The New Bohemia

I was living in a dump in 1992 which seemed romantic because it was a short subway ride from Manhattan- the idea of a dumpy area being withinn 100 miles of Manhattan is beyond comprehension to us now, just as outrageous as thinking that living anywhere in Rhode Island, dumpy or worse yet not dumpy, could lead one close to a Promised Land. Well, the wheel keeps on turning. It is 2011 and my previously dumpy home base is now a Disney Land Soho – a Bohemians-R-US theme park of grooviness, not a crack whore or curbside sofa in sight. Where are the crack whores and the sofas? The Elmwood section of Providence, what I have now labeled The New Bohemia, just as they did with my dumpy neighborhood in Brooklyn- 1993- when New York Magazine labeled it, The New Bohemia. Well, there went the neighborhood. They took the train over from the Lower East Side and we all had to relocate as the rents skyrocketed. Old familiar story. Gentrification. I had to move on, move out, but forgot to move up and so have ended up in what is considered the worst section of Providence, RI- Elmwood, or Slumwood, as I call it, a real trash-strewn downer with an exceptional ethnicity. If only somebody, anybody within a mile had more than 5 dollars, whatever our race, creed or color. No luck. Thanks Wall Street. Unlike 1992- the crack whores and aging whitey artists and latino drug dealers and asian noodle pushers all understand that it is not our fault after all that we’re broke, and we are all in this together, hence, there are less break-ins, less crime, than twenty years ago. Sure, we’re all still suspicious of each other, but the new divide is rich and poor not brown black white yellow. Plus, we all know that none of us have anything to steal. I am feeling Deja-Vu, living in Elmwood, — the trash, the potholes, the broken windows, the ramshackle historically signifigant houses, the chain link fences, the blight…the ugliness….where have I seen this before? Brooklyn. Williamsburg. 1993 – just before the TIpping Point- the New Bohemian label- the dumb-dumbs moved in, thirsting for hip-dumb, the scene, – the turning point- the scene starts before the rents rise- then boom it’s over and on to some other boom. Rhode Island, the last place and yet first place for a renaissance. They call Providence the Creative Capital, and I must say we are saturated with artists- with the thugs in control but being herded up by the FEDS. It’s a city larger and yet smaller than its parts. An enigma. I keep coming back to it. Confused. Now wait a minute. It’s ocean close, near New york and Boston, what is the PROBLEM? I won’t get into that now. Gentrification is germinating, but ever so slowly in Elmwood. Despite the bygone gorgeousness of the oversized Victorian houses, many of which have been invaded by lawyers and real estate agents and yuppies looking to double their money- block to block, it’s still a shit-hole. No matter how many lovely homes you have, with crack houses and no place to walk to except an overgrown cemetary, it’s pure dump. So, what’s next. Certainly, artists move into dumps. Here they come. But slowly. with hesitation. They need coaxing, the monied artists. The ones who can Tip that Point. And that is what a New Bohemia is all about. The CUSP before the fall into a pool of potential for payback. It’s sickening, I know, dealing with the vapid cheerleader consciousness of the pioneers, scared shitless, but buying in anyway- hoping for the miracle. And the miracle, I now predict, is coming and would it be anything less, RHODE ISLAND??– Providence? The worst SIDE of Providence. We proceed on tip-toe. We step over the garbage. We smile at the muggers,…Have a Nice Day. – and the soirees are about to begin, sabotaged by anxiety. We would have had much more fun in Williamsburg had we known it was going to turn out swell. I predict a swell outcome here in Elmwood. I am going to try my darn-dest to enjoy it this time around.

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