Every City with a Side

Would you be happier paying $1,500 for a closet and eating dried beans in a stranger’s city? This is what I’m asking these days. Why are all these graphic designers moving to 35th Street, 32nd Street, 30th Street in my city? The last bartender I met said my neighborhood of origin is a bad one. He said this two blocks from the apartment I live in now, which is a good one? Last year, a musician asked if I grew up in the ghetto or the good part. I said neither. What should I have said? How do you explain when all you’ve wanted to do is leave, leave. How do you also stay proud?

This month, all the snow has melted and you can see a winter’s worth of plastic bags caught in bushes along the freeway.

A long time ago, I met a student from New York City who seemed older than everyone else. Our conversation ended when he said I would never “make it” in New York. I hadn’t even said I wanted to try. It was puzzling because we were 16. Did he think he had “made it” by being born somewhere special?

I felt satisfied in my jealousy and its opposite when I found a poet whom I realized wouldn’t be able to “make it” in Milwaukee. He’d lived in New York previously. We wouldn’t be able to stoke his ego with local competition. We are just not that important. We are like the houses my grandparents lived in, demolished, one for a highway, another for a retaining pond. We are the same neighborhood described in different ways. We are my mother’s landlady, the one who hit her ceiling with a broom handle because my little sister and I were dancing. We ask too many questions at the Q&A. We wonder why anyone would ever move here. We are dirty snow, a tough crowd. It’s just like anyplace else.

3 thoughts on “Every City with a Side

  1. Right, making it. That’s how deeply competition is ingrained. I need to hope to be above the 70th percentile of ability to live in a city based on a standardized assessment involving what? Ability to smile through loneliness? Demonstration of aggression at newcomers? Zest for being the best? Enjoyment of whatever trending assets of the local economy? What? I can fail at living somewhere? I can fail at relocating? Evidence of failure is moving again? moving to a lesser place on the universal scale of places of value? or just being unhappy sometimes?


  2. “It’s just like anyplace else.”


    I am supposed to hold NEW YORK in reverence because of it’s size or the pilgrimage of people searching for fame or the blandness of poets that all sound the same.

    I am good.

    I like my GENTRIFYING home. We love on each other and lift up each other for our differences not our sameness… The cool kids in MKE are the kids that walk their own way.


  3. Graphic designers, writers, artists, musicians, bartenders (who are sometimes musicians or otherwise part-time creatives)—the creative class often grows up in the “ghetto,” makes it livable, affordable, and vibrant, then get priced out, pushed out, and migrate elsewhere to start the cycle over. We are seeing that here in Portland, to be sure. To the point where we start asking ourselves—can we “make it?”

    We are all looking for that perfect balance—that place to live, love, walk, and find a sense of community. Somewhere between urban and agrarian, thug life and overtly gentrified. And everyone keeps leaving and relocating to find their private utopia.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s