Sunday, December 02, 2007

last call.

in your sunday (or monday morning, as it may be) perusing of the interweb, be sure to check out this great article from today's Globe:

Last Call: Why the gay bars of Boston are disappearing, and what it says about the future of city life

when i lived in the area, i always bemoaned boston's lack of a centralized gay area of town - everything seemed so scattershot and marooned on its own little city-block island. (and the south end, without decent public transit access and skyrocketing prices, just does not count.) so, imagine my dismay to hear that things were going from bad to worse in my big gay liberal home state. this article does a great job of laying out the problem and connecting it to bigger economic trends that threaten not only gay city life, but city life in general. a snippet:

The disappearance of places like Buddies and Chaps may sound like a problem limited to gay men, but it is part of a much larger trend reshaping American cities. As gay bars vanish, so go bookstores, diners, and all kinds of spaces that once allowed "blissful public congregation," as sociologist Ray Oldenburg described their function in his 1989 book "The Great Good Place."

In New York, the Jewish deli - a staple of the city's identity - has all but vanished. In the Boston area, many of Harvard Square's bookstores, Kenmore Square's student eateries, and myriad other places that guaranteed a diverse urban experience have closed their doors, replaced by a far more uniform lineup of bank branches, chain stores, and upscale restaurants.

This change is a serious challenge to the city, which has historically been defined by the breadth and variety of its street-level experience - and the wide diversity of people it threw together. "City air makes free," a saying that dates to medieval times, was a favorite of urban-studies pioneer Jane Jacobs. But as a wide range of gay bars dwindles to a handful of survivors - and the city's diners, indie bookstores, and dive bars yield to high rents and shifting patterns of commerce - that air is becoming the province of an increasingly narrow set of people.

i think anyone who lives in a big city can attest to this. while sections of largely non-homogenized city can certainly be found, the encroachment is everywhere and prices rise commensurately. here in DC, the insane pace of development in "hip" neighborhoods (because what self-respecting investment banker by day/hipster by night wants to move into a million dollar condo in an "unhip" neighborhood? the horror!) had led to almost untenably rapid rates of gentrification. that's how you end up with black kids in columbia heights throwing stones at white yuppies in columbia heights, and a "revival" of the historically black u street that involves 1-beds renting for over $2,000 in a massive new building called "the ellington."

sometimes i honestly stop and just think, "what the fuck is going on?"

of course, i really don't know. and i have no idea what will happen in the future, whether some other proverbial forces of nature will put a check on this kind of development, or whether this is really the city of the foreseeable future. i'll just keep fighting with the tide, trying to buy local on eighth street and at eastern market instead of from, and hoping they don't raise my rent next year.

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