Saturday, December 20, 2008
When I Win The Lottery
"When I win the lottery gonna buy all girls on my block
A color TV and a bottle of French perfume
When I win the lottery gonna donate half my money to the city
So they have to name a street or a school or a park after me
When I win the lottery
"When I Win The Lottery"- Camper Van Beethoven
In March of 1986, I was living with a couple of guys in a two-flat in Rogers Park. I'd answered an ad in the Chicago Reader looking for a roommate. The place and price were right, and with the help of my old friend Tim, moved from Beverly at the south end of Chicago to the neighborhood at Chicago's northermost point.
Unfortunately, our landlord sold the building and gave us a month's notice move out. I launched an apartment hunt and found a place I liked at Ashland and Berteau, in the North Center neighborhood. My friend Mark, who'd just graduated from our alma mater, Eastern Illinois University, and unlike me had a car, helped me move.
I quickly fell in love with the neighborhood. There were el stops within two blocks either north or south. It was a crazy grab bag of ethnicities. I remember walking over to the Mexican grocery store to buy a broom, mop, bucket and cleaning supplies. There was also a Jewel's grocery store a few blocks away, and the Clark Street bus, a 24 hour line, ran just a couple of blocks away. And of course, Wrigley Field, the Music Box Theater and the Gingerman tavern were all within a fifteen minute walk away.
But one of my favorite things in the neighborhood was the factory down the street, at Berteau and Ravenswood. Ravenwood Avenue runs across much of the north side of Chicago, starting around Diversey, up to the north border. It's filled with warehouses, light industry and, increasingly, loft conversions. The handsome building, pictured at the top of this post, is that factory. It's funny that it's better looking than a lot of the "tear-downs" going up in the neighborhood.
The Sulzer Library, also in the neighborhood, exhibits History Fair projects done by kids in local schools every year. Among this year's crop of projects was one on Chicago water towers, which, to my delight, had a model of "my" building.
I learned a couple of things from this project. One was that Chicago, because of our 1871 fire, has more water towers than any other city in the country. Another thing I learned was that the clock towers that adorn this and many of the other factories, are actually disguises for water towers.
Over the years, I've had a recurring fantasy: that somehow I'll come up with a fortune and buy that building and make it my home. I'll renovate it and move my family and friends in. Once or twice a year, I actually spring for a lottery ticket. It keeps my dream of purchasing my building alive. The place would be perfect. I'd put up a basketball court in the warehouse section, and have a room with a bar up in the tower, where the long-abandoned water tower was.
The best part, though, is that there's a place at the very top of the tower from where I could sip bourbon, survey my empire below, and have a place to park my flying monkeys when they came home to roost.