Saturday, March 22, 2008

A New Yorker's Look at Gleason's Gym Gets Me Thinking

Jeremiah Moss recounts a visit to Gleason's Gym on his blog. It's not a bad read, as blog entries go, and much of its message resonates with me.

I grew up as an inner-city boy. I was multicultural before that word was used fairly widely in common parlance. I was diverse before diversity was a multi-million-dollar industry. I know the pain of seeing my beloved city (in my case, Chicago) become gentrified and lose its familiar roughness and grittiness.

While I train today at a gym that some might call "upscale," I'm no stranger to the rough-and-tumble world of the storied Windy City Gym and various Chicago Park District boxing gyms. While I am technically, I suppose--can you sense my ambivalence about this?--one of those "white collar" guys about whom Moss seems to have deep misgivings, I'm pretty simple and pretense never did much for me. I'm equally at home throwing down with a kid several years younger than me in a gym in a rough part of town, and boxing against another lawyer in a charitable fund-raising event.

While I could complain a bit about how Mr. Moss painted his picture of Gleason's Gym and its environs, my complaint would not really be about his message or even how he delivers it. My frustration may be the same as his: I lament the loss of many things that give our cities an identity that goes beyond block after block of what Malvina Reynolds famously called "little boxes."

One can't dismiss me as some sort of anti-progress Luddite who naively yearns for "the good old days." I'm a technology kind of guy. My law practice and much of my writing concentrate on Internet and computer law and I have lots of information technology experience. I don't dislike innovation and change; technological progress fuels my livelihood. Still, I don't necessarily think something is better just because it's new. I may be in the minority, but I feel a lot safer in integrated neighborhoods, where all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds learn to live together peacefully, than I do in places where everyone looks the same, talks the same, lives in the same kind of house, and drives basically the same kind of cars.

I can't do very much to stop the tide of gentrification and all the phenomena that accompany it. But I don't have to like it and I certainly won't stop asking whether there are other, better ways to improve our cities.

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