Two and a half years ago, I moved to Pilsen.
I knew it was the neighborhood where I wanted to live as it is a center of Mexican art, culture and food in Chicago. On 18th Street, you can find Mexican bakeries, restaurants, art galleries and thrift shops. It is a neighborhood full of murals and artists of diverse backgrounds.
But I would not have found the apartment without the help of a friend and journalist Linda Lutton.
I met her over 15 years ago when I reported on community issues in Pilsen for the Chicago Tribune. We have stayed in touch over the years and for a while we both lived in Mexico at the same time.
I sold my house in the summer of 2011 and worked in New York the following fall as a visiting professor at Columbia University. While away, I packed up everything and put it all in storage. I moved to New York with two suitcases and didn't know where I'd move when I came back to Chicago.
I wanted to find a place to live in Pilsen and tried looking online but had no luck. So I contacted Linda, a longtime resident of Pilsen. Her husband, artist Hector Duarte, has painted a huge mural on the outside of their house, and many of his murals grace the community.
"Oh there's a place for rent down the street," she told me.
That day after work she went to look at the apartment for me. She took a few pictures and emailed them to me. And I signed a lease right away.
"It's a good block," Linda told me.
I have found that to be true. Many of my neighbors have lived on the same block 20 to 30 years. They gather every summer for a block party that this past summer featured a Mexican norteño band and a D.J.
On the Fourth of July everybody in the neighborhood came out and set off a fury of fireworks.
I often go to art openings and community events at the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Moving to Pilsen is in a way my life coming full circle. I was born close by at St. Luke's Hospital now Rush University Medical Center.
I have found my casa, my home, in every sense of the word, in Pilsen. I often blog about people and places in my neighborhood.
I am thankful that Linda helped me find my place here.