Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,
Chuck
charlesofcamden

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What country, friends, is this?

Though I’ve lived in Chicago for over 15 years, there are still many parts of town I haven’t been anywhere near, or through which I’ve passed only briefly while a passenger in someone else’s car. This is particularly true of the south side. Yes, I’ve been to a great many White Sox games, but U.S. Cellular Field (née Comiskey Park) is right next to both I-94 and the L, so whether I’m going by train or car, there’s very little exploration of neighborhoods involved in the journey. I’m also very sad to report that I’ve yet to visit Chinatown. That must change soon, as I’ve heard there is much good food and scenery to be had there.

I journeyed today to a part of the south side I’d seen a little of by car, and none on foot. The playwright for Song-Poems Wanted! – The Musical, of which I have written on several occasions, had a little get-together at his condo today. His suggestion of how to get there on public transportation was as follows: “Take the Green Line L south to 47th street. Call me on my cell phone when you’re getting near there and I’ll come pick you up at the station.” As I came southward on the L, though, it was such a lovely Sunday afternoon; not too hot, not too cold – a perfect day for a stroll, I thought. So I eschewed calling Larry and decided to walk the six blocks from the L station to his condo.

The stroll got off to a bumpy start. Some mischievous imp had reoriented all of the street signs near the station, so I started off walking south when I thought I was walking east. Within two blocks, I realized what had happened and was able to correct my course.

It was obvious that this was a very different neighborhood from my own. There were a great many empty lots that once presumably had houses on them, but which were now home to nothing more than grass and weeds. Many of the houses that were still standing were in desperately bad repair. And even though it seemed to be a lazy summer Sunday afternoon, almost every conversation I could hear, whether it was on the street or coming from a building, seemed to be taking place very loudly.

I soon became aware that I was being carefully eyed, again and again, by almost everyone I encountered. It was the sort of thing I expect when I’m visiting a small town where everybody knows everybody. It seemed strange to feel that way while in a huge city like Chicago. Then I realized why I was sticking out – I was the only white person in sight. I started to watch as I walked. I saw dozens of people in the course of my stroll, but not a single white person did I see until I arrived at Larry and Joy’s attractive condo.

I should also note that the entire character of the neighborhood changed as soon as I turned onto their street. Suddenly, I was in an area where every lot had a building on it, and almost every house seemed to be in very good repair. The change was so abrupt, I almost wanted to turn around and re-check the previous street to see if my eyes had been fooling me. This is a common phenomenon, not only in Chicago, but in many other big cities – that the apparent character and perceived quality of a neighborhood can change block by block.

As for Larry and Joy’s condo, they bought it new 5 years ago and are very happy there. They told me that many people have questioned their sense and sanity for moving there, but they’re happy, and that’s the bottom line. It’s a fourth floor walk-up (whew!), but they have a great view from their balcony that includes a nice view of the downtown skyline. I’m also sure that they got a lot more home for their dollar than the places CC and I were looking at a few months ago.

I don’t have any overarching summation for all of this, but it was an interesting episode. Oh, for the record, I took up Larry’s offer to give me a lift part-way home when we left. I’d had enough sightseeing for one day.

EXTRA CREDIT — Does anyone know where I got the title of this post? There are two different answers I will accept. While there is no cash prize, you will have my respect and admiration, and really, who can put a price on that?
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