Thursday, August 12, 2010

For rent

Already, I've no doubt given you the impression that this project is Santa Barbara in Lean Times. It's really not, though I would submit that the correlation between a city's continuous prosperity and its dullness is, shall we say, nonzero. The Scottish musician and writer Nick "Momus" Currie has interesting things to say about this:
Increasingly, my outlook has Berlinified, by which I mean I regard expensive cities like New York, London and Tokyo as unsuited to subculture. They're essentially uncreative because creative people living there have to put too much of their time and effort into the meaningless hackwork which allows them to meet the city's high rents and prices. So disciplines like graphic design and television thrive, but more interesting types of art are throttled in the cradle.
While Santa Barbara will never, ever even approach the NYC/London/Tokyo population scale — even proportionately — it has similar rents-and-prices issues. We call it the "Santa Barbara Tax". Talking to a friend in Brooklyn, I found out that Brooklyn is actually in some respects cheaper than here; the bars are, anyway. When someone leaves Santa Barbara, it's usually because their studio apartment went up to $1100 per month or because they found the same job in like Bakersfield, but it pays three times as much. (These are not exaggerations.)

Part of me thus roots for Santa Barbara to get poorer. This is not particularly improbable in Economic Times Like These; signs over signs like those pictured above are pretty common. Things have improved since last year, when the frequency of empty storefronts made stretches of State look like the mouth of a Sportsman regular. Alas, I haven't seen many cool, interesting things take root in the dead spots; if anything, the new arrivals are worse. I see it as emblematic that Morninglory Music was replaced by some sort of glow-in-the-dark t-shirt store.

But hope springs eternal! The glow-in-the-dark t-shirt industry could always take a dive, making way for the Ooga Boogas of the world. Then let's convert Juicy Couture into a Kinokuniya or something, please.

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