19 April 2008

Stuff I like about Hyde Park

I know I complain a lot about my neighborhood. There are two reasons for this: (1) I complain a lot about everything (so really, it's not Hyde Park's fault), and (2) well, don't people only complain about the things they really care about? I mean, if you didn't give a fruitcake, then why would you waste so much time complaining?

So as a reminder to everyone (and most of all myself) that there must be some reason I'm still living here or else I would have quit griping and moved out long ago, I'll list seven of them.

1. The lake. I look out my living-room window and there it is!* And it's only two blocks away. A trip to the lakefront I love so much isn't a trip across town, it's an extra stop on a routine errand whenever I feel so inclined. I forget how lucky I am.

2. The parks. There aren't many neighborhoods in Chicago that can boast proximity to one of the large, historically significant, exceptionally beautiful crown jewels of the Park District system. Lucky us, we're flanked by two of them: Jackson Park and Washington Park.

3. The trees. Not just in the parks and on the University of Chicago quadrangles, but everywhere---along the boulevards, up and down the streets, in front and back yards, even in the middle of parking lots. Huge trees, too, as well as the little saplings that are planted with care every year. And then there are the scruffy weedy trees that plant themselves along the railroad tracks and grow in a riotous profusion of scrub. True, those are invasive and sometimes have to be removed for safety purposes (nevermind that I'm pretty sure boxelders aren't supposed to fit so prominently into the natural pattern of ecological succession in these parts), but it's easy to grow fond of them.

4. The architecture. Need I say more? Even if you don't know much about it (and trust me, I sort of don't), you have to admit that the buildings around here are generally very nice to look at. Even those hideous gray boxes from the urban renewal era have a certain charm.

5. The Metra Electric and the South Shore Line. The former so much nicer than the L (come on, admit it), the latter providing such easy access to the Indiana Dunes. Or Gary, if you prefer, but I still don't see how.

6. The people. The population is so diverse, so eclectic, it's impossible not to fit in here. It's everyone's neighborhood. The flip side is that everyone wants something different and feels very passionately about it, so there's always lots of disagreement about everything, and it gives the place kind of a surly, discontented vibe. But see, that's the beauty of it---since we're all free to grumble and grouch about whatever, nobody ever feels alienated for being a lone dissenter. Pessimism does have its virtues, after all. And if you disagree, then good for you! Thank you for lifting our hopes and spirits from time to time, and reminding people like me that it's not good to complain so much about everything.

7. The bicycles. Of course.

I know I missed a lot, but those are my personal favorites that come quickly to mind. Comment with more of your own, if you like.

*But not today, darn fog.

Update: About that fog... I snapped a few pictures early this evening when the sun broke briefly through the upper clouds. The effect was a bit surreal, don't you think?


At 19 April, 2008 18:01, Anonymous Tim said...

Powell's. The lakefront at 47th, the great city view and the sublime, Planet of Apes Forbidden City shoreline. The Oriental Institute, .among other gems

At 19 April, 2008 20:48, Blogger Eric Allix Rogers said...

I've never really thought systematically about it, but I like your list pretty well. I also like how quiet it is, and how much calmer than the northern lakefront neighborhoods. Stepping out of my door in Lakeview made me feel frantic and harried immediately, but that's never the case here. If the area were too "successful", I probably wouldn't like living here.


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