In which Boo takes on gentrification and race

If my milky whiteness moves to Footscray, is this a sign of The End Times?

I suspected as much before I moved into Brunswick. On my first arvo there six years ago I took a stroll about the backstreets: sniffed the roasted spices in the air, tucked a Turkish bread under my arm and drank in the golden light of a sundown over jagged factory roofs and thought….this ain’t going to last.

The End Times have already happened in the ‘Wick (see: pointless pizza chains, vast property developments with no corresponding transport plan and boutique clothing stores where the cheapest top costs $90). I’m not leaving for these reasons, I’m moving because my rent’s been hiked up again – but the two things are certainly related. No-one’s yet realised that if everybody pours into the kooky, cheap suburbs, you kill off the very things that make it appealing in the first place. Prahran, Windsor, Richmond etc. All expensive and full of people who look like me. So on I go.

In Melbourne’s great north-south divide, a third area that’s always forgotten is the West. Although there’s many other ways to get there other than the West Gate Bridge, there’s a giant mental block in the minds of most people I’ve spoken to. Well may you snort, but something has always told me my heart was in Footscray, ever since my small mate in kindergarten announced he was a fervent Doggies and Simon Beasley supporter (and so was I soon after).

In my search for affordable accommodation I trawled up and down the virtual highways of Maidstone, Seddon, Kingsville and other suburbs many Melbournians are hazy on. Yarraville was keenly investigated, but after a couple of trips there I developed a strong dislike of its overly narrow, twee main street packed with gigantic cars, its overflow of pregnant ladies clutching ‘environmentally friendly’ plastic coffee mugs in one hand and $19.99 organic honey in the other, trying to wheel enormous prams full of cross, blotchy infants and BARKING MY SHINS BITCH and speaking in ickle baby voices at the top of their lungs.*

(On a side note I reckon if I moved to Yarraville I’d be up duff within the hour. Even if I went on twelve separate forms of contraception and poisoned the water supply I’d be pregnant with triplets called Orlando, Sienna and Thaddeus by the time I put the key in the front door.)

Even worse – this wee street is covered in street ‘art’, whereby some ‘artist’ blackmails the council for a yearlong grant to paint bollards and solder tiny chairs painted in deliberately childlike and patronising designs for youngsters to rest their damp little pants after a vigorous play (draws shuddering breath) – as well as benches intricately inscribed with things like ‘soul food’ and ‘spirituality’ for weary Mums resting in between that long journey from the first soy chai latte to the second chamomile tea infused with vanilla and goji berries. Bah! Vanilla!

How I loathe a gentrified streetscape. To me it’s the physical representation of everything that’s wrong with white people the world over. The minute one chap opens an interesting café with, say, an ironic movie poster of Cannonball Run and a stack of Jenga in the window, street ‘artists’ come storming in in their thousands, buggering up footpaths with mosaics of people drinking coffee, tripping people up with steel insects, animals and other damnfool sculptures and slapping people in the face with curly lettering that says things like ‘Welcome to Thornbury Village’ or ‘You are now in the High St Precinct’. Damn their eyes.

Footscray! Now there’s a breath of fresh air. The Whitten Oval! The n’e-er do-wells in the mall! The parklands! The strong police presence! The durian! The prices! The restaurant called Poons! For lunch the other day I bought a Vietnamese coffee and a chicken pastry that had spiced minced chicken in it and water chestnut!! And not the tinned stuff! I could see myself living in Footscray.

Speaking of chestnut, what about that old one about how to get the best Asian food? You know – when you’re wandering up and down Victoria St in search of a decent spring roll (o the difficulty), some knowledgeable cove in your party will pipe up ‘just look for the place that’s full of Asians – it’s usually good.’ OH MY GOD UNDISCOVERED SECRET. You know what? That is not always the case. This is tried and true in Footscray, which is a melting pot of Vietnamese, Ethiopians, Indians, Croatians, Italians and even a good sprinkling of Skips of mongrel heritage like myself. Restaurants are full of…all sorts. No-one seems to be a minority, and no-one’s in the majority.

But for how long?

In conclusion, I have no doubt at all that if the likes of me move to Footscray, the likes of Footscray will be gentrified ere long.

*Full disclosure: this post written when I’d just got my period and had to publically explain to not one but two pharmacists why I was allowed to buy Nurofen Plus – once I got the sweet pills in my hand I told them I was off to consume them in the bath with a bottle of whiskey and turned angrily on my heel.

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2 thoughts on “In which Boo takes on gentrification and race

  1. Meh, Footscray (like Smith Street, Fitzroy) has been threatening to gentrify for ages. It never does completely because in spite of its weird (/'cosmopolitan') ethnic mix and food and its proximity to the city and the Docklands, it will always be proximate to (1) Coode Island and (2) multiple MAJOR trucking routes. Those should keep the ravening hordes of yups at bay for a space.

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