You know how in “The Shawshank Redemption” the old man, Brooks, kills himself because he can’t adjust to life outside the pen? (Sorry for ruining it, those who haven’t seen it). Well I’m starting to feel his pain. Two days, now, since graduating law school and what have I done with my time? I’ve returned to the scenes of my incarceration: coffee shops.
There was Starbucks yesterday for peripheral playwriting and Caribou today for the conclusion of Nabokov’s “Speak Memory.” Tonight, bored silly, I ventured out to East Atlanta to begin P.G. Wodehouse’s “Uncle Fred in the Springtime” at Joe’s.
During my first trip to the bathroom, I snapped this picture of graffiti on the wall:
See this is funny because the first person wrote “Resist Corporate Homogenization,” unsurprising for the Bohemian East Atlanta crowd. The punchline is the second graffitist’s retort: “Don’t ask about gentrification.” That’s because East Atlanta is the epitome of gentrification: it is a poor, dilapidated strip near the Atlanta Federal Penitentary that, in recent years, has bubbled up into a slightly trendy, slightly hip not quite a destination spot. It’s greatest claim is Iris (previously reviewed here) but there’s also Mary’s, the gay karaoke bar frequented by my friends and I Tuesday nights, and The Heaping Bowl, a fun quirky operation where I went once on a date. It didn’t work out.
The socially minded worry over gentrification. The Lower East Side in Manhattan is experiencing just such a transformation. Long time residents are either thrilled by the increased property values or saddened by the deculturization of their communities. Well, not deculturization really, but reculturization. Out go the real poor people and in come the rich people dressing like poor people. Out goes the ethnic grocery shops and in comes the Whole Foods. Such is gentrification.
So tonight in my gentrified hovel, I asked the gentrified propietor which dessert was best. He said: “The creme brulee cheesecake.”
I took him at his word and ordered a slice.
If gentrification is the gutting and reworking of a community, fusion is the melding of two disparate elements into a cohesive whole. Thus this gentrified creme brulee cheesecake was the epitome of effective fusion: the end product tasted like an entirely separate entity, like something new.
And then there’s confusion—this occurs when you start writing a piece on one subject, move to another subject, and completely lose focus. That’s what’s happened here. So I’ll end with a food scene from P.G. Wodehouse which I’m enjoying greatly:
‘That pig is too fat.’
“Much too fat. Look at her. Bulging.’
‘But my dear Alaric, she is supposed to be fat.’
‘Not as fat as that.’
‘Yes, I assure you. She has already been given two medals for being fat.’
‘Don’t be silly, Clarence. What would a pig do with medals? It’s no good trying to shirk the issue. There is only one word for that pig–gross. She reminds me of my Aunt Horatia, who died of apoplexy during Christmas dinner. Keeled over half-way through her second helping of plum pudding and never spoke again. This animal might be her double.”