SOUTH KENSINGTON’S A WAR ZONE
Walking through South Kensington is like walking through a war zone. Rapid fire machine guns. Nail guns. Jackhammers. Industrial machinery. Tractor trailers beeping backwards. Dump trucks unfilling their refuse. Shouting so loudly the dust shakes off old concrete bricks and into a cloud of chaos. Eris rules supreme. The sound waves echoing off half-constructed shoddy plywood walls holding up these neo-futuristic monstrosities. Desolate warehouses collapsing under the severe pressure of the drum taps. Ash and smoke rising in the breeze from block to abandoned lot, where the bodies used to pile, now turned into yuppie condos.
Out west they are burning down whole forests, old redwood groves. Whole towns. The “carelessness” of the people in charge. A stray electric wire on a utility pole. Wonder what mini-mall they’ll build next in place of these historic sights.
Back east we’re building rich American Dreams for those who can’t dream on their own. The Manifest Destiny of filling every neighborhood corner and former urban garden and raw alley and even the cracks in the sidewalk with the travesty of supply and demand for a place where no one will know your name, even though you live right next to them, and there’s high black gates in front of every doorway in case someone gets the wrong impression seeking a neighbor.
How did I live through this as long as I did? With every step I step a little closer to this nervousness inside myself coming to the surface. Unconscious to it but feeling my heart racing nonetheless. This concrete jungle active and alive as whole neighborhoods are renovated to suit rich white folk interests from New York and the Jersey burbs squashing an identity that took decades, even generations to grow. Gentrification in a matter of moments.
Developers greedy rich with ideas for what they’ll call this “new” hood, sequestering google maps with murals and handmade road signs they hang from telephone poles, depicting a language of money.
One thing I forget until I return to Philly is the depression. What it feels like to have your hopes dashed in front of you by machines more powerful. Corruption and greed using the anarchy of bureaucracy against you. Creating new structures out of a world that you thought was shared. The exteriors built to crumble so the replacements aren’t even worth the amount of trauma they subjugate us with.
I find it interesting how as I cross over into Northern Liberties, an old hot bed for this type of displacement which has mostly settled down in recent years, except for the outer reaches, my mind and my heart come back into focus. I feel present with my surroundings. I experience the feeling of readjustment. Being one with the sun above.
I can actually hear myself think and the sound of my brother speak, telling a story he’s been saying all along but as we crossed into the war zone it became all jumbled, practically frantic, losing its focus, and becoming just more of the static as I try to make out his point but can’t even figure out what is happening in the present moment.