Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Poetic Interlude: Special Announcement

I’m thrilled to announce that my first published poem, “Tract Home Take Down” has found a home in the debut issue of Angels Flight • literary west, a new magazine dedicated to celebrating the complex realities of Los Angeles and the artists who live and work here.

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Filed under Contemporary, Meta, Nostalgia, Power, Racism, Wordplay

Mobile Gentrification

If you live in LA, you’ve witnessed the recent rise and domination of the food truck. I’m no expert on the history of food trucks, but I am aware that they didn’t start here. That Portland is screaming, disaffectedly, that they had them first. Except their food trucks had the good sense to stay put in a vacant lot and let the hipsters come to them. I also remember when food trucks were one color (industrial white), had blue-tinted skylight-vents, and were called “roach coaches.” Just to add another subtle layer of racism.

Now we’re witnessing what I’m pretty sure is the gentrification of the mobile lunch cart. All the trucks are painted with logos and designs and have acquired the quirky-yet-palatable aesthetic of half-yuppie, half-hipster. White people love these things and flock to them in droves. The prices are sometimes prohibitive. The food is fancy. Gone are the days when you could just get a sandwich or a taco and those with first dibs usually worked at a car wash. (Exaggeration, but still. The vehicles of yore were often spotted at such establishments.) Now the choices of food truck are so numerous as to make one nauseous, thus undermining their whole business model.

What this trend has done is spread gentrification to a cultural space that one might not think was possible: the truck. A space that transcends space, occupying many. Nothing is safe from this upwardly mobile force. It seeks and destroys all things lower-income and non-model-minority. It lives to please the rich, white hegemonic taste and spreads wherever it can. Colonization is not just for neighborhoods, anymore. Now the gentrification comes to you. It goes everywhere. And it’s edible. It’s the gentrification of food; of the cultural forms that carried it.

This theory is still in the germinating phase, but I stand by it.

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Filed under Contemporary

Freeway Soundwalls as Markers of Affluence

Riding the Metro Goldline along the 210 and 110 freeways of LA, through the many communities it borders and cuts through, it struck me that rich neighborhoods get soundwalls. Poorer neighborhoods get traffic noises. To illustrate this (obvious) point, contrast the route the metro takes through South Pasadena (soundwall! slowing to a crawl!) with that it takes through Highland Park (chain-link fence if you’re lucky!). It is the richer neighborhoods that have the resources to devote to noise complaints. To getting their petitions recognized. These resources can be withheld from the city, the state, by those wealthy citizens if their demands are not met.

To be sure, communities who are not affluent can get soundwalls built, too, given the drive to get organized and a sympathetic power structure. Money is not the only resource–time is another valuable one when it comes to making voices heard. And sense of community ownership, civic pride, etc. But I’d venture that the vast majority of soundwalls are lobbied for by those communities with the financial resources to have leverage against the powers-that-be. Give us that soundwall, or we’re not underwriting anything. You can forget our endorsements during election season. You can kiss our donations goodbye. We want our acoustic insulation, and you’re going to give it to us. We have property values to think about.*

So the noises get shifted to the monetarily voiceless. The disenfranchised without the time or money to devote to standing up for the sanctity of their neighborhoods. And they get even more run down, comparatively, as a result. The gap widens with rows of cinderblock…or lack thereof. The acoustic insulations mirrors the social stratification, the physical isolation of certain classes of citizens from others. From Others.

Who speaks for the poor? And who has the right to?

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*Maybe it has something to do with the ratio of renters to owners.

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Filed under Contemporary, Power, Sweeping Generalizations