The Homing Pigeon of State Street

I’ve been away from State Street for two months and I’m eating my words. Some of these words, written shortly after my May move to an apartment share with friends in the Fulton River district (read: across the street from trust-me-it’s-stinkier than-you-realize Blommers Chocolate factory.) I’m merely a mile west on Kinzie Street from my former Marina City digs, but the difference couldn’t feel more marked, and not in a groovy I’m-in-a-better-place way, either.

I moved due to the economy, with my game plan centering on exiting consulting, getting a day job, and moving on to the cheaper, more neighborhoody pastures of Lincoln Square on the far-ish North Side–my apartment share with friends an interim stop along the way. The day job element of the plan still holds–I’m pretty tired of being in charge of my own health insurance and taxes. But the leaving downtown thing? Not so much.

This makes the third time that, try as I might, I just can’t drag myself away from downtown Chicago. First, I failed to move back to New York after a terrific 2007 job offer there–I figured I’d wake up screaming the names of Chicago ‘hoods and missing being able to walk to the Art Institute. Then I bailed on moving in with former boyfriend Pastry Chef Chris because I couldn’t bear to trade living a bridge away from the Loop for living a 15-minute hoof to an Oak Park ‘L’ station.

You’d think I’d have learned by now.

There are two things at work here. Most of all, I miss being able to walk out my front door and be in the middle of the capital of the middle of America. Knowing you’re a short walk from any Loop attraction, from (as most people don’t know) half a dozen great grocery stores, or from a one-seat bus, ‘L’, or Metra ride to anywhere in Chicagoland is pretty powerful. I said it in 2007 and dammit, I’m saying it again: I can easily visit outer-neighborhood trees, restaurants, and friends, but I’d prefer to sleep in the skyline. Call it the New Yorker in me, but I’m a raging urbanist at heart and I’d come of as far less locationally fickle if I would stop questioning that fact.

I’m also learning that, although I think there are many things woefully wrong with Marina City and the way it’s run (just look through my Marina City archives), I can’t fault the building staff. At all. You’ve got to love a condo high-rise with a daily cleaning schedule, a live-in 24-hour engineer, a  responsive door staff, and regular exterminator visits.

In two months at my temporary, supposedly luxury digs in the high-rise rental K Station development, I’ve witnessed dirt sit in hallways and garbage sit in trash rooms for a week at a time, the engineering staff scoff at fixing broken appliances, and the door guards walk away from their posts for ten minutes at a time in the middle of the night, leaving the security door to the elevator lobby locked open.

Things are no better at Overly Frank‘s new South Loop pad, where I visit from time to time. Whenever the 56 bus bothers to come down Milwaukee or I make the 10 minute walk to the Clinton ‘L’ stop to wait another 10 minutes for Green Line train into the Loop, I can make it from Kinzie and Desplaines to 1130 South Michigan in…the same time it used to take me to get from Marina City to Frank’s old place in Lincoln Park.

Once at his Yolk-topping high-rise abode, I always need to make sure the Elphabugs aren’t present before I kick off my shoes. I call them that because the giant flying roaches the building is well known for on apartment-rating web sites may someday band together, levitate, and overthrow the roach wizard. Last night while I was catsitting for Frank, I briefly shared a bathtub with one of them.

Life would have been easier if it had been small enough to go down the drain. It being, however, the normal dimensions for an 1130 South Michigan roach–approaching a Glade Plug-In propped up on hairy black bobby pins–it took a ten-minute drenching and a half a can of Raid to stun the crayfish-sized thing enough to grab it with food tongs and flush it down the toilet. (I started out with a quarter can of Raid, but when I came back with the tongs, it raised its five-inch antennae and started to twitch.)

I pulled the chain twice, then took a whore’s bath. Any part of me I couldn’t reach with a washcloth I powdered and moved on. Then I slept on the couch with no part of my bedsheets touching the floor.  Say what you want about Marina City, but at least there when you throw a shoe at the vermin it doesn’t get picket up and thrown back at you.

It’s not a ringing endorsement, but it works for me.

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