(Photo: This is what a 15-minute walk to the ‘L’ feels like to me. Credit: Ross Bon.)
It’s a symptom that has been driving me–and by extension, Chris–crazy for the past few weeks. He’ll need a new roommate come September 1st (and, boy, the reason why is a story and a half, but I digress). Back when we were boyfriends, I was adamant that roommate be me. Then we broke up and I wasn’t so much anymore.
Then I looked at my finances and his in-unit washer/dryer and wheedled my way back into potential roommate-dom again. Those of you doing the math are already wondering why Chris and I would be crazy enough to be roommates after we just broke up. Our friends got there long before you. All I can say is we both have faith.
Except, for me, faith tends to end wherever a 15-minute walk to the ‘L’ begins. And, wouldn’t you know it, that’s just how long it takes for me to walk from the pastry man’s fabulous apartment, through the pungently leafy streets of Oak Park, to the nearest CTA Green Line stop.
Now, I love walking as much as the next person. God knows, back in the 1980s GLYNY heyday, a friend and I walked from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to Lido Beach, Long Island. Thirty-five miles. Twice. (Prompting the proprietress of a bullet-proofed convenience store along the way to query us on our return visit, “Lemme guess, you’re still walking?”).
But a 15-minute walk from my downtown Chicago ghetto-fab apartment would bring me not just to the ‘L’, but to most of the places I normally visit on foot in the course of a given day. The idea that every one of my daily trips would require an additional 15-minute walking tax each way seems like a lot to bear for a non-driving lifelong urbanite. Chris thinks I’m spoiled.
Living within a block or two of a Chicago ‘L’ or New York City subway station for most of my life, I suppose I am. That’s why I’ve never learned how to drive. (Well, that and a deep love of the richness of urban life).
I’ve come to the conclusion native suburbanites like Chris and native city dwellers like me conceive of walking differently. For a suburbanite, unless you’re at the mall, walking is what you do only when you don’t have wheels. And since the ‘burbs are more sprawling and less transit-laden than any given center city, a carless suburbanite might be thrilled to have a mere 15-minute walk to get to transportation. Still, he or she would walk that long distance only because they couldn’t drive it.
Back in town where everything is much closer together, walking is what we do because we don’t have to drive everywhere. That’s a big difference. In 37 years (soon 38), if I ever wanted to live 15 minutes from transit, I’m sure I would have. Actually, I did. My first apartment in Chicago was that far from the ‘L’.
I didn’t last six months there.
I guess the moral of this story is truly that everyone’s mileage varies. Your perspective will color your comfort zone about the world around you. In my heart, I wish that apartment was a few blocks closer to the train. I also wish that Chris and I were ready to move in together without the potential in the near term to violently flash out of existence like a chance meeting between matter and anti-matter. (Unfortunately, enlightenment is not a synonym for recovery–mine). Still, I have no doubt things will continue to work out between us in joyful ways.
But right now, there’s a wonderful man with a fabulous two-bedroom apartment in a nice corner of Oak Park who once again needs a roommate for September 1st. The rent’s reasonable, the bedroom’s decent, the kitchen is enviable, and the occasional cookies are to-die-for. Check out his Craigslist posting here. I’m sure the walk to the train would pose no problem for less spoiled souls than I.
But for what it’s worth, the street parking is killer.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.