The End of Marina City

In the photo above you can see our current Marina City balconies. They’re no different than most other balconies here, so there’s no need to point them out. As you can see, there’s an eternal consistency to life here at the corncobs. Some of that consistency I’ll miss, and some I’ll be glad to leave behind. Ryan and I have signed a lease on an apartment in Edgewater Beach for March 1st. We signed the lease a couple of weeks ago. It just took me a while to realize that this is the end of an era in my life.

We’re moving because we realized that our lives are centered elsewhere–primarily on the far north side and the northern suburbs of Chicago. North is where our synagogue and most of our synagogue friends are. North is where the heart of the Chicago area’s Jewish community lies. North is where most of the restaurants and stores are located that we like to frequent. After a year living in Marina City and more than a year of living Jewishly, it just turned out that Milan Kundera was right. In our case, life really is elsewhere.

I’m looking forward to the move. For years I’ve blogged about the consistent agony and ecstasy of life in the Marina City corncobs, and all of it still applies. You always know your neighbors. Via foot, ‘L’, bus, or expressway, you can easily get anywhere from here. The architectural and cultural wonders of the Chicago Loop are your front yard. And the 61st-floor roofdecks are sublime.

However, an eternally combative condo board, nonstop punishing noise from every-fifteen-minute emergency sirens and late-evening Chicago Riverwalk cafe music, fraternity-level antics from numerous college-age residents, a noticeable lack of neighborhood amenities, and the persistent feeling that once you step outside your lobby, the block belongs to hipsters lined up to get into the House of Blues and drunks stumbling home from Dick’s Last Resort, bring any sense of soul soaring right back down to earth.

So I suppose, at long last, these are my final words on Marina City. I was thrilled to move into Marina City in 2005, but in the end, I agree with my last last statement about living here. It’s cheap and well located, but it’s not worth the quality-of-life trade-off you have to make to be able to live here and keep your sanity. Unlike last time, though, this time I’m leaving on my own terms. I won’t be back.

We’re off to an apartment twice the size of our current one for only slightly more rent, in a Sheridan Road high-rise with a spectacular city and lake view. It’s near two of our favorite supermarkets, the Red Line is two blocks away, and an express bus is outside our front door. But what really matters to me is that we’ll be living on the same block as our synagogue. For at least one Reform Jew, gaining the ability to walk to synagogue on Shabbat–and in five minutes, too!–really will be a dream come true.

But far north side living is a far cry from a lot of my life that came before. Growing up in New York, it was my life’s goal to live as close to Manhattan as possible. Eight years living in Park Slope, Brooklyn, satisfied that urge. A graduate degree in urban planning sealed my then-permanent anti-suburban sneer.

During the past nine years in Chicago, it’s been much the same thing. First I tried to live as close to downtown as I could get. Then I moved into it, and for seven years downtown is where I’ve remained. A boyfriend moved to New York, but I stayed. I moved out of Marina City once already, but I still stayed downtown.

But life goes on, and while doing so it changes us, little by little, until it changes us a lot. For many years, I haven’t been an urban planner. Over time, I’ve realized how much more I like Chicago’s outer neighborhoods–and suburbs, too–than I ever liked their New York counterparts. And in converting to Judaism and joining a synagogue, I did something I never dared do back in my hometown. I put down roots. Those roots just happen to be planted in soil that isn’t in the 42nd Ward.

And so. I guess this is the point where Mike Doyle, the post-college, agnostic, pessimistic, inner-city, out-of-place Gothamite is finally let go of by Michael Doyle, the forty-something, religious, optimistic, city-as-neighborhood, where-he-belongs Chicagoan. Who I’ve been for a lot longer than I’ve let myself realize.

I guess I’ll never be an urban planner again. Or a New Yorker. Or maybe even someone with a 15-minute walk to work. I’ll never brag about living in a Goldberg building again, or meditate on my life from the panoramic roofdeck of one. There are a lot of “I’ll never agains” when you reach past forty, I’ve come to see now.

On the other hand, I’ll never again wonder where and how I’m supposed to fit in on this planet. I’ll never again feel lonely in a room alone. I’ll never again face a challenge, yell “Why?” in my head, and fear there’s no Eternal being out there to hear me cry out. I’ll never again hate the suburbs like I used to. I’ll never again fear outer neighborhoods like I used to.

And you know what else? I’ll never again fear moving on like I used to, either.

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