Friday, June 5, 2009

People, in Glorious Technicolour

Getting my exercise by bouncing up and down on my bed wasn't giving the challenge I needed any more. Besides, the guy on bottom bunk was well pissed off. So, one day, I went for a run. This necessitated going through the neighbourhood surrounding Loftstel. The area is called Bed Stuy. That's short for Bedford Stuyvesant. Almost all the people who live here are black, and probably don't have very much money. Biggie used to live here. He developed his style freestyling on the streets. It's on YouTube.

The other kind of people who live here - and the division is stark - are what are known as hipsters. I'd have called them crushties, but they already had a word for it here, so my suggestion is redundant. They're aspiring artists and musicians and hippies generally who want to live near the action but don't have jobs that make much money, so they live here because it's relatively cheapalicious. In other locations, the encroachment of hipsters and the eventual gentrification of an area that follows has lead to resentment and tension. At first, I didn't really see why anyone would have a problem with new people moving in. I found out that the problem is that rents get pushed up by the increased demand so people who've lived in an area for years end up being unable to afford to continue living there. Worse than that, sometimes people actually get moved somewhere else because the place they live is in the way of a new development. Someone spraypainted "Hipsters Move Out" on the Williamsburg Bridge.

After a little while, my run brought me to a completely different neighbourhood. In Ireland, (certainly in the past, I realise this is less true than it used to be) you'd need to travel tens of miles to observe even a subtle change in accent. It's not like that here. Hella not like that. What happened here was that I crossed an invisible magical line in the street and ended up in a district entirely populated by Hassidic Jews. The men wear black coats, shoes, skullcaps and trousers. They shave all their hair apart from two bits above their temples, which they allow to grow freely. Many of the shop signs were in Hebrew. Even the big yellow school buses had Hebrew writing on the side. Their children are well-behaved and literally no-one is properly fat.

Some twat set up a petrol station called Hess in the middle of the Jewish area.

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