Saturday, September 3, 2016


If you walk north from my front door a half block, the sidewalk dead ends into a path juxtapositioned between the golf course and Leahy Park.  Continue a few hundred feet and turn east on Lincoln Avenue, and eventually cross Sheridan.  Go past the water reclamation building and around the athletic center, and you will come to my favorite place.

Wend your way through the ambling students and the outdoor athletic field, and eventually you will reach Lake Michigan.  Almost as if by surprise, the incomprehensible body of water jets into view framed by green grass over landfill, a winding path along the waterfront, and an odd assortment of grafitti'd concrete haphazardly placed as an embankment.

This is my Evanston

This is particularly odd for a guy who has never owned a beach pass, hates sand, and rarely swims in anything but pools.

Certainly my youth was much more colored by the shops lining Central Street on the northwest side.  Primordial memories of riding in the back seat of my mother's Buick station wagon while we dropped off laundry at the drive through dry cleaners.  Or stealing my first candy at Deacon's Dime Store and then feeling remorse shortly thereafter.  There were trips through the alley that started adjacent to the old house on Lawndale and ended at the White Hen Pantry.

The pantry eventually turned into a 7-11.  Then it closed.  The Deacon's is now a real estate office.  Strangely, the dry cleaner still stands.  The path leads from Central Street, through a tunnel where laundry is dropped off at a window, and then dead ends into the same alley that I use to traverse to get to White Hen.

Did I mention the Baskin Robbins?

Adulthood has changed my paths, although I still awake occasionally from childhood dreams with the taste of the Lawndale house on my lips.  I drive past occasionally but the facade has changed.

It's not the same.

My kids and I now walk Sherman or Orrington to get downtown.  We pass by the 201 bus stop I used to take home after going to my after-school tutor when I was diagnosed with a learning disability.  The Betty's Of Winnetka has long been replaced by some store or another.

We cut through fountain square (much the same as my childhood) and end at the renovated Chandlers Building and eat at Edzo's or Potbellys.

And we always walk home along the lake.  Down the same path but from the opposite direction.  Passing the rumbling machinery as Northwestern builds new constructs of glass and steel facing the lake.  The strange beauty of technological colossus adjacent to greenery and natural waterway.

Katie, the kids, and I.

I have changed since childhood.  I walk different paths.

Yet my city still lives. Like me, filled with contradictions.  The ugly concrete slabs slathered with multicolored paint somehow not detracting from the picturesque lakefront.

Familiar yet mysterious.  Uncertain.  My DNA entwined in a small imprint of soil.  On a street full of houses.  In a world full of cities.

The place I was born.  Where I spent the only eight years with my father.  Where I brought my children home from the hospital.