Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just A Clarification....

If you are reading this blog, chances are you stumbled across it while reading the article entitled "The South End Is So Over" in November's Boston Magazine. Not surprisingly, when I first learned that Boston Magazine was going to use this blog as a springboard for an article about the yuppie invasion of the South End, I was thrilled. The author did a fantastic job of summarizing the feelings of a certain population of the neighborhood: those of us who have had enough with entitled yuppies, luxury condo's, emperor's-new-clothes restaurants and pretentious boutiques taking over what had previously been an interesting, affordable and diverse part of the city of Boston.

I was saddened (but not the least bit surprised) to read some of the comments both here in this blog and on the Boston Magazine website. In an effort to bring some humor and creative style to the article, the author used images such as "twin sets and pearls" and "skinny jeans" to bring his prose to life. Many of the comments dissected the authors use of these creative vehicles ad nauseum. Let's get something straight: We all know that not all twin-set-and-pearls-wearers are bad people and not all skinny jeans wearers are good. (Blogger's note: It is true that all Uggs wearers are bad people). That wasn't the point of the article, however. The point was that a new wave of really obnoxious entitled yuppies have moved in, making the neighborhood a less interesting and more unpleasant (albeit a supposedly safer) place to live.

Another string of comments suggested that people who moved in a couple of years prior to the yuppie invasion have no standing to complain when they themselves displaced those that were there before them. Again, that has nothing to do with the main point of this blog. It is not a question of who displaced whom, or who got there first. Rather, it is a question of what they did once they displaced those who were there before them and how they treated those who remained. Its all about ENTITLEMENT and lack of diversity (one blogger even stated that the influx of wealthy white suburbanites made the South End more diverse, making me wonder if perhaps she wore her Uggs too tight).

As I've mentioned before, I can recall delivering meals a decade ago to elderly people living in public housing in the neighborhood. It might not have been as much fun as going shopping for heirloom tomatoes or swigging down a pomegranatini at the newest "brasserie," but I enjoyed it. I had friends who delivered meals, medicines and just their company to AIDS patients in the neighborhood. I had a boyfriend who volunteered with his friends in a homeless shelter's soup kitchen, as opposed to complaining that formerly homeless people would be moving into transitional housing on his (not even so nice) street. I had friends who planted flowers in those wooden half-barrels you see on sidewalks in the neighborhood. As a thank you for his planting efforts, my friend's Section 8-housed neighbor baked him a plate of brownies and they knew each other by name.

All of these activities were to make the neighborhood a better place for everyone, including those who were there before them. The people who were here ten, seven, five years ago realized that charity is about helping others less fortunate than themselves. Contributing $362,000 to a dog park for your own use is not charity. It is self-centeredness. You can be sure that most of the people who donated that money would never have dropped a penny had the request been for new textbooks for the local schools.

Keeping your neighbors awake shouting after your dog in the hallway while you throw tennis balls at him at 3:30 am on a Tuesday night is not a neighborly thing to do. Blasting your stereo speakers outside your Waltham Street (a/k/a Fraternity Row) windows at 2 am on a weeknight is not neighborly. Calling your neighbors "fudge packers" after they have warned you about not picking up after your dog is not neighborly (or particularly safe for you and your dog if it happens within my presence). Commenting to your spouse that you are you annoyed with the copies of Bay Windows left in your pricey condo building's lobby ("why do these have to be here?") is not conducive to forming a bond with those who were there before you. Tsk-Tsk-ing to your wife in front of the Movie Place's shirtless torsos (while wearing a pastel-colored sweater tied around your shoulders) is an affront to (almost all of) my senses. Maybe your wife won't suspect anything when you go out to "walk the dog" at 11pm if you disparage gay people (i.e, the Larry Craig syndrome).

