why am I still there? why did I live this this odd existence on the borders, between cultures? what ties me to that place? what do I have to do to leave? can I leave one day and have that world, over time, fall out of my memory -- as has happened with the rest of my family, who see the area as a collection of trivia? isn't it the right thing to do? to develop and leave?
There is something about the stories from that area -- observed and my own -- that compel me, that replay in my mind, that are listed in my brain like the chapters of Edith Hamilton's Mythology.
When you're a little child, you don't realize you are growing up in a depressed area. You don't really see the graffiti, or if you do, you think it is simply the natural texture of your environment.
Memoirs Of An Occasional Superheroine Part Four
Bad Comic Shop
Tales Of The Bad Comic Shop: King Of The Silver Age