Disarranging Mine: A Journal


Friday ::: July 12, 2002 ::: 12:09 a.m.

Lately I seem to be coming up with all kinds of Chicago stories. Here's another one.

When I first moved to Chicago in November of 1979, I knew no one. Well, there was Mary, but she was different. She wasn't like me. She was very much into the theater scene, which I wasn't. However, she did a lot of the things a good friend would do. When I came to Chicago to look for an apartment, she let me sleep on her sofa. She helped me move into my apartment on moving day. That first week, I didn't have a phone, so she would let me use her phone. She often would invite me over for dinner, which she cooked, and to watch television. She lived in a really cool apartment over a tavern on Broadway.

My apartment was on the second floor of a "four plus one" on Briar between Sheridan and Broadway. You can get the idea from this photo why they called it a four plus one. Four plus ones were scattered all over Chicago. Walking around the city, one could get the picture that the four plus one was one of the more embarrassing moments in Chicago architecture. I heard that the during the 1970's the City of Chicago banned all new construction of four plus ones. Thank goodness.

This particular building, and I would guess the rest of the four plus ones, were "H" shaped. There were apartments on the outsides of the H as well as on the inside. My apartment faced south. But you would never know it since it was on the inside of the H. What that means is that my view consisted of the apartment across the air shaft from me. It was a one bedroom with a Pullman kitchen, and a dining room living room combination. The coolest thing about my apartment was a really pretty chandelier hanging in the dining area. Another good thing was, even though my apartment door opened at the end of the main hall, I rarely saw my neighbors. That, and the rent was right at $285.00 per month, which included gas, electric and water.

My building was owned by a corporation in New Jersey. However, there was a building manager, or "super," if you will. This guy was in his upper middle ages and from some Eastern Bloc country. He was very creepy for reasons which I don't wish to recount at this time. His wife spoke no English.

One of the problems with this building was the nickel wiring. For instance, running the hair dryer without turning off all the lights would cause the apartment's main circuit to blow. I quickly learned not to run the hair dryer with the lights on. Unfortunately, other things could cause the main circuit to blow. I just as quickly learned how to reconnect the circuit myself so I wouldn't have to call the super.

One of the reasons I picked this neighborhood to live in was that it was recommended to me as "safe." It had a very low crime rate and about half the residents were gay men. At that time the neighborhood was called "New Town." It's my understanding that it's now been renamed "Boys Town" or something like that.

There were strictly gay establishments as well as strictly straight establishments, with a few mixed establishments. As most Chicago neighborhoods go, it was pretty much self-contained. That is, you could live there and get all your services without ever venturing beyond the neighborhood. Across the street from my building as a French hand laundry. Along Broadway there was a little family owned pharmacy, a movie theater, a family owned grocery store, a major supermarket, an electronics store, a record store, an Ace Hardware, and lots of little shops and taverns and restaurants. Around the corner of Broadway and Diversey, which wasn't really a corner as much as it was a "V," since that's where Broadway actually started, was the Century Mall. The Century was an old theater which had been converted to a vertical shopping center and was very cool.

My first month or so in Chicago I spent a lot of time with Mary. After the first couple months, though, it became apparent that we didn't have a lot in common and I started entertaining myself — mostly around the neighborhood.

On one of my little excursions, something really bad and scary happened to me. I'll try to discuss the bad thing another day. Just suffice to say that, although I survived, I really wished I had a good friend that I could tell my experience to.

That was in February and three months later I got my wish. I had just left my apartment and was heading to the stairs when I met a girl who was waiting for the elevator. She introduced herself and for some reason (probably six months of not really having anyone to talk to), I started lecturing her on the virtues of taking the stairs, among other things. I ended up taking the elevator down with her. After we parted ways at the street, I didn't really give her another thought until about a week later.

It was a pleasant Friday evening about 6:30 or 7:00. I was heading back to my apartment from grabbing a bite to eat when suddenly the doors to the electronics store burst open and a woman started pointing at me and repeating,"hey, I know that girl." She motioned me to come inside the store. I didn't recognize her right off the bat. But she reminded me that we lived in the same building and we had met on the elevator.

She explained that she had just bought a television and the store would deliver it, but not for several days. She wanted to know if I would help her bring it home. I agreed. The television was boxed and big and bulky and very heavy. Somehow we managed to make it the two blocks to our building.

When we got to her door, she invited me in. She asked me what kind of work I did for United Airlines. I told her I didn't work for United and she must have me confused with someone else. She told me she just assumed I worked for United since the day we met I was wearing a United jacket. I laughed and told her it wasn't a United jacket. It was just a jacket that happened to be the same colors as United's. And then a funny thing happened. She started telling me bits and pieces of her life and suddenly I felt like I had found my counterpart in life.

Her name is Lyn and we haven't seen each other in about ten years, but she's my best friend. And I know I could tell her anything if I really wanted to or needed to.

Lyn and me

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L.M. Carnes 2002.

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