When I was a kid you could buy tacos at the park for a few dollars. The vendors upped their prices the moment new people came into the neighborhood and were willing to pay more for a goddamn taco. There are other changes, too. Those random tiendas on Sunset are no longer. They seem to be disappearing every other day. Near my apartment there are about five new coffee shops. Brewing coffee is an art form here now—one is even known for having the best pastries in town.
My uncle still lives behind a trendy bar on Sunset. It was not always trendy; years ago it was a shady dive bar where the regulars would hang out. The regulars are gone now. The apartment owners told my uncle the other day the price of rent would be going up—again. He works in construction so money is not, well, flowing-in. He laments the former neighborhood but is often caught trying to balance the struggles of the past and the benefits of living in this new place where he has little worry for the safety of his family.
Violence was common back then. The park was off-limits at night because of the drug dealing and gang fights. Anyone looking for trouble could find it at the park. This has changed. The park is safer than ever before. Young couples walk hand—in—hand at all hours of the night; the other day a few friends and me smoked a joint near the boathouse and no one—not even the cops—cared much to stop and check things out. This is the new neighborhood. A place where coffee shops and trendy bars are popping up, and drug use at the park goes unchecked because the people using look different than the ones previously using—the bald headed guys in Dickies with tats, you know, the homies.
There’s a down side. Call it gentrification, call it what you will. One group of people is moving in and another is being moved out. Rents are skyrocketing; if you’re lucky enough to be a property owner so is your potential upside. But let’s be real—a property owner is not likely to be my uncle. He represents those who will be pushed out. I now represent the very people pushing him out, like it or not. I have an education and make more money. When it comes down to it, I live here now because it’s hip; doling out $4.50 for a gourmet coffee has little effect on how I sleep at night. My standard of living is higher; my willingness to pay for this standard even higher. I’m part of the problem. I have one foot in my former neighborhood and the other in this new place I’m helping create. One is quickly erasing the other. If something doesn’t give soon my past will be no longer. Maybe what needs to “give” is me—but its becoming clear I don’t really give enough of a shit to do something about what’s happening here.
July 31, 2018