At night, Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is overtaken by an odd contamination: not the everyday smothering of dirt and smog, but searing glow of street lamps and 24-hour storefronts that virtually bleaches out every surface. BUt on Tuesday, a team of renegade artists cut through the light pollution, as a nondescript white van stalked the corner of 47th and Fifth and peaked a boxy slide projector above the roof on an improvised platform—the post-Occupy armored vehicle of the activist response team known as the Illuminator.
From 2012 to 2015, I wrote obsessively on the dangers of the ultimate “creative city,” the much-touted “post-gentrification era” and what it meant to become a foreigner in my own neighborhood, waiting for the inevitable eviction notice. This updated 2016 manuscript remix has been expanded and restructured as a series of literary postcards. They are meant to be performed live, on radio or for video, without a particular chronological order.
A few weeks ago the nation was up in arms over a Trump endorser’s forewarning to American voters: opening up the borders to Mexican immigrants would usher in an era of “taco trucks on every corner.” The meme set the internet alight and flooded social media with both panic and celebration over the tantalizing--and to some repugnant--idea of mini Mexican eateries swarming like locusts over Middle America, in
This merits a response
First: Gentrify my love.
“You haven’t seen it? Wait, you have to see it.” We interrupt our regular Pigeon Palace weekly co-op meeting to break into a “Google Google Apps Apps” viewing party. It’s 2013 and bodacious queens scurry across a screen in my top floor rent-controlled apartment in the Mission to the dance beat of “gringa gringa apps apps” with punctuating bellows of “I just wanna wanna be WHITE!”
This week marks the 100th birthday of one of the iconic thinkers of the American city, Jane Jacobs. Back in the 1960s and 70s, before words like "gentrification" had been popularized, the "development' of cities was spreading a deep malaise to which urban denizens like Jacobs bore witness: whole neighborhoods were being uprooted and displaced, and "slum clearance" and "urban renewal" (aka Black Removal) was being deployed by municipal planners and real estate moguls to essentially atomize and liquidate the population of the unwanted masses.
When you look at David Hockney’s paintings of suburban Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s, you see glamor turned at a clever angle in the unforgiving sun, to mask the subsurface decay. It’s plastic surgery gone slightly wrong, the jagged lines clean and dirty at once. Pastel stucco walls hint at smudges of cheap lipstick and shattered plexiglass--the stuff that gets swept under the rug, literally and figuratively.