Cathy’s fat head shot upwards, her bulging eyes twitching around in anger.
“Do you smell that?” It was a quasi-hypothetical question. The point was, SHE smelled that. If I disagreed, my voice wouldn’t have made it past the greasy tuffs of hair spouting out of her ears.
“Yeah…yeah, the monsters are burning again.”
At least the second remark allowed me to figure out what the fuck she was talking about. She referred to her closest neighbors, who lived a good half-mile away, as ‘the monsters.’ They didn’t get that name by consuming the entrails of the young, but instead by pissing Cathy off by burning wood they were clearing from their yard. She had called the authorities on them several times about this. Apparently, they didn’t need a permit to burn brush or sticks, but they did need a permit to ignite logs over a certain diameter.
I had been doing random shit at Cathy’s for a couple weeks now. It was mostly landscaping stuff, as well as editing some business copy (she could NOT write). Cathy had somehow grabbed onto the success of a nascent MTV in the 80s and now was wealthy enough to not work much. Raised in Long Island, she moved to Accord from the city about 10 years ago.
Cathy demanded that I stake out the neighbors and return back with a report on the diameter of the logs they were burning.
“After you drive past them the first time, drive around a little before coming back. I don’t want those shitheels knowing what’s up before I can make the call,” Cathy spouted, her eyes greedy for what was to come.
Unfortunately for the monster-neighbors, I observed full trunks burning. Cathy called up her contact at the DEP (who must’ve been having a slow day) and spouted for a half hour about what environmentally-unconscious dickheads her neighbors were.
“Here.” She thrust the phone in my face. “Tell him what you saw.”
After I ratted on her neighbors for the particulars of their fire, Cathy visibly calmed, a smug smile on her face.
“Those shitheels are gonna get a nice, fat fine from my friend at the DEP….y’know, these Republicans that live up here”—she pronounced Republicans the way most people pronounce rapists…”they live in such a beautiful area, all this nature is so nice, but they just ruin it, burning and dumping all their shit everywhere. That’s why it’s great when good people from the city move up and gentrify it.”
It should be pointed out that my task for the day had been to spray gallons of illegal algaecide (purchased online from Alabama) into Cathy’s lake in order to give it that clear, “everything here has died” look found in bodies of water suffering from extreme amounts of acid rain.
The next day, I was tasked with driving Cathy somewhere in her car. She didn’t really drive herself, because, hey, when you’re rich enough, why do ANYthing yourself…she ducked down in the backseat when we passed the monster-neighbors. She didn’t like them knowing her movements.
I continued driving her through Accord and observed her sneering at everything that moved.
“I especially don’t like driving at night, with all these drunk hicks speeding around in their pick-ups. You see it in the police blotter the next day…drunk driving accident, drunk driving accident, domestic violence, all this Republican-on-Republican violence…” She said the last bit the way a Klansman would talk about black-on-black violence—just the lesser people wiping each other out, but isn’t it so irritating when some of their blood sprays on our floor?
Gentrification really starting becoming an issue in NYC in the late 90s, after Giuliani sold his soul to the devil for lower crime stats (my theory, anyway). The safe, wealthy part of NYC expanded from the Upper East Side to the Upper West Side, then to Midtown, then to Greenwich Village, Tribeca, the Meatpacking District, Hell’s Kitchen (“Clinton”), then on to Harlem, Williamsburg, Astoria…right now wealthy transplants are busy gentrifying Bushwick, Inwood…even the South Bronx. But there’s limits to what the city can hold.
Which is why heinous assholes like Cathy are transplanting their pretensions to places like Accord.
Now, I must add that I did not grow up in Ulster County. I was raised in Connecticut (insert whitebread joke here). However, I’m not equating moving to an area to gentrifying it — this discounts the entire concept of relocating, which is a constant feature of living in the modern U.S.
I’ve lived here for 10 years now. I go to the local bars, the local restaurants, and am primarily friends with people who grew up here, or those who have relocated and have similarly immersed themselves in local culture. There’s a big difference between this and Cathy, who remained completely detached and spiteful of local culture, local people.
The reason that Cathy triumphed her gentrifying — actually choosing to use that word, which has such negative connotations — has to do with race vs. class. Essentially, gentrification is the act of rich people pushing poor people out of places the poor have traditional inhabited. In NYC, the poor people tend to be minorities, while the gentrifying population tends to be white.
Liberals like Cathy would have a problem with this, since they are sensitive to racism. But gentrifying has never been about race, just class. But as long as the people she shits over for being poor and different have her skin color, she triumphs it as being some sort of cultural cleanse. Because, according to Cathy, the ‘Republicans’ are the real enemy of minorities anyway—she’s just helping fellow liberals out with her cultural pogrom.
Cathy wanted the poor and uneducated out of the beautiful area they had somehow been lucky enough to be born in, allowing her to experience it with the good people, the people who dump illegal chemicals into lakes to make them look the way city-people expect nature to look like. Because, hey, why stop with getting rid of unwanted people?