My personal favorite place to be in the urban neighborhood is where rich meets poor, i.e., the frontiers of gentrification. That is what I see now. Plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, the new sidewalks going in: all brick and cork lining and brushed new concrete. But I also love the old stuff hanging on.
If I walk three blocks east, there are overpriced lovely loft condominiums for sale--all refurbished older buildings, with new windows jutting out and sometimes new 'skins'. Across from that, there is a hardware store run by whatever generation it is (that whole stupid classification Gen-X,Y, Z, or I for I-phone apps--I don't know). They have a mural that extends all the way down the side of their building, full of exuberant revolution. Here is one part of it.
Next to that is an art gallery. And then a barber shop with its own kind of art. You just know this place is a hotbed of black male gossip, and it must be great. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!!
Next to that is a take-out food place. My favorite thing about it is the fish picture in the side window. This picture is well past its shelf life: covered in dust and sagging badly. Therefore it is not good advertising. But I know better. Probably the best fish around if you can just walk in the door.
If I turn right, I see another hardware store, clearly dying. But its owner must have loved Lionel Trains. People, I love rust and crud. If this sign comes down, I will count it a loss.
If I turn left, I run into recently-closed pawn shops (very recently closed) and other dilapidation. Interesting tile work from the last mid-century. It's a toss-up whether it will be preserved or not. Behind it is a day care center. Yup. For dogs. All these fancy lofts are for single people.
New groceries going in, to serve the new condo dwellers. Other groceries served the lower-income folks and are starting to show prosperity. New paint, more merchandise. Different culture. Isn't this lovely? And you can still get a money order, no sweat.
It's still a clash of cultures. I don't find it ugly, at least not in daylight. But it represents immense struggle. This garage retrenched. It gave up half of its square feet for a funky boutique in hot pink. They repainted their garage door to fit in with the boutique, and then it was defaced. The garage is an urban vocational training center. So much wrong with this--and yet fascinating. Here, graffiti is a sign of hostility, but also identity. It's a rear-guard action, but fate still hangs in the balance.
I find it interesting to view the frontier. It's slipping away, at least here. But it will come back. All this was prosperous once before, and then it failed. Neighborhood services left. Now they're coming back.
Small business expresses their dreams, their identity: Lionel Trains. Fish pictures. Murals of revolution, carefully rendered in bright red. The floating heads of the Six Famous Barbers.
It has character when it's new, and it keeps character when it is old.
We are seeing a renaissance around here. That means birth is now included in the long death of this neighborhood. It's a full cycle now and to me, it is beautiful, every fresh-paint and peeling-paint piece of it.