Saturday, March 30, 2013

Repeat after me: It is a big city.

Our neighbourhood, after a snowfall.  
On arrival in Chicago after a soon-to-be-blogged about week on Route 66 with three of my best friends, we checked into a short-term rental apartment, while waiting for Amynah and the girls (and all our worldly possessions) to catch up to us. The owner showed us all the fixtures, and then gave us some advice as to where among the hundreds of excellent options to eat and dine in the local neighbourhood we should choose to satiate our beer-lust. Mindful of Chicago’s reputation for gun violence, he assured us that the immediate area was safe, but to be cautious.

“You, know, it’s big city.”

Shortly after we moved in, there was a fairly large snowfall. At near 11 PM at night, there was a buzz on our door. A large man stood outside with a shovel, asking if he could shovel our steps and sidewalk for a few bucks. We informed him that we were new in the neighbourhood, at which point he welcomed us and said it was a good place to live.

“But you gotta be careful – you know, it’s a big city.”

Last week, I was walking down our street with the girls. Directly across the road from our place, I was accosted by a group of people sitting on their stoop. While Sana and Inara marveled at their dog, they too welcomed me to the area, promised me further details over a future beer, and assured me that it was 
a wonderful place to live.
On the El-Train. Sana already has the thousand-yard stare of a regular commuter.

“But you know – it is a big city.”

We’ve enrolled Sana in a pre-school, not far from where Amynah works*, so the two of them ride the El-Train together three times aweek, leaving Inara and I to fend for ourselves. Friday was the warmest day we’ve had since moving here, so we went for a walk – saying hi to other parents wandering around with their kids, picking up some fresh-baked bread at the local boulangerie, searching for shoots of tulips in the neighbors gardens, stopping in for coffee at the local hipster café.
Right there, in front of the red brick building (picture is from Jan.)
Imagine this place full of families. Now imagine gunshots.

Late in the afternoon, I took her to the local park. It was packed with kids chasing each other and yelling, parents tending to boo-boos or chatting with one another. Suddenly, there was a loud crack. I looked over to the nearby apartments, where I saw one young man holding his side and another running away. Throughout the park, parents grabbed their children and hustled them to the further exits – “Why do we have to go?” “It’s…uhhh… time to have dinner, baby. Now, let’s GO.” Grim fear and bewilderment on everyone’s faces.

Inara was screaming as I pulled her off the slide and hustled her back home. It did not console her when I said, as the sirens grew louder in the distance, “Well, you know, it is a big city.”

Now, gun violence in my immediate proximity aside, I want to assure my readers (both of you!) that so far, I love this city. The people are friendly in an open, genuine and engaged way that I have never experienced before (such that neighbours will invite you out for beer before learning your name). There are more excellent cafés and affordable-yet-deliciousdining options than there are people. I’m not sure how that works, mathematically, but it does. It’s an interesting lookingcity, with a street life that never seems to stop. Public transit is extensive,clean, and used by people who refuse to make a big deal out of surrendering their seats to toddlers. It’s going to make a good home for us, and I suspect I’ll be doing a lot of blogging about it – assuming that I don’t get shot. But first: my Route 66 Adventure!

* Two weeks ago, Amynah’s building was locked down because of a shooting at a grocery store near campus. So, Yay Chicago!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Windy City update

In case anyone checks this blog in order to learn about my life or whereabouts, I live in Chicago now. In the weeks to come, I hope to write a bit about the means by which I got here (hint - look at the photo) and my impressions of the city. Until then, unpacking awaits.