I have lived in Chicago for almost eight of the last ten years. But at the end of the week, we’re moving to Boston. As a way of saying goodbye to my old ‘hoods of Lincoln Square and Ravenswood, I rode the CTA down to my old neighborhood with my camera and walked back, retracing the path of my most recent stint in the city in an attempt at some sort of closure.
This may straddle the line of travel blog post and personal post, but it’s my blog. Here we go.
The Farewell Tour Begins
The walking tour started at our apartment, at which I’ve lived for a year and a half.
The courtyard (which is also what the building style is called) is immaculately maintained by a resident. Despite the nice grounds, I won’t miss this apartment much.
For the last year and a half, I’ve lived in Lincoln Square. According to our license plates, Illinois is the “Land of Lincoln” because Abraham Lincoln was born here. As such, “Lincoln _____” is the default naming structure for all things in Illinois: Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden, Lincoln Hall, the list goes on.
Lincoln Square is a mix of relics celebrating the area’s German heritage like the (now defunct) BrauHaus, Huettenbar, and the yearly Maifest and Oktoberfest. The Square is also full of specialty shops like an apothecary, an outdoor store, and an independent book store. There’s a deli called Gene’s that has really good sausages and a roof top deck. At the north end is a restaurant called “Cafe Bourbon” which caters exclusively to older, chain smoking Eastern European men. I hear it’s also abhorrently expensive.
From The Square to Ravenswood
Before I lived in Lincoln Square, I lived in a neighborhood called Ravenswood. Connecting them is the CTA Brown Line.
I walked to the Western stop which services Lincoln Square. Taking pictures of the CTA—particularly in black and white—screams “I’m an art student from Naperville” but put that thought out of my head, at least for the afternoon. I’m too cynical sometimes, and I wanted to take my own photos so I could remember it how I wanted.
The the “L” is iconic to Chicago. It’s a no-frills, mostly-reliable transit system that seeps into ever Chicagoan’s life. Everybody who has ridden it regularly has their own stories about something that happened on the CTA, whether it’s a meltdown of epic preparations or crazy commuters. At least once a week for the entire duration of their time spent here, every resident has the same internal debate before heading out: “I want to take an Uber but I should take the train, shouldn’t I? That’s the responsible thing to do.” We’re all stuck on the train together, and it’s what bonds us as Chicagoans.
It’s also where I met the world’s happiest train conductor:
Next Stop: Ravenswood
I rode the train to Montrose, my old stop, and did the walk that I used to do twice a day every day for almost three years to my apartment.
I like where I live now better as it’s a little closer to civilization, but this area was great too: it was quiet, cheap, and walking distance to a good Chinese restaurant. It was also beautiful in Autumn.
I couldn’t get a picture of my old apartment because I lived across the street from the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel (or as he is known in some circles—”Rhambo”). There are CPD officers outside his house who will stop you if you’re being weird in the vicinity. And walking up to the Mayor’s house and taking pictures with a DLSR definitely qualifies.
South of my old apartment on Irving Park, I was greeted with the best sight in ages. The Diner Grill is alive once more.
The Diner Grill is simulatenously nothing special and a landmark. It’s run by one man behind the counter who works the register, cleans, cooks—the whole nine yards. Christmas of 2016, it burnt down and only just reopened. If you’re drunk on the north side and looking for a Slider, this is your place. Be warned: after 2 am, there’s usually a line out the door.
Admittedly, the only times I went to the Diner Grill was when I had been drinking. And I did a lot of that drinking at The Globe (pictured below) where I went to watch Blackhawks games. I knew most of the staff, and we’d chat during commercial breaks. Over time, I stopped going as often for a variety of reasons, none of which were because of the quality of the bar.
Before I stopped in last month, it’d been about six months since I’d been in last. They’ve remodeled and it’s staffed with new faces, a stark reminder of how I’ve failed to keep up with my former institutions. They still have the best pour of Guinness in the city, though.
Welles Park and Lincoln Ave.
Welles Park was one of my favorite places to go when I needed to escape my apartment. In the middle of the park is the Gazebo.
During the summer, they have concerts on the lawns. It’s mostly families, but everyone’s welcome to come watch jazz bands, blues, etc. There’s also baseball games, people playing sports outside, and dogs taking a sniffing tour of the region. I didn’t catch this dogs name, but he’s a Golden-Doodle.
On my way home, I walked past several places that I’d been meaning to go for years but never did, like the Cho Sun Ok Oriental Restaurant. I can’t personally recommend the place, but there’s always a line out the door. Can’t be that bad, right?
Same for the Davis Theater. It was recently remodeled and has a nice bar area, though I’ve never watched a movie there. But I’m okay with having not gone to these places. In a city like this, there will always be things that I haven’t done yet.
Bringing it Home
After this, I walked back through the Square and made for home. My tour was over.
I wrote this post in hopes that it’d help me say goodbye to this city. Chicago has served as a backdrop for my personal growth over the past however many years. It’s where I graduated college, met the love of my life, and celebrated three Stanley Cups. Sure, there are some not so great memories that I won’t delve into right now, but it’s tough to close out this chapter.
Any more, my attachment to the city is mostly sentimental. Yesterday, I went to my barber for the last time (he’s one of the best barbers on the north side—and that’s not just my opinion). I was surprised that he remembered who I am, but then it hit me that I’ve been going there for five years. I also said goodbye to my gym friends with whom I’ve spent three days a week for the last four years. Chicago is as much of a home as I’ve ever felt outside of Iowa.
Imagining what’s coming in the next few years makes saying goodbye to Chicago a little easier. It’s not where you go that matters, it’s who you’re with. And I can’t think of a better person to venture off into the unknown than Sarah.
So thanks, Chicago. You’ve been great, but it’s time to go. Here’s to always moving forward.