August 01, 2008

In Search Of Lost Times

It's telling and (for me, at least) depressing that the ethnic and racial makeup of the residents of the large old building I live in in Jingletown has changed markedly over the past few years. Right up until about two years ago it often came pretty close to reflecting the larger surrounding Oakland neighbourhoods in that a near majority of us were African-American and Latino; the rest of us (myself included) were an assorted hodge-podge of white, Asian, Indian, and (as one neighbour put it), "Lord-knows-what". Nowadays we're almost completely white and Asian.

The change coincides almost exactly with the change in the immediate neighbourhood from being a mostly-anonymous industrial area dotted with shabby artists' studios, working lofts, the occasional large industrial plant, lots of odd small businesses, little islands of public housing, and bad karaoke bars, to being an officially-proclaimed "arts district" with new lifestyle lofts, galleries, hipster cafes, and hordes of self-righteous cyclists riding through the 'hood in their bright spandex clown suits.

It's also telling that right up until about two or three years ago the majority of the residents of my building — a place explicitly zoned live / work, where you're supposedly legally required to have a business license in order to live there — were artists, musicians, graphic designers, art restorers, etc.; nowadays they're almost all just lifestyle lofters. I think there are only three other tenants (out of nearly two dozen) besides myself who actually do anything creative in their units or who actually have businesses now. The new residents are the sort of people who will probably protest the return of what some of us fondly remember as the Jingletown Express, lumbering laboriously down Glascock Street a couple of times a week until fairly recently.

People seem to be taking the whole slightly-ludicrous Brooklyn West thing seriously: the newest two tenants are both actually straight from New York; their cars still sport the Empire State license plates, and they seem oblivious to the life around them much beyond the obvious. Plus ca change and all that, I guess. Time to move on before I'm moved….

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At 8/12/2008 10:40 am, Blogger Angela Natividad said...

My heart breaks when I remember Emeryville. It sat at the crossroads of this beautiful thing: industrial dreams and human forgetting.

And now it's all Bed, Bath & Beyond. I'd suggest you move, but once you do, you forfeit the last vestiges of Emeryville's past: your home.

At 8/12/2008 2:13 pm, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

You forgot Ikea! (How could anyone forget the big blue box?). Emeryville: the urban suburb. There's little to differentiate the shopping or living experience there from the places around Route 128 or I95. Humph...

At 8/13/2008 12:11 pm, Blogger Angela Natividad said...

I can't really hate on Ikea. It has pretty good quiche, and cheap biscuits, too.

At 8/13/2008 12:41 pm, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

Yeah, I can't find it in me to dislike Ikea too much, it's just that it's kind of symbolic that they chose E'ville for their first Bay Area location. That site went from funky steel mill to big generic blue box retailer in a decadeĀ….


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