The North Side

This fine morning I’m blogging from the front patio area of our greystone flat on Chicago’s north side. It’s a small patio, right off of the sidewalk, gated by a small iron fence. Next to me is a wooden bench, weather-worn from at least a dozen Chicago winters. Every summer I vow to take it apart for the purpose of re-finishing the slats, and as in all previous summers, I’ve not yet accomplished the task. The sun has risen, but the tall buildings will block it out until mid morning, when it will creep across the southern sky and illuminate the north side of the house.

In front of me pass joggers, mostly twenty-something’s; some wearing the cubbie blue baseball caps that dominate this neighborhood. I-pods and water bottles abound here. For the young folks Wrigleyville is a place of temporary passage, a place where they will party and schmooze, eventually meeting Mr. or Ms. Right. After marriage some couples will remain for a while in this neighborhood stuffed with restaurants, bars, and theatres. You will see baby buggies on the sidewalks of Wrigleyville all the time, but you don’t see too many kids older than five. By then, parents must make schooling choices and that often sends them west to the suburbs.

The religious, racial, and socio-economic diversity of this neighborhood is legendary. Diagonally, about 300 feet across the street is our neighborhood mosque. Down the street is a Buddhist temple. On any given day you will routinely interact with first generation Americans from virtually every continent on earth. Poles, Mexicans, Slavs, Africans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are just a few of the nationalities that come to mind. One thing is certain; the Chicago public schools don’t have to worry about exposing their students to cultural diversity.

In the alley are street people; more than you would think in a neighborhood like this. They go through dumpsters looking for aluminum cans and other items of value thrown away by those that have good things to waste. With few exceptions the street people are quiet and respectful, often giving or returning a friendly greeting. They won’t accost you or openly steal from you. They’re just trying to make a living. But don’t leave your bicycle unlocked for very long or a “crime of opportunity” might occur!

While they are in the minority, there are quite a few seniors living here. Their rents and property taxes have risen with the “gentrification” of the neighborhood. Many seniors remember when Wrigleyville was a slum in the 50’s and 60’s. No more. There are a lot of rich people living on Chicago’s north side; some a lot richer than even major league baseball players. Many Cubs players make Wrigleyville their home, walking a few short blocks to work at the “Friendly Confines.” Even baseball players hate to commute!

It’s time to go. The neighborhood is waking up. Beer trucks the size of semi-trailers are unloading their wares on Clark Street for the noon Cubs game up the street at historic Wrigley field. I’m not sure if I’ll go to the game today or not. It depends on the weather at game time and the demand for tickets. Yesterday the scalpers sold me a ticket with a $56 face value for $25. Who says scalpers always make money! I thought I had a great deal until the wheels fell off for the Cubs and they lost 13-5. Ah…baseball!

You can stay at Don’s building in Wrigleyville. Check it out at: www.wrigleyflat.com

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