Sonntag, 23. September 2007

You want to buy this place, Sir?

I don't think of myself as a gentrifier. But I clearly look like one. At least in East Harlem. -
Escaping work depression for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, I indugled in my favourite activity: aimlessly wondering around cities. - It certainly was a different place to 1995, when I had first graced Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I remember my friend Martin and I being the only white people on the street back then. I remember being fascinated by all the Black Power literature stalls. They are still there. As were people selling solidartity T-shirts for the Jenna 6. - In fact, the place hadn't changed as much as media reports and the Clintons' moving in had made me expect. I thought East Harlem would be similar to Prenzlauer Berg - a part of Berlin which, to my mind, has been gentrified to death. Or it is like Prenzlauer Berg - but some 10 years back, when it still had a vibe! A vibe that even partly resulted from the property-market driven 'winds of change'. (East) Harlem now is a neighbourhood of contrasts - run down building as well as new condos; a wonderful local fish restaurant as well as a Starbucks. People selling whatever they could get their hands on on the street, as well as independent boutiques. That the neighbourhood is changing you can see from the many "for sale" signs, especially on not yet done up properties. I took pictures of a few. And that is when a wonderful old man with a missing front tooth came up to me to enquire: "Do you want to buy this place, Sir?". I assured him that not. I am not sure he believed me. "All these whites coming here prospecting" he muttered to himself and wondered off .... "Sorry, sir.", I said.

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