Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Return to the Asphalt Jungle

I have returned once again to the Asphalt Jungle. This time, I have come to stay though. It was a blind leap of faith, but I don’t regret it one bit. I have settled into the Montrose, Houston’s gay enclave. An interesting battle is setting up here, and I am looking forward to see how it shapes up. The young upward professional species of the breeder class has increasingly migrated into Houston’s Inner Loop. Once a group that had settled mostly in suburbia, or the furthest reaches of the Houston Metropolitan area, the young upward professional wishes to be closer to the center of everything.

However, this desire to be close to everything comes with its drawbacks. The Montrose had long been a haven for among others, artists, runaway teens, hustlers, prostitutes, drug dealers, and the homeless. The young upward professional, empty nester, and other species of the breeder class have continued their march into the Inner Loop. Increasingly, their tolerance for those who were here before them has grown thin.

As nearby Midtown and Downtown erupt with development, the young upward professionals there have relegated the homeless and other so-called undesirables westward into the Montrose an area that stands as a dam to all that other neighborhoods do not want. To the north is the Heights, to the west is River Oaks/Uptown, and to the south sits the Museum District. Many of these areas do not wish to deal with the problems they have corralled into the Montrose.

City leaders have met with many of the young upward professionals and the so-called NIMBYs, or Not in My Back Yard crowd. I believe that once the NIMBYs and the young upward professionals come to accept that those who were here before them are not budging, maybe peace will come to Montrose. Until such time, these battles could get worse, and threaten to get nasty. Transvestite and transsexual prostitutes are not necessarily welcome in other areas of Houston.

Hustlers are Montrose’s stock in trade. Male prostitutes are rare in many areas of Houston, and this has become their stomping ground. While drugs have always been a problem, I do see the need to clean up the streets of Montrose. However, this may take some time, as it is hard to figure out what kind of refuge there is for the element that Montrose is so notorious for. Moving them to the Sharpstown area of Houston will only make a bad situation worse.

For the better part of 20 years, Sharpstown, once a white middle class neighborhood, has been in steady decline. Property managers promise no deposit or free rent to entice indigent and sometimes gullible apartment seekers to sign leases with their companies. What it has done is breed the kind of crime and social problems Montrose was once known for.

The solution is not in shifting the bad element to yet another neighborhood, but to confront it where it is. Could prostitutes, drug dealers, and runaway teens be reformed to become respectable members of society? The possibility is there, but human nature is hard to gauge. There are many who, once they have been reformed, feel the urge to return to their former lives, and many times do. However, there are the hand full that can be reformed who bring true hope to Montrose and Sharpstown’s problems.

If the young upward professionals and the NIMBYs were to put their heads together, Montrose’s problems are solved. However, rather than come up with a solution, they have put the responsibility solely on city leaders. While there are those that will gladly take up the fight, city leaders can only do so much. The solution lies within the community to combat the bad element, but it is hard for a community to come together when it is so sharply divided.

The bad element, the homosexuals, the young upward professional breeders, and the NIMBYs first need to set aside their differences. This is easier said than done unfortunately. I believe the solution lies in letting go of the fear of the unknown. If the NIMBYs and the breeders went to sit down with the homosexuals at their hangouts, this would be a step in the right direction. Opening up a dialogue among the two factions would be a start in the right direction for sure.

In the mean time, it is easy to see where the battle lines have been drawn so far. The NIMBYs and the breeders would prefer to settle into an area and make it their own. I feel that the Montrose should stay as it is now minus a few of the drug dealers and some of the other bad element.

If the area were to change, older married gentlemen would not be able to find prostitutes to keep them company. Runaway teens might end up getting even more lost in the shuffle. Homosexuals would have to find other places to set up their clubs and bars. Without this eclectic mix of people, Montrose would be as bland as the rest of Houston, and I don’t wish to see that happen.

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