The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

August 21, 2003

Chips ahoy!

Originally posted to Diary-X

Yesterday morning, as I made my way to the el station, I passed a scruffy man crouching on the sidewalk against a storefront. “White milk! Chips ahoy!” he cried, staring at me. “White milk! Chips AHOY!!” How does one respond to such statements? I gave him a half-smile and kept on going.

Bedspread Lady [ed. note: I've lost the post that introduced B.L., a homeless woman who apparently lived outside the gas station across the street from our first apartment in Chicago] may have moved on—a clothing donation bin now resides on the patch of concrete where she used to sit—but our neighborhood still has its share of fringy characters. Besides the cookie monster, there is the one-legged man, who has parked his wheelchair in front of our building for the past three or four weeks. I have no idea where he came from, or why he chose our strip of sidewalk as his new home. But he’s there every day: when I leave for work, when I come home, when I head out for my jog/walk thing. He has a flimsy plaid bag stuffed with belongings propped up next to his wheelchair. Sometimes he talks to the air and gestures. Other times he’s quiet and won’t acknowledge my hello. I don’t know if he sleeps there, in his chair.

Believe me, I’m sure our new neighborhood will have its share of street characters, but I’m going to miss the ones we know now. Like the tiny old woman who sells Streetwise at the Walgreen’s a few blocks away. Whether it’s 92 degrees (like today—oh, don’t get me started) or 22 degrees, she’s out there, singing her raspy little song: “Streeeeetwiiiiise…. Helpingthehomeless! Every day every day every day. Streeeeetwiiiiise…” She used to stop and pet Murphy when we’d walk by.

We live near a small theater company, and a few nights ago, as I was putting our Colorado pictures in a scrapbook, I heard some guys talking loudly, laughing and cursing. The sound was coming from our open back window. Curious, I peered outside, only to find a few actors rehearsing their lines on a nearby rooftop. I crouched by the window and watched them for awhile, an audience of one enjoying a private performance. (I’m not sure what the play was about—I think there was some type of bar fight involved.)

After almost two years, our little wedge of Chicago feels like home. But part of me is really excited to resettle in a new neighborhood… to take advantage of this opportunity to explore a new place, get to know even more of the city. Last night, we made an offer on a terrific condo about a mile north of where we live now. (John later told me that he almost blacked out as we signed all the paperwork. This is scary stuff.) The seller is in Europe, so it may take a day or two to hear from her. So now, we wait. And pay extra attention to all the little details of our neighborhood, because it won’t be ours much longer.

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