Thursday, December 13, 2007

Housing on my Mind

Several years ago--"sometime in the late 90s" is about as specific as I can get--my aunt and I were sitting in my grandmother's kitchen somewhere in Orange County having an argument about Guiliani. My grandmother and aunt are both lifelong Democrats, for the record, but that didn't stop my aunt from taking the he's-been-good-for-crime-control position in this debate.

"You have to admit though, Ma, he's cleaned up the city."

"Oh, would you give me a break?" No one can put quite as much into an expression from the "oh, please," family as my grandmother can. "Gimme a break, _____."

"He HAS, Ma," my aunt insisted. "I don't like him either, but he HAS."

"Yeah, Grandma," I jumped in, "it says right here in the paper [I'm pretty sure I was reading my more-conservative grandfather's New York Post at the time] that in [some neighborhood] alone, crime's gone down 57% since he's been in."

My grandmother had been having this conversation with her back to my aunt and me. She'd been futzing around at the kitchen counter, but she whipped around to face me at that. She got right to work:

"Yeah, _____, that's what it says in the Post, right? That crime is down 57%."

"That's what--"

"Do they say why crime is down 57%?"

I knew I was about to lose this argument. I could tell by the tone of voice, I could tell because she was still making her "oh, please," face, all comically raised eyebrows with the mouth in a grimace. But what could I do?

"No," I admitted. "They just say it's been since Guil--"

"Well, I watch the news, darling. I watch it every night. I can tell you why crime is down so much. You wanna know why crime is down in that neighborhood?"


"Crime is down because," my grandmother sensibly interrupted, drawing out each syllable for emphasis, "they demolished all the old buildings in that neightborhood. Whole blocks, kaboom! That's why crime is down. But leave it to the Post not to tell you that."

She turned back to the counter.

"Of course crime went down! How can you have any crime in a place nobody lives anymore?" she asked of no one in particular. I think it was what you call a rhetorical question.

And I think what that question really was asking was, "How is that my own flesh and blood doesn't know you can't believe everything you read?"

My aunt tactfully changed the subject.


I have to quit watching "My House Is Worth What?" on HGTV when I work out. If you're looking for the most obnoxious people on all of planet Earth, that is the show where you can see 'em all. They're all there fretting over whether the $10, $15, $20 thousand dollars they sunk into the kitchen remodel is going to translate into $$$MEGABUCKS$$$ of profit when they sell.

Every show is the same: Some yuppie couple with 0-1 kids decides it's time to head for the suburbs but first, but first, could a real estate expert (they are NEVER just realtors on this show, never EVER) please tell them what their hipster haven in the city is worth, so they can figure out whether to buy the 4-bedroom ranch or the 5-bedroom?

I don't know why I watch it, I really don't, except that there's not a lot else on.

Today's couple was obnoxious enough to stand out, which is saying something. "We won this place in a lottery," beamed the blonde woman.

"A lottery for first-time home buyers just starting out. There were income restrictions, you know, you couldn't make too much, but you had to make at least this--"

"We really needed the help because we're stand-up comics," interjected the even-blonder man.

"We're not wealthy," agreed the woman. "Four years ago, when we bought this place, this neighborhood wasn't as nice as it is now. I really feel like we're pioneers in a sense, because--"

You know why, "because?"

Because they'd paid $182,000 for an apartment in Harlem. That's what this little shit wanted her Pioneer Award for. For bravery in the face of all that--and you bet this phrase was said during the show, oh, many times--"ethnic diversity."

By the time the real estate expert had finished giving the couple the sad news that although Harlem had "come a long way" in those four years, it "still isn't quite where it needs to be," I'd pretty much made up my mind never to watch this show again. But I guess she wasn't all wrong, that lottery-winning lady: Pioneers also displaced people to follow their dreams. Sure, pioneer dreams were more like "practice polygamy" than "fart around pretending to be stand-up comics so we don't have to get regular jobs," but close enough, right?

The show's narrator kept reminding viewers what was really important: If the country's least-funny stand-up comics couldn't sell the apartment at a profit, their twin boys wouldn't get to have a backyard.

I know!!!


I think it was only a couple years ago that libertarians and conservatives went frothy over Kelo v. City of New London. But that was different. Decisions like Kelo could really fuck up a dude's real estate investment strategies:

Some of the luster attached to dirt has been severely diminished for the small investor class. I've made a few dollars in real estate and now I'm gong to have to look elsewhere. Having the capriciousness of government looming over my property takes all the safety out of the equation. On an even more serious note, the three pillars of prosperity for emerging nations are free markets, rule of law, and private property rights. We just got busted down to third world status.

You know what's "third world?" This is "third world:"

Last week, the city housing authority approved the demolition of 4,000 public housing units at five projects damaged by the storm. In their place, the authority plans to build mixed-income projects, large parts of which will not be affordable to previous residents.

This is "third world:"

One of the more striking changes to appear lately in New Orleans is the highly visible number of homeless men and women living under bridges and in parks. Social service groups say about 12,000 homeless people are living in the city, about double the number before the storm.

This is "third world:"

Time has already run out for some. Ms. Bernard, 40, and her two daughters got the final word on Friday that they were evicted, cast out of the only home they have had since the storm to whereabouts unknown. And they were not alone.

“I don’t know what’s going to become of us,” said Tiffany Farbe, who lives in a trailer park near the Mississippi River in the Uptown part of New Orleans with her son and mother. “They said get out. I’ve explained to them over and over again our situation. FEMA just makes you feel like dirt.”

But a conservative says what again?--I don't know. Searches aren't turning up much. I guess nobody's sweet blond boys need a backyard to play in. Likely no one's real estate investments are at risk. Maybe they're afraid their "authority" will be called into question the way this guy's was.

All I know is that I'm running out of cute ways to direct people to Brownfemipower.


JackGoff said...

I would just like to say, good to have you back, Ilyka! I feel bad that I haven't checked your site in a while, so I had no idea. Anyway, I need to get to reading!

Theriomorph said...

Yeah. You know, my sister was living in Manhattan all through Giuliani, and like most people who lived in Manhattan through Giuliani, the general knowledge was that he was a dangerous Fascist.

'But you can eat off the floor of Penn Station now! The homeless people are gone!' Yeah. Gone where?, New Yorkers asked. Detention centers in Yonkers, for fuck's sake? People were seriously creeped out by the silent disappearance of thousands and thousands of people, as if by MAGIC - by the pre-BushJr lingo of heroism and patriotism and nationalism. And post 9/11, an entirely different world in which silent Fascism has flourished. Hero. Feh. He ran for his bunker and HID while New Yorkers died and saved people and died trying and then came out swaggering on the makings of a Presidential campaign and quietly, as if by MAGIC, denyied the firemen, the workers, the families medical care and assistance.

Ok. Giuliani rant over. But I so often wish there was a louder voice from Manhattan about this guy.

ilyka said...

Hero. Feh. He ran for his bunker and HID while New Yorkers died and saved people and died trying and then came out swaggering on the makings of a Presidential campaign and quietly, as if by MAGIC, denyied the firemen, the workers, the families medical care and assistance.

I have got to get you together with my grandma.

I can't decide whether I hope he gets the nomination or not. On the one hand, he's so BAD at even the most clumsy attempts to disguise his love of the jackboot that I can't imagine he'd have a chance in hell.

On the other hand, a lot more people share that love of the boot than I used to realize and what if, heaven forbid, he actually won? We'd NEVER get him out. A man like that does not leave office quietly after four or eight years. And never even mind all the shit he'd pull in the meantime.

Okay, I think I just scared myself into campaigning for Romney.