MTV's Real World Gets a Taste of Chicago's REAL World.
July 16, 2001 1:38 PM   Subscribe

MTV's Real World Gets a Taste of Chicago's REAL World. "The crowd chanted derisive comments about MTV and demanded The Real World pack their bags and head home. The crowd quickly overtook the streets and an ad hoc street party ensued."
posted by ry (47 comments total)
ha! nothing so organized, but I remember a similarly unfriendly response to real world in seattle. people waiting to get into clubs saying obscenities and giving the finger to the real world "deejays" who were handing out radio station paraphernalia on camera....
posted by rebeccablood at 1:51 PM on July 16, 2001

that just made my day.

thanx :)
posted by Qambient at 1:51 PM on July 16, 2001

Hear Hear!! Absolute genius. Makes me proud to be a lifelong Chicagoan.

This needs to happen repeatedly - shall we sic the Chicago chapter of the MeFi Mob on them?
posted by aladfar at 1:59 PM on July 16, 2001

I was there Saturday night. Funny stuff. It wasn't as big of a deal as some people made it out to be, but it was a good showing. My question is this: What's the point? What was the goal of the "protest?" All this did was bring even more attention to the Real World Chicago. If you really want to have an impact, encourage people to ignore it.
posted by fried at 2:05 PM on July 16, 2001

not to sound really offensive, but speaking on gentrification of neighborhoods, i have to say that neighborhoods are bound to change. it doesn't matter who moves in or moves out. and, yes, i do watch the real world. i mean, hey, even if what they're doing is a joke, i can still laugh at them.
posted by moz at 2:17 PM on July 16, 2001

"look ma, i'm famous! (too...)"
posted by tigger26 at 2:19 PM on July 16, 2001

the real world's presence is a capper to the real issue: the gentrification of wicker park.

wicker used to be one of the country's largest artist communities, known for fostering its own, supporting local talent, and grass-roots neighborhood development. all that changed about four years ago when quite a few magazines (including wallpaper*) named wicker as one of the hippest communities in the world.

then the real estate agents flocked in, taking advantage of tenants verbal agreements, chicago's almost total lack of rent control, and landowners' desire for ca$$$$h.

i personally saw my rent double (from $600 to $1200) in two days. the day i moved out, the buildings behind mine were leveled for condo developments and the shoe factory next door was being redeveloped into a monstrous single-family home.

wicker is now just another yuppie den. it hurt to see it go. the remaining residents are fed up, hence protests.
posted by patricking at 2:21 PM on July 16, 2001

I'm sure the gentrification of Wicker Park is a thorn in the side of its residents, but do you really think they would have done the same if it wasn't MTV? I don't think that MTV is to blame here, and making a ruckus outside of a reality TV show doesn't really do anything to further the demonstrator's cause.

And I think we all know what happens to verbal agreements when large sums of money are to be made.
posted by the bob at 2:38 PM on July 16, 2001

Real World is a joke, just like MTV. Anything that contributes to the downfall, humiliation, or destruction of either is a good thing.
posted by davidmsc at 2:42 PM on July 16, 2001

If I were MTV, I'd be overjoyed at this.
posted by rodii at 2:46 PM on July 16, 2001

MTV acts as a symbol, arguably, for everything that's going wrong with "revitalized" neighborhoods today. They're becoming generic, overpriced, and catering only to rich white folks. Generic, overpriced, and catering only to rich white folks also applies to many of the things people associate with suburbs... and that generic attribute is often what differentiates the city from the burbs in the first place.

I think this protest would have happened (or maybe should have happened) with any commercial property. But MTV's visible, and thus, visible protests.

Also of note is that MTV threatened the Sun-Times with a media blackout if they divulged the location of the building.
posted by hijinx at 2:46 PM on July 16, 2001

[ walking slowly onto thin ice...]

i have to wonder at what point a lot of these 'art actions'
become more about self-validation than actual progressive protest. It's hard for me to imagine a 10 year old mtv product is a charging force of gentrification, or even a meaningful symbol of it.

