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My Balcony, Myself

Being a good Marina Citizen, there are things that I just won’t do on my 175-square-foot, petal-shaped, 38th-floor balcony. Trouble is, the younger set has no tolerance for convention. Or condo rules. From the ground, nothing would belie our beloved corncobs’ monumental mid-century modern style and grace. But looking from one balcony to another, it’s a whole different world.

It is said here at Marina City that your age usually denotes your floor number. After the 19-story parking ramps and the 20th-floor laundry rooms, the 40 residential floors that stretch up to the roofdecks are nothing if not stratified. The old guard began renting here in the 1960s, bought in during the 70s, and have no intention of leaving unless on a stretcher or in a box. They live from 50 on up. Their kids, staid, mid-career professionals, inhabit the 40s. We nonprofit, artsy, decade-out-of-grad-school types tend to populate the 30s.

And then there are (ahem) the college floors. Somehow during the past few years, the 20s became surrogate dorm floors for DePaul. Now, anyone who’s ever ridden the Brown Line during the school year knows how fastidious DePaul students usually are about not intruding into the space of those around them. (“Excuse me, miss, could you please stop yelling into your f***ing cell phone?”) So imagine them in a high-rise.

Perhaps it’s because the great majority of these kids are from tony, teeny suburbs where the nearest neighbor is not a wedge away. Or it could be that they just don’t have practice with living in civilization. I mean, how much balcony practice is there available for one to have in Kenilworth?

Though of different eras, we over-30s generally agree on one thing: treat your balcony with dignity. It’s an extension of the building, of your apartment, and, ultimately, of you. It’s your front yard, on view for 899 other apartments. But on the college floors, where residents are just here for a school year and property values don’t matter, it’s astounding the things you see from up here.

So in an attempt to nudge the 20-dwellers into actually following the condo board rules and regs, I offer a list of dos and don’ts for Marina City balconies, drawn directly from what I can see, right now, from my balcony:

-Tasteful strings of lights hung evenly across the balcony.
-Outdoor tables and chairs.
-Barbeque grills.
-Planter boxes and flower pots.
-Kids’ backyard toys.

-Life-size illuminated dolls of Homer Simpson, waving.
-Upholstered indoor furniture suites, moldy.
-Six-foot-tall metal-frame, Christmas-light palm trees.
-Insert-name-of-sports-team-here flags.
-Lights strung halfway around your balcony and then you gave up.
-Lights strung all the way around your balcony but it only looks like halfway because you gave up replacing the burned-out bulbs.
-Chasing lights of any kind. Any kind whatsoever. Period.
-Fire torches with flames that lap the upstairs balcony, leaving char marks.
-Construction debris.
-Litter boxes (or cats, for that matter).
-Exercise equipment.
-Stands of fake trees.
-Boat pontoons.
-Trampolines (on a high-rise balcony…is it just me?)

I hope this list works. With the housing bubble still going strong, I know the DePaulites are slowly creeping up the building.

For God’s sake, there’s a pair of hand chairs giving East Tower the finger outside 3909.

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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1 reply

  1. Balcony Bombing

    …or more of what not to do on a Marina City balcony. Little did I suspect when I wrote myOctober 10th post,CHICAGO CARLESS: My Balcony, Myself, that balcony behavior here at Goldberg central could get worse. Well, tie me up…

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