Friday, February 26, 2010

Colonialism in the Modern Age (or The Age of the Moderns)

First, giving credit where credit is due, I swiped the image below from the blog, LA Curbed

I don't know where this was found - a laundromat or something.

There is so much friction in Echo Park between the old timers and recent transplants ( also known as the gentrifiers and those sometimes known as Hipsters). So, as a relatively recent transplant, how do I stack up against this evaluation of Hipsterism?

1. Hipsters are usually white - in this case, "white" means of non-Hispanic European descent. In my case, well . . . it's complicated.

2. Hipsters are dirty but have homes with showers - The husband thinks I'm a germaphobe, so there.

3. Hipsters wear stupid hats - OK, I confess, the picture below is of me . . . but it was my birthday. Does that let me off the hook?

4. Hipsters wear tight pants- I've put on some weight. Cut me some slack on the slacks thing.

5. Hipsters complain about parking when its there fault there's no more parking - yes, I do complain about parking. But I complain about everything. One of my favorite things to complain about is people who can't grasp the concept of the contraction for it is and who fail to grasp the difference between there and their. So there.

Incidentally, according to this post from the blog, Stuff White People Like, I've just answered the question posed in #1.

6. Hipsters wear t-shirts with ironic slogans - whenever I have anything ironic to say, I like to say it myself, thank you.

I will not continue on to the next point because my mother reads this blog. But, I will say that I did in fact read the list and laugh - not because I am a Hipster but because the writer is so ridiculously self-important in his little rant.

I didn't come to Echo Park to displace low-income residents but I admit that may have been the unintended consequence of our relocation. At one time this small house was divided into a duplex and rented to people who couldn't afford more spacious accommodations. I have no idea who the renters living in this house might have been. I suspect they were immigrants, meaning they probably had few resources and may have been unaware of their rights.

Whoever they were, I know they were living among a lot of building code violations. The upstairs room had a vertical window installed into a horizontal space. Outside the window were security bars with an escape crank that didn't work. This means that in the event of a fire, even if you could remove the bars you probably wouldn't have been able to easily escape through the opening of the improperly installed window.

I know that the fireplace was a carbon monoxide hazard even though I was told by the PO (who was by then living here instead of renting it) that they often used the fireplace to heat the home.

I know there was a gas heater in the downstairs bedroom. I also know that for us, the gas company refused to turn on the gas for that heater because apparently, one is not supposed to have a gas heater in a bedroom.

I know that when we moved in, the house had later electrical wiring tapping into the original knob and tube wiring with open splices. Big no-no.

I don't know where the low-income people that rented the apartments in my house are living now, but I hope it's in safer conditions.

Yes, the neighborhood has gentrified over the past seven years that we've been here. There's now a wine bar down the street and a doggy daycare around the corner. Formerly there were more botanicas selling herbs and religious items for a variety of magical uses. Not to be patronizing but I'm not sure poor people are better off spending their money on promises of magic.

The ranter/writer is correct that this country was stolen by Euro-invaders but he makes the common error that invasion is unique to Europeans. The Toltec people were conquered by somebody but it wasn't Europeans. Genghis Khan wasn't European. And if anybody was forced out of Echo Park, I don't think it was the family who sold us this house and moved on to a fresh new house in the suburbs where they are now living their own American dream. They probably think of us and think suckers.

The ranter/writer lacks historical perspective. He's only thinking of the Echo Park he grew up in in the '80s and '90s. He is nostalgic for the Echo Park of legendary gangs, rampant tagging and nightly shootings. It must have been a paradise.

What he doesn't remember is that the socialists and progressives who gave Echo Park the name Red Hill were likely not Spanish speakers. He doesn't remember that the people who founded the first movie studios in Los Angeles built those studios in Echo Park and those people were probably not Spanish speakers. He must be delusional if he thinks the grand Victorians of the Carroll District were built for people of MesoAmerican descent.

He forgets. He forgets that the only reason this area was ever affordable for low-income residents is that the middle class moved on, leaving behind the old, turn of the century houses they didn't want. They left behind the fire traps, the lead paint, the cracked foundations and structures with shaky brick to be inhabited by poor people.

He forgets that, for many people, the only way to to accumulate wealth is (or was) through home ownership. Because the family who sold us our home saw a pair of suckers coming, they were able to move into an area that was (for them) more desirable. Without the promise of gentrification it is highly unlikely that they would have been able to sell their home for a price that would have allowed them to buy into their coveted new construction. Without the promise of gentrification, there would be no child-free entertainment industry professionals all up and down these streets, paying the property taxes to fund the fresh new elementary school at the end of my block that will benefit the families that have been longtime residents. Without the promise of gentrification, these century old homes would continue to age and to decline and the people renting them out to poor people would continue to strip out the original fixtures as necessary and replace them with the cheapest possible replacements.

Hey, ranter, we're not all hipsters; we're not all invaders and we are not the only ones who benefit from the changing landscape.

While we should always advocate on behalf of the less privileged, we should make sure our arguments are truly on their behalf and not self-involved rants against incursions into our own tiny little comfort zones.

So there. That's my rant for the day.


Anonymous said...


TriPhiKip said...

dread locks (no)
dreadlocks (yes)

Score another point for proofreaders!

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Thanks for stopping by! I don't think I've been by your blog before, but I sure enjoyed your Before & After pics, esp. the bathroom. That turned out so great. What a lot of work goes into a reno like this. Congrats on a job well done!

Jessika said...

I wear funky hats. But funky in a good way...I think/hope!