Monday, April 28, 2008

Sans Seriff

I spent an afternoon wandering up, down and around Alberta with my brother. He lived on Alberta in 2001 for a few months, maybe a a half year, and so my idea was to get his take, as an old resident who is not terribly interested in the soci0-economic changes going on in the area.

We parked up farther then I would have liked, around twenty second or so, and decided to stop in every shop that was open, and ask at least one question, or acquire at least one bit of information.
The first two places we stopped were a cafe and a restaurant. Lolo, I believe was the name of the restaurant. The cafe was bustling and no employees seemed to be terribly interested in chatting with me about their neighborhood.

However, I did take a look around, and noted that the demographic of the place was wholly white.

When we went into Lolo, it was almost empty, so a woman I would assume is the owner and I chatted for a few minutes about the neighborhood. When I asked what the oldest business was on the street, she responded that it was probably gallery across the way, which was 12 years old, they were next oldest at 11, and so on. I then asked how the neighborhood has changed since the shop opened and she talked about how many more businesses there were since the 'changeover'. I didn't ask if she thought this was a good or bad change, I had the feeling that her defense-o walls were coming up pretty quickly and I wouldn't be getting much farther with her.

I decided that we ought to simplify our quest, and choose to go only into places where we could sit, get the relatively captive attentions of the employees and could spend a little money to open people up (read: the bars).

We went into The Nest first, Dale (my brother), told me how when he lived off Alberta this place was called Joe's. He said it had a reputation of not being too keen on white customers, but when he had gone there (only once or twice) he'd never been threatened, although he'd gotten the 'eye'.

I talked about the neighborhood with the bartender, how much it has changed and what has happened. He has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, and worked at the Nest since it opened. I asked how the demographic has changed and he said immeasurably, 180 degrees; but also that there had never been any problems with the old customers -- they just came in to get their drinks, same as always.

His story about Alberta's transition: Paraphrased for ... awesome-ness "Back when we first opened we got egged a few times, that was a pain in the ass. We would have these young hippy kids come in here and shout gentrification and wave their dreads around while being so inflamed, and then walk home to their house right down the street, that they had moved into weeks before. The thing is, we didn't push Joe out (Joe is the previous ((and original)) owner of the bar), he still owns the place. Joe tried to give the building [which also houses apartments upstairs and a storefront next door] to his kids, but they didn't want it. So Joe rented it out. Those little hippies would come in here whining about us pushing the old residents out, and bullying Joe, what the hell do they know, Nest pays Joe, the apartments pay Joe, if anything this has helped Joe."

These are, of course, not the bartenders exact words, but they relay his general feelings.

Next, Dale insisted that Binks was way old, and had been around forever, so it would be a good place to explore. It turns out Binks is only turning 8 this year. Here, however, the bartenders insisted that their customer base has not changed that much over the last 8 years, and insist that their customer base was 'at least half black'. When I looked around, of the 25 people there, zero fit the category.

To cap off the blog, I'll just include a few pictures of one of my favorite 'plop' art pieces. Although, I could understand some serious debate on it being site specific:

(Burning Man, 2006)

Here is the description of the piece found on Uchronia's website:


We are coming back from a time where everyone creates products for themselves, getting pleasure of it. The experience of transforming personal creativity to a unique object being a source of satisfaction. The Uchronia installation is gigantic. It consists of 150 km of timber with a floor span of 60 by 30 meters in the center, and a height of 15 meters. Part of Uchronia involves the reforestoration of an equivalent surface. The extreme dimensions will fill you with awe for human creativity. It's a sculpture of sharing, a refuge for human beings and the recommendation to rediscover the essence of being. Sunlight will be dropping ever changing shadows inside of the structure. At dusk lights will come on in the structure dropping its shadows in the surrounding area. It opens a void to a time of freedom and boundless creativity.

Within the structure, by night, there was a dance hall with live DJ's. The green lighting was part of a light show that would change color every once in a while.

Then they burned it down, for some reason I can't post more than one image on this silly site, so I'll leave a link,
A very long link...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Community Cycling Center

Whilst wandering about on Alberta, I am always drawn into the Community Cycling Center. This could be related to several things: I used to be a regular commuting biker, but had to give up the practice in favor of mass transportation; I have volunteered with the CCC, taking donated bikes and converting them to their usable scrap, as well as rebuilding children's bikes for the Holiday Bike Drive; and perhaps because I see the Cycling Center as one of the few newer establishments (1994) that is actively participating in the sustainable growth of the already present community.

I have gotten into contact with Neal, the CCC's volunteer coordinator about volunteering with the CCC, as well as asking if I can make myself a bit of a nuisance around the shop, informally interviewing the customer-base, as well as employees about the neighborhood.

Another little bit of interesting happening for me will be revisiting some old digs. I used to live on 15th, a few blocks south of Prescott, many years ago. I remember while we lived there our neighbors house sold to a middle aged white couple who renovated the house and damn near constantly complained about how dangerous the neighborhood was, but how it was getting better.

I guess they were some of the vanguard of the gentrification.

Further, my brother used to live right on alberta, 22nd I believe, so I'm going to go walk around Alberta with him and see where his memories take us.

I feel like I'm lame not having pictures to put up, but I don't have a digital camera, so my words will have to do I guess...