Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When neighborhoods (or cities) are like people

I used to hear people talk about the TV show and call it "Sex in the City" and I'd want to yell "it's Sex AND the City." I watched that show religiously and damn near shed a tear when it went off the air. I appreciated that storybook ending when the girl gets the guy--even if life really doesn't always work out that way. If I wanted reality, let's face it, I would never have been watching in the first place!

Anyway, one of the things I loved about the show was that NYC was practically a character of the show. Think about it. Would SATC have been the same if "City" had been played by Charlottesville, VA? (Not that there's anything wrong with Charlottesville.) NYC made it edgy. Trendy. Historical. Storied. SEXY. 

I "fell in love" with NYC when I lived there. It was one part history-one part bravado...that I could leave everything I knew in Illinois and my farm town of a college town and drop myself in the biggest city this hemisphere with $400 in my pocket and somehow survive. I made it! (I'm always down for some improbable sh*t, hence my weird affinity for marathons even though I'm not good yet...I will be someday.) 

But anyway, as a poor grad student, I explored all there was to see in NYC on a shoestring budget and like a person being hazed, fell in LOVE with doing things the hard way. I have always sort of looked at NYC as my fallback. Plan B. If I'm unsuccessful in life and love, I'm done. I always have "someone" to turn to, I will go back and get lost in the city that took me in the first time. NYC never cared what I wore, or if I didn't communicate all that well, or whatever. Come as you are. Or maybe some other city or region is the place for me. Pacific Grove, CA? ( http://runlindyrun.blogspot.com/search?q=Pacific+grove&m=1) Or hell, maybe right here, who knows. I like the possibility of leaving--even if it's just wandering for a few weeks each year. Shrug. But I will always be on some "discovery" angle. (I miss that--it's an aspect of my former self that seems a bit lost right now. Kids have a way of doing that. I'll be back.) hopefully, I will have ALL of it. Success in life and love AND be on a lifelong path to discovering new places. 


So last week I experienced these same human like feelings about "place" once more. (We urban planners talk about place and placemaking all the time--the art of creating "place"--whether it's destination/work/home.) Anyway, the girls were in spring break camp at a park that shares the same name of the neighborhood that I worked in for nearly 10 years before we moved to Greektown just on the outskirts of the Loop (downtown) Chicago. 

As i traversed Wicker Park each morning and evening last week, I was feeling "some kinda way," as the twentysomethings say.  Almost like a past relationship. Like that feeling when you're like "wow, I used be with you everyday. We were such an item. But hey, things change. That was then, this is now." It's like a sadness, but not SAD sad. But like a "you used to be an important part of my life. You couldn't tell me ANYTHING bad about Wicker Park back in the day. I still love ya, but not like THAT. You're cool, and I wish you well...but I could never come back." And "wow, you look different. The same...but different. You've changed." Ahhh, funny how life goes on. You know. That weird feeling of "what once was, but is no more." And the realization that this feeling is perfectly fine. Fist bump---peace, Wicker Park.

I don't feel this way about every neighborhood...but some really do have a personality that offer a lot to the senses. And THAT is pretty cool--probably why I will always love urban planning even if I don't stay in the field. Discovering and rediscovering "place" will always be a part of who I am. 

Go experience the world.

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