Saturday, September 10, 2016

I’m looking to return to Chicago, no matter how much the very concept of such a move freaks some people out

One of the lessons I gained from my time some three decades ago working as a police reporter-type person for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago is that violence and stupid stuff can happen anywhere.

Too much variety in neighborhood life to ignore
As much as we want to believe that nonsense only happens in the Englewood and North Lawndale neighborhoods (with the bigots amongst us spewing nonsense about how “those people” just don’t know any better), there is no getting away from it.

THERE ARE BAD people amongst us no matter where we live, and certain circumstances can bring out the worst in anybody.

So when I read a recent Chicago Tribune commentary written by a person who tried rationalizing his recent move from the city proper to a suburban community, I couldn’t help but find his tone too over-the-top to take seriously.

Particularly since this person was also trying to urge other people to make the move. As though the 2-1 suburban/city ratio isn’t a large-enough gap.

Yet that person seems to think he can get away from violence. Even though it really has cropped up around me too often in life. The reality is that those of us in society who want to be influential are the ones who can stand up to stupidity and try to do something to fix it.

THOSE OF US who run are going to wind up finding that the violence follows us.
My birthplace neighborhood, heavily idealized

One aspect of this particular commentary that I found amusing is that I had my own stint living in the very neighborhood that he had fled from – Ravenswood and Albany Park.

It was one summer back when I was in college, and I can recall the neighbors warily warning me of “the gangs” that supposedly were running roughshod over the neighborhood.

I don’t doubt they were there. But I also remember that they didn’t bother with me, largely because I had no reason to bother with them. Maybe because I minded my own business, we co-existed.
I didn't flee because of this

IT MADE ME wonder how much of my neighbors, most of whom I haven’t seen since I left there some 32 years ago, was fear of the unknown. Besides, I see that that particular area has become a popular one for certain young professional types to live if they are not of an income bracket to afford Lincoln Park or Lake View.

How bad could it have been, even if there was a recent homicide that now taints the neighborhood in the minds of this one writer.

Perhaps it’s just a difference of opinion. But I have lived in places that have acquired a local taint because of a criminal act. I remember one day back when I was in Tinley Park when police stopped me and demanded some sort of evidence I belonged in the neighborhood.

It was the day (in fact, within the hour) that a man yet to be found to this day killed five individuals at a nearby shopping center. That Lane Bryant store where the slayings occurred is no more, but the rest of the area thrives. It certainly wasn’t enough to get me to flee the area.

BECAUSE THE TRUTH is best told by Martha and the Vandellas, who had the right idea when they sang, “Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide.” You can’t live life in a plastic bubble – bad things happen even in there.

My own life story is that I’m born South Side (the Ed Vrdolyak version in the 10th Ward, not the Mike Madigan or Beverly versions, as one person recently described them to me) and have lived in several neighborhoods of Chicago south and north, along with selected suburbs.

There even have been stints of my life in central Illinois and within the District of Columbia and I actually spend quite a bit of my time these days around Gary, Ind., due to my reporter-type work. Yet I always have felt a certain draw to the city proper – as though it is the reason why the rest of those communities exist to begin with.

And is why I envision the day coming when I return, yet again, to Chicago; which just has too strong a pull on me to ignore. Despite the plea of one who says, “I can’t find any good reason to live in the city,” I can’t justify going through life living in fear and ignorance.


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