Monday, April 02, 2007

Things You Don't Forget

The other morning during my daily walking (dragging) of the hound we noticed a new development on our block. It first caught the eye of my pooch as he put on the air brakes nearly yanking my arm from its socket. It wasn't so much a development really, but more of a twist--an evolutional 'baby step' for the neighborhood; a precursor of events to follow as residential life in the city plays out its hand--foreshadowing, at the very least.

While we technically live on the geograhic cusp of Lincoln Park and West Lakeview on Chicago's North Side, a new multicolored banner hanging from the lamp post (as they typically do) at the corner of Wolcott and Diversey has now declared our tiny annex of the city, Hamlin Park Neighbors. Some rogue neighborhood committee must have assembled its own group of condo-owning infidels while my wife and I were vacationing and captured the four block area through some back street ad hoc maneuvering our great city is so famous for. Last I looked, the Hamlin Park contingent had set up camp just south of Wellington but lacked the residential manpower to forge across Diversey. But this is just background music with perhaps, a few Aldermanic overtones.

The real story here is what first caught the eye of my dog on that brisk morning. It wasn't the hanging banner at all but rather, what we both witnessed coming toward us down the sidewalk. The banner itself was merely symbolism.

A young boy, maybe four or five years old, clad in helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, safety gloves, goggles and protective mouthpiece---patient 30-something father to his side with hand on shoulder--came weaving toward us on his virgin bicycle flight-- sans training wheels. Again, last time I looked, his mother was pregnant--with him. We both watched on.

I thought back 45 years to my own inaugural two wheeled mission, my own father's hand on my shoulder, with Salem in mouth and hint of Mennens aftershave lingering in the August air, guiding me with patience (yeah right) along. I think I was barefoot with no shirt in swimming trunks. It was my fifth birthday. Thinking back as I looked down at my attentive companion, that was many dogs ago.

What hasn't changed and what my point here really is---is...its 'five years and you're out' when you live in the city. The next steps for this young family down the block (mom is pregnant again) and I'm sure they already know some of this, is the For Sale By Owner sign on the black iron fence, followed in short order by the sign of my Brokerage most likely, then off to Lake Forest or Wilmette or some other bucolic Northern Chicago suburb for the next 15 or 20 years in a series of Center-Entry Colonials, before venturing back for the final city swing until finally, permanent retirement in a deep Southern state.

When one first witnesses the heavily armored five year old, father to the side, attempting to navigate the narrow sidewalks of Chicago on a mini mountain bike, one just knows a North Shore cul-de-sac with a more equitable (school district) tax basis is the next destination. Even my dog Elvis, with his two or three track mind, has an inkling that change is near for these young Hamlin Park Neighbors. Thinking back, I too lived in a fresh new house and attended a different, better school district by the time second grade rolled around. The main difference is my parents didn't vote to change the name of the neighborhood before they left.

image by all poster

Geno Petro

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