a city boy, no more

I grew up about 100 yards from Route 66. In Chicago, on the southwest side of the city, Ogden Avenue ran at an angle towards the Near North Side where it eventually petered out a few blocks west of Lake Michigan. Ogden Avenue was Route 66 and Route 34 within the city limits. Ogden Avenue formed the South boundary of our neighborhood. And Cermak Road formed the Northern one. Ogden and Cermak crossed each other about a block and a half east of us, right at Pulaski Road. Ogden, Cermak and Pulaski were 'BIG' streets, and the next street west of us, Keeler, was a 'busy' street, so we were not allowed to cross any of those streets. We were confined to this triangular sliver of territory where, because of all the kids that lived in our 'sliver', we had everything we needed to keep ourselves busy and entertained. There were open spaces and vacant lots and trees to climb and sheds to hide in to smoke cigarettes. We were happy. There was always someone to play with. If you wanted to find somebody to play with, you went from house to house, standing out in front and yelling for the kid to come out.

"Yo-o, bah bee!" and Bobby would come out. If he was home. But you figured he was because the windows were open. If the windows were closed - if the house was shut up - then you could pretty well bet that no one was home and you went to the next house. Eventually you got a group together and then there was the pow-wow to decide what you were going to do.

A favorite was 'bounce or fly', played in the street. Our street. Kedvale Avenue. That quiet little side street that didn't get much traffic. Bounce or fly was played with a bat and a softball (16 inch) and it involved hitting the ball in the air. If it was caught on the fly, it was an out. If it was caught on one bounce, it was half an out. You kept knocking the ball out there until you got three outs. To this day, I hit a ball high and straight. Because you HAD to hit it straight. The cars parked on either side of the street belonged to our parents and they didn't seem to like the notion of anyone bouncing a big, fat 16 inch softball of the top of their cars. Those were the days.

Over the years I have moved further and further from the City. Today I live more than 40 miles Southwest of the neighborhood I grew up in. I live in a 1970's subdivision just outside a small town, growing larger. Sometimes, I go back into the city, for one reason or another. And I am no longer comfortable there.

It seems like people on top of people, with no space, no privacy, no room to park your car or just stretch out. Out in the burbs, we got ELBOW ROOM. In the city, it seems so crowded, you can't even scratch without needing to make sure that what you're scratching belongs to you.

I guess I'm not a 'city boy' any longer. On the other hand, I can't be so far away that I lose my Cable TV, Broadband Internet Access, and access to a nearby liquor store. After all, I'm not a FARMER.


witchypoo said...

Hate to be the one to break it to ya, Lou, but you're not a boy anymore either.
But we love the man you are.

Maddy said...

Yes a month without internet makes me realise I'm closet geek!

A month in England made me realise that everything is bigger in America [apart from Rutabagas of course]

Christy said...

You're only 40 miles from where you grew up?

That's close!

But I guess living in/near a big city...why ever leave?

Different when you're from back in the sticks....and I don't feel comfortable at all when I go back home either. I feel high fallutin' with my book learnin' and have almost no accent!

Tash said...

It should be an inalienable right of every citizen the be sure, without a doubt certain that what they are scratching belongs to them!

Well written Lou! I think you'll find modern farmers have cable tv, and broadband... just a thought!

LceeL said...

witchypoo: Thank you. *blush*

maddy: Welcome home. And welcome back. I missed you here.

christy: Yes, I live near where I grew up. But I have been in, at one time or another, every one of the States except Alaska. And I have seen much of the world. I can honestly say I am where I WANT to be.

tash: Many farmers do - BUT - many more farmers do NOT. Has to do with population density and the need for the local Comm company to make money.

maggies mind said...

I grew up in the south suburbs and always loved going to visit in the city but couldn't imagine living there. Unless, of course, I had some swanky and spacious place that I could probably never afford. At this point, I'd take anywhere in the vicinity just to live near good pizza, good dogs and sliders. You are still close enough to all that, right?

Jennifer said...

ahhh... I am truly enjoying reading these stories of yours. :) You do a great job giving all the details so I feel as if I'm there. I always thought I'd love to live in the city... I had friends from there and it always seemed so glamorous.. you know grass being greener and all.. but as I grow up, which I'm still working on, I realize that the city is just glamorous for me to visit and enjoy and makes me come home and enjoy the open spaces I have here, living in the gosh-darn MIDDLE of NO where!! aka the boonies, boondocks or sticks. I like the non-city life for my children, but I also need to find an area where there is actually things to do with them so they don't start robbing old ladies and cow tipping for their only entertainment. :)

Can't wait to hear/read more. Thanks for sharing.


Christy said...

Oh, yeah, what Lou sez about the farmers is true....we didn't have cable TV till I was almost grown.

But now? Most people in my town have internet, if they want it....

But we are not in Appalachia, so I bet there's still lots of dead space out there.

Christy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
redchair said...

Great story Lou. I’m enjoying these little memoir shorts so much. I think they might be a resource for your painting as well. Something for you to think about.

I completely identify with what you’re talking about, i.e. one of the main reasons I moved out of L.A. to the country. It took me a couple years just to get over the fact that I could actually see the stars again at night, here crickets and enjoy sunsets without buildings blocking my view. One of my friends gave me a telescope when I retired. I can search the night skies. It’s really cool.

