The Walkable Neighborhood
A walkable neighborhood is the highest achievement for the middle class angeleno. Silverlake, Los Feliz, Highland Park are quintessential examples of the gentrifying hunger for ‘walkability’. Like ethnic food a walkable neighborhood is something foreign to the millennial children of the suburbs who crave it as exotic. The suburban lifestyle breeds a tendency to isolation, a comfort zone of deprivation put in place by a generation of parents feed on Reagin era fear of the city and Clinton era belief in the power of money to create ones own little world. The city to the yuppie parent was a place of moral depravity and animal hunger, and to escape it it the parents of millennial children starved their offspring of conviviality and unmediated sociability. To see another person the child of the suburbs had to travel a great distance. One’s own neighbors were strangers. The walkable city promises to those trying to escape the long slow death of the suburbs a place for nearness, for surprise. In search for the substance of social and cultural life denied by the social trends of their parents generation, millennials flock to walkable neighborhoods for the requisite novility of human interaction, but in doing just this they paper over the walkable neighborhood with images of themselves. The process of the emptying out and hollowing of the walkable neighborhood happens explicitly, but implicitly as well. Bars, coffee shops, restaurants open up to cater specifically to wealthy white and white adjacent millennials, but even without direct thought, the gravitational pull of wanting, of hungering pulls in the denser — financially speaking — gentrifier into walkable neighborhood, displacing the cash light. Like the flow of a field, the emptiness of American culture pulls those denied it in, sending those who grew up with out to find new places to live their culture rich lives, which in turn causes more displacement as the current walkable neighborhoods become both too expensive and absent of free and chaotic culture.
Money kills free expression. Mom and Pop cafes get displaced by upscale coffee shops, which get replaced by corporate chains, streamlining the production process and stripping away the element of human to human interaction. What the food — literal and metaphorical — one can get in these institutions has in convenience it lacks in cultural nutrition. The necessities of capital make this preferable for some but for those who have escaped some element of the totalizing grind — for a moment, only ever for a moment — the need for sustenance sends them searching out a new neighborhood to walk.
If those rich in culture also had support, and those rich in the support of belonging to the dominant group had culture all neighborhoods could become walkable.
*A piece from ‘On Foot In The Unwalkable City’.