Peanut Butter Knife

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ghosts in the Architecture

I was reading a travel article last night about Chicago in this magazine. The writer listed several spots in Wicker Park/Bucktown that I had never heard of and my assumption is that these places must have opened recently. Now these upscale boutiques and spas weren't places I'd be likely to frequent, but reading about them made me kind of sad. I haven't been able to get back to Chicago in almost 2 years. I had plans to go last November, but my sudden illness and hospitalization put that on hold. Despite this, I still feel a very strong connection to the city and my memories of living there seem very recent, even more so than other things that have happened in the time since I left.

This aspect of the article doesn't surprise me. Heck, even if I was still there it's possible that I wouldn't have heard of these places. Every time you turned a corner in Wicker Park, it seemed like a new condominium complex or a yuppie bar or a coffee house chain was going up where there was nothing the day before. This is probably why even though I lived in Wicker Park for roughly 2/3rds of the time I was in Chicago, when people ask me what part of town I lived I tell them Old Irving on the NW side, where I was for my last year or so. Old Irving is a pretty quiet neighborhood. It's too residential and far away from downtown to be either trendy or dangerous, yet it still has all of the architectural charm and intrigue of the city's more well-known enclaves.

I've always said that one of the primary reasons why I love Chicago so much is that it always seemed like there is so much history lurking around every block. I used to go for long walks on just about every nice evening by myself or sometimes with friends. Each building seemed to be full of stories to tell, a history of the city hidden beneath every layer of paint. Often, I'd take pictures and then write a letter to my friend Julie about my journey complete with a photocopied map of my route. I think this is a big reason why I hold on to these memories so fiercely. My life there was mine and mine alone. Every discovery made, each connection to each new place; I could lay claim to being another part of that history.

My life wasn't perfect during those years, far from it, if it had been I'd have never come back. Still, those were the best years of my life and I struggle every day in hopes of recapturing some of that feeling again. NE Ohio takes me for granted. It knows I'm tethered here, bound by family and tradition. Chicago is still speaking to me though, even if I haven't been by for a visit in quite some time.

Recommended Viewing:

In the Realms of the Unreal

Sidenote: I planned to do some more work on the blog this weekend that didn't materialize. However, I should be able to start posting mp3s with my music posts very soon, so I'm pretty excited about that.

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