If you really want to drive shows like this out, make your own, and do it better. Or gather your collective resources into a literacy campaign. Or feed the homeless. Or join City Council.

I'll be off protesting the fabrications on "Murder She Wrote"
and not questioning your indie-cred.
posted by tigger26 at 2:52 PM on July 16, 2001

It just goes to show that people have no real avenue to vent their rage. The companies that by and large direct gentrification are not located within the community and rarely seek neighborhood input (much less approval) for their projects. This is of course their right as developers, but my point is more that the Real World becomes a focus of protest only because there are no visible focci in the communities themselves.

Of course there is the city planning board, and the city council but there is a feeling if inevitability in these meetings-- to get to that stage the major hurdles are usually overcome.
posted by chaz at 3:08 PM on July 16, 2001

This is why people have a hard time taking the Seattle-type protestors seriously (as these folks are coming from the same anti-corporate, indymedia pool). They are protesting against a damn tv show. They're protesting to protest because they saw their parents do the same on tv 30 years ago, so it must be cool. Give me a break.
posted by owillis at 3:10 PM on July 16, 2001

Wait, so kids today think things their parents did 30 years ago are cool? News to me.

I'm not saying that the Seattle/Montreal/Gothenberg/etc. protests are run by people who have a clue, but I do believe they are a manifestation of the feelings lots of people have about the way big business has trampled on individual rights without enough accountability.

Now I'm not going to go break windows at McDonalds because Sprint PCS has jacked me time and time again, or International Paper's mills have given people cancer, but at the same time I don't think the protests have anything to do with 'being cool' or trying to ape the past. Rather they are just a messed up manifestation of a somewhat messed-up situation.
posted by chaz at 3:21 PM on July 16, 2001

there was some positive action on the part of the wicker park neighborhood council a while back steer the gentrification in a more positive direction. apparently they pushed through ordinances to preserve the character of the neighborhood and prevent chains from moving in. it worked for a few years, but considering caffeina is now starbucks...something's happened.

in response to people having nowhere to vent: partially true. wicker's known for venting in public and usually with good results. but it sounds like the whole real world thing has sent the residents over the edge. the house (1931 w. north avenue) used to be a popular performance space/coffeehouse (closed when the landlord raised the rent in hopes of selling to developers, loss still mourned after four years). sounds like insult added to injury. can't say i blame 'em for being pissed.
posted by patricking at 3:24 PM on July 16, 2001

patrick, look out, MTV won't allow you media access!

One thing I'd like to point out is that The Real World is now about as far removed from the real world as it could be. Think about it. The kids get a job assigned to them and don't have to seek one out; they don't have to pay any bills; they get things like spending money. It's more or less like having Rich Uncle Pennybags (tm) around whenever you please. That's not real. That's television.
posted by hijinx at 3:29 PM on July 16, 2001

wicker used to be one of the country's largest artist communities, known for fostering its own, supporting local talent, and grass-roots neighborhood development. all that changed about four years ago

and before the artists and musicians flooded the area in the '80s it was a mostly blue-collar neighborhood. why are people quick to denouce the current/future gentrification of an area but slow to confront who it is that they displaced?
posted by gluechunk at 3:29 PM on July 16, 2001

It's very Guy Debord: one spectacle attempting to supplant another. Not that this is a bad thing: in the domain of the spectacular, it's simply a matter of degree.

I hope they filmed the protest against a dance track and sent the tapes to MTV.
posted by holgate at 3:39 PM on July 16, 2001

gluechunk: my sentiments exactly.

hijinx: i tend to think that the "real world" is, by its own producers, probably a tongue-in-cheek sort of title. the fact is that reality is not easy to film, so it's not surprise that the real world or survivor or whatever scripts everything.
posted by moz at 3:52 PM on July 16, 2001

I remember a similarly unfriendly response to real world in seattle

As I recall there were many printed t-shirts saying "Seattle thinks the Real World sucks" [which one of the cast members wore once, oooh the irony] and I personally gave them bad directions when they were on my street looking for a bar I liked to frequent.

