I live in Hayes Valley, a neighborhood near the Civic Center, the main library, the opera house and the Market Street of San Francisco, California. Before the big Bay Area earthquake, this area was located under the freeway overpass, and it was the slums. When the city was rebuilt, the neighborhood started attracting artists, poets, and hipsters. This was the start of the gentrification of the area, and it continues today. There's still quite a few homeless folks, crackheads, and petty criminals, but the settings have changed.
There are now upscale dining spots, cafes with italian names, interior design stores and yoga studios. Most of the new residents who move here are yuppies. I've always hated the connotation of that word. I hate everything that it implies. I have always identified strongly with the working class. Growing up, my family was not rich, although we never lacked for anything of importance. In fact, because of how close my immediate family has always been, I consider myself far more priviledged than many people who grew up with more money.
My parents both made a living with their hands, and I was always proud of them for that. This led me to empathize with the blue-collar values of hard work, plain-speaking and a distaste for pretention, showiness, and anything that smacked of a designer label.
Now I just finished a book called "Bonfire of the Vanities," by Tom Wolfe. It's about the class system in New York City. It's about the "haves" and the "have-nots," and the distaste that the "haves" feel for the "have-nots," and the envy, rage and revulsion that the "have-nots" feel for the "haves." The main character is a Wall Street titan of finance. He is plainly aware of the difference between his Father's generation of businessman and his new generation of "masters of the universe." Men of his standing would never consider riding the subway. They would never consider rubbing shoulders with the violent, desperate and dirty people that travel via New York's underground tunnels. He called it "Insulation." If you wanted to live in New York, you had to insulate with private cars, bodyguards, separate neighborhoods, doormen, and security. I felt a huge wave of disgust as I read this. It was disgust for the man himself, the people like him, and the incredible and utter lack of humanity that would be required to believe in such a system.
And then I left my apartment, and was immediately assailed by a dirty, drug-addled, homeless man who followed me for a few blocks. He told me he was an undercover cop, a security guard, a rapper, and a manic-depressive. I was too polite...read, "polite," NOT too kind to tell him to piss off. Finally he turned to me with a serious look on his face.
"What happened to the fly on the toilet seat?" he asked.
"...What?" I answered.
"He got pissed off!" He started cackling.
I gave him a chuckle, as it WAS a good one, and then I ignored the obvious plea for money, and kept walking. I was heading to the park, where I planned on reading. Within a few minutes of getting there, I was approached by a young guy holding some cheaply-made pamphlets in his arms. He started speaking quickly about a "save the kids" program. I told him that I would check out the website and walked off. Rather than sit outside, I went into a cafe with an italian name. I didn't want to be hit up for money anymore. I wanted to be isolated. And my desire for that disgusted me.