Gentrification

2015

 

Everyone I know complains about the changes in the city. Part of it is, of course, that we are all getting up in years. People our age said the same thing when we were in our twenties, and we laughed at them. Like they laugh at us now.

And when we moved in the opposite was happening, neighborhoods were going to hell. Gentrification is just a sign of cities in flux. When I moved to LA the city was going to hell. Hence punk rockers like me could afford to move into neighborhoods where once movies stars lived. Bohemia thrived. Now the movie stars are moving back. I remember watching the Wilshire corridor go from middle class to drive bys in a decade. Change can come brutally fast in a city, and there is barely anything that can be done to stop it.

I vividly remember old timers telling me how my favorite hangs had once been nice places. Change happens, I said. They were going to be dead soon enough anyway, I figured. Well, that worm has turned. Some of the very people you see here decrying gentrification are actively part of the process. They might not realize it, but they are. Cities change, and all we can do is watch and remember. I’ve been living in Silverlake for thirty years, and while the changes I see are heartbreaking, I also know that a lot of it on my part is pure nostalgia.
I remember how many of us Old Timers hated the Coffee Table when it opened up here. It was too nice. Too polite. Too westside. That seems so long ago now. The gritty side of Silverlake disappeared years ago, about the time they began spelling it SIlver Lake again. And now people on Facebook are tripping over themselves saying how happy they are that Moby is opening up a Vegan place down the street from me. These are the same people who rail against gentrification. I guess it depends on what you mean by gentrification. Some of it is pure greed, some of it is just cool.
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Coffee

That free coffee at the Silver Lake Trader Joes. The one hipster complains it’s too hot. The other hipster says it’s too strong. I said it’s too wet. Both look at me, then at each other, then back at me. It’s funnier if you’re stoned, I said. Oh wow, the one said. The other nodded, sagely. Truth.

Real estate values

There was a fatal stabbing on the east side of Hoover street. Domestic squabble. Sad. The east side of the street is Silver Lake now, since the LA Times set the borders hard. West side of Hoover is East Hollywood. It used to be that apartments for rent on the east side of Hoover were Silver Lake adjacent, but stabbings were in East Hollywood. Or Virgil Village, actually. Virgil Village disappeared somewhere on the maps and now East Hollywood goes all the way to Beverly, where there is nothing even vaguely Hollywood. Silver Lake tumbles down from tony breezy heights to come to a hard stop on Hoover Street. If only the tiff could have been taken across the street. It’s narrow enough, two lanes, tight parking, a moving trucker’s nightmare. They could have run over there easily enough. But no, it happened on the Silver Lake side, and now the crime reports scream murder in Silver Lake, a knife flashing through very expensive air, and try explaining that to the lawyer you’re selling that insanely overpriced bungalow to.

Vampira

Vampira

Vampira, 1954 or ’55

Yeah, she got a nice send off, Vampira did. The funeral, the media, the long, beautiful researched obituaries. She became again a major figure in death. Reborn in death, almost. With a name like Vampira that’s fitting, I suppose. I used to see her about…she lived not far from us. In one of those old bungalows on what used to be Cecil B Demille’s studio. Where Silver Lake drops into East Hollywood there, it’s all old studio land. Silents, mostly, so if there are ghosts about you couldn’t hear them. A friend of ours used to talk to Vampira as they both waited for the bus on Sunset Blvd. It’s funny, after all the obits and stuff I read I still could not remember who Maila Nurmi was. She was always Vampira here. And she was considered absolutely way cool. Even revered in some circles. Ed Wood helped. The dame playing her did a good job, all that cleavage threatening to spill out of that dress. A black dress that looked like it could explode any minute and alabaster tits and thighs and ass would fill the screen. The male animal watched closely, hoping, hyperventilating, waiting for mother or the wife to go to bed. A man needed his private time, especially when Vampira  broke into some old Universal horror flick for a couple wisecracks, some heaving bosom and scary music. There was no internet then. There was Vampira.

