I’m a straight, white male in my late ‘20’s in Brooklyn who DJs and works on a novel and blogs. On paper, I am as bad as it gets.
I am the product of a series of decisions I made in my early twenties: getting an MFA, moving. In my early twenties, I enjoyed Entourage and probably thought jicama was a disease people got in the 19th century. I hate that the idiot I just described determined the course of my life.
Anyplace there’s gentrification, if you’re a working-class white person, you’re just a placeholder in the neighborhood until the real rich people can get there. Even if you’re a racist who loves displacing people of color, you’re still a patsy who’s going to get priced out. People are going to discover your neighborhood for its cuteness, then do away with the actual cute aspects and replace them with dizzyingly fancy elements as quickly as possible. I cringe with dread every time I see a young family or a supermodel-looking person or a European traveler in my neighborhood; I breathe a sigh of relief whenever I see a pimp or a bank robber or a mustachioed man tying a lady to the train tracks.
I have a great deal of privilege as a white guy (by the way, is there anywhere I can read about that? I can’t seem to find a single essay or thinkpiece on the topic anywhere online) but even still, I’ve already spent the better part of a decade—as have all my friends—giving almost all of the money I make to—divorce yourself from real life for a minute and think about what this really is—a Land Lord, a person who is the lord of the land he owns and receives a whopping income just for owning it. For me, these people have ranged from genial and helpful to abusive and negligent.
And the rich people, when you actually meet them, because you’re serving them at the job that supports your ability to pay tribute to the landlord, bare no resemblance to any positive portrayals of rich people you’ve ever seen. They have no social graces, no fashion sense. There are no Bruce Waynes, only King Joffreys.
I know this is me bellyaching about being a white artist in New York. But I feel like I bought into an evil system before I fully understood it. But I don’t even know the alternative.
So what do I do? If there’s anything I hate more than the way I live, it’s people who decide to go off the grid and not let their kids celebrate Halloween and live on stolen garbage in the name of sticking it to the man, when they actually have a choice not to do that. The Bay Area is just as bad as New York in the respects I just outlined, plus there’s this. Most chill cities seem to function under a more subtle version of the New York gentrification system, and there’s no guarantee I’ll even pay less for rent anywhere else—my rent is manageable here, and my experience in Richmond, VA and a cursory glance at the Portland, OR Craigslist apartment listings paint a disagreeable picture. It’s harder to get jobs in those places, too. If I wanted to live in the suburbs, that would be too expensive, too.
If you need to hire somebody to write facetious personal essays, draw cartoons, do social media, organize and host readings, make WordPress websites that inadvertently become hubs for teen pop music fans, appraise snack food, and pet dogs and tell them they’re good boys, and you’d like me to do this work on your houseboat somewhere, you’re losing money right now by not getting in touch with me.