For those of you who think that this blog has something against straight people, you could not be more mistaken. Some of my best friends are straight AND they agree with the sentiments expressed on this blog and in the article. The difference is that the straights who were here circa 1997 did not make comments like the ones set forth above. They knew that the South End was a diverse neighborhood and that included gay people, who were also their friends. They tried to set up their gay friends with other gay friends (successfully in my case) and their sensibilities were not the least bit offended by displays of gay affection. When their gay friends kissed goodbye, they carried on and they didn't stare out the window of their local fish market-martini bar (or whatever the hell it is) in absolute horror when a group of gay men pecked each other on the cheek goodnight (see earlier posting).

It saddens me to see that there are only a handful of gay-owned and operated businesses left in the South End when there used to be dozens. (Note: If the Eagle ever closes, which I hope it will not, if only to annoy the pretentious Atelier dwelling yups across the street, I will call for a big gay "kiss-in" on the sidewalk on Tremont Street in protest). It also saddens me that what used to be a vibrant artistic community is becoming a shadow of its former self, artists having been displaced by luxury condos and high rents. The remaining artists can only be successful by selling what I call "sofa art," which is art marketed to bland suburbanites to match their bland living rooms ("Harold, this painting of a hummingbird sucking nectar out of a flower would look beautiful over our sectional!!). Too safe!! Living in a luxury condo named after an artists workshop does not an art community make. Even if they do reserve a couple of units for "artistes."

This clarification has me thinking about what types of behaviors, people and things I've noticed since the yuppie onslaught which I had never noticed prior thereto:
  • People in new Audis (or the equivalent) driving the wrong way down one way streets (the corner of Shawmut and Waltham, particularly) and giving pedestrians the finger when it is pointed out that they are going the wrong way.
  • Signs on shopkeeper's doors and on chained bicycles imploring people not to let their dogs pee (or worse) on said doors and vehicles. I know one shopkeeper who must regularly warn his dog walking passers by that it is uncouth to allow a dog to defecate in the entryway of a business.
  • Emperor's New Clothes restaurants - they can serve crap to unsuspecting morons who will be impressed by the "hip" scenery. The flipside is an almost complete lack of affordable places in which to get a decent meal that doesn't involve "a foam of pea-shoots" or "roulade of truffled goat hoof marrow." The odd noise you hear nightly on Tremont Street is the stampede of South End restaurant owners laughing all the way to the bank.
  • People in their very early twenties keeping me up until all hours on weeknights because they don't have to work the next day (in mummy and daddy-sponsored luxury condos).
  • People who feel that they can dictate whether a 7-11 can come into the neighborhood or whether a transitional housing block for formerly homeless people should be allowed on their street.
  • People who feel that their right to free overnight parking spaces trumps the right of the elementary school which owns those spaces to build a soccer field for its students.
  • People who feel they should have some input as to what type of art will appear on a city-pledged graffiti wall for inner city youth ("I hope you won't be painting anything offensive on there!").
  • People who donate lots of money for a dog park when homeless people at a shelter across the street are not guaranteed a place to sleep on a freezing winter's night.
  • Luxury condominiums popping up like weeds. Do they even build plain ol' condos anymore?
  • "The third bedroom can be used as a nursery" - until you send little Madison to private school and move to the suburbs, thus keeping the neighborhood transient and root-less.
  • The phrase "granite, maple and stainless steel" popping up in almost every conversation ad nauseum. Just once I'd like to hear "pumice, balsawood and corrugated tin."
  • Five-year-olds in restaurants at 11pm, Saturday night (I really need to put DSS on speed-dial) and strollers being pushed into busy streets without regard to traffic while on a cell phone. Ooops!!
  • People who sell heirloom tomatoes.
  • Even worse: people who buy heirloom tomatoes.
  • Bars that require reservations for seats - get this - at the bar.
  • $50 omelettes.
  • Velvet ropes.
  • Boutiques that cater to the Mother of the Bride.
  • My parents friends Harold and Sylvia from Chestnut Hill.

Maybe the neighborhood is a little safer now (don't tell that to my friends who have been mugged on Washington Street and Columbus Avenue in the past year, or my friends who have experienced car numerous break-ins on Union Park Street by the cathedral), but I think I liked it better when it was more interesting, more accepting, less safe and less pretentious.