Highland Park is a community on the brink of transformation.
Slowly but surely, the established neighbourhood’s stunted but sturdy post-war
bungalows have been knocked down to make room for two-story townhouses that
squeeze the most amount of house in the least amount of yard. My wife and I
moved into just such a home after growing tired of living in an inner city
condo. I wanted a yard, a deck and no shared walls. What I got was an education
Like many left-leaning members of the middle class, I had frequently expressed an admiration for socially mixed neighbourhoods. A mix of incomes and housing styles seemed to me a recipe for a vibrant urban community. But when it came time to actually live in such a community, instead of mixing with my neighbours, I found myself bemoaning the glacial pace of gentrification.
Across our back alley and kitty-corner to our house, there was a rundown rental property where three nights a week, the occupants partied late into the night, blaring classic rock while they gathered around a makeshift fire pit. We once witnessed them attempt to burn an upholstered recliner. It was that house. We called the police. We called the fire department. We called bylaw enforcement. We drove them out in the least neighbourly way possible, and when the moving truck arrived to take them away, we bid them good riddance.
Then the new neighbours moved in. One of the first things they unpacked was the Confederate and white Celtic cross flags they hung as curtains. There seemed to be a rotating group living in the tiny bungalow, all dressed in a uniform of black military pants, bomber jackets and Doc Martens. In the interest of keeping an open mind, I tried to explain away this sartorial synergy – maybe they were straightedge Skynyrd fans?
All such justifications proved unjustifiable when the weather warmed up and they started throwing barbecues. Every other night, while my wife and I would gather on our back deck to enjoy our white wine, the renters would gather to enjoy their white pride. Hateful hardcore music blared from speakers left behind by the previous tenants. Racist chants were sung in singsong voices, a naked challenge to all in the neighbourhood to say something about it. To my shame, we said nothing, retiring to the protection of our home to make anonymous 911 calls.
In the days and weeks to follow, we made more calls to more agencies with the same results as before. In the days after the skinheads departed, I started talking with my fellow neighbours for the first time. The guy across the alley said he heard they’d trashed the house and beat up their Chinese landlord upon being evicted. Before the skinheads moved in, Highland Park was nothing more to me than lines on a map, arbitrary constraints creating an artificial community. It took a truly terrible neighbour to make me realize I belonged to something bigger.
by Wayne Chan | May 3rd 11:55 am
My daily commute is like a small gear of mechanical time, of epicycles upon epicycles, where days turn to months and to years, and the seasons cycle through. The rhythms of time are constant, but the changes they bring are not.
by george ilsley | May 3rd 1:44 pm
The neighborhood of Broma in Vancouver (around Broadway and Main) used to have salmon streams and a temperate rainforest. Now it has hipsters.
by Monica Meneghetti | May 2nd 11:45 pm
Queer Banffites come in every stripe but, like other wildlife, most of us are well-camouflaged.
by Christin Geall | May 3rd 10:16 pm
In my neighborhood, houses float out to sea. They’re jacked up from their foundations, lifted onto trucks, and barged away.