I spent last week trying frantically to persuade my deranged relatives in New Jersey to move from the path of Hurricane Irene. Naturally, they fought tooth and nail against every scrap of logic and reason I presented. My parents only agreed to submit when the police arrived at their door to calmly inform them that if they didn’t go willingly, they would be taken by force. (Thank you, police officers of Cape May County!) Off they skipped to an EconoLodge on the mainland like an elderly Hansel and Gretel, with 2 dogs and a cat in tow.
One household down!
Next: my brother. Now we’re really in for it. His very clever wife grabbed their two small children and scampered, brooking no arguments and inviting no delays. Huzzah! I says! Huzzah for her! He, left alone in their home, flirts with the idea that if he stays, he can “do something”. What might that something be? I asked. Drown? I asked what he planned to do if his roof blew off – “hold onto it with your bare hands?” Don’t be a chump! I said.
Thursday night, far from any tropical depressions, I lay in bed in Logan Square listening to the beautiful evening outside. The perfect weather and clear sky allowed every sound to echo. The soft breeze coming through our open windows lulled me into a light sleep – interrupted by the sound of gunfire, followed by the screech of brakes and a crash. I lay there, half awake, tense as stone, wondering if I’d really heard it. Wondering if anyone had called. Wondering if right now, someone was bleeding out into the gutters of Fullerton Avenue, and if they were wondering if anyone had called for help. It wasn’t until I heard the first sirens that I realized I’d barely been breathing.
The feeling was so familiar – it was just like the way you count from the flash of lightning to the crash of thunder to see how close the storm is getting…
We’ve lived in our little house for almost 9 months. The winter quiet gave way to boisterous parties and then to an actual gang war. We can hear the screams and the threats and the battles. Some of it gets frightening close. Now they say the empty storefront just around the corner is going to be a pawn shop/predatory lending business. No cute storefront. No new jobs. Just more desperation in an area every long-timer assures me was quiet, friendly, and peaceful only a few months ago.
The house across the street “fell” into foreclosure last week. The absentee landlord on the corner insists the gangbangers threatening everyone daily are the only tenants he can find – despite the fact that several of his other tenants have moved out rather than live near them. I find myself wondering if perhaps this stretch of Fullerton is “expendable” to The Powers That Be – the ones who’ve saved Armitage, are working on Milwaukee – perhaps Fullerton will just have to wait until we have the money or the interest again. Fullerton west of Kimball will just be “lost”. After all, says everyone, every neighborhood has its bad side…
I don’t remember being asked how we felt about being “lost”. We spent Sunday painting the porch – with our bare hands! Just like adults! We are turning into model homeowners! Our neighbors are great. Our neighborhood is mixed and cute and a lot of fun. But things are changing around us. Plainclothes and undercover cops treat our once-quiet street (ironically a preferred place for police to retire) like the most interesting stroll in town. Every neighbor I’ve spoken to is calling for help at least once a week – but the type of expensive police scanners I thought only cops and reporters bought is being used to listen to our calls and quickly disperse the “persons of interest” before the police can arrive.
Our calls and names are heard by the same people who glower at us as we’re walking home. People don’t walk their dogs down our street anymore, nor do they stop to chat on the sidewalk anymore. Everything is tense, temporarily stopped, waiting for something really terrible to develop… or for the storm to give up, move on, and pass us by.
Any ideas I might have had about how the proposed pawn shop “doesn’t matter”? Gone. It matters. Our neighborhood feels like an island in a roiling sea of noisy, destructive trouble. And the tide is rising. We need to be demanding better – not inviting disaster in. Because evacuating Logan Square? Not really an option. We’re NOT just visiting, and there’s nowhere to run, anyway. 
But I guess I should be careful about which family members I call crazy…