In the early 1980's you could already sense the neighborhood was changing. We noticed people selling homes in the late 70's, the new owners spending a ton of money to fix them up. I can even remember my parents saying, "they're taking a big chance moving here. Do they really think their homes will be worth much more spending so much?" I grew up in the Lake View neighborhood. South Lake View to be more specific, close to the Lincoln Park/Lake View border. Our neighborhood was full of working class people. There were big ethnic groups then, Puerto Ricans, Italians, Greeks, Cubans, Mexicans. There were many third and fourth generation of Swedish and Germans still living in the neighobrhood, along with Irish as well. It was a unique time to grow up. Evenings were different then. Some people did go home and quickly turn on the TV, but many others sat in front of their homes or apartments, because our neighbors were the entertainment. We played baseball in the middle of the street, and on occassion someone would pick up the bat, and announce himself as Dave Kingman stepping up to the plate. Like a lot of neighborhoods in Chicago during that time you could describe it as bipolar. Around 5 pm a girlfriend and boyfriend might be having a domestic dispute in front for the world to see. We'd stop playing sports and my friends and I would pick the nearest car, hop on the hood and watch to see what unfolded next. However around 6pm someone would get a flat tire and about three or four people would walk outside their homes with a jack in their hand to help. We talked about everything then. Some kids would chat about AC/DC or Kiss being their favorite group, others would say Earth Wind and Fire, and someone else would say Hector Lavoe. We fixed our bikes together, we'd place bricks on the ground, put a piece of plywood on-top of it, and hop over it with our bikes! I can still hear someone yell, "do you know how to fix a flat?" It was the last time I witnessed America this way. Something happened from that time till now that changed our world. If I had to describe it in two words, it would be The Yuppie!
I think it was 1982 or 1983. She moved in a few houses down, renting an apartment from one of our neighbors. She was different than other women who lived in our block. She would walk home in the evening, and although many people were in the street leaning on cars and conversing, she never seemed to be interested. She was content to just walk up her stairs open the door and disappear. We'd see her only while she was traveling from work to home and vice versa. It didn't take long for us to get to know her better. As she walked up to her apartment door one of my fellow elementary school neighbors would yell to her, "Hi Amanda!". She'd turn around smile and wave. She didn't treat us like the other adults, she actually talked to us like grown ups.
One summer day, like many days I was sent to the store by my parents. I don't know what it was with parents in the 1970's and 1980's, but they enjoyed sending their kids to the store. Maybe it was the same joy 16th century pirates had making prisoners walk the plank. Anyway! I walked into the store, grabbed a carton of eggs and saw Amanda. "Hi Dave." She said with a big smile. I nodded and said hello back. I never could understand then why she talked to me as though I was twenty five. It always intimidated me. I was only able to get out some "Uh, um, yeah, um, ok." The cashier was ringing her groceries up when she asked me "Hey does your mom have an apartment available for rent? I have a girlfriend looking. My other friend just moved into the first floor of my building and there are no more vacancies." I replied to her in my caveman way that I would ask my mom. I didn't realize it then, but that conversation between Amanda and me started our real estate relationship.
Over the next few years the trend continued, families were looking to move to the suburbs and younger people were moving into the inner city. They lived differently these new young people, they would rent three bedroom apartments with only two or three people occupying the apartment. No longer would you see families of five to nine people living in close quarters. Also time had passed when I realized I hadn't seen Amanda. The guys in the neighborhood would talk about her on occassion. We would ask one another, "Hey! Do you think Amanda is pretty?" Each one of us would smile and nod.
I was walking a block and a half away from home, down Wellington, when I heard someone say, "Hi Dave!" It was Amanda. She had moved. She actually had moved into a building owned by a fellow church parishioner. I told her I knew her landlord, Mr. Rosario. He went to St. Sebastian our church. She had gotten a great deal on rent, but she had some complaints. She asked me to come inside. I thought to myself, when she met me, I was just 9 years old, a mere boy, but now I'm 12, I'm older, much more confident. When I walked inside she still had the same affect on me. I couldn't get out much verbage. I let her talk the whole time. She was so excited to show me separate living and dining rooms. She looked up and pointed to the ceiling, they were high. The walls were drywall, not plaster, easy for her to hang paintings. She complained about the windows. "What kind of windows do you guys have at your house?" She asked. I wanted to say glass, but luckily I just told her I wasn't sure. "There is such a draft coming in from these windows, I've asked Mr. Rosario to please change them, but he wont." She raved about the water pressure, it was so much better than her previous apartment. She was so excited she had to show me. We walked into her bathroom, where a Purdue towel hung on the bathroom door. She demonstrated the pressure, but all I can think of is the towel. "Did you go to Purdue?" I asked. "A ha! I did. Are you thinking about going there?" She asked with a smile. I shrugged my shoulders.
I didn't see Amanda much over the next few years. I did notice driving with my parents a man going in and out of her apartment. Maybe it was her boyfriend. After that I figured she had left the neighborhood.
