Every Sunday, there is a meeting of the minds. It is at a friend’s house, it alternates which friend hosts, but they are the kind of friends that own matching plates, more than four wine glasses for each kind of wine, have coat racks, welcome signs and shoe mats, and have family pictures on the walls and guest bedrooms and untuned pianos in the living room. The kind of friends with dinner tables that have leafs. They are good friends, no matter what they own, and they own all this stuff. Every Sunday, my friends and I eat a home cooked meal, drink a lot of wine, and let the week behind us melt away with talk of movies, weather, theater, art, music and wine. At least that is what they say they used to talk about before I started coming to dinner. I have a way of obscuring the lines of decency with the lines of a more unrefined manner. As an example, the second dinner I attended was at an American Baptist Minister's house, he goes by the name Tripp, he’s the mandolin player in an Irish band that I’m in and here is a link to his blog. He and his wife hosted a dinner that included the following items; an appetizer of an assortment of eight exotic meats and cheeses with table crackers, then the main course of gluten free lasagna and flattened chicken breast in a light brown sauce with capers served with whole broccoli heads, and for dessert a chocolate frosted chocolate chip cake (also gluten free), all accompanied by more than seven bottles of wine throughout the meal. At one point, the conversation brushed the topic of the gentrification of Andersonville, my neighborhood. Someone noted how it was nice to see my neighborhood getting safer due to local businesses demanding police attention to gang fights in the alleyways. Someone else noted how they noticed that the shops were beginning to only focus on very specific items which seem almost useless to the general public; an exotic imported olive oil shop, a healing rocks and dream catcher store, a furniture shop called White Attic, which only sells tables and dressers that are painted white, designer pet food stores, and my (least) favorite, Sir Spa, a men’s only day spa, “Where Men Get Their Go”. Barf. The point was made that this type of lucratively expensive, obnoxiously specific type of business was driving out any sense of diversity in the community and forced rents up or renters out due to the construction of “Condo-Land, Chicago”. That’s when someone noted how hard it was to get American- Chinese food anymore. “Not real Chinese, there are restaurants serving Authentic Chinese Cuisine everywhere. I’m talking about the take out stuff that comes in folded paper boxes with fortune cookies and plastic packets of duck sauce and chop sticks that give your tongue splinters. Where everything comes with an order fried rice, no matter if you want it or not. You know, the kind you order by memory.”
And this, my friends, is when I chimed into the conversation.
I’ve been living in Andersonville for three and a half years and I’ve watched it change. I’ve had to move out a huge $900, two bedroom apt with a huge dinning room and an even larger living room with tons of natural light, where heat was included and there was a roof deck and back porch. It was converted into $475,000 condo units. I got the first option to buy a unit due to the fact that my apt lease was being broken. I passed it up but not without snickering at the fact that I had been living in a half million-dollar condo for over a year. I’ve seen the building since they renovated it, there are two bathtubs in each unit and each of those bathtubs is about four feet long. My 6’4” body and I preferred the old six-foot cast iron tub with the lion feet and wrap around shower curtain to the two “foot baths” that replaced it.
But, alas, the point that I just made here was not my response to the conversation at the dinner table.
I have seen the shops in Andersonville change from that of a cute little Swedish neighborhood, to that of a fun loving 'lesbian response to Boys-Town' neighborhood, to what it is now; an affluent, mostly white folks, extra-starch, dry clean only, now-that-I-have-a career-I'm-too-busy-to-be-an-activist, "Hey! You just hit my bumper while you were parking!", small-dogs-wearing-sweaters-in-the-summertime, Christmas-decorations-up-before-Thanksgiving, I-don’t-stop-for-pedestrians-because-I-drive-a-BMW-SUV-with-GPS-and-XFM and-I’ll-honk-at-you-if-you-cross-infront-of-me, gay friendly... but not too friendly, prudish, uptight, over polished, uninviting, materialistic community complete with expensive restaurants on every corner, condos down every block, with fences around every tiny front yard, and people who don’t say hello, with all the day spas, coffee shops, tax offices, investment bankers and furniture stores than you can shake a stick at, and I can shake a stick rather well, thank you very much. And, of course, every business has a “Please turn your cell phone off while shopping with us” sign on their door.
But this isn’t what I talked about at the dinner table either. What I said after someone mentioned the lack of take-out Chinese in Andersonville was…
“That reminds me of a joke. A small, old Chinese man says to his wife as they are lying in bed one night, ‘How bout a little 69?’ And his wife says, ‘Why you want Chicken and Broccoli now?’”