In Praise of Old Irving Park

In Praise of Old Irving Park

In 2010 I made the decision to skip town for awhile. Divorce, job loss and the general economic downswing had me thinking that this was time to get out of dodge. Friends out west offered me a place to stay, and I ended up living in the woods  for about ten months.

(Long story.)

The almost-year I spent in rural Oregon cleared my head and soothed my soul. Still, my heart pined for sweet home Chicago, and I returned home in hopes of rebuilding a life here. My plan was to find an apartment in the relatively hip confines of Rogers Park or East Ukrainian Village and enjoy my re-immersion into big city life.

Instead, I ended up signing a lease on a one-bedroom apartment at the Irving Park/Old Irving border.

(Not exactly a trendy neighborhood.)

My reasons for moving there were initially quite practical: I’m on a modest budget and needed cheap rent. Plus, I don’t drive, so I needed decent access to public transportation. Old Irving delivered on quality digs at a reasonable price, and my home is but a few blocks from the Blue Line, Metra and several major bus routes.

(I took some time to get settled in.)

Initially, I got frustrated living here. I had a hard time finding places to hang out and found myself spending a fair amount of time on the L as I traveled to my favorite haunts and shops. I began to wonder if I’d be better off moving to a busier, more commercial neighborhood. As my frustration grew, so did my desire to just finish out my lease and move to a different neighborhood.

(But then something changed.)

I’m not sure what adjusted my attitude: Maybe it was deciding to bloom where I was planted. Maybe it was the notion that I needed to start paying attention to where I was living, rather than imagining what life would be like elsewhere.

(I began to fall in love with my neighborhood.)

In fact, when I’m ready to buy a place, I’m going to look here first.

Things I like about Old Irving Park:

  • I feel like I’m living in a miniature United Nations: We have a wonderful mix of nationalities. (The fact that Old Irving Park is home to the Muslim Community Center certainly contributes to this.) I also like visiting Tony’s, our local grocery store, and combing through its aisles of various ethnic delights.
  • I’m safe. (Or as safe as anyone can be in the big city.) I can walk around without constant fear of being mugged, harassed or accidentally walking into a drive-by shooting. This lack of fear gives me an incredible sense of freedom.
  • It’s completely walkable. Plenty of sidewalks under shade-lined trees make it easy to move around. I love checking out some of the beautiful old homes as I go about my daily business or take in a walk for exercise.
  • The people are friendly. People are pleasant on the street and smile at each other. Dog owners clean up after their pooches.
  • Prices are reasonable.  While we aren’t a destination for fine dining, trendy bars or swank coffee houses, what we do have is typically a good value. Staff at local establishments lack attitude. The patrons are the same way.

I think I’ll stick around awhile.


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