Street parties and the WTO events are very different happenings with some similar tactics and catalysts. One is not the other.
posted by jessamyn at 3:57 PM on July 16, 2001

Chaz said:

Of course there is the city planning board, and the city council but there is a feeling if inevitability in these meetings-- to get to that stage the major hurdles are usually overcome.

It can work. Last year the residents of Bucktown and western Lincoln Park lobbied to prevent IKEA from building a superstore on Elston between Webster and Armitage. They argued that the streets and local neighborhoods couldn't handle the traffic. And, guess what -- they won. It can happen, it just takes organization and a real cause.
posted by fried at 3:59 PM on July 16, 2001

A Chicagoan's account of the Real World protest. I found this pretty enlightening.

Some of the most interesting passages, IMO:

"...the Real World building has a symbolic past. It was home to Urbis Orbis, a legendary coffee house and theater - a vast friendly space, a crossroads for art communities around the city. After helping to popularize the hood it was one of the first places to fall. It turned a profit, but landlord chased it out, dreaming of wealthier leases like the Real World."

"Having made their point, people began to disperse... The protest came at exactly the right time. A prolonged anti-Real World movement seems pointless, but the initial massive display of contempt was needed. I hope it might inspire serious activism on related topics, but the Real World becomes boring even as I write about it. Perhaps there will be more pranks. The protest was worthwhile just as evidence of how many folks are weary of such things."

"Real World Chicago seems destined for more unwelcome attention. Posters mocking the project have been put up, business are being encouraged not to sign releases and many groups want to engage the cast to discuss local issues. And thanks to Chicago's draconian anti-rave laws, there's a lot of smart, pissed off kids with nothing better to do."

posted by Zettai at 4:16 PM on July 16, 2001

"Every citizen has the right to be famous”

I guess I missed that one; perhaps I should read the Constitution a little more closely next time.

Chicago’s newly gentrified neighborhood, Wicker Park

Journalism at it's worst, who needs ethics when you have sensationalism and bias?

Rebelling against MTV? Hahaha, join the crowd. I love socially expectable ways to rebel and good old conformity. They’re just a bunch of too rich Lincoln Park posers looking for something to do.
posted by Bag Man at 5:22 PM on July 16, 2001

man, they need to get the Trixies involved. Maybe they could block the street with their Jetta's. :)
posted by jbelshaw at 5:39 PM on July 16, 2001

If anyone has a scanner and lives in Chicago the frequency for Zone 3 is 460.225. I can't stop listening. Wacky stuff happens all the time. Much better than my Zone.
posted by @homer at 7:24 PM on July 16, 2001

[perhaps a little over long and a touch off topic]

Owillis: Any generalisations herein are not personal. There’s been far too much personal attacking around here recently. Its just your post touched a twitchy nerve…

This is why people have a hard time taking the Seattle-type protestors seriously (as these folks are coming from the same anti-corporate, indymedia pool).

This seems to be a very common misconception and follows a popular media portrayal that everyone who is protesting about anything nowadays is part of a single underground movement. The way I see it, the mass media portrayal of large-scale demonstrations is far from accurate but perhaps makes for a more palatable story for people whose opinions need to be pre-digested for them by tabloid journalists. I'm not saying that I think anyone here on MeFi is that kind of person, I’m just trying to advance one of the potential motives for the very strong media bias that surrounds mass demonstration in today’s society.

It seems to me that tiny cores of people around the world are protesting for the sake of a fight. A larger group of people are protesting about wide scale issues (globalisation, capitalism, the rise of ‘Big Brother’ (no, not the TV program)). The majority of people who are protesting are doing so with regards specific local issues, such as the 'collapse' a specific neighbourhood due to a few people’s desire to make a quick buck or the behaviour towards and the treatment of a particular group by a local police force.

Times and places such as WTO, G8 and IMF meetings in Seattle, London, Gothenburg and Prague bring together disparate groups of protesters and organised alternative apolitical groups from around the world where they join forces with both country wide movements with political umbrage and local groups protesting local grievances. They are merely together at one time in one place. It doesn’t necessarily make a protester of one thing a protester of another.

