Sunday, January 13, 2008

Everything New is Old Again

So the new year started off with a bang, literally. At 5pm, January 1, 2008, the first murder of the year for Chicago was logged a block south of our house: a triple homicide, execution style, gang- and drug-related.

This kind of thing used to be pretty common around these parts, but life has calmed down considerably these last few years, and we've settled in to loving our house, adoring our neighborhood, and feeling grateful to be in a place that actually offers, well, a sense of place. We walk home late without thinking twice about it, and we laugh together in the morning when we realize we forgot to lock the door last night.

Now it's a different kind of comfort: an indoor comfort. It's a continued love of house, street, and neighbors, but a sense that we should hurry inside when we get home: not linger too long, keep an eye and ear on the street, and make sure--contrary to my inner Luddite--to have a charged cell phone on hand when heading home from the el after night classes. There's the protective stance we adopt when well-intentioned co-workers ask about these crimes, and wonder out loud how we can stand living where we do. Aren't we afraid?

To some extent, yes, we're a little bit afraid. It's the city, and these things happen, but they're happening awfully close to home these days. Bullets can miss targets. Neighbors' kids get tempted into gangs. And a pall is cast over our otherwise exceptional community. So we're saddened, too. Saddened to see and feel tragedy in our midst, saddened to discern what the police are really saying when they chuff, "Ma'am, no need to worry. This has nothing to do with you."

But we also persevere, cleaning up the litter, calling police when yet another nearby building gets tagged, and delighting in the fact that the local tamale vendors are still out there, in sub-freezing temperatures, and in spite of recent catastrophes, selling tamales verdes con pollos four for a dollar--made fresh in their kitchens throughout the previous night--a scarce two blocks from home.

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