Monday, November 7, 2016

Wrigley 2016

When I first moved into the city, in 1970, I got a job delivering pizzas in the Lakeview neighborhood. You might not recognize the term "Lakeview" because over the years real estate people and those trying to capitalize on their proximity to Wrigley Field have been calling the area Wrigleyville. It is Lakeview. Anyway, back then and over the next ten years or so, I would occasionally drive by Wrigley Field. It seemed almost deserted. At night it was nothing more than a large, hulking, brick and steel relic from the past. Even on days the Cubs played there, it hardly inconvenienced the nearby neighbors. The Cubs were a crappy team that only drew a few thousand spectators on any given day. They also did not have lights, so that by the time evening rolled around the games were over. The Lakeview area around Wrigley Field was a somewhat quiet working class enclave. There were almost no sports bars, lots of two and three flat buildings, and definitely no rooftop seats beyond the few lawn chairs residents dragged up to the roof. In fact for many years I only thought of Wrigley Field as the place across the street from my favorite Dairy Queen. Goddamn, that old guy who owned the Dairy Queen made one mean cheeseburger.

Last Saturday I took my niece Jenny's husband on a tour of the area around Wrigley Field. The guy flew up here from Florida just so he could soak in the atmosphere and see the place where his beloved Cubs play. It was the first time in years that I have actually walked all the way around Wrigley Field. It was a weird feeling seeing all the people touching the bricks and taking photos of everything, sort of like a holy site. The ball park was fixed up very nice, and the streets were much cleaner than I remembered. Kind of like a Disney World attraction. The Dairy Queen across the street has been long gone, I knew that. Replaced by a McDonald's that is also now gone. In its place is a high rise hotel being built. On the corner lot where there used to be a seedy hot dog stand (good hot dogs), and a parking lot for the players, another high rise building was being built. Over on the Waveland side of the field, where kids and older guys acting like kids would try to catch home runs hit out of the park, the bleachers had been extended blocking most of those balls. As we walked around I realized that almost all of those apartments that faced Wrigley were no longer residences, and the buildings themselves seem to be used only as supports for those new rooftop seats you now see.

Oh well, times change. Things change. The Wrigley Field I knew forty years ago was nothing like the Wrigley Field my grandfather knew eighty years ago. The neighborhood has also changed time and time again. And if I really want to, I can still get a mean cheeseburger across the street from Wrigley, just like I used to back in the 1970's. Oh sure, it'll cost twenty times the price I paid back then, but it will taste just fine along with my eleven dollar beer in a plastic cup.

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