My Life A Bit South of Normal

Monday, January 4, 2016

Life in the Hood

All my life, my Mama dreamed that I would someday live in Charleston. However looking up and down my street, where I have moved into my new abode and established residency, I do not think this is what she had in mind. Her fond memories of the quaint carriage house she and my father lived in almost 60 years ago, just south of Broad Street do not quite correlate with my new address in the Eastside of town.

Charleston is divided into different "neighborhoods". There is "South of Broad" where the well healed and old Charleston live. "Harleston Village", the "King Street Historic District", and the "French Quarters" sit just north of Broad street, as well as "Ansonborough", famous as home of the old City Market. 

Next one crosses Calhoun street and finds  two up and coming neighborhoods. "Wraggborough" is home to historic homes and some churches, as well as new construction and is the seen of urban renewal and affordable housing for the young professionals trying to find a home on the peninsula. Across upper King Street, now known for it's new restaurants and bars, is "Radcliffeborough" a neighborhood close the medical college and full of restored homes housing doctors and medical students.

Then one crosses Morris and Mary Streets into, what some call, "Midtown". Here you find "Cannonborough/Elliotbourough" and "Eastside". These two are also split by King street. While Cannonborough/Elliotborough" is known now for its fixeruppers with "increased investment and significant interest", "Eastside" is the poorer cousin lagging behind. 

If someone starts south of Broad street and moves north, noting the lifestyle and condition of the neighborhoods, when they reach "Eastside", the haughty may assume they have entered the "'hood". According to the dictionary, defined as "a lower income crime riddled area. An unsafe place to live. Residents usually live in fear of life from day to day. Not a 'nice' place to live." Or, as my Mama would say, (using one of my most despised "Zenithisms") not where "our people would live".

I disagree. The people on the street are most friendly and were quick to offer help as we hauled the loads of boxes and furniture into my new home. The neighborhood is in transition. You will find two extremely fine redone and well kept Charleston single houses on the street, then the next four houses will be old Charleston homes that has seen better days and are now tenements. The next building may be a boarded up house barely standing, a corner store with lots of business, or a church. 

Eastside is on the edge of gentrification. Soon, it too, will join the ranks of its more well to do cousins and become a desirable neighborhood. But, is that really so good? After all, as someone said, gentrification is, "When a bunch of white people move to the ghetto and open up a bunch of cup cake shops."

And, I ask who needs cupcakes when you can have what has been an identity, not necessarily upscale, but affordable housing for folks for years, an eclectic mix of people on the street, and so much going on?

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