At Home in the Square

Posted: April 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

I’m moving in June, as my seriously misguided landlord is raising the rent by $200 a month. I will not go down the rabbit hole of my anger towards that man, at least not in this post. What I want to talk about is my deep devotion to my neighborhood, the matchless Logan Square. When people discover that I am looking for a new apartment, they sometimes ask me if I plan on staying in the neighborhood. I fight the urge to respond with incredulity. I know the joys of life in an authentic neighborhood, so I couldn’t even imagine living anywhere else; Logan Square is my home.

Logan Square is the friendliest place I have ever lived. My two closest girl friends in Chicago, Leah and Hanna, live within easy walking distance, and I happily and regularly brighten their respective doorways. Other lovely friends live in the area (Matt and Kris and both Ryans), a brood of people who I have come to call my “Urban Family.” We host holiday brunches and celebrate birthdays. I have quotes tacked above my desk at work. One from Oliver Wendell Holmes reads, “Where we love is home.” It occurs to me now that my neighborhood is part of my Urban Family, too.

I am warmly welcomed at my local haunts. The regularity with which people lean over to kiss the world’s best bar owner, Maria, is positively extraordinary. I have often conjectured that if a person from a foreign country stumbled into the Whirlaway, he would get the impression that kissing customers is the cultural norm. Maria hosts potlucks and cook-offs and cookouts to which we all contribute food cooked from favorite family recipes. I expect Bryce’s sister to bring “funeral potatoes,” and Katie to bring phenomenal baked goods. When a loyal customer has a birthday, Maria provides the cake. I am missed at Dunlay’s if I don’t go often enough. A favorite waitress recently gave me a hug because it had been too long since she’d seen me. I delight in being a regular and greeting other regulars, whose names and stories I know, an aspect central to the neighborhood experience.

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I adore the small circular park in the center of the square, which features The Illinois Centennial Monument. The Urban Family picnics there in three seasons. We eat and drink and read and talk, and we are not alone. Neighborhood acquaintances say hello, then enjoy the park with bocce sets and Frisbees. The park buzzes with life. There are events and gatherings, film screenings, rock concerts and street fairs. The dates for this year’s Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival are already marked on my calendar. Something called “The Culture Coach” pulled up last summer and treated us to performances by Flamenco dancers and offered impromptu Mambo lessons. My friends and I were just relaxing in the park, and voila: spontaneous dancing!

The neighborhood provides everything a person needs. The Logan Square branch of The Chicago Public Library bustles with neighborhood activity. Gwen, the lady who works at the circulation desk, personifies welcome, cheerfully helping patrons and calling them by first name. I voted early there this past fall, where I found a long line of my hard-working, civic-minded neighbors at 6am. The neighborhood garden, known as the Atlgeld-Sawyer farm,  was started by my charming neighbors Margaret and Johanna, and members of the Urban Family volunteer as part of the compost team. The Farmer’s Market will be moving to its outdoor location soon, where I’ll expect to spontaneously encounter at least one friend each Sunday. I recently got my bike, Orangina, spruced up at Boulevard Bikes. When I asked the woman fixing my bike, “do you want to hear something weird?” She and her coworkers instantly said, in unison, “yes,” another sure sign that Logan Square is where I belong.

When I got hurt, neighbors rushed to my aid. A man whose name I don’t know put his arm around me and comforted me while he phoned the police. A woman I’d never met introduced herself as Drea and wiped blood off me with a wet towel fetched from nearby apartment. Another woman brought me a glass of cold water. They stayed with me until the ambulance arrived. I suspect that I pass these kind strangers on the streets of my neighborhood, at least I like thinking they, and others like them, are around me all the time.

The neighborhood gets a lot of great press, which is reflected in the rent increase, but only residents know the genuine value of a place. There is inestimable wealth in the true community of people I know and love in my neighborhood, my home: Logan Square.

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