An Encounter With Change

Maple leaves in Autumn.

Hyde Park is in the throes of change.  The air is crisp with a slight bite to the cheeks and a temporary runny nose.  Trees are turning shades of gold, ochre and crimson.  Gloves and boots and caps have reappeared like the leaves that cover the sidewalks and gather in bunches at the curbs.  It’s a familiar change that happens around this time every year, in October.  Even the songs change to melancholy old standards like “Autumn Leaves” and new ones like Maggie Brown’s “It’s October.”

But there’s another change in my Hyde Park neighborhood that’s either far more insidious or decidedly progressive depending on who’s defining it.  It’s called gentrification – removal of old structures and poor people for the young and new and middle class.

Today I went for a walk to take in all that is Fall.  Over to 52nd & Harper where there used to be a courtyard where people gathered to share news and ideas and black men played chess in the sunken setting surrounded by a few quaint shops and restaurants.  It was where old white ladies felt at ease just sitting on a bench and looking out at any hour of the day or night.  I remember one in particular.  Her name was Judith.  Now Harper Court is a thru street with a spank brand new Hyatt Hotel and lots of new retail – restaurants like Chipotle, Ja Grill and Porkchop, a confections and ice cream shop, a cigar emporium, a men’s clothing store, an upscale women’s boutique, expanded Starbuck’s, frozen yogurt shop and an Ulta on Lake Park.

I walked Inside Ulta where I was overwhelmed by rows and rows of cosmetics, hair care products, bath and body and fragrances displayed in brightly colored cases beneath lighting fit for a jeweler’s store.  Pastels and hot shades were reflected in mirrors making the room appear larger and more like an amusement park than a store.  “Having fun looking around?” a young woman asked as she approached.  “Of course,” I replied.  “Let me know if I can be of assistance,” she said peering through stylish glasses.  I did have one question and it was on.

For the next half hour or so, I had the pleasure of being guided through the latest trends in cosmetics by one of the friendliest and most knowledgeable young salespersons I’ve met.  She knew the product lines inside and out and cheerfully shared information on the hottest colors, the signature products for each line, the best sellers, her manicured hands and chocolate skin aglow.   When I told her my plan was to actually do my shopping in November, she suggested the Grab & Go Bins where I could purchase small samples of the products I was considering.  “It’s a great way to try the product before purchasing the full size,” she said.  And that’s what I did.  I left the store clutching my small coral bag, a pleasant feeling all over me.  Thanks Shay.  Change may not be that bad after all.

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