Sunday, February 03, 2008
Yesterday, I grabbed my camera as I walked out the door on the way to work. It occurred to me that it was Groundhog's Day, and so I snapped a picture of Feed The Beast, a restaurant I pass on my walk to work. In 1992, it was still a German restaurant and the location that they shot all the restaurant scenes in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day in. In September, that was the restaurant that my son and I met up with bloggers Bubs, Evil Genius, Grant Miller and The Idea of Progress.
I snapped a couple of more shots on the way there, and thought about how the neighborhood has changed since I first moved there. A few days ago, I took this shot of the building that my first apartment on my own after college was, at Berteau and Ashland. I moved in there in April or May of 1986 and lived there for about a year. It's about a block and a half from Lakeview High School, where scenes from the 1980 movie My Bodyguard were filmed. Back then, the North Center neigbhorhood, which both that and my current apartment are in, was rough. Drug addicts and gangbangers were everywhere. In nearby Welles Park, gangs members shot at one another at night, and drunks abounded during the daytime. These days, the Park is full of families; Adam plays baseball there in their summer league and I take he and Mel bike-riding there. The drunks, junkies and gang members are long gone.
Gone too is the place that sold live chickens, near Lincoln and Irving. On a hot summer day, you had no trouble locating that place. A few years ago they tore down the Lincoln Center Bowl, also on that corner, which was upstairs from a stereo store. The pool room of the Lincoln Center Bowl was where they shot the scene in The Color Of Money with Forrest Whittaker and Paul Newman.
In the eight years that I've worked at Jury's (I worked there part-time even when I was a teacher to supplement my income), I've made that walk down Cullom Avenue, around the corner of Lincoln, past whatever restaurant was in the location of the old "Groundhog Day" shoot and over to Jury's maybe a thousand times now. I've seen the neighborhood changing slowly. There have been about a dozen "teardowns" on my own block and a couple dozen more east of here, including this one that's being built. They tore down a lovely little wooden house that had something that's a rarity in Chicago-- a wraparound porch. There was another place, a little further down that they also did a "teardown" on it. The old house was owned by a Filipino family who maintained a beautiful, thick flower garden in the front yard. I miss that garden and the friendly family that owned it.
My neighborhood, North Center, is in a weird place right now. It's become, after years of being overlooked, a popular place to build and buy homes. The crime is low, the neighborhood diverse and, except for some notable exceptions, inexpensive. We've got lots of shopping-- there is an Aldi's and a Jewel's just a few minutes walk away and two el stops nearby. There was a moment when we looked like we might be headed for being priced out of the neighborhood, especially when a $1.6 million teardown went up next door to us. The downturn in the housing market seems to have slowed that down; the developer had to move in to the place next door after it failed to sell after a year on the market. They stopped construction for several months on three more down the street.
My landlord told me last year that he and his wife have no intention of ever selling this place. With that, I breathed a sigh of relief. They have done an enormous amount of renovations on this place in the last year. I was afraid that it was with the intention of selling it. I love having a home that's in a neighborhood that's quiet and clean and that my kids can play outside safely in.
Yesterday, Adam and I were talking about our home. We moved into this apartment in August of 1998, when he was four years old and in pre-school. This August, we will have been here ten years, far longer than I've ever lived at any place in my life. We'll be living here in September, when he starts high school. There's a pretty good chance that we'll still be living here when he starts college in four and a half years. This will be the place he thinks of as where he grew up as he gets older. So will my stepdaughter; she and Kim have been here nearly 2 and a half years.
In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray was condemned to live the same day over and over again until he gets it right. It makes me think of my walk to work. It's the same route usually. That walk may remain the same, but I think about the changes in both the neighborhood and myself since the first time I made that walk from my home to Jury's: a new marriage; my son going from being a baby to being a young man; a new child in my life; and going back to school in order to eventually enter a new career. I've buried one old friend and made some wonderful new friends. I'm hoping I get a few more good years out of this neighborhood and this old house while I finish raising my kids and move on, with Kim, to the next part of my life, whatever that may be.