Sunday, May 1, 2011

Those Wheels Must Turn

Originally Posted on February 14, 2007

Needless to say, Monday night's class left an indelible impression upon me. Upon the subjects we covered, we delved into National Public Radio host Ray Suarez’s view on suburban migration over the last five decades as written in his book The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in The Great Suburban Migration: 1966-1999. Though there was a singular reasoning for this suburban migration that Suarez points out, we seem to almost neglect other subsequent trends that occurred in light of it.

First off, to counter Suarez’s point that middle-class Caucasian heterosexual families solely fueled the migration out of the urban center, it would be another distinct cultural group that began the trend of re-urbanization in these centers: the lesbian and gay community. According to the late Randy Shilts, the old Eureka Valley neighborhood, a declining neighborhood where it was once home of the policemen and firefighters of San Francisco, exploded into the most successful privately-driven example of urban renewal. Because of the emergence of the Castro, other gayborhoods sprung up from declining neighborhoods in many urban centers. Today’s rebirth of industrial spaces as livable lofts is another wave of re-urbanization we are seeing in North American cities. Even older gayborhoods are attracting upwardly mobile heterosexual residents as gays and lesbians are now seeking more affordable spaces elsewhere.

Then, there’s the phenomenon of “suburban flight.” In older suburban enclaves, such as Long Island and the San Fernando Valley, even older subdivisions became worn to the point that same the families that fled the city in the 1950’s began to go further afield in the 1980’s. When the Los Angeles Unified School District began mandatory bussing between the Valley and other parts of the city, you saw a further migration of middle-class Caucasian heterosexual families beyond the Santa Susana Mountains into Ventura County and the northern parts of Los Angeles County.

However, the idea of “flight” is not exclusive to middle-class Caucasian heterosexuals. If you lived in the Washington, DC, Atlanta and Chicago areas, you can also say that middle-class heterosexual African Americans had their own flight from the city. Latinos also experienced their own suburban migration in South Florida and Southern California as well. To say that suburban migration is solely based on race or any distinct cultural identity is false. My old professor at Hayward was right: ultimately, it is socio-economic class that drives change and creates divisions.

I wanted something to put all of this to close. So, I went to the only thing that can: music. Not just any old band would do...perhaps an old favorite group out of Australia formerly fronted by the current opposition front bencher from Kingsford Smith (NSW). Only they could be so eloquent about putting this into context.

The Breakfast Creek hotel is up for sale
The last square mile of terra firma gaveled in the mail
So farewell to the Norfolk Island pines
No amount of make believe can help this heart of mine

End - your dreamworld is just about to end
Fall - your dreamworld is just about to fall
Your dreamworld will fall

So shut that buckle and turn that key again
Take me to a place they say the dreaming never ends
Open wide drive that mystery road
Walk through Eden's garden and then wonder as you go

Sign says honeymoon to rent
Cloudland into dreamland turns
The sun comes up and we all learn
Those wheels must turn

As with the topsoil that gave way to six decades of “progress,” the wheels continue to turn in many directions.

"Dreamworld" - Music and Lyrics by Midnight Oil © 1986 Sony Music Australia

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