Nothing much to say today. Just another long day in the Big Apple.
Boy is the Mission changing. The grit and grime is being replaced by condos and hipsters. LinkedIn and a few other tech companies recently decided to make this neighborhood their home. And of course the City decided to subsidize these businesses in the form of tax incentives and zoning concessions. Subsidizing the private sector in the name of job creation?!? Jobs for who? Definitely not for the long time residents of the Mission. And in the process of attracting or retaining these tech companies the City helps accelerate gentrification. This is the name of the game in cities across the country. So….I say bomb the system! And lets start over.
Last night’s conversation was hard. I’m not quite sure how I feel right now. I’ve also felt like an outsider….not just with this group…but sometimes in this field. It’s an uncomfortable dance with privilege. I remember the first time I attended one of these gatherings….the only person of color in the room…..by mistake….or just happenstance…..but not the first time….and I’m sure it won’t be the last time either. My entry ticket…only made possible because of where I work. I guess that’s a form of privilege..I have access to spaces and conversations that others don’t. I understand this and sometimes I’m troubled by it.
Should I even be in this conversation?
Does my voice matter?
This space is uncomfortable to me. I don’t want to hold hands and tell you my feelings. They’re not always good. I don’t want to tell you that most of the time I’m jealous of the people around me. I’m jealous of their lives. I really don’t know how to feel….I just know it’s just hard always being the only one in the room.
As the sun rose in the distance we followed our guide, our friend, up the mountain. This is hike she has done thousands of times. She shares the beauty of the land with others. And despite my struggles with the hike, today, this city kid is grateful. We supported each other on the trek. We talked about our childhoods…our personal struggles and the demons we fight. We were open and brutally honest. We let down our guards. Maybe there was something in the fog the blanketed the mountain. Maybe we were making our lasting dying confessions as the hike bested us. Or maybe we just wanted to understand what makes us tick….that special thing inside….the roots of our passion and commitment. One thing for sure, on that mountain…we became friends.
I’ve been to the Bay Area a hundred times and this is the first time I drove down Route 1 on the Pacific Coast. Wow!!!! What an amazing drive. And how lucky am I to be here when these yellow flowers are in full bloom. They are blanketing the both sides of the road and after about 10 minutes of driving through them I just had to stop. I know I’m late for my meeting…but…I had to capture this moment. I stood there for a while…just lost in my thoughts. Thankful for the great people I’m about to spend the next few days with and thinking about how different this moment is from my life in Brooklyn. It’s cold there. It’s dirty and grey. The sun doesn’t shine the same way. The air…is definitely not as fresh. It’s nice to get away. It’s nice to see and experience nature.
This is my old block. My old stomping grounds out of grad school. It’s different today. This whole city is different….and sometimes the same. When I lived in Baltimore about 10% of the population were addicts. Seriously! Close to 50,000 addicts. And the drug of choice was heroin. On any random corner you would see the zombies with that lean and blank expression on their face. They were high as hell and couldn’t full control their bodies, but always managed not to fall. I remember going to sleep to gunshots almost every night. Edgar Allen Poe Homes (the projects) weren’t too far away and it was a battle ground of the drug trade. I never paid attention to how many people were shot or killed. Death and violence was just background noise in a city that was struggling to deal with a host of issues…. the decline of its manufacturing base…a struggling port…continued racial and economic segregation and so on and so on. There is a deep rooted history hear that made and makes this city what it is today. There is a smart growth conference tomorrow that I wish I could attend, but I’ll be heading out west. I hope that in this city…hell…in every city…we start talking about the structures of planning and zoning and discrimination that made certain neighborhoods ghettos…. that physically isolated and marginalized immigrants and people of color….and I hope that planners and smart growth proponents start to realize that we are starting to repeat the past the past.
update: check out this great article about the conference in Grist.
It didn’t even snow that much yesterday….or today. But I guess it really doesn’t matter when you have no place to go. It’s cold outside. And the ground is wet. These are the days when the homeless ride the trains through the night. It’s their only salvation. I see how passengers look at them in disgust and it makes me angry. Where would you go? What would you do? I want more people to have compassion. I want more of us to simply care.