One of my dearest friends lives in Malibu and teaches in Silverlake and she swears by the neighbourhood – she loves how much more ethnic it is than the beach (no kidding, white and blonde being the only ethnicity that populates the ‘Bu), how funky, how cute the stores are….Well, I decided to give Silverlake another try – I think my last foray was when the neighbourhood started to become hip, right around the release of the movie “Swingers” 14 years ago. At the time, I remember a flurry of 1920’s and 30’s homes being renovated by young hipsters who could not afford to buy property elsewhere and started branching out into the more Latino populated sides of town. The pretty homes are still there, the prettier they are the higher one drives up the hillside.
On this Tuesday lunchtime the lovely and rather dishevelled looking young people populating the sidewalk cafes along the two blocks of Sunset Boulevard where most of Silverlake businesses are located, are busy eating vegan sandwiches and breakfast all day. Titanium mac pros abound and the only sign of ethnicity were the Mexican people getting off the buses to walk home a few blocks away, most definitely not up the hillsides. And certainly not stopping at the Cheese store either.
The stores are expensive and full of absolutely nothing of value or even character. The ‘50s vintage clothes are overpriced as is everything else, from the bad Mexican pottery and Milagros, to the handmade leather bags (pretty but crudely sewn together) and the interesting custom jewellery. One could argue it’s better than chain stores taking over and yes, it is, but it’s still one of a kind overpriced crap. You know money has moved in when an espresso costs you $3.00 and people line up for it. That is what sometimes drives me crazy about this town – the pretense of modesty where there is none to be found. I would rather go for the bling knowing what to expect. Silverlake is a woolf in local designer’s sheep’s clothing, with a devil-may-care attitude that is as annoying as it lacks in innocence. And it was a reminder of the segregation of this city, where every segment of the population has a geographical assigned place on the map and where it is becoming increasingly difficult to cross borders.