Although I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, my family always lived a comfortable distance away from the city. Specifically, Lombard and Naperville — neighborhoods that were both tucked away from the heart, but still attached by a strip of highways. So it was an odd relationship, between the city and I. I called Chicago home but I never understood it. Not the language, not the culture, not the street names. I was still a tourist snapping shots at the bean and eyes glued to the GPS… but it was my “home.”
Last summer I had the opportunity to find a corner of the city when I landed an internship downtown. I took the 7:46 am train every morning from Naperville to Union Station, stopped by a nearby coffee joint, and walked my 20 min commute to my building, gaining a sense of ownership and familiarity with each step. And throughout the duration of my internship, I started to feel less and less of a tourist. I started to walk the talk — sit in a quiet car to avoid loud children, choose Marianos vs. Au Bon Pain, respond to emails within the hour you receive them, avoid Jackson at all costs, and ignore pushy taxi drivers. Head straight, earphones in. My taste and knowledge of Chicago was limited to the Loop and that language.
Today, I had the opportunity to see another side of Chicago — a much, much different side — Wicker Park. I spent the day with one of my girlfriends from college, who lives right near the city and is very familiar with it, and she showed me “her neck of the woods.” It was so fascinating to me that there could be cultures on such opposite sides of the spectrum in one city. If the Loop is fast-paced and pretentious, then Wicker Park is easy-going and liberal. And as much as I admired and adapted into the Loop, I felt immediately accepted and inspired by the ways of Wicker Park.
The air there is inspiring. Brick walls covered in beautiful graffiti. Criss-cross streets jam-packed with sushi bars, cafes, boutiques, thrift stores—
But rather than me tell you why it’s so amazing, let me show you…
This is why I love Wicker Park:
What’s your favorite part about Chicago?