I've finished making my triumphant return to the 60622 zip code! I moved from a cheap condo in a building that's falling apart to a nice big apartment with a garage. I am super pumped about that last bit. The garage is huuuuge. The kitchen is way bigger than my old one, which was so small it was barely functional as a kitchen. I have a human-sized living room too, and a dining room type area, which will probably just end up being more living room space. My office is smaller, but the office on Leavitt street was far larger than I really needed anyway.
Really, when I was living in Westridge, I was perpetually reminded, looking around, of everything that was wrong with the housing bubble in Chicago. Lemme back up. A little over two years ago, I was shopping for a condo or a house, to buy. I had a nice steady job as the lead developer of a small startup and I was looking to put some roots down in ChicagolÃ¢Ë†Å¡Ã‚Â¢ndia. Every single place I looked was a gut rehabÃ¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€žÃƒÂ®someone had taken an old building and filled it with nice stuff. That's all well and good, but granite countertops and stainless steel appliances don't make a shitty apartment great, and I'm not too impressed by a lot of things most people would consider, at first glance, to be luxuries. Take the bathrooms for instance. First of all, there were two of them in an apartment only big enough for one. Secondly, the bathtubs and toilets were all real porcelain, which sounds fancy until you realize how much harder it is to keep porcelain clean than plastic or other materials. My old plastic bathtub in my old apartment, I could just wipe down and it'd be sparkling clean; these bathtubs took half an hour of serious scrubbing to look as good as they did when I moved outÃ¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€žÃƒÂ®which is to say not quite perfect. They still have a bit of an off-white hue to them. Oh well.
Granite countertops are awesome, actually, and make for a really great working surface in the kitchen, particularly for baking. The only problem was that there was, in total, maybe two square meters of countertop space. Think about that for a second. I only had enough countertop space for my toaster, coffee-related accoutrements, and a few other itemsÃ¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€žÃƒÂ®with no room left to actually prepare any food on the counters. Also, there wasn't a single drawer in the entire apartment except a single half-width drawer in the kitchen. No storage in the bathrooms or anywhere. This made the cabinets precious, because there were so few. The kitchen was utterly useless to me and that's why I didn't use it too often. There just wasn't enough room to cook anything efficiently enough to make it worthwhile. The one and only thing that kitchen had on this one is the dishwasher, and it wasn't even that good of a dishwasher.
The hardwood floors in that building I'm not entirely sure about. They might've been original to the building, which would make them 80+ years old. Walking around my old apartment they would creak like the deck of an old galleon, and I was all too painfully aware that my downstairs neighbour could hear whenever I was up and about, because he'd yell up at me that I was waking him up or some bullshit. It's just uncivilized to get pissed off at someone for walking around in their apartment, but that dude was a grade A asshole so whatever. I'm really glad to not be living above him anymore. In my current place I can hear the girl above me walking around up there, but not much, and besides with my TV on I doubt I could still hear it or even care about it. I'm not an asshole; I don't need to get pissed off about such trivialities.
Then the parking situation. Westridge is a parking nightmare. If you aren't lucky enough to live on a block with permits or to have a garage, you're sorta fucked. I get home late a lot, and I can't even count how many minutes of my life and how many gallons of gas have been utterly wasted searching out parking in my old 'hood. I found myself actively hating on people with garages or with parking on their property, because oftentimes they'd also have a driveway to the street, which I don't think should be legal in Chicago. That's why we have alleys. I don't have to worry about that anymore though. The alley from Cortez street leads directly to my garage now, and that's just lovely to me.
Let's see. What else? None of the doors in my old apartment closed all the way, which isn't really a big deal to me 'cause it's not like I needed them to, but it was just this glaringly obvious indication of the poor workmanship of the restoration job. The doorknob on the bedroom was even fitted backwards, so that you had to turn the knob to close it, and it wouldn't close all the way anyway. The cat could push on the door and open it, which caused me to wake up a few nights. Also, some neighbour somewhere in my building very close by would yell and shout as if getting in a fight with someone, but I'd never hear the other person. I think they were yelling and screaming on the phone, or they're crazy. I don't know and I don't care; it's out of my hands now.
By far the worst part, though, was just the sheer isolation of living that far north. I didn't know it was going to bug me that much, but it really did. I didn't socialize much, I didn't go out, I didn't walk around, because there was nowhere to go and nobody to meet up with nearby. The food on Devon Ave is fabulous but my western digestive tract can't take a diet of Indian/Pakistani food alone. Taking CTA to downtown took over an hour (!) and driving anywhere usually took at least 30-40 minutes, with no guarantees that I wouldn't spend 20 minutes trying to find a parking spot as soon as I got back there. So, I just stopped coming out and hanging out with people, because it just wore on me over time. Walking around this neighbourhood, dangerously close to my old stomping grounds on the northeast edge of Humboldt Park, I feel reenergized. It's a really good feeling and I hope my intuition that this is going to make a huge difference for me is right.
Come on down and visit real soon, space cadets.