Monday, January 30, 2006


"Old North Clark bums lolled at the bar, whores screeched in anger, Secret Chinamen went by. Noises of hootchy-kootchy interfered. They went right on." —Jack Kerouac, On The Road

I'm not sure where on Clark you'd find that kind of action now, although there's a pretty intense gay bar with rentable rooms just south of where this picture was taken. (Stevie found a price sheet once.) But at 6:15 a.m. it looks like this. No hootchy-kootchy noises or secret Chinamen. They're not much in evidence at any point, but it's still the heart of our neighborhood. I found out yesterday, while reading a clipping in in the window of a real estate office, that it used to be an Indian trail. I imagine you could see all the way to Lake Michigan from it back then. Later it was Green Bay Road and then Clark. They call this neighbor Anderonsville after a Norwegian pastor who left his stamp on the neighborhood. (He also helped found Illinois State.) I just assumed it was because it was such a Swedish-identified neighborhood, but the Swedes came later in the early 20th century. They wanted to get out from the crowds of the city and the two- and three-story housing here was more affordable since there was no need to pay for an elevator operator or other such staff. We live in one of those buildings now. It's quiet. I'm not sure this was ever the site of the jazz-and-rough-character action Kerouac wrote about. (I'm pretty sure his "Old North Clark" was well south of here.) I would like to have seen that, but I'm not sure I would have wanted to live there for long. I'm not sure I'd ever want to leave here. The stretch of Clark around the corner from us has turned into a friendly stretch of restaurants and little shops. I know it's a form of gentrification, but it's happened without, to my eyes at least, draining the character. There are yuppies, sure (and, sure, people would probably lump us in there; we buy the fancy cheese) but there are also folks of all nationalities and income levels. And the predominant tone is just... nice. Now if only everyone else would stop moving here, we'd be all set.

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