Monday, July 28, 2008

Living in my Uptown World

Summer weekends in Chicago are what make living here all worth it. Actually it doesn't make up for the bad things - winter, crime, sprawl, winter... but that's not within the scope of this post. This weekend I was "on call" which meant I was more or less tethered to an area within 5 or 10 minutes of my apartment. This area, for those who are not "in the know" when it comes to Chicago neighborhoods, is known as Uptown.

Uptown is an incredibly diverse neighborhood. A college professor at Truman College once told me that there are more foreign languages spoken at home in this zip code than anywhere else in America. With a population over 60,000 it's much larger than either of the towns where I grew up. All those people - and it's just a neighborhood. There are neighborhoods within this neighborhood. Uptown Square, Buena Park, Sheridan Park, Margate Park, Andersonville Terrace, and New Chinatown.

I live in New Chinatown and wouldn't have it any other way. The lakefront is less than a ten minute walk from my apartment, through a pleasant lakefront neighborhood and the northern stretch of Lincoln Park. The name "New Chinatown" refers to the fact that Chinatown is actually on the south side and this neighborhood is on the north side. The small concentration of Vietnamese immigrants to this neighborhood got it the name. Obviously a Vietnamese man does not a Chinaman make, but the name "Vietnamesetown" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. As a result of living in this vibrant Asian community, I get all kinds of awesome food for pennies. I'm also steps from several major transit options.

Uptown started out as the terminus of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad after they built a station there in 1900. This neighborhood was the summer hang-out for wealthy folks living downtown. Essanay Studios on Argyle street (that's my street) produced over 1400 movies and over 450 were produced during a period when 4 out of every 5 movies was produced in Chicago. Essanay produced the vast majority of those movies. There is now a small college standing where the studios once were (St. Augustine College) but it's easy to imagine it as a movie studio with its gated entrance. When I ride past it on my way to work I like to imagine Charlie Chaplain standing outside smoking cigarettes, cursing Chicago's recent ban on all indoor smoking.

But I digress... I spent the weekend milling about the neighborhood. I walked to Borders, walked my dog. On Saturday night, Isabelle and I walked to the lakefront to watch the Venetian Nights fireworks show downtown. Sunday brought more of the same. I'm eagerly anticipating my upcoming trip to San Francisco and Clearlake, California!

- Andy

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