Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hyde Park

Slate's Megan O'Rourke has a partial description of Hyde Park, Chicago -- a place where I spent a very happy couple of years in my yoot. She talks about how it's economically and racially integrated, and mentions some local restaurants like Valois and Medicis. And of course, the presence of the most intellectually rigorous university in the US, the University of Chicago.

But the reality of life in Hyde Park is not the bucolic neighborhood that Megan describes. The University is part tower, part fortress, and it shields its nervous students from an area that is riddled with crime and murder. Walking around Hyde Park at night was scary, and I'm a fairly tall guy. Chicago proper is also scared of Hyde Park, as there are is no metro link between the neighborhood and the city. I was told that the green line extended down there once, but it was taken down to keep the two areas separated. South Side Chicago was, before the 1960s, a nice place with restaurants, and fantastic jazz clubs, but after the Civil Rights movement it descended into the hell hole it is today. And unlike Harlem, there's been no gentrification to turn things around.

Hyde Park has more Nobel Prizewinners than restaurants, and two bars -- one of which is student run. In my time there, the greatest recreational innovation was a bowling alley burger place. While Hyde Park is not the worst managed ten square miles in the US, it is governed appallingly. One hopes that this does not foreshadow the Obama administration, but the article might foreshadow how it will be covered in the responsible press.

A tip for those living there: under no circumstances take a bus from Hyde Park to Midway Airport. It will take so long that you will miss your flight. You may also be murdered on the way.

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