Saturday, May 30, 2009

Open Letter to My Neighborhood

Dear Object of My Fond Affection and Head-Scratching Chagrin . . .

Ok, maybe it was that meltdown the last night of vacation, or my recent angsty dreams, or the routine 4am wakefulness, or my general tendency to prattle on (and on) to anyone who'll listen-- and many who would prefer not to--but I'm ready to admit it: I'm feeling some stress. You know me better than most, and you've noticed that my feet thud a little harder on your sidewalks as I walk to the train. You've seen my pace vacillate between the rush of always being late to work and the sluggishness of wanting to put it off for just a few more minutes, pretty please, if possible. You've witnessed the changes; you can't deny it.

So here's the skinny. What would be great, if you could see it in your heart, is for you to be your best self, just for the next couple months while we get through the summer heat together.

If your building walls could stay free of gang tags and other graffiti. If your front yards and parkways could harbor a few more perennials and a few less Cheetos bags and motor-oil containers. If your alley parties could feature backgammon and gin rummy and food and drink and laughing and yes, even music, even occasionally loud music, but maybe not bass-heavy NC-17 hip hop and maybe not past 11pm. If your dog owners could clean up after their pets. If the rash of vacant, foreclosed buildings might get sold affordably to people with the best of intentions. If your trees could stop getting chopped down for no apparent reason. And, oh yeah, if your local kids could stop shooting each other.

We've both seen what's possible. We've seen the new neighborhood gardens popping up in empty lots. We've seen the children at play, the cheerful block parties, the yard sales and elotes vendors and improved soft surfaces in the parks. We've seen cars stopping behind crosswalk lines so pedestrians can cross the street safely. We've seen Spanish- and English-speaking neighbors learning a few words of the other's language so they can get to know each other better and exchange a friendly greeting. We've seen and become 'eyes on the street' so we can watch out for our nearby neighbors.

I guess what I'm saying is, it would be great if this is what we could aspire to this summer. Isn't it fair to say we both need a break? You know I'm willing to do my part, but it'd be awfully nice if we could meet halfway. Thank you in advance for your consideration. I look forward to your reply.



kkurtz said...

I hear ya', sister !
I've been thinking much the same thing these past few weeks & would gladly sign on to your petition.
(if only I could subdue the nagging pessimist in me )

leslie said...

Perhaps we could go in together on a summer home together somewhere in the Flint Hills. Leave the ol' neighborhood to fend for itself a couple of months each year...

tracy said...

I read this shortly after hearing this feature on NPR:

With good hearts like your and Father Pfleger's around, why can't Chicago tip the balance for good? (rhetorical question, of course...)