Wicker Park: A Balance of Excitement and Calm

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The other day I decided to meet up with a Tinder date down in Wicker Park. As soon as I sent the “on my way” message, he told me that he got called into work, or some other lame excuse. So I decided to take a little trip by myself. My day consisted of shopping around in Wicker Park at around 7 pm. and then heading to Grant Park hours later to revisit the breathtaking view of the skyscrapers, which, let me tell you, is impossible to put into words. When you go out into the city, any part of the city, alone, even if just for a few hours, it’s an interesting experience, one that feeds the soul.

Wicker Park has such an urban, nightlife feel, even at 7 at night. While I walked down the street past Myopic Books and Kokorokoro and all the thrift shops, I got a huge hipster-cool vibe. Music basically blasted the streets from various bars and low-key night clubs, making the area so alive, and making anyone close by feel vibrant. However, walking into the antique shops and book stores made me feel so alone and at peace with myself at the same time. This shit is like therapy.

When I walked into Myopic Books, a generally large book store with a no-cell-phone policy, a wave of content spread over me. The walls piled high with books and bookshelves and there wasn’t really a space where there weren’t books being displayed or being hidden. The air smelled like dust and an old house, making me feel safe and protected like I was in my grandparents’ house. I explored the entirety of the store, but my mind kept my body almost stuck at the poetry section the entire time. So, naturally, I ended up leaving with three books: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems,” Bob Dylan’s “Tarantula,” and Roger Bonair-Agard “Bury My Clothes.” Even as a broke college student, I couldn’t help myself from divulging into the poetics of these books and taking them home to add to my collection of inspiration. I believe this was because of how calm this place kept me.

This specific part of my trip reminded me of “Reasons Why I Do Not Wish to Leave Chicago: An Incomplete Random List” by Aleksander Hemon. The piece didn’t come to mind just because if I were to make a similar list I would talk about the eccentric, urban aura of Wicker Park and the hidden calmness that can be found in each shop. It also came to mind because a place like this really captures the full beauty of Chicago; Milwaukee St. and all its shops relate to all the beauty that Hemon tried to capture in his poem. I believe that he was trying to make a point of Chicago’s beauty under the madness and that if one were to just lift the covers of the liveliness around the city, they could find peace and maybe something to be passionate about. That is what makes his piece, and the experience that I had, so incredible.

When I hopped on the blue line to head back home, I decided to take a short walk to Grant Park, a place where the calmness of the city rests so obvious and so heavy. I started to think about how I could incorporate this trip and my newly found inspiration into my writing, when an interesting point came to mind. You’re never really alone in the city. You may be walking alone, shopping alone, getting high alone, taking the train alone, but there is always someone or something else with you. It could be someone else that’s alone as well and there’s that underlying, unspoken connection of two people both being alone, or it could be the fact that the city is so alive and breathing that no matter how hard you try there is always an energy that is with you. That energy either leaves you with wings leading you to explore, or it calms you and gives you a sense of the quiet, hidden joys of Chicago.

This city is so alive, yet also so calm underneath each layer of its being. The lights dance, music flies through the air, and each living being breathes oxygen directly into this city’s lungs, and vice versa. Grant Park at night shows a part of the city that rests, Wicker Park puts the energetic aspect on display for every hipster to live inside of, and Myopic Books sort of combines the two, residing in the middle of a very lively part of the city, but being a calming factor to anyone that steps foot inside. (Sydney Sargis, City of Stories Student)

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