Exiled editor Yasha Levine has officially hit the Big Time. The front page of Victorville’s Daily Press newspaper featured a profile of our fearless Domestic War Correspondent, his life, his wisdom, and his work, as well as a Q&A sidebar to help locals get to know the celebrity in their midst. A full-color photo of Levine is splashed marquee-like on the front page, of course.
What helps make the Levine front-pager so juicy are the other headlines it shares the page with, like, “Man arrested after home is discovered to be a meth lab.” No, that’s not about Mr. Levine’s home. Yuh hear that, Mr. Occifer, Sir? Nothin’ but Pabst Blue Ribbon, Marlboro Reds, and lots of crumpled paper in the Levine household, sir. Though we can’t promise anything. After all, the man is about to celebrate the six month anniversary of his self-imposed Victorville exile.
Read the full article below, written by the lovely and talented Brooke K. Edwards, and then go to the Daily Press site to see Levine get bashed by the local right-wing comment troll militia.
September 08, 2009 5:26 PM
BROOKE EDWARDS Staff Writer
VICTORVILLE • When the Russian government shut the alternative paper “The eXile” down for being just a little too outspoken, Yasha Levine and his cohorts left Moscow and hit the road with their gonzo-style journalism.
One editor is now dispatching from Florida and another from New York, contributing regular updates to eXiledOnline.com.
“The housing collapse began to fascinate me,” said Levine, who was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in San Francisco. “I wanted to see it, to see what it was like to live there and to look at the forces that made this happen.”
After studying maps and visiting several potential ground zeros, Levine said the aftermath of Victorville’s boom and bust cycle easily edged the High Desert’s Key City to the front of the line for an experiment in immersion writing.
Levine moved into his McMansion in March, paying $1,150 per month for a home that could fit his previous apartments inside any one of its three bedrooms — the allure he believes is at the heart of the much of the city’s ills.
“It’s strange, but life out here has appealed to me in ways I did not expect, making me an unlikely defender of the desert lifestyle,” Levine said. “But it has also scared the c— out of me. Because out here, you can’t help but see the scam at the heart of the American Dream.”
The Web site is gritty, as Levine writes the way he speaks: Reflective, thought-provoking observations littered with F-bombs and blunt criticism.
He describes his first visit to a local dive bar and “ghetto bird watching,” as a helicopter circled above his home blaring a description of a suspect on the loose. He blasts Victorville’s high concentration of fast-food restaurants, with a 4-1 ratio over Los Angeles by his calculations, and how Hunter S. Thompson even bypassed the city for Barstow on his drug-induced journeys to Las Vegas and back.
But Levine’s pieces are also laced with a fondness for the landscape and for the people he’s getting to know. With clear sympathy for those he feels were sold dreams that will never happen, he talks about how one of the few occupied homes on his block recently emptied out as his neighbor moved to Colorado after months of being unable to get a job.
Along with his “eXiled” posts, Levine earns a living freelancing and has written for big-name publications, including Wired, Slate, Time and Playboy.
Levine’s latest dispatch, examining the water use of the planned Dr Pepper Snapple plant is available on the left-leaning AlterNet.org.
In coming weeks, Levine said, “I’ll be taking a closer look at a few of the extremely costly and downright shady development projects thought up by the city in the past few years. Projects that were almost designed to fail at taxpayers’ expense.”
He has much to say, for example, about the absurdity of federal tax dollars bailing out Goldman Sachs as a corporation, while local tax dollars are still on the line for a contract with the company to finance the struggling Victorville 2 powerplant.
“But in the warped, ‘pro-growth, pro-business’ logic of a city on the frontier of Southern California’s urban sprawl,” Levine writes of these projects, “the plan made perfect economic sense.”
Brooke Edwards may be reached at 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.
Here’s the question and answer session:
Q. Why Victorville?
A. …I looked at many different boom cities and suburbs up and down California. Victorville — and the rest of the High Desert around it — stood out from the competition. Victorville embodies the Bubble City like no other. It doubled in size in less than 10 years and became the second-fastest growing city in 2007, yet had no local economy growth to warrant the massive settlement, let alone support it. But it’s not just about the cold, hard stats. Victorville is amazing in terms of its location: it is the literal frontier of America’s suburban sprawl. It’s an outpost, really … You could say that Victorville was, and still is, the Wild West of the housing boom.
Q. What were your first impressions on moving to town?
A. The first thing I noticed when I crossed over the mountains on the 15 was that the news radio station I was listening to switched over to a local station with a sermon about Jesus Christ — something about him rewarding those who seek him and have faith in him. I never did find much else on that dial.
Q. And after several months living in “Brentwoodz?”
A. A few months ago, I remember coming across some promo material put out by the City of Victorville selling it as the perfect place to raise a family, that it had plentiful and secure employment, safe neighborhoods and good schools. In my neighborhood, it seems like at least one in four houses stand empty, the strip mall storefronts are emptying out and about the only places doing brisk neighborhood business are liquor stores. And then there are the police helicopters that fly overhead looking for criminals. I don’t know about family raising. To me, it looks more and more like Victorville has become a receptacle for the gentrified poor, who were forced out of cities and lured out here with promises of job growth and a tranquil suburban life.
Q. What are some of the larger political and economic issues you see typified in Victorville?
A. The unholy union between politicians and various vested business interests. Some people will call it graft or corruption. In Victorville, you can see it in the very generous relationship that exists between the city government and real estate developers. Victorville’s pro-business, pro-growth attitude is one of the reasons why the city boomed and crashed as hard as it did. But what’s best for business is not always what’s best for people, and more often than not the two are at odds. And as far as I can tell, local politicians here did everything to please the business end, while doing little to look out for the interests of their constituency, the very people that elected them. It’s a problem that exists at every level of government, from state to federal.
Q. You’ve said that for all the problems you see, you’ve still fallen in love with this city. What sparked that?
A. My love for this place is hard to pin down. Just a few months before moving out to Victorville, I was living in Moscow, Russia, working as an editor at a bad-boy English language newspaper called “The eXile,” until the Kremlin shut us down last summer. So moving out to the desert was a huge contrast to the cramped, hectic life of a metropolis dweller. I must admit, I am beginning to buy into that whole “healthy desert living” thing. And I do enjoy taking my guns out among the Joshua trees and blowing things up.
Check out Yasha Levine’s dispatches from Victorville here. Or check out these choice posts: Anti-Obama Care in the Middle of the Desert, Are Subprime Cities Becoming America’s Guglags? and Ghetto Bird Watching with Yasha Levine.
Got something to say to us? Then send us a letter.
Want us to stick around? Donate to The eXiled.
Twitter twerps can follow us at twitter.com/exiledonline