The Self-Loathing Gentrifier: Winter 2011

Illustration Brandon Evans

Dear Self-Loathing Gentrifier,
I realized the other day that for a long time I’ve been defensive about gentrification (and my complicity/centrality to it)… But I’m starting to think: maybe it’s just a really good thing? Why should I feel guilty for wanting to spend $5 on a coffee I am going to enjoy? Why are you so “self-loathing”?

It took four installments, or five, or however long we’ve been doing this column. Let me check the archives. Hold on. [Sound of door creaking open. Sound of bespoke leather shoes descending stairs. Sound of file drawer latch. Sound of papers being shuffled. Sound of shoes ascending stairs.] Ok. We’ve done four. And not once in that time has anyone written to ask about the thematic spine of the column. Why should gentrification be loathed, either in the self or in others? Now is the moment when we can reveal that the title of this column is ironic, or at the very least aimed slightly wrong. It’s not my own complicity I hate, but rather it’s the complicity of others. More to the point: I begin to hate my own complicity when it takes its shape in response to the complicity of others. And, while this may sound a little paradoxical, you should feel the same way. If you purchase a Goorin Bros. hat and decide you want to wear it because you like it, good for you. More power to you. Hats off to you. But if you purchase a Goorin Bros. hat because you saw a dude who was younger than you and more ripped wearing it while he was standing on the corner talking to a hot girl, well, then, sir, you are a pitiful specimen. Now, there are of course larger issues at work here. If you walk over to the Atlantic Center and head up Flatbush, away from Manhattan, you’ll see neighborhoods that are less gentrified than yours. They may make you feel a little suspicious of your own surroundings, of the homogeneity and impossibly high prices for renting retail space. Or else you might not notice a thing. You should keep track of what you notice, because it will help you to determine whether your awareness of the world around you is even-handed or entirely aspirational, and that will in turn help you to determine whether self-awareness is possible. If this paragraph is too long for you to read because your mind is a little bit distracted by the thought of that hot girl I mentioned above, or by concerns over the iPhone 4S or whatever, here is the takeaway: think about why you do the things you do, and try to motivate yourself, in the main, from within.

Dear Self-Loathing Gentrifier,
Recently moved to Brooklyn. Should I save my fandom for the Nets, or just jump into the Knicks? Also, Yankees or Mets?

Don’t bother with the Knicks. Dolan? Come on. Wait for the Nets. But bemoan the fact that they are the Nets. Why not the Brooklyn Knights? It has the advantage of a new name for a new place, not to mention a nifty pun (Brooklynites), and the chance to design a cool retro-looking logo. Calling a basketball team the Nets is like calling a football team the End Zones or the Goat Posts, or calling a baseball team the Bases. It’s kind of stupid. As for the Yankees and the Mets, I’d say Tigers.

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