#625: The Chimes of Logan Square

April 25th, 2016

We walked down the street, the three of us, east past California where the bars and grills and oh-so-on-trend little boozeries stopped and into the construction-clad dead zone separating the hip enclaves of Logan Square and Wicker Park.

It was dark, and I had my worries when sidewalk construction on two massive condo blocks dipped the pathway into the street. On our way out for the night, I had seen confused bikers use the walking path to ride. Under the dark, I was concerned they wouldn’t see us in time.

Over the dark air, the sound of wind chimes filled an otherwise empty road.

“Where is that coming from?” Tommy asked.

We looked up at the condo blocks on the uprise. They were still skeletal — concrete bones and a few plastic sheets to keep the workers from getting too windblown.

One of the condo buildings was a bit further in the process. A few of the rooms on the lower floors had already been glassed in and a pun-laden URL plastered on the outside advertised both the condo’s proximity to the trains and that ‘L’ rhymes with “hell.”

And the sounds of chimes swept over it all.

“Yeah, where is that coming from?” Devin asked.

Gentrification is a misleading word for a nasty state of affairs. It’s a broad blanket thrown over everything from trendier bars to line-of-paint bike paths to the systematic encroachment of the moneyed class on black, brown and otherwise disenfranchised communities.

There is real harm in pricing people out of their homes. There is real harm in using the dollar and the tower crane to crack communities.

Too bad no one thinks they’re the one doing it.

Too bad two people can look at a new bar, restaurant, apartment block or bike path and one will see the destruction of a way of life, the other new jobs and a place to take that hot chick from OKCupid for drinks after work.

But whether the new coffee shop is seen as a small, locally owned business or the first wave of a white tide, no one will look at a massive tower of condominiums tinkling wind chime into the darkness as anything but capital G Gentrify.

“Where is that coming from?” I wondered.

Logan Square was terrible when I lived there. There were a lot of gangs around, I would hear gunfire, the house next door burnt down suspiciously and a lady a few blocks up got acid thrown in her face by her husband’s girlfriend.

But every night, three or four generations would gather on their stoops to laugh and tell stories in Spanish. Little children would run and play as old abuelas tut-tutted to get inside once it got dark. I would buy the best empanadas I have ever had from an illegal food cart run by a lady who would smile in recognition and greeting because she spoke no English.

I was the first wave on that one. Sorry.

We did figure out what the wind chime sound was coming from the condo blocks. Thick canvas straps dangled from the concrete skeleton of the less-finished building. The wind was blowing the straps, which tinkled and traced against the concrete.

The building itself was singing into the darkness.

Some will hear the chimes as a dinner bell calling “Come and get it” to all passersby. To others, the chimes will sound as stately and grim as church bells, tolling a death knell into a windy spring night.

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