Friday, June 19, 2009

I guess I'm against chain stores, but an In-N-Out Burger place near my house would be good

A couple of things got me thinking recently about how cities change and evolve and how people react to said change and evolution.

(Brief digression #1: Yeah, I know this post already sounds kinda boring, but stick with me. Maybe it's not so bad. Although, I grant you, no one's going to throw up or get laid in this post, so you may have to dial back expectations just a little.)

I was at Zeitgeist last night with Stoney and he mentioned how much the place had changed over the years and yeah, that certainly is true. When I first started going there in the mid-90's it was definitely more of a biker bar, and had a definite edge that it lacks now. Then I moved away to Santa Cruz for a couple of years (about which the less said the better but UGH) and when I came back it was pretty much a hipster/bike messenger hangout. Now it's fairly mixed, but I'll just say that last night I was sitting across from a guy in a fleece vest and a goatee and at the bar I saw a guy in a visor wearing flip flops. So yeah, maybe not the same. I mean, I know someone who was present once when the bartender kicked a girl out for wearing patchouli, so if they gave the Visor Guy a pass, that tells you something.

(Brief digression #2: I recently read that humans are the only animals that use the same opening for breathing and eating. Like other animals can eat and swallow and everything and breathe at the same time. That's why we can talk and they can't. And why we can choke to death. I mention this because I just aspirated a bunch of water and coughed it all up and that shows you that even highly developed humans like myself still fuck up the breathing/swallowing thing.)

Stoney said: "I think I realized it changed when Marina girls started having birthday parties here."

But hey, that's life. Places change. You can't encase Zeitgeist in amber with all the bike messengers trapped inside. That's just the way things go, plus they'd all suffocate.

A while back there was a huge to-do when American Apparel announced that it was going to open a store on Valencia Street in the Mission here in SF. People who live in the Mission - well, maybe a particular kind of people who live in the Mission - objected strongly because (I think) American Apparel is a big chain and they didn't want a big chain on Valencia Street, which currently features lots of locally-owned boutiques and shops and restaurants and cutesy little stores and stuff. And they won! No American Apparel. (The space, incidentally, is still an empty storefront.)

I'm kind of torn. On the one hand, I'm all for preserving the distinctive character of neighborhoods and so forth. I mean, chain stores have pretty much taken over to the extent that if you got dropped into almost any town in America, you wouldn't know where you were, since all Jiffy Lubes and Applebees look about the same. So I'm all for reasonable restrictions on chain stores.

On the other hand, like I said about Zeitgeist, trying to preserve a neighborhood in amber is a losing battle. A hundred years ago, the Mission was a predominantly Irish neighborhood. Now it's predominantly Hispanic. (BTW, one interesting note - I didn't notice any opposition from the Hispanic community to the American Apparel store, and they're the majority in the neighborhood. Just saying.) Who knows what it'll be in another hundred years?

ANYWAY, I'm not sure there's any good answer to this dilemma. For now, there are a lot of empty storefronts on Valencia, and that sucks, but I also don't want to see a Crate and Barrel next door to the pirate store at 826 Valencia, so what the fuck do I know.

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