Saturday, September 02, 2006

Literary Gentrification


Someday I want to have a book of short stories published. It would be connected to my nieghborhood. It would be called "Music Heard in Hi-fi." Hi-fi being the nickname for Historic Filipinotown. I have three shorts stories--I'm short by atleast seven. It's been something that I'd be toiling with for years. I just can't seem to get it together to write short stories because novel writing takes up a chunk of time.

The need to revisit this goal came about after watching the wonderful "Quinceanera," a coming of age movie about the inhabitants of neighboring "Echo Park." One of the most striking things about the film was the obvious gentrification of the neighborhood. It's something that I see going on in Hi-fi. Who would have thought the crack house around the corner is now worth a million dollars.
Of course gentrificaton brings up alot for me. In one hand, it's sad seeing my neighborhood being turned into condos. On the other hand, it also means my mother has a better nest egg if she chooses to leave.

On one foot gentrification means darker skinned residents may have to go. On the other foot, gay people, a community I so identify with and who are a big part of this gentrification movement, are adding a much needed diversity to these streets.

On one thigh (I've run out of hands and feet), a hipster cafe (Tribal Cafe on Temple) means ridding the neighborhood of those charming mom-and-pop stores that I grew up with. On the other thigh, I love iced mocha lattes and love that I can order such a thing in the nieghborhood I grew up in.

As a friend of mine once said, "Noel, if they're selling lattes in your neighborhood, it's over." Meaning having to accept that the neighborhood is turning into something else. I better get to writing that book of short stories, so that even I can remember what Hi-fi was like.

6 comments:

Rich said...

Sounds exactly like what's happening to just about every section of Manhattan, and the entire city in general. Ask life-long residents of the Village how they've seen their neighborhood change over the past decade, some of it for the better, some of it not. My neighborhood in the Bronx was threatened with a Starbucks a few years ago, but we beat it back. It's a hard subject since, as you point out, there are pros and cons to both sides.

Paul said...

I'm ashamed to admit, I've never been to HiFi. It's interesting, my drive to work takes me through parts of Los Angeles I'd never visited before (like Lincoln Park), but look so rich with culture and character. I have to get to these places more often. I mean, I've only been here 20-somethin years. Egad!

circuitmouse said...

There's still time for the Historic Drag Queen Prostitute District*, where the cafes still serve horchata and pupusas and we have to go a-ways to get a real frappuccino.

*And if you don't know LA well enough to figger out where that is, I'm sure not going to tell ya & shoot myself in the foot and see my rent go up!

Cheryl said...

I just saw Quinceanera this weekend and was really impressed with it. Yeah, that damn New Urbanism. All the poor people will be living in Riverside pretty soon. Then all the queer folks and artists will move to Riverside. Then young straight couples will buy houses there. Then Riverside will be the hippest place in SoCal, and LA will become affordable again, until it's not anymore. Phew. I need a latte.

circuitmouse said...

let me know if you want to borrow my Carlos Bulosan autobiography for reference.

Liz said...

I was so happy when a Starbucks opened on 119th and Wilmington. But now, some folks I work with down there have been telling me about plans to raze homes and housing projects in Watts in order to build condos. It's considered prime real estate since it's close to the 110 and 105 freeways. Imagine, in ten years we could be seeing luxury condos next to Watts Towers. The change happens so quickly and unfortunately, it's too easy to not ask where displaced people go.