Blond Boy in the Stroller
Yesterday my sister rang the buzzer for me, and I ran down and opened the door and smiled at the little blond boy in the stroller. His name is Ethan, and he shone in the sun. They live across 111th street, in Harlem. Unlike me they are here to stay.
I bet when locals see that beautiful little blond boy they feel an era has disappeared forever. When they see that angelic face they know that the days of white fear of Harlem are over. That is how I feel when I see him; its how I feel when I see them see him, or avoid seeing him. They must know, as I do, that Harlem’s power – a power built on legend – is gone. It still has the power to hurt. A few murders of whites may happen. But it no longer has the power to inspire fear. Japanese girls with ratty hair, punky jeans, and never before seen shoes walk down the street.
With its myth of danger slipping, Harlem is losing its force field. When whites and Asians stop being afraid, they and their capital will take over. Even if they only take over what had stood as a burned-out shell, won’t the people here still think: I once filled that hell-hole with my thoughts, my angers, my dreams. Now the dream-space is gone, the bricked-up commons enclosed and renovated, and the bums will have to find somewhere else to piss.
All those hipsters priced out of the village like the feeling, a feeling borrowed, of living in a memory called “Harlem.” The place is not what it was. If it were, they would not be here. But if it had not been what it was, they would not get the charge they do. The name earns admiration, even though the force field is down and anyone can just walk in there. The legend, now just a story, still reverberates from memory, for blacks as well as whites. These hipsters signal change.
But its that beautiful blond boy who presents the indubitable evidence, if anyone still doubted. They see him there in his stroller shining in the sun and try not to look.