Lets face it, if I had a local issue that was really pissing me off and the sentiment was shared by a few of my neighbours, the arrival of the worlds media on my doorstep might cause us to consider taking advantage of this platform to get our feelings noticed, irrespective of the fact that 1500 people who object to French people riding bicycles backwards on a Tuesdays whilst eating icecream and demanding ponies have chosen the same place on the same day to tell the world about it.

They're protesting to protest because they saw their parents do the same on tv 30 years ago, so it must be cool. Give me a break.

Some people are protesting because its 'cool', but I would think that this has been the case with many demonstrations throughout history. Even more so when the weather is particularly clement. I have often wondered what the weather was like when the Bastille was stormed.

As a final point, it is perhaps much easier for both politicians and the media to look at the minority of violent protesters and fight-seekers among those at the gates of the world summits and tar all those in attendance with the same brush. It is far more difficult for them to face up to a non-centralised feeling of disgust that appears to be increasing worldwide and the fact that this disgust is being gradually focusing towards both world politics and global business. After all, the media companies are themselves global businesses…

Ultimately, it is a pretty terrifying prospect for all of us that there are millions of people who are unhappy with millions of things and that they are prepared to vocalise the fact at the same times in the same places. I would definitely agree that it easier to sit and accept the status quo than it is to rock the apple cart, even more so given that no one seems to proffer a viable alternative to the corporate globalising world we are facing today. Having said this, I am unhappy with many of the injustices that are happening as a result and I will protest in order to bring some of these issues to light and to try and get something done about it.

But that’s just me. And a couple of other people I know. And a couple of people they know... and, hey what do you know, all of a sudden I’m part of an underground movement! Arrest me now, for I'm surely a fire breathing anarchist who doesn't shave, has at least one piercing and a tattoo, a strong desire to dye my hair green, listen to weird techno, date a dusky East European who doesn't shave her armpits, wear a balaclava and scream "die, muthafucka, die, you tool of corporate global company funk whores" at a policeman whilst hurling stones and trying to light my Molotov cocktail with a smouldering Gitane stuck casually to my pouting, angry bottom lip.

Well at least that’s how I formed my mental composite picture of people who demonstrated in Seattle from the papers and the TV coverage, so it must be what I look like too.
posted by davehat at 7:26 PM on July 16, 2001

wicker used to be one of the country's largest artist communities, known for fostering its own, supporting local talent, and grass-roots neighborhood development. all that changed about four years ago when quite a few magazines (including wallpaper*) named wicker as one of the hippest communities in the world.

Oh God, am I the only one who is SO sick of all these whiny fucks complaining about how "their" neighborhoods are being taken over by dot-commers/yuppies/real-estate agents/money/etc etc? I'm from San Francisco. Born and raised. I still live here. I gotta tell you how ttired I am of people coplaining about how great this-and-that neighborhood used to be, but now whatever the current minority of choice everyone chooses to pick on is currently the enemy.

I used to live 2 blocks away from the projects on Army Street in the Mission. Know what? I HOPE that area gets more gentrified. The Mission is actually becoming a bit more livable these days - Yeah, Boo-fucking-Hoo. Even McDonald's is more pleasant than gunshots in my sleep.

I love how people love to complain how "hip" these urban areas are becoming, yet i notice that they rarely are living in the China Basin or equivalent in whichever city you choose. If you go there, no one's gonna bother you (which is what REALLY interests me, as an artist. I'll make my living space quite nice by myself, thank you. I don't need 30 years of history to do it (eg, Haight street)).

Enough out of me.
posted by ookamaka at 8:29 PM on July 16, 2001

davehat: I can't say as I buy the whole thing, while I don't doubt your personal feelings (who am I to say otherwise?) my perception of this particular brand of protestor is that they've decided its a good idea to protest against this nebulous concept of "corporations are bad". Its too broad and doesnt make any sense to me.

