Sunday, January 13, 2008

West Side meets East Side

Right before Christmas I had the pleasure of meeting a few of my neighbors who live in the western part of Woodlawn.

They found me via this blog and after a few e-mails back and forth we decided to meet.

The young woman who had initially contacted me also said that a few of her neighbors were going to tag along for kicks.

“No worries.” I said but strongly suspected that they wanted to make sure I wasn’t a freak show. Perhaps they thought there was greater safety in numbers.

Or maybe they were all curious to see the woman behind the curtain.

Either way we finally set a date and time to meet at one of my regular watering holes.

I met three ladies and one gentleman who seemed to be a bit taken aback yet utterly fascinated with the environment around them. So much so, that I wasn’t sure at the beginning they were listening to me after we made our introductions.

Silly me---I should of given them a head’s up to the type of place where we were meeting.

I tend to forget that not everybody may be used to a place that sells $20 martinis.

The crowd this type of place tends to attract is a bit “different” than the crowd you may get at your local corner bar.

While it makes for great people watching, to the uninitiated I can see how it can be a bit intimidating.

I personally could give a flying fig but it is interesting to know that at the end of the day the person sitting next to you could be your friendly neighborhood billionaire.

Well not exactly my friendly neighborhood billionaire but your get my sentiment.

Nonetheless, my neighbors all happened to be white and three out of the four graduated from either the University of Chicago undergrad or Law School.

Talking with them, their concerns about Woodlawn seemed to echo most of the themes that I’ve written about in the past. But because they live west of me and in the 20th ward, they had additional issues that don’t figure into my day-to-day living.

Since I have the school across the street as a neighbor, the amount of apartment buildings has been severely reduced in my neck of the woods.

My west Woodlawn living neighbors aren’t so lucky.

In their opinion, some nearby apartment buildings are poorly managed and seem to be havens for crime and quality of life issues in their immediate neighborhood.

I was told of blatant drug dealing & usage, shootings, and a near riot last summer.

You know I’m schlepping over there during the summer to enjoy cocktails on the porch and watch the crack heads and civil unrest.

It’ll remind me of Uptown back in the day.

Aside from our commonalities, my neighbors wove a fascinating tale of what it’s like to be white in Woodlawn.

While I write about the few white people that I know who live on the south side, the stories have more of a humorous slant.

And what’s not funny about a fish out of water tale?

Urban ills aside, my neighbors like their community and seem fully committed to remaining long-term residents. Yet what I found interesting is not the reactions they received from black people but the reactions that they receive from other white people.

The University of Chicago Law School grad works at a large downtown firm and routinely gets questions on why she lives on the south side.

After all she graduated law school and has a good job, why on earth would she choose to stay in Woodlawn?

While no one said it, I’m sure that quite a few of their families were (and are) a tad concerned when they decided to put down roots south of the University of Chicago.

And I’m sure the recent high profile shooting scant blocks from their home didn’t help perceptions either.

But my west Woodlawn dwelling neighbors seem to take it all in stride.

They remain active in their community, attend public meetings, strive to improve the quality of their community and continue to keep their fingers crossed for a dog park.

Next time we meet they can pick the bar.


kblog said...

Which bar did you meet at? I'd like to check it out.

Omo said...

please do share...i'd like to rub elbows with my favorite next-door woodlawn billionaire too...I'm glad the meeting itself went well. It would be quite enlightening if all recent woodlawners got together...

ChiKat said...

Did they talk about the dog park? I'm convinced all white people (myself included) have dogs.

As for picking out the bar, how many options are left in our sadly retail-lacking part of the world?

The Woodlawn Wonder said...
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