Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A gentrified conversation about gentrification

Somehow he has a different white throw to cover each area where we have sex, or at least it seems that way -- maybe not on the chair, but definitely on the white sofa, and in the white bed. Afterwards, we’re talking about San Francisco and the Mission and gentrification and I can’t decide whether it’s more exhausting to talk to someone who understands, but not really, or to talk to someone who doesn’t understand at all. Actually it gives me a headache just to think about it -- maybe I’ll come up with specific examples later. Or wait, he keeps saying something about how there are still undeveloped areas of San Francisco, unlike New York. Because he lived in New York too; that’s another thing we’re talking about. Where, I say. Those undeveloped areas? South Beach, South of Market, Bay View. He says something about how the character of these places is going to change dramatically, and I say dramatically for the worse, and he says probably you’re right, but I’m not sure whether he’s thinking of the displacement or just what the new buildings will be like.

Or, something about how he bought a house with his boyfriend and the house has some modifier, something I’m supposed to know like it’s a whatever-house, probably the architect’s name, and I think of saying what’s a whatever-house, but then I wait too long and then I guess I’m doing that thing where I act like I know whatever annoying thing that I don’t actually know, and that’s this particular type of bougie conversation. Something about an Eames chair, things he acquired from doing interior decorating on the side. Or maybe not interior decorating, set-up for something or other?

It’s the bougieness of this kind of conversation about displacement, the way the terms of what we talk about are already gentrified and I don’t want to be part of that. Maybe that’s the difference between us. His landlord just bought him out at his apartment, where he lived for 14 years -- a huge two-bedroom in the heart of the most gentrified part of the Mission, where he still only paid $800. Now he has a thousand-dollar Tenderloin studio that's nice but tiny, he’s excited he can put the bed in the closet but I always wonder about people with nothing in their apartment, where do they keep it all? I mean, people who seem to have money. For him it’s in the house outside the city with his long-term boyfriend who maybe isn’t his boyfriend anymore and they never believed in monogamy but then somehow they were monogamous for 6 ½ years. Partner is probably the word he uses -- his partner is 20 years older and now they’re growing apart.

So then he’s mourning the loss of some of the things I also feel loss about, or no we never actually talk about exactly what he’s mourning, or what I’ve lost. Because, he’ll say something about an Eames chair, and then I say something about how everything in New York is an industry, he moved there when I first moved here, or a few years before, he lived there from ’89 to ’91 I think he says. When downtown was still downtown. He doesn’t say that: he says New York, when New York was still New York. No, he doesn’t say that either, but it’s what he means, what we both understand. Just before the end of all that, if there ever was a before. We do agree on the date, as if New York can just be this thing that happened downtown. I say: now it’s just a place to sell what it used to be.

Wait, I remember -- I say something about how San Francisco is my foundational place, he says for him too. The early-‘90s in the Mission, even, and for a moment I wonder if I knew him then but then I realize he moved there in ’94, probably right after I left. I wonder what it meant to him, he must say something, something that makes me not want to share what it meant to me. He’s leaving now. Maybe that’s another part of the disconnect -- the Mission means nothing to me now, except. I mean, nothing now, but everything then. Then for him is still now, or yesterday.

He does say: he’s embarrassed by the reasons he doesn’t find the Tenderloin comfortable. Everyone out on the street, which is kind of what I like. But no, also the desperation, and he says he’s very intuitive, it’s hard for him. That you can’t walk around the corner to everything you might need; I wonder what he needs. It’s not a village, that’s what he says -- he likes South of Market better, although I can’t imagine why. He likes the flatness. Highways and yuppie lofts, that’s South of Market to me. Not that there aren’t trendy places here, but not in the same density. Maybe it’s the relating that makes this conversation hard also, that makes me wonder what it means to connect, what is connecting, how hard it is to find.

7 comments:

davka said...

that whatever chair. has come up. as a point of confusion and disconnect for me, too, recently. (s family acquired many famous original chairs in their history of money and owning an art gallery a long time ago. i started a poem "the problem of breaking up with a rich boy is a joseph cornell box" because his mom owns two and i never knew who cornell was before him and now joseph cornell will forever be him in my mind- the burning of knowing the boys family has two of these boxes in "storage" (the house outside of the city) that cristy's (sp) auction house called about and said would go for about 5 million each... the burning i felt realizing i rubbed dick for rent and boys got boxes worth millions... in. storage... and how i will never be able to see a joseph cornell box without thinking of this moment when i learned this and the anger, burning anger- but the beauty of those boxes, isnt it mine too? what can you do.. i just took a tissue from the kleenex box on top of the toilet and joked, "is this your joseph cornell box" no laughter.) - end rant

wow. yeah, pretending you know whatever annoying thing is being talked about because to actually connect, could it happen, is it worth the try-

when you just kind of know it's no.

because you've tried. this piece is so good. i feel his loneliness and your... exhaustion? and i feel all that space between... waiting.

sorry for blowin' up your comment field, girl, but it's been awhile. love every word you've ever written, even what i haven't seen.

Diane said...

People seem to like the illusion of people better than the people themselves. People on the street are so messy, you know... not artsy like named buildings and white everything.

I love how you see things.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Davka, it's so wonderful to hear from you -- it's been a while, and now I'm realizing how much I've missed you, indeed -- time for me to go refresh myself with your words, for sure...

And yes yes, the quandary of the whatever chair. And, even worse, the Joseph Cornell box that's now worth $5 million, oh my! Outsider art becomes so profitable once the outsiders are dead, right?

And, "pretending you know whatever annoying thing is being talked about because to actually connect, could it happen, is it worth the try-

when you just kind of know it's no.

because you've tried."

So so so so true, oh no -- I'm so glad you connected to this piece, because writing it I thought wait, does this make any sense at all, because of yes -- my loneliness and exhaustion...

Thank you, my dear!!!

And Diane, this is so gorgeous:

"People seem to like the illusion of people better than the people themselves. People on the street are so messy, you know... not artsy like named buildings and white everything."

White everything white white white, indeed -- please no spots, okay?

Love love love --
mattilda

Diane said...

Mattilda-

I like messy. I like the unwashed masses. I only feel kindred with those outside the paradigm of so-called normalcy which is nothing but a white-washed sheet on a white-washed history that hides the spots that are the only true beauty - the only reality worth living.

I'm so glad I found you, and hope you will come talk with us soon.

davka, whoever you are, seeing the careless wealth of some for those of us like me, who lived lying on floors without heat through Michigan winter just baffles. My experience is that they are often as careless with people as possessions because too many can be bought too easily. I hope this is not your case, but has been mine.

To both, all that matters is the connections we can make with kindreds, and we become kindreds by connection.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Diane, this is beautiful:

"I only feel kindred with those outside the paradigm of so-called normalcy which is nothing but a white-washed sheet on a white-washed history..."

And yes, I will definitely come talk with you soon -- thanks so much for your call, and I will be in contact in the next few days -- tomorrow is a bit messy, but hopefully productive (I'll be on NPR's Tell Me More, and need to get to the San Francisco NPR studio at 7:45 in the morning, oh no... But hopefully I'll feel like oh yes afterwards? I'll be talking about the Prop 8 decision about six hours before I would usually leave the house, so cross your fingers that I can string together compelling sentences).

Love --
mattilda

Diane said...

I took a shot at prop 8... and other things:

http://wildwildleft.com/diary/811/prop-8-feminism-and-the-law-of-unequaldynamics

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Exciting -- I'll take a look...

Love --
mattilda