I'm definitely not anti-protest. But when I see groups like MADD, Citizens Against Handgun Violence, 100 Black Men or several other groups protest they are organized and have actual goals for their protest.

WTO/Seattle, etc/ protestors come off as kids who got tired of listening to grunge and Cobain, had nothing better to do and decided "hey, let's protest against corporations" today. My perception is more than just tv influenced, I read their point of view on the web as well as listen to some of their broadcasts and it rings empty with me.

Like I said - they protest a damn tv show for chrissakes.

Another problem I have is the refusal of this whole protest movement to make any condemnation of the anarchists(who are a small segment) who do commit public destruction, because "hey, if they hurt coporations it's no big deal". Forgetting that actual people (usually the ones they're so damn interested in helping, the underclass) work for these corporations. Smashing the windows of Starbucks hurts Joe Blow who's wiping up the floors a lot more than it hurts Starbucks, Inc. Thats why they come off as whiny selfish brats to me.

It works against any good they may be working for (and I do agree with some, but not all, of it).
posted by owillis at 8:49 PM on July 16, 2001

They’re just a bunch of too rich Lincoln Park posers looking for something to do.

God, I'm so sick of this . . .

While Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country, since when does one's neighborhood dictate one's position on social issues? Am I somehow less "legit" for not living in an area populated by people who'd rather not see me there?

What good could possibly come from my moving into a "working class Puerto Rican" neighborhood? Indeed, were I to arrive in Logan Square, countless thousands would urge me to turn around and go back to where I came from.

MTV is a key player in the commodification and manufacture of a noxious product called "youth culture". I needen't live up to some fool's standards of "keeping it real" to speak out about it.
posted by aladfar at 9:54 PM on July 16, 2001

Another problem I have is the refusal of this whole protest movement to make any condemnation of the anarchists(who are a small segment) who do commit public destruction, because "hey, if they hurt coporations it's no big deal".

Owillis: I couldn't agree with you more that many protesters have misplaced sentiments with regard this issue. I myself find that, lately, I sympathise far more with the residents of the cities in which these large scale protests have taken place than those who went for peaceful protest, but pitched in as soon as bricks start flying or the chance to take a crap in the smashed up lobby of a McDonalds arises.

On the other hand, there are still many who do have legitamate concerns about globalisation, who've maybe read Schlosser and Klein and don't want a fight if they turn up to demonstrate about their increased sense of disenfrachisement as realised through their new enlighted state. So much so that perhaps less of the people who do have concerns go to these protests nowadays and more people go because its 'cool' or because they've just figured out how to make a cherry bomb in their freshly thumbed copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook.

I used to go to Reclaim the Streets protests. These were relatively spontaneous gatherings on major streets that started in the mid to early 90s in the UK. When they organised an impromptu hijack of the Cowley Road in Oxford, it was both good fun and aimed at something I truely believed was a good thing (and yes, the weather was good). Many people turned up, partied in the street in front of rather bemused car and bus drivers and had a wonderful time.

The main point of the demo was to make people aware that a lot of local people wanted to cut down on the volume of traffic entering the city and the pollution associated with it (and whaddaya know, a couple of years ago, traffic was banned in the city centre and all those lovely historic buildings half the people round the world like to look at are now light brown, not crud black).

There was no car burning. There was no fighting with the police. There was no cabal™(sorry couldn't resist). There was just a good natured afternoon dancing down by the Plain with a few local bobbies bopping along as well. It was a local demonstration. It brought together a local community. It (eventually) helped to realise one of the communities goals.

Today in Britain, the leaders of Reclaim The Streets (the notion that they even have a leader is in itself rather amusing, just have a look at their website, they don't have a common ideology) are regarded in almost the same light as terrorists. Of course the protests they have become involved with have changed slightly and the people who 'join' and 'further' the cause today are perhaps a little less hippyish and a tad more radical.

I myself am rather fond of the Critical Mass demonstrators. They too have a variable set of ideologies, but its a bit difficult to be viscious on a bicycle. On the other hand they can snarl up any one way system in the world to bring home one of their main themes, reducing pollution in urban areas and beyond.

