Oh fiddlesticks, I was outted. I was participating in a community meeting the other night, where we were discussing redevelopment of a tired old suburban shopping district, where I once lived and where I own several properties that I rent to community heroes so they have an affordable place to stay in the community where they work.
During the meeting, there was a fair amount of discussion about just what types of development we thought would be appropriate for this community. Currently, there are a number of small Mamma-and-Pappa Shops — I say that because most of the shops are owned and operated by people of Hispanic origin. Lots of stores and restaurants that cater to the large Hispanic population in the area.
Someone said, “there isn’t any night life here any more. There used to be a gay bar, but they closed. I wonder why?”
Then someone else pointed at me and said, “go ask that gay guy.”
Like I am the only gay person they ever knew. Well, not… there were at least a half-dozen other gay men and women there. We weren’t there because we were gay; we were there because we live here, and care about this community and its redevelopment.
I got over being labeled “that gay guy” and said, “I am really not the one to ask. I don’t go out to bars or restaurants whether they are gay-oriented or not.”
Most folks were shocked. I even heard someone say, “all gay people love nightlife!” and then someone else said, “gays always eat out because they can afford it.” Like straight people don’t enjoy nightlife and eat out? Stereotypes abound, unfortunately.
Someone else spoke up and said that the gay bar in the community closed for lack of business when the economy tanked in 2008. No surprise. My partner and I went there once. The food was awful, the service was poor, and the ambiance, if you call it that, was early American Truck Stop. The bar lost business because it was bad. It tried to change to cater to the lesbian population, leaving us gay guys out… fine. Whatever. Not a good fit. It died due to poor management choices, not because it catered to lesbians, gay men, or whomever.
Another discussion started, which was more about what kind of nightlife might work in this community. That was a better question. Turns out, from studies of community demographics, the nightlife that would work would be more family-oriented, with games or activities for children, and affordable but good food — a step up from the typical fast-food joints.
I dunno how this will all turn out. Revitalizing a tired old community whose demographics have changed from the Post-WWII era of white picket fences around a small patch of grass abutting a small Cape Cod house to now with multiple families living in the same house and many, many more expensive condos. The business center morphed from providing grocery and drug stores, butcher and ice cream shops, etc., to shops sensitive to community demographics with many ethnic restaurants, nail and hair shops, and stores that serve ethnic interests.
Stores and restaurants will survive when the community uses them. And this community is more down-to-earth, family-oriented, highly ethnically diverse, and as non-Yuppie as they come. Don’t give us upscale retail and chain upscale restaurants. We can go over to the western part of the county if we want to go to guppyville. We like the small Mom-and-Pop atmosphere, the cultural dynamic, the interesting choices of foods from all over the world.
And take that from “that gay guy.” As non-guppie as they come. Muchas gracias.
Life is short: love where you live, and understand its culture.