Episode 8: At Ease with a Changing East End
The world is never as it once was.
The world is never as it once was.
In the time before Socrates, Heraclitus said, “no man ever steps in the same river twice.”
And with the passing of the Buddha Gautama, the chief of the deities spoke of the impermanence of all things, “They arise and cease, that is their nature: They come into being and pass away, release from them is bliss supreme.”
Change is a delicate, and yet steadfast force - there is never a moment of reprieve from the, often times, undesirable movement of nature.
Baudelaire - the original Flâneur - himself, wrote of the prevailing winds through his beloved city, and the personal angst he couldn’t overcome. “The Paris of old has undergone changes my heart cannot.”
This is the sentiment of many in San Francisco, New York, and London; specifically, the sentiment of those I met on my latest outing in the East London Borough of Hackney.
My first stop was halfway between London Fields and Victoria Park, where I was, like gravity, pulled toward the store front of what appeared to be an uncivil and blunt recording space; It was different, and I was curious.
The Outsider Motorcycle Club is where I had found myself. The owner - Richie, a Hackney native, followed me inside.
Some say (and others have proven) that you can know more about the content of a stranger’s character than their lifelong friend, by simply spending 15 minutes in that stranger’s room.
The Outsider Motorcycle Club is essentially Richie’s room; It’s amazing. There are classic microphones on stands, leather jackets, an assortment of stringed instruments, half drunk bottles of Jack Daniels, concert posters, and other accents of Richie’s character. Most of it is for sale, but a lot of it is, as Richie explains, to express the soul of the person who owns it.
Richie spoke of the change to his neighborhood, those drawn to his store and his character, and the fact that most places in and around Hackney are void of the personality of the people that inhabit them. The Outsider Motorcycle Club is a rarity in the conformed tide of “development” that has swept through the borough.
Heading north beyond London field, just out of the reach of the Dalston Overground station, I found myself on Wilton Way - a stretch of stores that appear, as Richie explained, subtle and expressionless commerce, at least from the outside.
J. Glinert is one of those places. When you enter, however, and the mind of the curious dives deeper, one finds that there is a wonderful narrative in any place that others call home.
J. Glinert is owned by London Designer Tom Budding - another Hackney Native. It is a store that reflects Tom’s flavor, the assortment of his fancy, and the pieces of his own undone jigsaw. Mostly it is things that have awed and inspired Tom through his travels and his work - things he has found infinitely practical, beautifully crafted, or both.
I found myself thinking how fortunate I was to have stumbled upon these two expressions in the same day, and that even in the midst of change, there is always fascination. For change demands tears, not anger.
We are often at awe at the wonder of such occurrences as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, or Niagara Falls - natural phenomena that are a result of a millennia of evolution - yet when change disrupts our own comforts, it is often times perceived as a war or struggle. But with all elements of change, like the juxtaposed rose and thorn, there is great beauty.
In Victor Frankl’s well documented struggle in a Nazi concentration camp, and his documented search for meaning, he concluded that “when we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.”
The challenge is to see your own self as an ever expanding and contracting element in its own expanding and contracting environment - we are linked to the world we inhabit, and change is one of the things that consistently reminds us of that.