Vampira. Funny how show biz names become real names in this town. Hence I am still called Brick by nearly everyone. I never told people to call me Brick. It was just a stage name from my punk rock daze, and everyone naturally just uses stage names, or pen names, or just crazy names they came up one drunken night. In fact…I have friends I have known for years and years whose real names—even their last names—I do not know. I only know their nicknames. My favorite example of this is an old friend of ours, an eccentric–well, that doesn’t capture his essence, eccentric. Let’s just say he’s a character. The sort of character who, at a BBQ at our place back in the 90′s, announced that his name was now the Panther. It was a pen name, I think, a nom de plume, but a full time nom de plume. Don’t call me Jeff, I am the Panther. I don’t know if he’d thought of it beforehand or if it just hit him there, a revelation fueled by beer and coffee and a loud stereo. However it happened, just like that he became The Panther.  Not Panther, but The Panther, like the Hague or the Bronx or the Dude abiding. So everyone immediately began calling him The Panther. They still do. He was Jeff coming up the steps to our place, The Panther going back down.  A lot of people don’t even know his given name.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Panther. He tends to appear suddenly and mysteriously at our Christmas parties. It’s the Panther someone yells and they crowd around and say hello and laugh and not ask any questions about where he’s been or what he’s doing or what his real name is. Hours later he slips away just as suddenly. No one sees him go. The Panther.

So here’s to all the one name people, the Vampira’s and The Panthers and the zillion others  in this town. Yeah, they almost never get famous. You need a last name (or is it a first name?) to get famous. But ya gotta admit, having just the one name is way cooler.  You think we’d even be writing this if her name was Vampira Smith?

Well maybe. That was some bosom she heaved.

vampira 2

Trader Joes

That free coffee at the Silver Lake Trader Joes. The one hipster complains it’s too hot. The other hipster says it’s too strong. I said it’s too wet. Both look at me, then at each other, then back at me. It’s funnier if you’re stoned, I said. Oh wow, the one said. The other nodded, sagely. Truth.

Thin White Duke

Apparently David Bowie’s Thin White Duke phase, at its most warped and weird and disturbing, and amid mountains of the best quality cocaine, happened just down the street from here. I had always figured it was up in the Hollywood Hills. That’s what the story was, David Bowie going out of his mind up in the Hollywood Hills. Nope, it was here in my quiet neighborhood, on my quiet street, Waverly Drive, where Los Feliz and Silver Lake come together. He was staying at Glenn Hughes’ house. He of Deep Purple’s decline. Bowie decked out in Aryan pure white and Glenn in one of his heavy metal leisure suits, and neither sleeping ever. There was David, all his sensory inputs amplified, seeing spirits and demons and the ghosts of dead Nazis. He snorts another line and listens to the trains chug past down the Valley. Thoughts turn to twisted rock star madness, of Aleister Crowley, cocaine, witches, and cult murder. The return of the thin white duke. All is a swirl, every sense magnified, never sleeping, wide awake dreams. Women come, women go. The prettiest boys. Cocaine piled high as the mountains that loom inky black out of nothing when the night winds blow. Somehow he managed to find time to record Station to Station. Everyone has their own creative process.

Whole Foods

When Gelson’s had their grand re-opening (they had been a Mayfair) in Silver Lake a decade or so ago, they had all kinds of free stuff…I remember we stopped in on our way out to eat and wound up eating so many free samples we just went back home to digest. Yesterday the Whole Foods (née Ralphs née Hughes née Market Basket) had their parking lot fair to announce their brand new Silver Lake store and they one upped Gelson’s with food trucks. Yup, food trucks. Why provide free eats when suckers will flock to your event and buy their own? OK, they were giving away potato chips, different colored potato chips even, and you could spin the wheel to see if you could win a whole bag of different colored potato chips. My wife said there was a very long line to spin that wheel. They used to have soup lines in this country. Now it’s spin the wheel.