It's been 6 days (5 technically) since I moved 665 miles from my parents' house in Little Rock, Arkansas to my first apartment in East Garfield Park, Chicago. And, up to this point, it's kind of been one big blur. I keep forgetting what day of the week it is. I'm exhausted. But, before they are forgotten, here are notable happenings from the first almost-week.
We pulled in to my new neighborhood at about midnight on the 4th. While our block is nice, East Garfield Park is, generally, not super hot. And let's just say that the vibe East Garfield Park gives off at midnight is not one that your already anxious parents will love, and leave it at that.
The next day (maybe? I don't remember) the Lord sent an angel in the form of friendly neighbors who told my parents that everyone on the block is related to each other and that there would be a block party the next day, to celebrate the start of school.
The block party consisted of cars blocking the ends of the streets and two - count 'em, two! - bounce houses and two sets of speakers blasting pop at different ends of the block. Kids were a-bouncin', parents were milling about and I could feel my parents thawing. After my mom met the delightful, grandmotherly next door neighbor, Judy, and got Judy to promise to feed me if she saw me starving, Mom seemed as content as she was ever going to be to leave me here.
Some guy did a rap about gun violence at the speakers at the other end of the street (which made me dart anxious glances at the parents, wondering if they would infer that this means there's tons of gun violence on my street), but they didn't seem to care, and he was wearing a shirt and tie, so. While it was cool that the guy did this big long rap, the whole thing was kind of a downer and no one seemed to like it much. At least, no one really gave it up when the MC told them to.
Mom and Dad, true to gregarious form, milled about in the block party long after my sister and I were socially exhausted, and ended up letting at least 10 complete strangers - three older siblings and countless tweens - in to see the apartment because their grandparents used to live there. While the two lovely sisters told my us about the apartment - who had which rooms, that the lovely, huge tree outside the front gate was planted by their grandmother, having to get switches for spankings off said tree - the brother (across the crowd on the other side of the room) kept sadly, drunkenly apologizing to my mom, but I couldn't hear what he was apologizing for.
Around 10, a preacher who lives next door apparently came thundering out and ordered the music to be turned off and the trash picked up, and the neighborhood demurely obeyed.
Every night that my parents were here, I prayed anxious little prayers that the neighborhood would be quiet, and peaceful, and genteel-looking, and that they would see no homeless people shooting up or anything even remotely disquieting as we drove around town. And, by and large, it seems that my prayers were answered.
Every day old folks from the retirement home down the road come outside and sit in folding lawn chairs and feed birds.
We noticed, while driving around, that in primarily black neighborhoods the signs have as much information on them as can possibly fit, while in hipster neighborhoods the signs have one word and you can't figure out what the place is supposed to be.
I'm sort of fanatical about watching the olympics, and my family kindly took me to an uber hipster pizza bar in Wicker Park to watch the opening ceremonies. It was the kind of place where your menu is clipped to a board, and there's prosciutto in at least 3 things. The opening ceremonies were, as all opening ceremonies are, wacko but fun. We started to feel bad for depriving our waitress of tips and left during the G's in the parade of nations, which was kind of a bummer, but the clothes this year were disappointingly classy. From what we saw only Germany had something weird going on - but it was a German kind of weird so it wasn't really all that surprising.
We shopped at Target in some suburb, and the crazy-eyed lady who checked us out, when told of my new residence in the city, sternly commanded me to waste no time in acquiring a job. "Well, welcome. Don't waste any time!"
When I lay my weary head on the pillow at night, I see her crazy, sunken eyes boring into me. (Don't haunt me, Target Lady! I have wasted no time! I've applied for 14 jobs!)
The parents left me on Sunday morning at a Panera bread. Mom cried, of course, but I didn't and she didn't as much as I thought she would. When they were driving away I did this big walking dance to show them how delighted and not afraid I was to be getting left in Chicago, but they didn't see. People at Panera bread did, but - and I've thought this several times now - I pretty much never need to be embarrassed in front of strangers because - in a town with 3 million people - I'm pretty much certain to never see them again.
I met the landlady. She's adorable and has frizzy gray hair and a big Chicago accent and had just come from yoga class. She talked at great length about getting special permission to do laps in the little lake in Humboldt Park and all the drama that has ensued this year because the new manager doesn't know her and understand that she's had special permission for, like, 15 years. She's lived in this neighborhood for literally decades, and when plied with the proper questions is a font of useful information, but with charming metropolitan gaps. The purpose of the meeting was to acquire the mail key, and when I asked if you can put outgoing mail in the box, she actually stopped short. "Oh." she furrowed her brows and jerked her head around confusedly. "Huh. You would think... well, how would they know it was new... Huh. I... I don't know!" She's one of those people who tells you long, involved directions for finding great places to park and then goes, "oh, but I guess you don't have a car. Well, If you get one..."
My poor roommate has only lived in two nice houses in the nice suburbs, probably in upstairs bedrooms, and she keeps asking questions like, "So... when people walk around and do things upstairs you can pretty much always hear it?"
"Yep!" Is my ever-cheerful reply.
I got my first blister today.
When two - count 'em, two - people at Chipotle collided embarrassingly with me today - like full-body, total tangles - I walked away unashamed, muttering, "Never going to see them again!"
I find I like living in a big city.