Thursday Things

1. Last week, my office building had an Earth Day celebration (aka they gave out free ice cream. I don’t know what ice cream has to do with sustainability, but quite frankly I don’t care, either, because ice cream.). One of the booths at this celebration was giving out wildflower seed cards, and though I only intended to take a few, the person at the booth handed me a bunch, so I got my summer gardening started early this year with some wildflower seeds.


To be honest, I don’t really have the highest hopes in the world that these will sprout, but since they were free and I already had dirt, I’m not too concerned. I’ll be excited if they do, though!

I’m a little concerned about how I’m going to go about gardening this year. My landlord told us a month ago or so that my building plans to replace every unit’s deck during the month of June, which is not only prime outdoor time (and a whole month lost of using my beloved bistro set!), but is also prime growing space. I have a porch as well, but it gets substantially less sun, which won’t do my full sun flowers (the ones I grow on the deck) any good. And I can’t really wait until July to plant things. So I don’t know what I’m going to do, but in the mean time, at least I have free wildflower seeds to try out.

While we’re on the topic of flowers, however, I’ve been a bit surprised to see how many places have already planted annuals. Granted, most of what I’ve seen are pansies, and those are pretty hardy plants. But regardless, I would not have the confidence to plant anything outside this time of year (my wildflower seeds are in pots inside, per the recommendation of my grandma), not when the weather is always so back and forth temperature wise.

