I grew up in something that wasn’t a neighborhood. It was a subdivision. I don’t even really know what that means. I’m going to look it up.
“Subdivision” means the division of a lot, tract, or parcel of land into two or more lots, plats, sites, or other divisions of land for the purpose, whether immediate or future, of sale or of building development. It includes resubdivision and, when appropriate to the context, relates to the process of subdividing or to the land or territory subdivided.
Basically, where I grew up put some developer’s kids through college.
Here’s where I start to say to myself: Self, no kvetching. You were plucked at age 6 from a fairly dodgy neighborhood right before it got bad and, although you landed in a uniformly plastic sidewalk-less and tree-starved hinterland accessible only by automobile, you went to a good public school and did not have to carry mace in your little pink backpack.
But I think this is all part of why I love Chicago. I love neighborhoods. I love neighborhoods that grew organically, that began because someone built a home and someone built a deli and someone built a bookstore and someone built a grocer. Probably not in that order. I love sidewalks and big shade trees and brick storefronts. When I took a job at a theater in the neighborhood where I lived, I was embarking on the ultimate fruition of my neighborhoody dreams: living and working in the same place.
This is what I learned:
–There are a lot of nod-based relationships that develop. Often nodding and smiling. I.e., the corner liquor store owner who lets you pay with a card for your $6 six-pack, despite the sign that requires a $10 purchase. The sullen, black eyeliner-wearing video store clerk who bonded with you in line at the Subway and now waves and smiles when she passes you on the street.
–First-name relationships happen. Most notably at coffee shops. Perhaps this is a reflection of my high coffee intake.
–You see things change: puppies growing, kids growing, storefronts changing. When the barber died, someone added a sign that said “PAUL RIP” and a memorial note, on looseleaf paper. Someone wrote in Sharpie on the “Will Re-Open ASAP” sign, “Paul Passed Away”. Through the glass door you can see mail still piling up on the floor in front of the mail slot.
I’m going to wager that I won’t live in the same neighborhood for the rest of my life. That was never the idea. But it’s nice to wear grooves in the same sidewalks, for a little while.
–Went to Pitchfork; The Flaming Lips kicked a hole in the plaster surrounding my ironic-distance wall, and in flooded the Yoshimi and the robot and the battle.
–Saw Harry Potter and wondered when Hermione got so attractive.
–Danced like crazy in a sweaty, beer-y bar and finally understood the combo of loud bass plus alcohol plus friends.
–Realized that age 29 is creeping on up, which is crazy, because last I checked, I was squeaking towards 23. Then I remembered that I always wanted to be out of my twenties, because people over 30 seem much more self-assured and able to attack with grace and comedy the Rubix cube that is this existence, and so I thought, brain: stop the fussing. Plus, that’s in October. Plus, 30 is one year more than that.
Things are looking up, though, and I am remembering how much independence and presence of mind that I need to cultivate as one-half of a relationship. This weekend felt good — lounging on the grass listening to afternoon fiddle music during the Old Town Folk & Roots fest, a roadtrip to a drive-in movie in the ‘burbs, getting lost on said roadtrip, stopping at a disco bowling alley for directions, and ending up with some Sonic goodness, where we ordered four beverages between the two of us (mine: a cherry limeade blended with vanilla soft-serve and a cranberry limeade).
I just stumbled across another metaphor blog born in July: Life is like a frozen pizza.
Must be the heat.
By last Thursday, I was coming down from a stressful week, the kind of week where calm seems like a dream you dreamed one night but then you woke up and threw up and erased it. Luckily SJ-Y picked me up in her little silver SUV and ferried me, Kevin and Robin to a land called Wisconsin. This land didn’t understand stress. It didn’t understand arguments. It mostly dealt in the currency of alcohol, pine trees and campfires. We stayed in a cabin in the North Woods (split log, lots of varnish, moose-themed quilts, taxidermified possum, deer and squirrel.) With some help from the owners of the cabin, we drank our way through at least five dive bars and consumed s’more upon s’more. Also, I had gotten really excited about Batter Blaster. So there was that. Plus we sat on a hill and watched a pretty mean fireworks display bust out over a lake, while we listened to the kids behind us go:
–That was HUGE-ER.
–No that was huge-er!
–Daddy? Is huge-er a word?
–Daddy? Is huge-er a word?
–Is huge-er a word, Dad?
Then a pause, and a weary-sounding man replied:
Moving Vanessa’s stuff on a Wednesday evening: unroll the wine glasses from newspaper and pour champagne to drink in the new kitchen. Lunch with Kristina at The Melrose: sunny patio catching up. Over free wine after the storytelling festival: good words from Don, joshing with Dennis. Chopping and dicing for Oriana’s tortilla soup: the right knife for the raw chicken, smelling the cumin-rich broth, scooping Dan’s famous guac onto blue corn chips.
One of our kitchen chairs looks like a chair, four legs, back and seat, etc, but when you sit on it, the legs go trapezoidal, it leans dramatically to the right, and if you are not careful you will fall to the floor. Two bolts rusted off the back on the left side, causing the improbable lean. When this first happened I thought I would throw the chair out. But there were considerations. It was given to me by Amanda’s mother-in-law as part of a white vintage 1950s kitchenette set (chrome! vinyl!) that has been the center of my bare bones furniture collection since I first moved to Chicago in 2004. Also Kevin said he maybe wanted the chair for a play.
So the chair stayed in the office, where it was banned from use, and is now (somehow) back around our table again. It looks like the other chairs. They each have their qualities — one has a yellow paint stain on the back from when Kevin painted our place, one has a ripped seat cushion, one has no problems to speak of — it’s the Good Chair and I bet the other chairs resent it. I should be able to tell the tippy chair from the others. But Tippy Chair looks so much like the Good Chair until you put your weight on it.
I should probably move it, probably relegate back to the office or leave it out on the curb, but for some reason it’s still here, posing with all the rest, and I’m sitting on the very edge, legs crossed, balancing.