Sunday, June 26, 2005

This is why I live here

Most of my relatives live in the south and southwest suburbs of Chicago, where I grew up. Mr. Tangerine and I have lived on the North Side for 15 years. Those who live out yonder (30 to 40 miles from me) find my location and the lack of ample parking to be most inconvenient; the city driving, harrowing; the city air, dirty and noisy. "Why don't you move out here?" they ask. "You know, in a few years, you'll have to move to the suburbs so Ben can have playmates in the neighborhood."

I honestly find suburban driving to be more stressful than city driving (with the exception of driving in the Loop—I haven't honed those skills yet). The city may seem big and anonymous, but there are familiar and friendly faces here. I don't hanker for a big yard that requires mowing and landscaping. I love the proximity to Lake Michigan and its beauty, not to mention the lake's moderating effect on the local climate (warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer—almost 20 degrees cooler today, in fact). I like the easy access to public transportation (Ben loves the bus and the El). It's great to have so many museums and parks nearby.

But what I value most about the North Side is its diversity—the kind of diversity that suburbs exclude almost by design. There are rich people and poor people. Black, white, Latino, Asian, and Native American. Straight, gay, lesbian, bi, and transgendered. Yuppies and goths. Old people and babies. Nerds and hipsters. Immigrants from all corners of the globe (well, not counting Antarctica), speaking dozens of languages. Families, childless couples, and singles. Hard-bodied jocks, fat people, skinny people. The able-bodied and people with all sorts of disabilities. Atheists, Christians, Muslims, and Hasidic Jews. I want Ben to grow up understanding that we are all one human race, that we can all be neighbors. In this part of Chicago, I think it will come naturally to him.

This afternoon, we walked down to Pride Fest (the street fair kicking off tomorrow's parade). There were shirtless men with nipple rings, buxom transsexuals, drag queens, same-sex couples holding hands or embracing, very dykish-looking lesbians (one sporting a t-shirt that read "Yes, I am in the right bathroom"), RuPaul live on stage (back after a five-year hiatus from fame), people of all races—the works. What one person caught Ben's eye and caused him to exclaim? A clown, clad in a red and white get-up with matching face paint and a wig. How many five-year-old kids in the 'burbs wouldn't think twice about all the rest of the folks at Pride Fest?

Here in the city, we're home.

9 comments:

Feral Mom said...

Damn. You're making me really sad we're moving.

Stella said...

Heh. I need to have such a convivial view of Pride Weekend. All I could think of as I tried to fight through the throngs in the West Village was a curmudgeonly, "This place is a madhouse and I can't move!"

Orange said...

F.M., you're moving?! Nooo!

Stella, the trick is to not be working against the event. Same thing at Disney's Magic Kingdom or any other horde-related activity—park yourself and partake, or steer clear of the area. What were you doing trying to actually get somewhere in the Village? Pshaw! We're lucky to live three blocks from today's parade route, with our local streets open. Reach the edge of the throng, partake, then retreat.

fireangel said...

I'm homesick for Chicago and miss Ben and his intellect and openess

Ellen said...

I'm not familiar with the Chicago area (was there just once, for an NPL con, and rarely left the hotel). But I grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, and would now never live anywhere but the big city. Of course, being rent stabilized and not knowing how to drive make it unlikely I'll ever move.

BlondebutBright said...

You have a great attitude. And I think you're completely right - your son will grow up seeing differences in people as the norm, and that will give him a huge advantage over the suburb babies.

Stella said...

Silly Stella. I was in Chelsea for a boxing class and I just wanted to grab a dessert to bring uptown to Dave's place, and I thought, "The West Village has great desserts, yummy!" Like I said, silly Stella. Had I been thinking I'd have put on a rainbow necklace or just gotten the hell out of the way.

Orange said...

Stella, at least your desserts had the opportunity to bump and grind through the West Village, right? Desserts need to live a little, too. And maybe they were GLBT desserts--you never know.

Emma Goldman said...

I had the stepson last week, and he was extremely pleased that I got him his own CTA card. I kept it safe for him, but he was all about using it on the various modes of transport onto which I shlepped him all week. Tuesday as we sat on the 126 Jackson bus he observed there were a lot of black people on the bus. No clue what it meant to him--I said yes, there were, but didn't comment further, and he moved on--but it IS a contrast to his usual environment. Oak St. Beach is reasonably diverse, as well (compared to many other city venues), as is the LP Zoo, so I feel like he's getting a little taste, anyway. But yeah.