In 1992 you could not recognize my old neighborhood. My parents divorced several years prior. We moved to the suburbs, but on occassion I go visit the old house since my grandmother still lived there, and to visit some old friends who were left. It was then that I saw her again. I dropped my girlfriend off at her job near Diversey and Paulina, and I saw her turning a corner with a stroller. I wasn't sure it was her. In a soft voice "Hi Amanda." I said. She turned quickly toward me. "Dave? Oh my God, you're so big. How long has it been?" She asked. We hugged, it was the first time we ever hugged. I met her son, a small baby with reddish blonde hair and sky blue eyes. His name was Payton. A name I thought was odd for a first name. Coincidentally we were near her home, and she was excited for me to see it. It was a townhome just finished, with others still being worked on. We walked in and told me it came with a hefty price tag! A whopping $195,000. It was big money in 1992. It was also the first time I had HOA fees explained to me. She explained the hardwood was pine. It was a 3 bedroom 2 bath home, but only 1 garage spot. So one person parked outside. It was central air and heat. The windows were new, and there was no draft. The height of the ceiling was over 10 feet, and she was enamored with that. She did not like that you could hear the sound of the neighbors. She walked me around, upstairs then downstairs, then back to the main level. All I really could think about was that she was not going to intimidate me this time. Whatever she talks about, I'm intelligent enough now to answer. "I'm so happy to see you Dave, it's been so long. I do want to ask you something. What are your moms taxes like? I mean they are so high here." She said. I shrugged my shoulders, mad at myself again that I couldn't answer a question for her. I stared at the photos of her and her husband on the refrigerator. Half the home displayed Purdue memorabilia, and the other half Indiana University. She began to explain to me about her husband Matt, he was an architect. He was fascinated with post-modern design style, which she didn't appreciate. They were leaving to Berlin to study Berlin style architecture, a place they've already visited several times before, and she was not enthusiastic about going again. Their beagle puppy would have to stay with family. In the next ten to fifteen minutes at her home she gave me the best tour of a residence I've ever received. She had hanging flower pots hanging over the rails near the front door. A small backyard, but a little garden there too. A tiny dog house with a Purdue sign in the front. I remember maybe making my first joke to her. I asked her how the water pressure was. She replied it was good, but not remembering raving about it when she showed me her apartment eight years earlier, so I reminded her. We both laughed. We hugged each other and I left. I can tell she was genuinely happy to see me, she metioned she stopped working to take care of the baby, and was feeling lonely.
I had actually forgotten about Amanda. So much of the neighborhood was pretty much gone. All the old homes were demolished to make new homes, or condos. No one ever hung out in front of my old neighborhood, or any neighborhood that I've seen. My mother moved back to the old neighborhood and house and sold the home we had in the suburbs. I lived with my family, my son and my wife a few miles away. I believe it was the year 2000. I had my two year old son in the back seat, and I was driving down Paulina getting my Dunkin Donut coffee. Maybe it was meant to be, because through my peripheral I noticed Amanda's home. It had a 'for sale' sign. I then saw her walking down the stairs. I parked in front of her place. I got out of my car, knowing this might be the last time I see her. It was a strange thing, because she recognized me immediately. She screamed, ran down the stairs and hugged me tight. They had just sold the home and were moving to Naperville. They had a baby girl, her name was Lauren. I think there must have been some government criteria for women having babies in late 80's, 90's and 2000's, they had to name at least one girl Lauren. They also were expecting another one in six more months. Her husband's friend worked on a planned community in Naperville. He was able to aquire a brick home, across from a playground and only a block away from the elementary school and middle school. Payton their first born, was going onto third grade, and although they were fortunate into getting him into a good Chicago Public School, they were not sure if Lauren would get in, since it's selective. Amanda did not want to leave. She stared me straight in the eyes, "Dave, I can't believe what we sold this house for." I smiled and nodded. She looked down and said, she's going to miss the city. She came from a small town in Indiana, and she fell in love with Chicago. She would miss the cafe's, the bookstores, the second hand stores, the Cubs games. She even said I made her a Cubs fan, and at 9 years old, I was able to teach her how to score a game. She then started crying. She didn't want to leave. We hugged. I even gave an awkward hug to her husband who I can tell was not a hugger. They both met my son, and we said goodbye. I've never seen her or her family again.
I think of Amanda often. She represented so much of what I knew of a yuppie, a person who was particular, had to have a dishwasher, didn't go outside to mingle with neighbors, lived alone or with a roommate, not sharing an apartment with a huge family. What I also learned is how much a home becomes part of us. To some a home is just hardwood, some paint, drywall and screws. But to many a home is part of the family. You can feel yourself become one with the house. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's true! Amanda was good at describing her house to me, because that was her feelings. She described it the way a mother describes her childs personality traits. The neighborhood vibe, and creating a good vibe was important to her. What Amanda taught me was to appreciate real estate. Something like an art or music teacher teaches a student how to appreciate art and music. Sometimes to make things better we have to be shown how in a different way, she showed me that.
I do sometimes miss the way my old neighborhood was, the grittiness the toughness. However, Amanda has gentrified my mind, and I think I am subscribing to her philosophy of what home and neighborhood should be.