Part of living abroad for years and years is to not think about the past too much. Of course you have your good memories, but in general I think the focus is on today and tomorrow, because if you think too much about yesterday you start thinking of people and places from the past.. which slows you down.. messes with your head.
Naturally there are pictures and stories that can send you into a time warp. I’ve got lots of them, for example: if you mention the city of Newark, New Jersey.
As soon as you mention it my mind starts to wander. I go back in time, to the city of my birth. The city my family immigrated to, and the city that provided the backdrop for huge chunks of my childhood. The city where still today, much of my family can still be found working, day in and day out.
When I saw the village voice’s close-up series did one on Newark recently, I had another one of those moments. Renaissance they say. Renaissance for who, I ask? Rents that go for 1000 dollars a month and higher? Sweep out the poor and working class people who don’t spend big bucks at your luxery arena or performing arts center? I know i talk excessively about gentrification and the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, but the more I hear these terms the more I have to denounce them.
The ironbound, the Portuguese neighborhood I grew up around, never needed fancy chain stores, expensive sports venues, or wealthy refugee’s from Manhattan to make it a unique and loved place. All it needed was caring people who arrived from all over the world to carve out their corner, no matter how small. Hell they even managed despite one of the most corrupt city governments in the world! Renaissance? Save that crap for the guys who yell huuzzah wielding bows and arrows, who come around once a year.
And if you can get your hands on it, here’s an excellent documentary on Newark’s Corruption which I saw in Amsterdam recently.