But thats another story.
posted by davehat at 10:10 PM on July 16, 2001

In fact, as far as I'm aware, it is impossible to be 'viscious' on anything. On the other hand it is rather difficult to be vicious on a bicycle.
posted by davehat at 10:12 PM on July 16, 2001

I think the real issue is that MTV picks a group of models (save like 2 in 10 years). I want representation! Fat ugly loser computer nerd vs. Drunken Fratboy that headlines every season.

I'm disqualified for this role because I actually have a girlfriend. I'd die if they picked someone who plays Everquest (neverrest) consistantly.

I'm sorry I took your girlfriend, but I showed her my +2 sword of humping!
posted by andryeevna at 10:58 PM on July 16, 2001

aladfar - i'm about to move into logan square... fear my awesome street cred!
posted by chrisege at 11:48 PM on July 16, 2001

I think the real issue is that MTV picks a group of models

First rule of television: people want to watch pretty people. I sure as hell know I do.
posted by owillis at 12:25 AM on July 17, 2001

owillis: How does that explain Urkel? Or Eb on "Green Acres?" Or Gilda Radner and John Belushi? Or Bea Arthur? Or Archie Bunker and Meathead? Or Weezie? Or most of the cast of "The Facts of Life." Or George Costanza, the postal worker guy and the Soup Nazi and Jerry himself on "Seinfeld?" Or Alice from "The Brady Bunch." Or Dennis Franz? Or the guy who always screamed "Dirtbag!" on "Hill Street Blues?" Or Howie Mandel on "St. Elsewhere?" Or various daytime talkshow hosts? Bob Vila is pretty? Shall we continue? OK, no, but . . .
posted by raysmj at 9:00 AM on July 17, 2001

Aladfar Said:
What good could possibly come from my moving into a "working class Puerto Rican" neighborhood? Indeed, were I to arrive in Logan Square, countless thousands would urge me to turn around and go back to where I came from.

O my god!

That's insane: I've never heard such a patent over-simplification of the issues of gentrification in my life. What good could come from your moving to a "working class Puerto Rican neighborhood"? Well, it kinda depends on how willing you are to engage in the life of your community. Obviously you're going to encounter animosity if your attitude toward the place you live and people you live near is "There's nothing is this neighborhood that's good for me to consume. And my neighbors ... Feh, they're working class Puerto Ricans and therefore couldn't possibly offer any valuable elements to my life! Fuck 'em. I'll stay in Lincoln park where 95% of my neighbors are just like me and I won't have do deal with, you know, annoying things, like talking to people that live near me, I won't be pestered with having to take an interest in keeping my streets clean, or my schools high-quality. I won't have to deal with the daily challenges to my comfort that come with living around people that are not exactly like me. God, Chicago would be perfect if only it was in Skokie."

I guarantee you that if you moved to Logan Square, and volunteered at any of the local community organizations, got to know any of the neighborhood leaders (hang around in Lula's and see how long it takes for some one to engage you and take an interest in your life), you would derive immense benefit from your surrounds, and the benefits would flow both ways. Take a page from Redmoon's book...instead of of thinking of the diversity and otherness of you neighbors as a threat to your comfortable lifestyle, look at them as an enriching factor in your life; look at them as potential partners in creative acts, look at them as people, not as obstacles or impediments to your real estate desires.

I'm sorry to be on a high horse here, but there must be a difference between gentrification and a vital diverse community life. If you moved to Logan Square the only animosity you would find from your neighbors would the hostility reflected off yourself. Doesn't anybody read Jane Jacobs? Isn't the integration of a neighborhood both in terms of different social, economic, ethnic populations and in terms of varied and constantly shifting uses of public space and private buildings essential to the health of a city?

