It’s been a while since I’ve written anything that isn’t a song lyric, Instagram caption or a late-night drunk cupcakey text so forgive me if this comes off a little too loose.
It’s a full moon and 5:25 pm on Thanksgiving. Your boy is on the bus headed to my baby’s mom’s house for quality time with the kids. You know, to stuff my face, play Uno and sing karaoke. One of the editors of theLAnd asked me to write a piece for the paper and I was honored, but couldn’t decide on a subject for a week or so. Until I had to get a letter notarized in Highland Park at 11 a.m.
I’d seen a show at Masonic Hall the night before and had drinks at a bar in the neighborhood. But that morning it wasn’t dark, and there was no booze or music. It was sobering, or I was just sober. I looked around and it hit me like a rent hike: Highland Park is washed. In just a decade, it’s been transformed from a mostly Latino working and middle-class neighborhood to what feels like a white middle-class neighborhood.
It was a sunny Southern California morning like any other. I was on Figueroa, near Avenue 50. Rush hour had just passed and the traffic was so light that I felt free enough to jaywalk. But I didn’t because L.A. niggas don’t jaywalk because ya’ know.
I looked around.
What the fuck?! Why does this feel like Melbourne, Australia? Years ago, I had a friend who lived here, but this place is totally different. It’s not like I’m afraid of change. I bathe in it, but bro, why are there so many bars and coffee shops?
How many places do you need to sit down, take stimulants and not talk to anyone? Who buys these expensive grandma clothes at this thrift shop? They still smell like Goodwill to me. Why are all these people at the barbershop on the weekday? Don’t none of these niggas got jobs? (They’ve all got tattoos, so they can’t have jobs.) It’s 11 a.m. Why the fuck does it smell like weed already?
I know guys who have tattoos and smell like weed at 11 a.m. Where I’m from, they’re either rappers, trappers or scammers. That’s it. These must be trappers, rappers or scammers.
Then I remember about when my boy Anthony or my homegirl Nikki talk about Brooklyn — like the old Biggie Smalls Brooklyn. Our conversations go something like this:
Them: Shit, ain’t even the same in my world, yo. I can’t even afford to live in the projects. I had to move to …
All my friends are gone … I can’t even buy a quarter water for a dollar. That shit’s about to happen here, B.
Me: Yeah, aight.
Them: Son, on May 12th powerful androids will appear …
A side note. There is a very popular long-running anime and manga called Dragon Ball; it spans three decades and the main character is the most popular and recognizable hero in the world. Yes, more than Superman, Captain America, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman or Spider-Man. This is Goku.
In Dragon Ball Z, there’s a story arc called “The Android Saga.” It aired in 1991 and features a mysterious character named Trunks who came back from the future to warn Goku that the future is fucked because androids came and destroyed their world on May 12th. These androids look a bit like transplant gentrifiers. Did Dragon Ball Z predict gentrification in the U.S. inner cities?
Gentrifiers have powers that you don’t. They have an endless amount of energy — which is really just hope and optimism — because they were designed that way. They can make a living and get jobs with weird haircuts — the kind of jobs that wouldn’t waste money with drug tests. They’ve got the power to jaywalk without getting stopped and asked about their life story and threatened with jail for an old jaywalking ticket turned warrant. Guess I’ve got to go to the hyperbolic time chamber and level up.
The androids thought that destroying everything was fun. In these stories, only women and children were left because the androids killed all the men. Trunks and his mom, Bulma, were among the last ones left.
As I walk out on the street, I notice how few local Hispanic men from that neighborhood are left. It’s just moms and kids. I shudder.
Why am I writing about this on what is now 11:42 p.m. on Thanksgiving night? I should be at The Association, meeting this beautiful thang from Cincinnati that wants to hang out.
Why does this even matter? Oh yeah. Because Thanksgiving is the story of the first gentrification in American History.
It happened and we are products of it. Niggas warn you and you don’t listen. No one pushes a line outta kindness or weakness, and then boom — we have what we know as America. We’re all in it now for better or worse.
Even though it feels hopeless, I believe that us, as local, young Angelenos, are being faced with a challenge that we can grow from. The homie just might marry an android so I can’t see myself hating them for being who they were programmed to be.
Gentrification is just one mini-saga before even bigger battles. So my guys and myself stay in the hyperbolic time chamber — the place where you can get gains faster — leveling up and learning new techniques from alien races (people from other countries). We’re all really just getting ready for the next big challenges in our universe.
All City Jimmy is the artist formerly known as Nocando.