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.


SkylersDad said...

When I win the lottery I am buying you some flying monkeys JY!

Bubs said...

Now that is a worthwhile dream. There are certain buildings that I always thought it would be fun to live in: an old firehouse, a lighthouse, an old gas (50's or older) gas station.

"The Dude" said...

Don't forget a bowling alley.....

Shut the F*ck up Donny!

Anonymous said...

A flying monkey garage? Dang, that place has everything.

lulu said...

I love that building. I used to live a couple blocks from it and also harbored thoughts of living in it.

Maybe when you buy it and rehab there will be a little studio for me?

Mathman6293 said...

Love that building, too. From 7-12 grade my dad had "summer band" at the Ravenswood Presbyterian Church. Often in the afternoon we would wander the neighborhood eventually riding the EL back to Albany Park.

dmarks said...

From that tower, the monkeys could roost and fling poo over the whole city.

Dale said...

What a great looking building. Nice dream until the monkeys show up, then I get a little scared and wake up.

Distributorcap said...

please win the lottery - someone i know has to

Leonesse said...

I would love that place. Beautiful.