2. I’ve had historical architecture/preservation on the mind of the past couple of weeks due to the whole church thing, and with this mindset I walked around a few different neighborhoods last weekend (well, actually, I walked around the neighborhoods because it was nice outside, and walking seemed like a better option than CTA-ing when the weather was so nice. But I was, nevertheless, still viewing the world through my historical preservation lens.), and I was quite struck by the different approaches I saw. Walking around Ravenswood, for example, even homes that very much appeared to be new construction mimicked the historic character and design of the homes around them. But then I ended up in Lakeview, and,
If I were in charge of issuing building permits in the city of Chicago, any developer who brought me a plan for a single-family home in a strictly residential area that looked like this would be laughed out of my office, but only after I set his or her plans on fire and told him or her to go to his or her room and think about what he or she had done.
This is hardly an issue exclusive to Lakeview. I’ve seen it all around Lincoln Park and Bucktown. Heck, one of my ex-boyfriends lived in Ukrainian Village (actually, both of my ex-boyfriends lived in Ukrainian Village while I was dating them, like a whopping half a mile away from each other. Ask me how I feel about people who live south of Divison between Damen and Western, I dare you 😛 ), and not even in the ~cool~ part of Ukrainian Village, and his street was full of houses like this, except even more modern (as in the architectural style) and therefore looked even more out of place. My issue with these homes isn’t necessarily their design. My much, much greater issue with these homes is the way the absolutely do not, not at all, not even a little bit, fit into their neighborhoods. Newsflash: Ravenswood, Ukrainian Village, Lincoln Park, Lakeview–these are not new neighborhoods in Chicago. They’ve been around for nearly as long as the city has been around, and while the makeup of these neighborhoods has changed substantially over time, the fact remains that most of these places were settled in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and, obviously, that’s when most of the original construction homes went up. You can’t even walk through most of these areas without running into a classic Chicago two-flat or three-flat (be still, my heart. I adore two/three flats.), and even if you can find a block without a two- or three-flat, you’ll probably see a wood frame house that quite clearly was not built yesterday.
And look, I get it. Old house come with big maintenance costs. They have lots of issues to fix. Though I don’t know if tearing down a house and building a new one where it used to be is more cost effective than repairing an old one (that’s not sarcastic–I genuinely don’t know), I’m sure, when you go through an old house, especially if it hasn’t been kept up well, and start making a list of all the rehab you’ll have to do, at some point it just seems easier to tear down the first one and put a new one in its place. Fine. I don’t like that, but I’ll acknowledge that that’s a reasonable thing to do. HOWEVER. I have so, so, SO many problems with tearing down a house with historic character–or heck, a house with mid-20th century character–and replacing it with something COMPLETELY inappropriate for the area, and this happens all. the. time. In fact, the only place where I didn’t notice this happening was Ravenswood, which to me then absolutely begs the question: if we quite clearly can design homes that fit into the character of the neighborhood, why don’t we more often? One of the principles of postmodern architecture is that the buildings in some way pay tribute to their neighbors, which developers in Ravenswood have absolutely nailed. But then you walk around Lakeview, or Bucktown, or Ukrainian Village, or Lincoln Park, and look at the houses on residential streets, and you’ve got something like that picture up yonder next to a freaking bungalow and just WHAT?!?! Why??
I mean, I’m not under some illusion that developers buy up homes for sale, tear them down, and put new ones in their place without someone telling them what they new place should look like. I imagine in the instances of most of these houses, people have asked for them. But again, why?? Why do you want to live in something that looks SO out of place? I just cannot comprehend the mindset that says, “Yes, this concrete rectangle would look great next to this Victorian mansion and that two-flat. Let’s do it.”
If only everyone thought like I think! 😛
3. Since I’ve already briefly brought up the topic of my ex-boyfriends, let’s continue with that uplifting theme! My most recent ex-boyfriend wasn’t all that into music, particularly the music his roommates tended to play (hard rock, primarily), but on the exceedingly rare occasions where they didn’t feel like trying to get a rise out of him, they’d put on this song, which he really liked:
(Though I mean, honestly, can you blame him for really liking it? Smokes. That voice. That instrumentation. Wowza. That is a song.).
Well, yesterday, Pandora totally trolled me, and as I was zoning out to Today’s Alternative Radio, instead of getting my usual Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness or Mumford & Sons, that exact cover of Sound of Silence came on. And woof, what a powerful experience. It literally felt like I had been punched in the stomach, but even more than that, it put me right back in his apartment. I was in my office on April 27, physically, but in my head it was January, and a Friday or Saturday night, and the Hawks were on, and it was dark outside, and there was GrubHub on the coffee table, and I was on the sectional, and there was beer, and Kitty was prowling around (remember when I mentioned Kitty? Yeah. Now you know who my “friend” was.), and it was absolutely freezing, because his roommates wouldn’t set the thermostat about 62 (really). It was so intense, and so vivid, and probably not something I needed to experience at 2 p.m. at work.
Anyway, it got me thinking about the connection between songs and memories. Like when I hear Chasing Cars and I think of one of the dances in high school, because I danced with a boy I had a crush on during that song, or how I so intensely associate Shut Up and Dance with my first ex-boyfriend that I absolutely refuse to listen to that song, and burst into tears when my best friend took me out the night my most recent ex-boyfriend broke up with me and that song came on, or how All The Small Things makes me think of swinging at recess in third grade because of one occasion when that was The Song amongst my classmates (you know, us rebellious eight year olds 😛 ), or how Ridin’ Dirty puts me back at the conference track meet sitting in the shade of pine trees my sophomore year of high school and some seniors were singing it, or how Sometimes By Step puts me back in the library of my elementary school for chapel, or how Falling Slowly has me sitting on a picnic table in the Lower Village at the summer camp where I worked in the sun on the last day of staff training, with one of my best counselor friends playing it on his guitar, or, even more so, how Float On has me, him, my other best counselor friend, and two other counselors in that first guy’s boat, speeding out onto the lake by my house on the clearest, most perfect July night of my entire life–a night that I knew I would always remember as one of the best ever, even as it was happening.
I think it’s really cool how music can do that. I can look at pictures from my childhood or teenage years, and even if the context is obvious from the picture (birthdays, Christmas, Easter, etc.), I don’t remember any details of any of those events. But put on the right song, and it’s like I’m not even living in this day, week, month, year, decade anymore. And while that sometimes hurts (ahem, Sound of Silence and Shut Up and Dance), sometimes, it’s also really cool.
Do you have any songs deeply intwined with memories?
Please tell me I’m not the only one who has a problem inappropriate architecture. I feel like I’m being so get off my lawn about this, but man, it just grinds my gears.

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