There’s a seven story condo building climbing the skyline smack in the middle of my view of City Hall. It embodies the out-of-control progress at odds with the characters in “Hash 207.” I’ve seen friends get priced out of town already, and favorite local haunts turn into places I can’t afford. I hear that I arrived well after the glory days of this city; I see, now, that I’ve outlived my glory days making a home here, as well. But is it too late to save what I love most about this place?
That’s a question faced by the characters in “Hash 207.” It’s underscored every time I look out my studio window at the diminishing view of the skyline, and hear about another sacred place being torn down in the name of progress.
What was prophetic in the manuscript for “Hash 207” is coming to pass all across town. By the time the book comes out it may seem more reactionary than cautionary, though it was written in a very different time only just recently.
Regardless of the story here, the machinations of progress and redevelopment in “Hash 207” are familiar in cities around the world. As is the central irony in my story: that the good fortune for a very few, can spell calamity for a whole lot of others.
There’s still time to turn the manuscript into a book before the rest of the plot becomes reality; there might even be time to save what I love most about the city—its people, its art scene, and its homegrown culture.
Goodbye, City Hall
When I first started rewriting “Hash 207,” under the tutelage of developmental editor Alan Rinzler, the view from my writing studio perfectly framed City Hall. I watched the spotlights illuminate the rotunda each night, imagining Councilman Grant and Mayor Lillian Tennerly in their offices—conspiring with Max A. Naylor, plotting to redirect the development of their beloved city to erase the neighborhoods and people they didn’t like as a way of sparing what each of them valued. As Councilman Grant believes in my story, if change is inevitable, you might as well co-opt it to your benefit.
If you have that kind of power, that is. But are the rest of us as screwed as it often seems? That’s Jamie’s challenge—to find a way out of fate’s crosshairs, and save what he and his friends value from the worse aspects of others’ ambition.
It’s a little harder in real life.
I’m just an author, with a message to spread but no fortune or power to flex. So I glowered out my window, in the direction of the book’s imaginary villains, while writing a grand story about individual struggles I’ve witnessed around here.
I could see the One City Center complex, as well, at the border of the Arts District and what might pass as our Financial District. Peeking just above their roof is the flashing sign atop the Time and Temperature Building, with its scrolling messages. I felt connected to the city through the stories, the people who inspired them, and through that view, which encompassed so many landmarks.
Right there in the middle of the skyline, was City Hall.
Now I watch the sign through the steel uprights of the fifth story of a condo building under construction on Hampshire Street, rising above the neighborhood at the heart of “Hash 207.” All that’s left of my City Hall view is the weathervane atop the rotunda, framed by a window in the rising building. Once they erect the southern wall, or any interior walls, that, too, will be gone, insulating the powers that be from the glowers of those, like me, who might wish things hadn’t changed here so drastically.
Prophecy or Reaction?
When I first outlined “Hash 207,” Sherwood Forest and Hash Henge, along the Fore River, were lush with summer growth and peopled with the transients and vagabonds and hashers depicted in my story. I wrote of the destruction of Hash Henge before it actually happened; it’s now a boatyard for yachts, as scraped-clean in real life as it becomes in my story. The destruction I once feared, became a prophecy.
The site of Jamie’s Hash House on Hampshire Street doesn’t exist—not at their 369 Hampshire Street address, anyway. But by inference it would be somewhere in the 30-block of Hampshire St, near a bar that was closed under mysterious and vaguely sinister conditions, and reopened sometime later as a hipster haunt. What once was a deep-seated fear of mine, the loss of a local watering hole serving to hold an old neighborhood together, has come to pass. Hooray for the new owners—at least the site wasn’t levelled (yet) for more condos…
…as happened a few doors up the street—once again, after I wrote the first drafts of “Hash 207.”
In Jamie’s serendipitous job with a local moving company, he moves a young hotshot from a larger East Coast city into a brand new condo inspired by buildings near my office. They were under construction at the time I wrote that scene. They’re complete now, and barely a few years after filling the first unit, the stucco is crumbling from the ornate stone façade to reveal the plywood beneath, and to show the edges of the stones purporting to guard the foundation—barely an inch thick slivers over plain, already-cracking concrete.
I wonder if the new building obscuring my view of City Hall will be any higher quality beneath its pompous veneer.
And I wonder if the guy at the bar in my favorite lunch spot this morning, who was asking the bartender about the housing market, is going to move here like he threatened to. Condo prices here, he crowed loudly, are rock-bottom compared to Brooklyn.
They’re prices I can’t afford to pay to stay here. Nor can the characters in “Hash 207.”
So it Goes
Progress marches on. That’s a theme of “Hash 207.” Sometimes you can get out in front of it, and guide it away from what you love. Sometimes, that means disfiguring something someone else loves, as an act of self-defense.
Wouldn’t it be great, though, if you had the chance—the power, the people, the moment—to preserve what you love without simply shifting the burden to some other poor schmuck? To speak truth to power, and rise together to stop the worst aspects of change…while protecting your community for those already there?
But that’s the chance Jamie and his friends look for, work for, and ultimately take. It’s the chance I wish I had, as I see progress marching on outside my window. Maybe it’s too late in this neighborhood—the buildings rising around my studio swarm with construction workers—but it might not be too late where you are.
Maybe the difference between “too late” and “just in time” is what we make of the moment.
** This manuscript needs an agent. If that’s you, please reach out.