This Saturday I’m planning a trip to the city with a friend who I haven’t seen in such a long time. He loves the hustle of the downtown and its beauty, but as I’ve described so many times before it has this beauty that is completely captivating but also cold. Business men and women with cell phones glued to their heads, no smiles as you pass on the sidewalk. Of course the city has its moment of warmth, in the parks and beaches lining our coast. The last time I went down to the city there was a blind man with his dog crossing the street and someone bumped into him and another man yelled at him for not apologizing for hitting the blind man. That alone shows that our city isn’t as cold as the metal that towers above us.
I don’t dislike downtown, I just don’t share the same love and admiration of my friend. My love is for the neighborhoods like I’ve explained so many times before, Pilsen, Little Village and Humboldt Park are the ones I frequent the most and are most familiar with. My friend doesn’t particularly enjoy those places and though he is willing to go to Pilsen and Little Village, he doesn’t even want to stop his car in Humboldt Park.
That is completely understandable to me because it is a very dangerous place, it has the highest homicide rate in the city and everyone knows Chicago’s gang violence, history and present. Bullets don’t have names and he really doesn’t want to be introduced to one. Even when I go down there I’m afraid and much more cautious. I’ve had family who lived there and have heard so many stories of stabbings right outside their front door and other horrific things that are just shocking. It’s almost like a movie, they’re things you don’t think can actually happen in real life but they do.
Even with his fear he has finally agreed to join me on one of my trips there. First of all, I want to pick up some Ajonjoli for Dad and Abuelo since they love them (even though they smell like burnt rubber and that is no exaggeration) and second, I want to photograph more of the graffiti and murals there and in several other locations, not to mention the stables in Humboldt Park.
I’m so excited and happy he has finally agreed to join me because I feel like the reason a lot of these neighborhoods don’t receive the help they need and the nonprofits there are unheard of or receive little support from those outside of the city is because people only know those areas as places of violence, murder and danger. They are too afraid to think of them as beautiful places, places of culture with a huge, green park, a cultural museum and food that is absolutely to die for that unfortunately have bad people, some bad because they are just bad people and some because they are pushed by the circumstances they are forced to survive in. They look at them as places beyond help or not worthy of it. My friend doesn’t look at Humboldt Park like that, I just am afraid others do, from people who I talk to or the surprise I see when I speak of something positive in Humboldt Park or call it beautiful.
I’m not going lie and pretend it’s a safe place or that there is absolutely nothing wrong there, it’s extremely dangerous which is why I’m not there at night and only go places I’m familiar with. The first time I went down there I was with my Abuelo who knew the area and the second time I was with my boyfriend because he blends in, he’s hispanic and I’m whiter than a sheet of paper and have the tendency to give off the tourist vibe at times with my excitement at every blade of grass and excessive photo snapping. Of course I’d act differently with my boyfriend than with a friend who’s never been to this area or my abuelos, my boyfriend I feel safe with him, I don’t completely let my guard down, but I feel much more relaxed because I see him keeping and eye out.
I’m just so excited to bring me friend down there with me, finally, so maybe he can see that it’s a beautiful place and even though there are so many problems, so many dangers and so many things we need to fix, there are points of beauty and positivity.