Obviously, Chicago is not strong on meaningful integration: we have a segregated city, we have appaling intitutionalized racism, we have massive rifts between people that live within the same square block. But to shut out the possibilty of moving to an interesting, vital neighborhood because you're afraid you won't be wanted is the exact opposite of a solution to chicago's problems. There has to be a balance between rapacious real estate speculation and the healthy mixing that makes civic, civilized life possible and interesting.

Jeez. Let loos the accusations of naivete and impractivality, but I can't stand the thought of living in a city where that Aladfar's kind of thinking dominates the discourse of civic life.
posted by sfz at 9:05 AM on July 17, 2001

I've not a Chicago native, but I've been here long enough (c. 15 years) that when I was first here, learning the city and where I wanted to live, Wicker Park was only just becoming the "arts center," the loss of which is now so keenly being felt by so many concerned...uh... "artists." Prior to that, Wicker Park had been a lower-middle-class, blue collar neighborhood - and most of those people either died off (inevitable) or moved away because there were too many "freaks on the streets." And I'm supposed to feel bad because the Moneyed Ones have come and "conquered" Wicker Park?
posted by m.polo at 9:11 AM on July 17, 2001

sfz: My lifes goal is to avoid things that irritate me. You seem to think that everyone should want to embrace it. I lived in Chicago prior to moving to Austin. I love the city, the different communities within it. It is traditionally a segregated city, I don't have a problem with that. My grandparents came from the south side Irish neighborhood of Beverly. Its what is comfortable to people that caused the small communities in the first place.

Now, that being said, I wouldn't rule out moving to an area that was extremely diverse, but I don't think that I should be made to feel like some uncouth, snobbish prick, just because I'm more comfortable in certain neighborhoods.
posted by jbelshaw at 9:33 AM on July 17, 2001

sfz: If you moved to Logan Square the only animosity you would find from your neighbors would the hostility reflected off yourself.

I don't think so. Tell that to the black family that moved into my old (white and Hispanic) neighborhood, and found crosses on their lawns. In the freakin' 1990s. They came to town and simply wanted to live there. They left, much to my dismay. But it wasn't because of anything they did, or values they reflected.

I do respect the sentiments behind your statements (and share them to a degree) but I think aladfar is being very, very realistic.
posted by hijinx at 9:36 AM on July 17, 2001

Hijinx: Well, perhaps I'm making some inappropriate assumptions about the reasons that Aladfar feels he (she?) would feel unwelcome in Logan Square. The situation you describe sounds less like the kind of "gentrification resentment" that sometimes happens in Chicago when the new arrivals arrive and assume that the neighborhood is a clean slate for them to install the conveniences of life, rather than a living changing thing for them to carve out a niche in. If aladfar fears racist reprisals that's one thing (although the situation you describe sounds extreme).

I may be wrong. After all, I'm also assuming that the black family in your post were not the gentrifying force. But seems not to be the pattern in this sort of gentrification story.

And Jbelshaw. Wow. We don't share the same life's goal. I understand why you might want to avoid aggravation, but it seems that the things that are worth enjoyiong in life usually come with a chance that they will result in or cause some aggravation. we pick and choose the things we do to minimize the risk of aggravation without reward. I myself am not comfortable in a segregated city. It bothers me. Every day.

And I don't begrudge you the choice of living somewhere that your comfort comes easier...i do, however, begrudge you the right to oversimplify the argument over gentrification in order to back up a self-serving conclusion. To say "I prefer comfort" is fine. To make up an argument which claims that thousands of people would stand up to stop you from moving into a vital diverse neighborhood, and feel like that's enough justification for never really thinking hard about what make a city tick (as I think Aladfar is doing) is not really OK in my book. Which is why I posted. Obviously it 's a complicated issue, but it's one worth engaging in, rather than copping out of.
posted by sfz at 9:58 AM on July 17, 2001

raysmj: corollary to tv rule #1: people want to watch pretty people, or funny people. If you're not funny, you must be pretty or watchable at the very least. If you happen to not be pretty or funny, you must be a damn good actor.
posted by owillis at 10:33 AM on July 17, 2001

sfz: Sorry for simplifying, I'm at work... I think I may have exaggerated the irritation point a bit. I do tend to take the path of least resistance though.

