Have you noticed the Hos springing up around the world? Of course, the original Ho started in the City of Westminster, England with the swanky SoHo music and theater district. I can’t speak to London’s West End SoHo. Maybe it is because I have a predilection for countries where I don’t speak the language – you know, someplace where I can rationalize my cluelessness.
For those of us who grew up across the pond, New York City has the real SoHo and it still connotes edgy artists struggling in a 2,000 square foot loft with a sofa, a fridge and over sized canvases everywhere. The nights promise that special undiscovered restaurant followed by an opening with a brilliant (and also undiscovered) artist.
Of course, my information might be a bit dated. This is the SoHo where Madonna got her first (and only) kudos for acting just like herself in Desperately Seeking Susan. The artists have been squeezed out of this SoHo a generation ago and my daughter who makes the island a part of most weekend plans says that now it is more like going to the mall.
So maybe the used clothing bins have been replace by Abercrombie and Fitch. None of this matters because the myth lives on and everybody wants a Ho in their neighborhood. New York also hosts NoHo (North of Houston) and BoHo for the Bowery south of Houston. Like SoHo, these Hos earned an urban street cred, teeming with emerging artists and specialty micro restaurants. Also like SoHo, gentrification forced them out of the neighborhood years ago.
But these Hos continue to spring up around the world. Next time you are in Hong Kong, head to SoHo, or “South of Hollywood Road,” which has emulated the New York SoHo to a fault with corporatized shopping and overpriced tourists galleries. They even have their own NoHo, North of Hollywood Street. Maybe you want to tango your way down the street. Then head to Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires where the hip restaurants and street shops are a magnet for tourists and affluent youth seeking a safe way to have some “edgy” fun.
Los Angeles’ North Hollywood also wanted some of that urban juice and one day a bunch of signs suddenly appeared reading “NoHo Arts District.” As urban environments go, however, Los Angeles is still an adolescent and we are just now learning how to park our cars to get out and walk – baby steps, as it were. Los Angeles is evolving, though, and contrary to the cartoons in New Yorker Magazine, there is a rich and vibrant arts scene here. But North Hollywood? Really? I found the signs pretty amusing but I kept driving without stopping to get out. This is The Valley, after all. Even if you do like it here, you aren’t supposed to admit it. For you New Yorkers, this is like having a HoHo Art District in Hoboken (on the Hudson), New Jersey.
Beside here in Los Angeles we already have WeHo (West Hollywood), home to the world’s largest Halloween party attended by 300,000 spectacularly put together alter egos. It is also home to one of the nations largest Gay Pride parades, attended by hundreds of thousands of unaltered egos.
Most cities will never get a whole Ho district and will settle for a scaled down sampling. If you are doing some traveling but still have a longing for that smell of oil paints and no-whip lattes you can stay at the Soho Hotel in Budapest. In Barcelona, you even have a choice between the SoHo Hotel and the Hotel SoHo Barcelona.
Google “SoHo” +”your favorite city” and you will find a SoHo restaurant, bar, coffee shop or gallery. SoHo is synonymous with young dialed-in urbanites. And who wouldn’t want a little of that metro mojo regardless of where they live?
Even Topeka, Kansas, still living down its image as created in A Boy and His Dog, seeks out some of that urban vibe. First scrub that Victorian house with a visit to Soho Interiors, Then change up the bonnet and bustle for some bohemian styling and grab a cappuccino at SoHo Espresso to make sure that brown isn’t really a mocha.
Curiously, HoBo never caught on.