Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Diary: In October, 2003

Actually, for a moment of overlap... at the very end of September I vaccumed and finish cleaning out my house in Flint, met with the landlord and retrieved the deposit, and said goodbye to the 1600 block of Maryland Ave. I renewed my license, spent the night at my parents, and the next day my dad drove be down to Chicago. We ate at Salonica with my girlfriend (they were making their famous egg-lemon soup on this day), and while my sinuses were acting up, it was a nice example of autumn-perfect. They sky was all moldy cheese, and it was raining, chilly but not so much that I could see my breath, and the leaves were already falling and lying on the black pavement at the bottom of clear puddles as bright yellow jags. I said goodbye to my dad and he drove home to Michigan. I left most of my stuff in my girlfriend's dormroom, but I had made plans to couch-surf at my friends' Marina and Kaury's while I was looking for an apartment. Kaury and I stayed up late, drinking coffee and talking about Scavhunt.

This time, at least I had a job... good ol' Advanced Resources had been contacted by the Neurosurgery Department at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation (NMFF) where I had worked the prior Spring. They needed some clerical help and agreed to take me on in that capacity.

I really took a couple risks that October, and they didn't entirely bite me. I wanted to expand my horizons and live somewhere different and new, by which I mean unfamiliar and old. I was set on either Bridgeport, Back of the Yards, or Canaryville, on the South Side or Edgewater Beach, Uptown, and Rogers Park on the North Side. After spending two weeks after work, from seven until ten, stumping from 32nd to 51st, and between the Dan Ryan and Ashland, I nabbed an unclaimed Bridgeport Newspaper and called about a place in McKinley Park, "right across from the Orange Line" at the very generous price of $425. This was important... I'd already turned down a beautiful apartment in an Edgewater Art-Deco masterpiece for $535 because I needed to save up for an engagement ring. The matter was that close in my mind.

The apartment and neighborhood were strange and wonderful and sullen and weird and perfect. 3613 was right across from the Orange Line... if you ever take the train out to Midway from downtown you can see it vividly as you pull out of the 35/Archer station, on the left, a third story window of an 1880s-ish tenement rising right out of an automotive body shop. The body shop owner, a cheerful and reasonable man named Gerald (probably my favorite landlord ever) showed me the studio, tiny but just rehabbed. I looked out over Archer Ave., and had a fine view of a the Orange Line and heavy freight tracks, as well as the Sears Tower and Aon building. My only complaint was the hard water, which with time left a gritty film over the walls of the shower. I filled out the application, and it was accepted...

The neighborhood was just as unusual and vivid as the apartment. On the south and a bit to the east it faced the massive remnants of the Union Stockyards, but these were visually removed by the Central Manufacturing Center, which was originally the nation's first industrial park in 1905. This sat on Pershing Road. Just north, oddly enough, was McKinley Park, one of the city's sub-flagship parks, a gorgeous half-mile long, quarter-mile deep piece with a lagoon and huge old oaks. The rest of the neighborhood was a mess of triangles and rectangles trying to make sense of the chaos that Archer and the Shipping and Sanitation Canal made of Chicago's grid system. See, in New York people can deal with such things. But it made an institutional wreck, and my favorite example was just a few steps down my own trapezoidal block. Three alleyways cut in making a triangular sub-block, a stomach of sorts, which consisted of one massive vacant lot, and one house. What the house's address was or how they got their mail, I can only guess. Nor do I know what they thought of having their house surrounded by three alleyways. Following Archer southwest led to Brighton Park and Archer Heights. Following northeast led to Bridgeport, Chinatown, and ultimately, the Hilliard Homes.

My apartment was also convenient. I was within two blocks of the park, a Jewel, a taqueria, a Unique, two diners, and the Orange Line. It took me forty-five minutes to get to work (and that was if the Red Line was moving slowly) and forty-five to get to Hyde Park. Unfortunately, nobody at the U of C has heard of McKinley Park, so I had few visitors. In a way, this was nice too. On one of the first nights, when my girlfriend helped me cart my things up from Kaury's and I was unpacking in sweaty stillness (it was in the eighties), Mark S came over to hang out. It was a fun time, but seemed distracted, and then a cat was run over out on Archer and it made the most hideous squalling sound as it died I'd ever heard.

That was the month when I got into baseball. It was under an unfortunate circumstance... the Tigers had just had their worst season ever, almost tying the '62 Mets. The Cubs, on the other hand, had made it to the Division Championship and were favorted to beat to Marlins and move onto the World Series. That was, of course, the year of Steve Bartman and other catastrophes. And while the Cubs have been gradually shuffled to the bottom of my list of likeable teams, they helped to jump start my interest in the game, which grew each year as I saw my team, my Detroit team, doing better and better.

Finally, preparations were underway for the doomed production of Nocturnal Project No. 2, the Cenci. It would really pick up steam in November, and I hung around UT, interviewing and recruiting actors, and reasearching the strange tryptich of Radiohead, Percy's Cenci, and J.M.W. Turner.

On the second-to-last day of the month, I went to Mercedes' Halloween Party, had some sweet vodka drinks, and made up with Sean, with whom I'd been arguing.

On Halloween I rode up to Irving Park for the kick-off to my first NaNoWriMo. I didn't know anybody there, but I did spend some time talking to a topologist from the U of C.

I thought I knew how I'd start my novel: Your tender toes never felt such wind but once.

Where were you in October 2003?

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