Archive | November, 2011

City Living. Sigh.

4 Nov

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I love Chicago.  I love the energy.  I love the art.  I love raising my kid amid so much activity and opportunity.  I love my neighborhood.  I love being able to walk for 5-10 minutes and arrive at:

  • Lake Michigan – the beach and the beautiful lakefront park
  • The Redline
  • Women and Children First and other great local businesses
  • Several grocery stores (All-organic?  Sure.  Super-cheap produce?  Yup.  Mega-chain?  Yes-huh.)
  • multiple playgrounds
  • Award-winning lattes
  • Our neighborhood branch of the Chicago Public Library
  • My parents’ apartment
  • My brother and sister-in-law’s apartment
And all of this without even mentioning the food.  Oh, the food.  The hardest thing is choosing where to go.  Because all of the following are a 5-10 minute walk from our front door:  Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese (both sushi and home-style cooking!), Thai, Vietnamese (Pho and those irresistible sandwiches*), Southern, some of the city’s best bars, Huey’s Hot Dogs, Italian, Middle Eastern, and all manner of new american.  We even have a restaurant in the neighborhood that focusses on Dutch cuisine.  Seriously.  And don’t even get me started on brunch.  Bakeries?  Well it depends on whether you want a mexican, Vietnamese, swedish, or coffee-shop style cake/scones/cookies place.  Because we’ve got ’em all.
The list could go on and on.  In addition to all of this is my love of making a life with so many people all around me.  I’ve got an amazing community of friends and we get to do ridiculously fun things together that folks who don’t live in the city just don’t get to do (I mean, Ida and I had a playdate at the Shedd Aquarium this morning – that’s pretty cool, right?).  Free concerts with world-class musicians downtown in the summer, dance classes and performances with incredible artists, and walking to amazing dinner out whenever we feel like it/can afford it.  Some former students from Alma College live upstairs and provide childcare!  I have a sweet life, guys.
If all this is starting (?) to sound a little pep-talk-ey to you, there is a good reason (and congrats on your keen perception).  I need an “I love Chicago.  Really.” pep talk right now.  Because the thing is that I head gunshots two night in a row a couple of weeks ago.  They were close and it was scary.  Nate and I both sat up in bed at 2:30 in the morning, and listened as the sound traveled – getting closer, and then stopped.  3 shots in the course of 4 minutes.  The next night there was a “loud pop” at 8:30 in the evening and patrol cars were everywhere in a second.  And several days this week, there have been shootings (one with an automatic weapon) on a corner two city blocks from me – in some ways a world away, but still close enough to have me compulsively checking Everyblock (from which I have since cut myself off).  In the middle of the day on corner where I regularly pass by at that time with Ida, people are shooting at each other with really scary guns and hurting bystanders.  And I’m noticing a lot of “for sale” signs on our street.  And I’m seeing new people out on the sidewalks.  And.  And.  And.  I hear it too – I don’t like the way I’m thinking about this.
Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that I live in one of Chicago’s very cushiest neighborhoods.  Andersonville is where fabulous gay couples come to raise their beautiful families (and it should go without saying that the gays do an excellent job keeping the sidewalks safe and framed by beautiful gardens).  It’s like Chicago’s version of Florida – where to retire and settle down after your stint in Boystown.  I’m half-joking – lots of other folks live here too, of course.  I live in an exceedingly safe place in the city.  But Andersonville is the cream center between two somewhat undesirable cookies.  That old adage about the city being a block-by-block patchwork of safe spaces and sketchy spots is very true to where we’re located and it feels like the sketchy parts are starting to close in a little bit.  It is entirely possible that this is not actually happening, but through some stroke of chance I have just become more aware of it.
I’m remembering my life in central Michigan in a much sunnier light.  I’m omitting the fact that a friend of mine got stabbed in the face while she was laying in her bed, in her apartment, by a man who broke in and was hiding in her closet.  I’m forgetting about the last time I was in town to teach and a guy with a gun opened fire at a local bar.  I’m re-writing stories to create a totally safe place where, even if only hypothetically, I could be absolutely insulated from the terror of violence.  I’m feeling like I need to get out of the city and make a life somewhere sleepy and secluded.  I hear the imaginary siren song of central Michigan.
I know.  I know that the seclusion had some serious drawbacks.  I remember what it felt like to be so isolated as an artist – sometimes great, but mostly just so hard.  I remember people asking me why I was grocery shopping in the middle of the day with a look of disdain and concern – not being able to imagine anything but a 9-5 work day  and not being able to place me without a child to take care of (“um, I work in the evenings?  This is my free time?”).  I remember the constant frustration of trying to explain that making dances was not my hobby – of trying to help the other adult, professional dancers that I was working with navigate explaining our tours (and their need for time off from their other jobs) to their employers  – to explain the project at all (“no, this is not for a club I’m in/this is not a children’s group/we are not strippers”).  I remember feeling deeply bored and frustrated and irritated at the insular self-protective reflex of suburban living.  I remember more than anything else, the feeling that I just did not fit – that this just was not working.
All of this to say that I love Chicago.  That this is my home.  But I’m having a tough time with it right now.  I wish I could have it both ways – radical togetherness with total insulation from violence.  Real community so long as it doesn’t push me – so long as I never feel afraid or stretched to confront other people and our scary stuff.  Diversity, but with none of the unpleasant clashes that come from smushing together people of privilege with people clawing for enough.  I want an elective buffer that I can enact whenever I feel like it.  I want magic.  I want something impossible – something that makes the other thing, maybe even the higher-order thing, null.  I want something that I don’t believe in.  Because I know that the community and spirit of possibility that I came here for are not free – that they come with this work.  I know that I had a hand in making the world this way.  And I know that I’m going to need to get involved, in whatever small way, in changing it.  I have some growing up to do.  Sigh.
Anybody else out there holding the tension on this?  Any help for a gal who’s struggling?
* that make you think for a hot-second that all of that unpleasantness with France was perhaps worth it.  No.  Fight the selfishness.  But man.  Those sandwiches are really something.
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reVAMP!

2 Nov

I just got back from Ikea and am in the middle of the world’s mildest home-makeover (read: a non-moldy shower curtain has been installed along with a new throw pillow!  Is the excitement palpable where you are too?!).  I was never nuts about the look of this blog and since I’m on an image-transforming rampage (see below:  Fashion, Crimes Against, and, of course, the throw pillow) I decided TCoWHRN deserved some aesthetic consideration too.  I hope you enjoy the fresh new look!

Christmas List

1 Nov

As dictated to her mother (your’s truly) here is Ida’s Christmas Wish List, which she generated shortly after waking this morning:

  • A plant with ice on it
  • Cupcake
  • Bee (Be?)
  • French Fries
  • French Toast
  • Dress ups