October 2, 2011, Chicago, IL: I slipped out early this morning into my old neighborhood. From the Lincoln Park Zoo by Lake Michigan, I walked west on Armitage, with occasional detours down its side streets, including one that was once my own.
A friendly row of bikes lined the sidewalk as I rounded the corner off Armitage towards the old apartment, as if to say, “This way home! Welcome back!”
The contrast on those streets was dramatic in the early morning. Armitage was blindingly bright, beckoning those already out for coffee and church, but its north-south residential streets remained shaded and green, taking it slow for those still home sleeping.
And then I returned to the coffee shop just under the tracks of the El, the one where I used to set up shop. It was there that I wrote my first assignment for journalism school about a morning spent at the farmer’s market at Lincoln Park High School. At the time, the assignment seemed like beginner stuff, like a hoop to jump through before moving on to the real stuff, the national news. And yet there I was this morning, having made a deliberate choice to record life closer to home, returning solely to document the old neighborhood.
And to eat bagels. I also returned to eat bagels. As soon as my family arrived to meet me, it was time for breakfast at Chicago Bagel Authority. I’d missed those bagels like mad.