Now, on to gentrification. I'm trying to grasp your argument and from what I can tell is that you don't want people to bring their own culture, niceties, or baggage with them, when entering a community. I don't necessarily believe that is possible or even desireable. Anytime you have a influx of new people to a community, it is going to change it somewhat. And not expecting that to happen is naive, in my opinion.
posted by jbelshaw at 11:16 AM on July 17, 2001

owillis: I guess that explains how Ross Perot became such a popular TV figure a few years ago. Is he just compulsively watchable, like a train wreck, or funny looking and funny besides? Whenever I hear people talking in a McLuhan-esque way about how politicians must be "cool" as opposed to "hot" on the air, I start thinking, "Well, what about Ross Perot?" Jesse Ventura, anyone?
posted by raysmj at 11:17 AM on July 17, 2001

Jbelshaw, Baggage is one thing. I think there is baggage that one would do well to leave behind when living in a place with other human beings: baggage like fixed stereotypes, assumptions about what your neighbors can bring to the table, assumptions that you are unwanted. All these get in the way of engagement in your neighborhood and community, which to my mind is bad. Of course there is baggage you can't help bringing with you, but the thrill of a big, weird, complicated city is taking advantage of an environment that forces you to reconsider the validity of that baggage all the time.

I would not say you should leave your culture, niceties behind. Nor would I say that you should expect your new neighborhood not to change as a result of your presence. I think you may be putting words in my mouth that I never voiced. Or perhaps the statement of my argument was muddled. What I'm trying to get at is that you should embrace the diversity of your neighborhood, that you should bring your own culture and ideas to the place you live and forge a new different vital community out of the intersections between your life and the lives of the people that live around you, that you should engage in the world in which you live. I think that the strength of cities comes directly from that collision/diversity.

I say all this in specific reaction to Aladfar's claims that he would be unwelcome in a diverse neighborhood like Logan Square, and that it wouldn't do any good for him to move there. I think it does do good, and that good comes out of the differences between you and your neighbors. This is specifically contraposed to the gentrification brand of neighborhood takeover, in which engagement in the world and in your community is not the goal. The fruit of gnetrification / real-estate speculation is an unfortunate wholesale replacement of the old community. The kind of non-evil gentrification/people fusing i envision happens infrequently. But I wish it would happen more: unfortunately it happens less when aladfar-logic concludes that it's better to stay put and not engage.

Does that make sense? Or does it still make you think that I would prefer a place where people don't bring their culture with them when they arrive?
posted by sfz at 12:01 PM on July 17, 2001

sfz: I understand your point. But I don't see any way to prevent any area that becomes popular, ie. nightlife, hipsters, art, neighborhood beautification, from becoming "gentrified". And hell, if you owned the property, you would probably be overjoyed. What is the difference between a group of artists not liking their new frat boy neighbors, and the Old Town couple not liking their new latino neighbors. In my mind, there isn't a whole lot of difference. The simple problem here is that the people that lived there don't like the people moving in.
posted by jbelshaw at 12:15 PM on July 17, 2001

aladfar wouldn't be unwelcome in logan square. i live there now, and i rent from a mexican-descended landlord.

actually, i rent from a mexican-descended gay man who speaks no spanish. HE feels unwelcome in the neighborhood occasionally, primarily from the houses of gangbangers at either end of our block who see him as betraying his bloodlines. the worst he ever gets is an accusatory stare every once in a while (but at 43, he's made peace with others' perceptions of his identity).

the most important characteristic among the families on our block is attention to the kids' safety in the neighborhood (there are tons of little ones) in case the gangbangers get rowdy. race doesn't often come into play. the folks next door are a filipino/mexican working class couple with mixed kids, and there's a pretty diverse group of white, asian, black, latino and mixed kids roaming around with their daughter of eight. nobody seems to care.

yo aladfar: there's an apartment for rent two houses down from me. bring your cracker ass on over. :)
posted by patricking at 12:24 PM on July 17, 2001

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