Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And for my third blog entry of the day: a couple words on poor citizenship

Sorry. Internet was down much of this weekend. Wrote all this stuff and am finally editing and posting now.

1. This guy took the wrong branch of the Green Line going to Pitchfork. If he is not from Chicago, well... understandable. We have lots of long streets resulting in many identically-named L stops. Three Ashland stops, three 35th Street stops, three Halsted stops... five Western stops (back when the Douglas branch was part of the Blue Line there was one on each of the Blue Line's three branches).

If this guy lives in Chicago, shame on him. He should know where the Green Line goes, and that a train going to 63rd is not going to take you to the west loop unless you're starting way out on the west side. And I'm guessing he picked up the train in the loop as it was going east, which really should have been a dead giveaway to a Chicagoan, because Chicagoans should have their bearings about them when on Loop Elevated platforms (it's not hard, as they're above ground and you don't just cross the tracks without noticing). I'm sure there are lots of people that live on the north side that would be lost anywhere in the city south of Roosevelt. Which is sad.

Also, "You're lucky you didn't come here after dark, or you all would've been jacked." OK. Well, he did say they were all hipsters, so maybe they would have.

2. I read a lot into, and internalize, coincidences. It's not that they happen for non-random reasons, but they bring about non-random thought. I tend not to think Freudian slips are what they're cracked up to be. People make mistakes in speech, occasionally they're ironic or funny, and that's it.

After reading some of Jane Jacobs' opinions about what makes effective neighborhoods work in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, I went out on my front porch putting on my shoes to go running. One thing she says that makes a lot of sense is that effective city neighborhoods need stable residents. People that stay there as their lives change, and as the neighborhood changes. Not a constant flow of people in and out who are all statistically interchangeable. That's really hard to achieve; she writes that few neighborhoods do, and I would guess that fifty-seven years later even fewer do today. It seems to be fairly true of Pilsen now, though things are changing. I moved to Pilsen in June. I vaguely want to live in Illinois for the rest of my life, though I don't know that I always want to live in Chicago, let alone in one particular place in the city; I'm not there yet, and I'm not saying I should or shouldn't be, but I'm not. Living in Pilsen, walking the streets here, and especially running to the south side, has renewed my love for Chicago.

As I tied my shoes a woman walked by slowly. She looked up at me on the porch and I nodded and said, "Good evening." She replied, "Good bye."


Danielle in Iowa said...

Well, we also live in an age where this generation doesn't expect to be working at the same place until they retire, so it is sort of hard to live somewhere permanently. Although I think once people get married and have kids, the inertia that resists moving grows stronger (except that unfortunately many of these people choose to move out of the city and into the boring burbs).

Al Dimond said...

Yeah, reading this section I think of parts of Neil Stephenson's dark predictions for the future of cities in The Diamond Age. Trends like the one you mentioned were turning against Jacobs' conception of strong street-neighborhoods and districts already in 1961 and probably make them very unlikely to generate.

Another big trend working against this concept is the dominance of chain retail; even many small storefronts in cities today are chain-links (although not true to the degree it is in suburbs). Chain stores, operated usually by a young and transient work force, can't function in street-neighborhoods the way that the independent shops of her Greenwich Village street did in the mid-20th century.

I will probably have a lot to write about this book once I finish it.