Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Cost of Living, Part I

Back in the summer of 2004, when Eric was a wee little baby, the three of us were living in a tiny one bedroom apartment in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Sure, we could see Lincoln Park from our kitchen window (if we tilted our heads and squinted and were standing in just the right spot as to look straight down the narrow path between two high rises), but the situation had lots of nightmarish aspects to it as well.

First of all, when I describe the apartment as "tiny," I mean like, "B-Level musicians' roadies travel in more spacious tour buses." We lived in this old-ass building that was in the process of being renovated. Chris lived in a studio apartment before we got married, and was informed that he would have to move out of the building, unless he was interested in moving into a one bedroom apartment, because they planned to renovate his unit. So, we took the 1-br unit which had already been renovated. Except, it was the only unit in the building that they had renovated, so we had to live there while they renovated all of the 50 or so other units. Which was loud. And very dusty. And because we were one of only two or three occupied units, the workers had no qualms about doing things like, oh, shutting off the water. Or the electricity. Or tying up the elevator for hours on end (bad for a prego who lives on the 5th floor).

Oh, and the elevator. Let me describe it for you. It was one of those old elevators that had both a swinging door that you pull open, and then a heavy metal gate that you slide open. In order for the elevator to work properly, both the gate and the door had to be fully closed. Getting the gate to close wasn't usually a problem because it was so heavy and spring loaded. The door was another story altogether. The mere act of getting on the elevator on the 5th floor could cause a change in pressure in the elevator shaft that would make the door on the second floor pop open just enough to prevent the elevator from functioning. And the only way to fix that would be to get out the elevator and walk down to the second floor and push the door shut. And, imagine maybe having a newborn baby in a stroller, and trying to prop open the swinging door AND the heavy sliding gate AND getting the stroller into the elevator, only to find that the elevator won't move.

Also, the elevator could only understand one command at a time. Let's say you called the elevator from the first floor. It starts coming down to get you, but while it's on its journey down, somebody on the 6th floor wants to get on the elevator. And, let's say that the person on the sixth floor knows that by merely pushing the button, the elevator won't remember to come there after it's done doing whatever it's doing. So that person stands there and holds the button in. One of two things will happen. One is that the elevator will get to the first floor, and if you pull the door open fast enough, you can get on, but you will immediately be taken to the 6th floor, no matter what floor you had intended to go to. OR, there is the other option that you didn't pull the door open fast enough, and the elevator came down, taunted you and went straight back up. There were elevator wars all the time in our building (once people started living there again).

Then there was the parking situation. OK, so, what?, 3 million people live in Chicago? And of those 3 million, it really feels like at least 1 million of them live in Lincoln Park, all stacked on top of each other. And they all own at least one car. And there are only like 400 parking spots. You do the math. So, in addition to the the $75 per car that we paid for the City of Chicago vehicle sticker, and the $25 for the zone sticker to maybe be able to park within a one mile radius of our apartment, we also got countless parking tickets for godknowswhat. Street cleaning. Unmarked work zone. Once, somebody who parked in front of me got so close that they pulled my front license plate off. And before I even noticed that it had happened, I got a ticket for not having a front license plate. Then there was the time our car got towed because a millimeter of our bumper was hanging over the no-parking zone. And how bout the time we had a ticket mailed to our apartment because Chris happened to pull over next to a parked car to drop me off, and there happened to be a parking ticket writer asshole standing there, trying to start shit with us. He wrote a ticket for "Standing" and didn't even have the balls to give it to us in person. So there's that. And don't even get me started on what were to happen if there was a street festival anywhere in Chicago.

Anyway, so there were definitely bad aspects to living in Lincoln Park, but there were good things as well. The part that I particularly miss is that I could always feel life happening around me. There was always something going on. It seemed like you could never be bored in Lincoln Park. Irate, maybe, but never bored.

But, back in the summer of 2004, we knew that our Lincoln Park days were coming to an end. Our lease was up in October and living in that apartment just wasn't feasible anymore. In fact, based on rent prices all around, and our one income status, it really seemed like living anywhere in Chicago might not be feasible anymore. And it was kind of sad.


Anonymous said...

Living in Lincoln Park sounds like a real adventure, even if trying at times. I love the ending of this one--it really leaves me wanting to hear what comes next. What was your reaction to moving out of Lincoln Park? Did you find another place in Chicago to live despite the obstacles? From your tone, it sounds like what you are going to tell us why what happened next makes you sad that you are no longer living in Lincoln Park. I'm thinking a bittersweet account of a life less exciting, but with a stoic understanding that moving out was the only feasible option. Or maybe you are going in the opposite direction and will say how much better your life is now and how foolish you were for thinking that Lincoln Park was the only place where you could feel life happening around you. Or maybe you'll finally tell the truth about how you got to where you are now--blogging from a lonely jail cell where you have been locked up for some crime related to parking or road rage. I can't wait to hear about it.

elisa said...

LOL at your anonymous comment - you make me REALLY glad i live in the country, even if that means that the possibility of high speed internet is not an option (unless we want to fork over the bucks for satelite internet, yeah right).

I can't imagine Chicago. . . just makes me think of Oprah.

greenfish said...

dear anonymous,

I have enjoyed your speculative comment about what the end of this story might bring.

I (fortunately or not), know the elusive end to this story, though I probably couldn't explain the full nature of Mrs. Kristentacious's relevations about moving out of Lincoln Park.

I will not ruin her story by revealing what I know to you, dear reader. That is what Part II is for.