Four years ago, I moved into the Pencilbox Flats on Frost Street. It's a really cool collection of refurbished loft apartments inside a building that used to be a pencil factory in the '70s, but this year, my landlord is threatening to raise my rent by 15%. Why? Because a couple luxury condos opened up 7 blocks away near the water, so a bunch more stupid slightly richer people who aren't even FROM here can swoop right in ruin my neighborhood.
Farewell, slightly gentrified, dirty-in-a-couple-parts neighborhood I fell in love with. Hello, sterile, impersonal, fully gentrified neighborhood of today.
I'll never forget what a cool, character-having but still completely safe neighborhood this used to be back when I was growing up in the aughts (growing from age 24 to 28). There used to be three brunch places, one of which didn't even have its own Yelp page (but us locals knew how to find it). Now there's SEVEN good brunch places, and choosing between them is a big ordeal every week, and "Spoon" doesn't even include a mimosa with their $12 brunch option, and stupid "Oeuf" ALWAYS has a big line even when I get there at, like, friggin' 3:30. When did my neighborhood get overrun by these Yuppie wannabes INSTAGRAMMING their dumb food while I'm trying to focus on my review for my French Toast Tumblr? Man, I miss the days when you'd see a couple Hispanic families walking around here.
Just look at all these stupid rich-people businesses on my block now: ORGANIC Pet Food store, FAIR TRADE coffee shop, Pharmacy that keeps REGULAR HOURS and has PRICES listed on EVERYTHING it's just absurd. When I moved here, yeah, there was a Starbucks, but one time I saw a homeless dude asleep in it. (Was he on heroin? Who knows). And sure, there was a Jamba Juice and a Pinkberry and a Quiznos, but they were interspersed with weird, often-shuttered businesses that I never entered or understood, which really helped me continue believing that this was a cool, gritty, "developing" neighborhood instead of some incredibly uncool "developed" neighborhood.
I'll never forget once buying duct tape in Ginnelli's Hardware Store, the place owned by this nice man who I assume was Ginnelli, which was always closed at random times and on weekends and Thursdays (try getting THAT personal touch from the robots at Home Depot). Or Caridad Sports Bar, this weird place with a turquoise Taj Mahal logo on the outside that showed soccer on one tv in the back (including when we walked by during the AFC Championship) and has been closed for two years. Or the Check Cashing place I was standing near one time when some old guy said "God bless you, son" to me for some reason. These places are all gone for good now, trampled in the soulless quest for the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR that comes with properly functioning businesses.
We used to let loose on Tuesday nights at Garbage Bar's "Punk Karaoke" night, but so much for that, because Tuesdays are now "Movie Trivia night" by popular poser-demand. Even my favorite dive bar the Caribbean tapas restaurant where my friend used to bartend is too crowded to even grab a stool on Fridays, so we end up crammed into the rustic whiskey bar next door ordering SEVEN DOLLAR craft beers (RIP, $6 drafts of yesteryear). Or you could always just order a $10 mixed drink that comes in a martini glass like I'm some Saudi Prince fanning myself in the Kentucky Derby grandstands. Whatever happened to putting fancy drinks in Mason Jars to make them seem all chill and whatever? Sorry if me and my friends in our "sooo middle class" jeans and throwback Oakland A's hats aren't as fashionable as all of you upper-middle-class transplants with your 'big city' different jeans and no hats.
Farewell, neighborhood I used to know. Farewell, nice deli guy who let me keep the nickel that one time 'cause he recognizes me. Farewell "First Spectacle Bank," the small weird local bank with the guy in the statue of liberty costume outside that's now a Chase. Farewell, Korean lady at the laundromat who I say "hi" to (the laundromat is still there, but there's some new lady working there). Farewell, Starbucks that moved two blocks down to the bigger corner building. Farewell, godawful Chinese restaurant that I never ordered from but whose broken neon sign outside amused me and added faux-character to my block (I might try to steal it for my apartment before some new business moves in).
I guess us locals will just have to get used to this weird alternate universe we now live in, even if the neighborhood is a bizarre, improved shadow of its former self. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna treat myself to a nice, cool bubble tea from the CLASSIC bubble tea joint that opened in 2008 near the dog park, NOT the trendy, poser-y new bubble tea place over by the vegan taco place (which I've been meaning to try.)
(Pics via Shutterstock)