Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

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Posted by shannonclark on August 7, 2002

Neighborhoods, cell phones, and books

had to include the books

Last night I went out of my normal haunts and return to a former haunt of mine – Wicker Park. The “artsy” neighborhood here in Chicago it is an area now quite gentrified in large stretches, but still retaining an urban edge.

I arrived in the area a bit early, having a meeting scheduled with a friend at 7:30 to look at a club that he owns – so I walked up and down on area, which only months ago was fairly quiet and mostly shuttered storefronts.

Not that way anymore – now nearly all of the storefronts have been filled, some with new interesting looking restaurants, and many with various small shops and stores – gradually encroaching on the area changing the character and nature of the neighborhood.

Anyway, I grabbed some tacos (only so-so) and met my friend. After seeing his place, I decided to walk up north (to the more famous section of Wicker Park – the intersection of Milwaukee, North and Damen) to do some shopping and to sit in a cafe and get some reading done.

I stopped at a great local bookstore (Myopic books) where I have been a semi-regular for almost 10 years now – through three locations. They had a number of books outfront, and I stopped there looking at them – dangerously enough I found a number of books to buy – four old editions of Granta (perhaps my favorite literary magazine). However, first I recieved a phone call on my cell phone – I was not in the store, rather I was just near the entrance, but still, while I was on the phone the clerk came out and literally shooed me away saying “please take your call outside”.

Had Myopic books not been one of my all time favorite used book stores, that alone would have led me likely never to return.

But it is a part and parcel with the character of the neighborhood – the artists/anarchistic trends (Myopic being the meeting space for the local anarchists for many years) vs. the gradual forces of gentrification. I guess that I, with my cell phone at my hip, looked every inch the force of gentrification (though I was dressed in an old t-shirt and slightly baggy structure pants).

Anyway, after my call I found still more books and bought them – then walked up the street to another neighborhood institution where I spent the evening reading and ate some vegetarian curried sweet potatoe stew (very good).

I miss “cool cafes” – far different from the crowds you see and find at my current normal cafe haunt – the Starbucks on my corner – there I do meet some very interesting people, but more often I see tourists passing through, and a subset of the “beautiful people”. Earwax, where I was last night, is far from that, though there were a few couples – slightly tipsy – that seemed slightly out of kilter with the rest of the neighborhood.

More typical was the woman who joined a friend – she had a mostly shaved head, more piercings than I can count, was tattooed in many places (that were showing) and commented that someone recently had come up to her on the street commenting “didn’t I just see you on the cover a magazine” – something tatoo related I believe.

Very cool. And somehow very relaxing – a mix of current students and artists, of all races, looks, and sexual orientations. If it were not for the fact that many (more than I can really believe) are smokers, it is an environment I would spend much more time in – I am not quite of the crowd, but I feel comfortable there – I like the variety, the willingness to question and to think. Far different from the typical crowds of more cookie cutter people in my neck of Chicago.

Anyway, it was a nice evening – I finished one book (by Milton and Rose Friedman) and started another (Tom Peters – will be finished tonight problably – not a serious read). A good clip, but one I need to keep up if I am to stay on top of my book purchasing of late.

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