My old neighborhood coffee shop, Royal Coffee, is closing. The experiences described by the interviewees are representative. It was the first place I went on the first day I spent in Rogers Park in 2009. Ben and I used to meet there in the mornings and invent games of chance, work on compositions, complain about residency and contest applications. I was sitting at Royal when I took a deep breath and bought my first plane tickets to Guatemala. Two good friends of mine had their engagement photos taken there, and the owners gave them a cake for their wedding. There’s a photo of a bunch of us on the patio on the first warm day of the spring. Sometimes we met there amidst crisis, but mostly we met there on normal days when we didn’t have somewhere else to be.
My time in Chicago was a crisis of public space. I needed a place to go. I lived one block from a park with an enormous beach, but it is usually cold in Chicago. I wish we didn’t rely so heavily on private, commercial spaces for indoor gathering. It places so much pressure on individual business owners, and the reliance on their personal good will means a lack of continuity (see the article’s recitation of recent business closings in the neighborhood).
Before I moved to Rogers Park I briefly lived in Lakeview. I liked a place called Noble Tree, a three-story coffee shop. Each floor had a different vibe; it got quieter as you climbed the stairs. One time we were there with our laptops when a friend looked up at our silent table and said, “we’re just hanging out in a house with a bunch of strangers.” I didn’t stay long in that neighborhood. Noble Tree closed a year or two later.
• Gone Walkabout
• Music as Drama
• Crossroads II
• 10 Best of 2014
• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
• Crossroad Blues