Bus Ride To The Second City

With thick smoke billowing into the air a block away, I stepped back into the safety of the train station. As a young white male out on the streets, on Chicago’s West Side, you can feel you’re an outsider. People look at you differently, they talk to you differently, and wearing more business-like clothes often results in being the target of panhandling. The entire atmosphere can be unsettling to someone who’s never set foot a mile from their quiet, peaceful home.

Later that day, I waited as cars rode by with music blasting, a group of young men hung out on the corner next to the auto repair shop and liquor store. Police drove through the intersection with an air of caution and suspicion, seeing the men gathering.

Standing at California Avenue and Harrison Street waiting for the bus to arrive, I quickly remembered I wasn’t in the Chicago shown in old postcards or glamorized in movies. I was in the Chicago I hear on the scanners every evening. The Chicago where two people were shot as I started writing this entry, a half-mile from where I was waiting for the bus just 20 minutes prior.

I was in Chicago’s Second City. #

It wasn’t my first time in Garfield Park, neither was it going to be my last. Swimming at parks all across the city as a kid, you get to experience many different neighborhoods. But this time, waiting for the bus to take me far away from the many trials and tribulations the community faces, it felt different.

Maybe it was hearing about, and sometimes tweeting, all the shootings that happened in that 1 mile radius over the summer. Maybe it was getting told where the bus stop was, even after I had explained I knew where it was and when the bus was coming. Whatever it was, I felt more uneasy than if I had been there a year before.

Listening to the police scanner, the story is very one-sided and distant, as often one listens from the comfort of their own home. Being in the same district as where many of your tweets come from can be unsettling, especially with a lack of positive coverage. Combine that with walking with a female friend after the sun goes down and you feel a bit parental.

She asked about why the neighborhood looked the way it did and why it felt so nerve-wracking to be in it. I quietly attempted to explain the many reasons, far too many to talk about in depth - the bus was arriving in 8 minutes. Obviously unsuccessful by my standards, but the conversation did generate some understanding.

The experiences I had today made me rethink how to go about solving these many urban problems, from crime to education and beyond. Standing at a corner with one vacant lot and one shuttered building, I realized the full weight of these problems and better understood the difficulty of solving them. Politicians and those not familiar with the area are quick to propose “solutions” which may look fine on paper, but certainly does not fit the community they are going to be applied to. In thinking about how CrimeIsDown.com fits into the picture, more analysis must be done to understand if the product I am building will help or hurt the situation. With very limited time comes the strong need to ensure what is being built will yield the most positive impact on the world; I am not certain the idea in its current form satisfies that need.

I will continue to think out loud on Twitter at times, so follow me @EricTendian and join the conversation. Thanks for reading - hover over the circle below if you enjoyed the post. Hopefully more to come.


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