Hyphen Mama said...

Ya got any pictures from that time? I'm dying to see Young Lou...

moneythoughts said...

We hung out, played ball in the streets when we were too little to do any serious damage. By the time we were in our mid teens we had to move it to a real ball field. In the evenings, we would get together and walk up to Swifton Shopping Center. Swifton was one of the first shopping centers in the country. But we just did not walk up, we wore our jeans and a black t-shirts. Oh, we were so cool, we thought that we knew everything. Ha Ha! How little did we know. I insist you give some serious thought to putting together a couple of chapter, 29 comments yesterday and another batch today has got to tell you something about your ability to tell a story and connect with people.

If you ever get the chance to draw a nude body, you will discover that after 5 seconds you have seen everything and now the challenge begins. I hope you will get an opportunity to do it once.

Alice said...

I'm like that. I love wide open spaces, but CANNOT live without my cable internet.

I envy the times when kids could roam a bit freer than today. I'm so scared to let them out of my sight now, but can remember leaving in the morning and not coming home til dark. We had adventures! *sigh*

Sandy C. said...

"..without needing to make sure that what you're scratching belongs to you." LOL! That is hilarious Lou :)

I grew up in a suburb, always longing for the city. I still love the city and visit often, but like you, I like a little wiggle room now. But I don't mind someone else scratching my back though :P

Holly said...

Huh, I grew up in Hobart, which is a suburb of Gary, which is sort of a suburb of Chicago. It was a nice place to grow up because just a couple miles away you could see horses and corn fields (which are probably gone now for all I know), but all our school field trips were in the best museums in Chicago! Plus, the lake and the beach and dunes.

warriorwoman said...

beautiful Lou.

you describe the city of your youth with a face and a personality so that it sounds like you left an old friend or a mistress behind when you left.

I feel sad for a city that, in its maturing, has been forced to leave its best parts behind.

I like the way you bring the inanimate to life and make us feel wanting for it.

innkeeper said...

I went the other way--grew up in the sticks (two TV channels on a clear day, nearest museum 3 hours away). I've basically lived in or near cities since 1978. Cable, broadband, hospitals, university, airport, 20 museums, and access to more kinds of lettuce than just iceberg at the Acme.

I agree--you tell a great story. It's the details that make us feel like we're right there.

Rebecca said...

Ahhh... a sentimental journey. :)

Eve Grey said...

Nice. I love reading about people's childhoods, roaming about in their hood.

LceeL said...

maggies mind: Yes - my ever expanding waistline is testament to that.

jennifer: I am SO glad that you enjoy these stories as much as you do.

christy: Thank you for your support. (I feel like the guy in the cranberry commercial)

redchair: Thanks for reminding me. I gotta get my scope out.

hyphen mama: On Friday, I'll put up my First Holy Communion picture.

moneythoughts: I'll think about trying to put something together - but no promises. I don't even know where to start. As far as nudes are concerned, yes, I'd like to try to paint a nude. I need a model. Annie wouldn't DREAM of doing it - she doesn't particularly like her body, these days. Otherwise I have no resources.

Alice: By the time I was twelve, and had a bike, I'd come home from school on Friday and Mom wouldn't see me until Sunday evening.

Sandy: I will say this in total innocence - I would scratch your back ANYtime.

holly: I have some REALLY fond memories of the Indiana Dunes (wink, wink) and Schaeffer Lake, to.

warriorwoman: Thank you. That was beautifully said.

innkeeper: Thank you. Whenever I get out to ALBQ, I hope I'd be able to stay at your B&B. (paying, of course)

rebecca: Yes. At least.

LceeL said...

Eve Grey: Thank you. I enjoy telling these stories. Helps me keep the neighborhood alive.

Tara R. said...

I can remember 'back in the day,' going outside early morning and not coming home until it started getting dark. It was fabulous... I'm sad that my children can't experience that kind of freedom and still be safe.

LceeL said...

Tara r.: We weren't any safer back then. We really weren't. We (and our parents) just didn't know any better.

Employee No. 3699 said...

Hey there, just found your blog. I spent my early years around 66th Street and Kedzie...not too far from you. And I so remember going to a friend's house and never knocking, just yelling "Yo Debbie! Can you come out and play?" We ended up moving to the south suburbs also, not too far from you.

Enjoyed your post, I'll be peeking in on you again.


LceeL said...

Employee No. 3699: Welcome. And toodles to you, too.

neutron said...

The suburbs wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the cookie cutter houses. Everything looks the same and just drives me nuts!

LceeL said...

Neutron: Come with me to Chicago,sometime, and I'll show you whole neighborhoods where the houses look alike. The suburbs don't have a monopoly on cookie-cutter houses.

Allison said...

I live even closer to where I spent most of my life---with in 2 miles of where I lived as a child, 8 miles from where I lived as a teenager, and within 30 miles of where I was born. Wow, huh?

I forget my witty comment about you not being a farmer :-( It's way too late at night!

Kwach said...

Just stopped by to check out your blog and thank you for visiting ours! I like your stories. My partner grew up in one of those suburbs south of Chicago. :)

Oh, and you're right on several counts. It is prettier downstate ... and we can't buy beer on Sundays ... but cable and broadband are available (depending on the weather).

[Waving from Little Egypt]