By Eli Kearney
August 23, 2006 | Issue 42•34
Opinion Sometimes I R
When I moved into this neighborhood, I fell in love right away. Not with the actual neighborhood, but with its potential: It's affordable, there are nice row houses all around just waiting to be filled up by my friends, there's lot of open space to be exploited, and plenty of parking. Plus, this area has got a great authentic feel and, with a little work, it could be even more authentic. Perfect, right?
So why am I the only one doing anything about it?
I am always telling my other struggling artist, freelance graphic designer, and independent T-shirt-maker friends that this is the neighborhood to take it to. It's the next big thing. Sure, it's an hour from my day job and right next to a stinky canal and a power station, but that's the whole charm—it keeps the yuppies out.
It's frustrating, though. My friends insist they're happy where they are. But if they only saw the idealized neighborhood I see, where that rundown old health clinic is turned into a tattoo parlor, and that Last Supper mural is replaced with one featuring Radiohead or a stylized corporate octopus, they'd come around.
The problem is that the property owners here are clueless. They fill their yards with pavement and statues of the Virgin Mary, when all they have to do is clear that brush and we'd have a great beer garden or bocce court. They're spending all this money to renovate the old church, when it'd be put to better use split it up into condos. My landlord has no idea this apartment—hell, every apartment in this building—is undervalued. He could quadruple his profits by cutting my place in half. So I give him an extra 20 bucks a month hoping he gets the hint, but he just takes it out of the next month's rent.
Do any of these people appreciate what the neighborhood they're living in could be?
I'm trying to convince the owners of that taqueria on the corner to change their décor to incorporate some more of that funky Day Of The Dead motif I really like. But they insist on bland white walls. Ugh! I can barely pronounce the name, let alone enjoy its delicious, reasonably priced meals. Plus, you could take all the cool stuff from the five thrift stores and make one really great vintage shop. They'd make a fortune! And, you know, we would all have a fantastic view of downtown if only they'd tear down that dilapidated garage by the waterfront. Or, better yet, they could turn it into a restaurant with a roof deck. Can you say "brunch on the harbor"?
I can't be the only one who'd like to see a community garden and dog run around here, can I?
It sure would help attract people like me if there was a record store, too, and not the one with the giant Shakira cutout in the window. I mean a decent one. I went in to see if they had the new Fiery Furnaces, and they had never heard of it. They said they'd see if they could order it for me, but I declined. I mean, what's the point of supporting a local business if it's not cool?
It feels like I'm the only one trying to do any good around here.
When I first moved in, I loved the 50-cent coffees—it was like living in the '80s—but I wish they'd listen to me and start making lattes. I know I'd pay the extra three bucks, and I'm sure everyone else around here would, too.
I've tried being proactive. But none of the locals I've talked to about bringing in a co-op health-food grocery store have seemed excited at all. Nor have I gotten any of them to take part in my community open-house idea for hip young people to come see what this neighborhood is capable of. What did they do instead? They had a barbecue. With very loud music.
I mean, I don't want the people here to leave. I just want them to stay inside more. Especially if they're not going to do anything to bring this community to life. But they're always out on their stoops, just playing dominoes or talking. I like talking, but I do it inside, where it was meant to be done. It makes me uncomfortable to have people watching me all the time. Not that I think they'd do anything, but I just like to be a little more private.
Also, their dogs stay outside and bark all day. I like dogs just fine, but why can't their dogs be smaller and more nervous?
It's getting to the point where I feel like I'm tilting at windmills. But I can't give up—I know this neighborhood would benefit from the diversity of more people like me moving in. If you need a good place to live, come check out my 'hood. It's quirky, but it could use a few more creative types to get it jumping. But no developers—those guys just ruin it for the rest of us.