Rohit's Realm

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April 11, 2008

Escape from Hyde Park

What with all the tired introspection, trite whining, and tepid acts of kindness in recent weeks, it may be hard to imagine that at one point this site was known far and wide (or near and narrow, as the case may be) for its irrational rants of decidedly mediocre quality. Where is the unintelligible vitriol the About page so proudly touts? Where is the illogical, unreasoned spewing of venom against irrelevant and incidental targets of only minor significance? Where indeed! Today, in a grandiose (and necessarily ill-fated) gesture of returning to the roots, I will embark upon a rant of little consequence that is guaranteed to embody the same mediocrity of thought and irrelevance of topic which comprised this site for nearly four years of its (worthless) existence. Enough useless chatter. Let us begin: I hate Hyde Park.

No, seriously. I really hate Hyde Park. And not the way I hate bums, or idiots, or SF MUNI, or even the way I hate most people and most things around me. I hate Hyde Park with a passion and irrationality that I usually reserve only for hating myself. Worst of all, until quite recently, I did not hate Hyde Park at all—it was only a source of minor inconvenience and tangential disdain. It was not the best place to spend my mid twenties, but then again, maybe it was not the worst either, I thought. I was living in a place I loathe to the core, and did not even realize it! What is wrong with me?! Months of potential vitriol were lost to self-delusion. Damn.

Everything changed about two weeks ago. It was only at that point that I finally became fully aware of the spectacular conglomeration of awfulness that is Hyde Park. Like I said above, my hatred is without doubt irrational, and as such, it is difficult to articulate the source of my unwavering disapprobation. That will not stop me from trying, however. Hyde Park, how I hate thee, let me count the ways.1

Hyde Park: Dangerous Suburb

First and foremost on the list of things to hate about Hyde Park is that it is an embodiment of the worst of all residential options; it is, in essence, a dangerous suburb. Though the urban-suburban battle is one in which I have no particular stake, I will say this: nothing good can come out of combining the worst aspects of a suburb (i.e., no entertainment, no night-life, no food) with those of a city (i.e., no parking, excess noise, roving bands of marauders, vagabonds, and hooligans). And yet, in a magnificent display of awfulness, Hyde Park seems to have done just that.

Fortunate denizens of Hyde Park not only are spared the trials and tribulations of having a movie theater in their midst, but also have the great privilege of always being potentially waylaid whenever they emerge after dark. Whatever one may say about Orange County in general, and the 'Vine in particular (and I have said plenty), there were several movie theaters when I was growing up, and more importantly, I never feared for my life there—not once. The same cannot be said about Hyde Park.

Hyde Park: Old People and Potholes

It is hard to know what I hate more about Hyde Park after its status as a dangerous suburb: the old people that drive its roads without the slightest inclination of timeliness, or the atrocious condition of said roads (I use the term loosely) that suggest one is on a cataclysmic safari through a LSD-induced nightmare of post-apocalyptic 1950s America. In the end, I think the unpaved roads edge out the old people, but only marginally. Roads can be re-paved, which makes it worse that they are not. There's not much we can do with old people besides banish them to Florida or some such locale, and any such endeavor is unlikely to be accomplished easily.

Hyde Park: Hummers and Navigators

During my time in Hyde Park, I have seen more Hummers and Navigators in one place than ever before. And I grew up in Orange County, home of ostentatious, gas-guzzling vehicles. Objectively, this should not necessarily be a reason to hate Hyde Park, but for some reason, seeing people drive around in Hummers and Navigators on tiny streets that can barely accommodate them while living a stone's throw from murder sites is supremely irritating. Want to throw your money around? How about living in a place where you're not apt to get shot leaving your house. And seriously, if you're gonna get a Hummer, do it right: get a H2. H3s are for poseurs.

Hyde Park: The Apologists

Finally, for reasons that defy understanding, Hyde Park has a slew of apologists that continue to tout its (nonexistent) benefits. This is possibly the most infuriating thing of all! Obviously the University has an obligation to trick incoming students into believing they are not going to spend the next few years of their life living and attending school in a suburban war zone, but that does not mean that others have to defend this godforsaken hell hole. Sure Hyde Park has Le Petit Folie, but it also has a McDonald's where one can find real-life gangsters2 playing loud music and shouting at one another every night. So don't tell me Hyde Park is not that bad. It is that bad, and then some.

* * *

I cannot believe that when I first moved here I thought I might stay for two years before moving up north—that is, to real Chicago. It is all I can do to wait until the end of this year. Two months and counting!

^ 1 In most cases, I would not even consider writing a sonnet to express my frustrations over Hyde Park, but in this case, the hatred is so strong, it is not totally out of the question. It is probably best, however, that I did not attempt to do so for this article because, first, I am a terrible poet, and second, I prefer Italian sonnets to English ones (Alexandrine meter is way cooler than iambic pentameter). The last thing I need right now is for a bunch of English-sonnet-sympathizers to be on my ass. They are a nasty bunch.
^ 2 Most suburbs have fast food places where gangsta types conglomerate late at night to play loud music and yell at one another; the distinction here is that good folks at the McDonald's in Hyde Park actually are carrying guns.


Welcome back to the dark side.

As usual your ego-indulging rants fail to take into consideration larger concerns. In this case, those concerns are the ugly issues of race, class, and economics that underly the current situation in Chicago. These are archtypical American concerns with roots in the 19th century and before, concerns that Orange County, developing in the late 20th century, has barely had to confront. It's also worth noting that Chicago is in the Midwestern rust belt, which means harsh winters to cause those potholes and a flight of human talent and capital that would otherwise generate the economic resources with which to fix them.

That being said, I doubt I'd live in Hyde Park either. C'mon, the north side has homos and Wrigley Field. What more do you need? Keep on ranting.

Flight of human talent and capital from Chicago? Chicago is one of the cities of the world where human capital and talent go.

I am not ignorant of the socioeconomic and racial issues that underlie Chicago's development in general, or that of Hyde Park in particular. And in some ways, there is something laudatory about the racial integration that Hyde Park has achieved—a feat not achieved by most neighborhoods in America, let alone in Chicago.

Nonetheless, my disdain for HP remains unaffected. I am not really concerned with how or why the neighborhood got to be the way it is, only that it did, and I have to deal with it.

And while the tangential comparison to OC might be considered inapposite given the vast differences between the two, the underlying point about suburbs is not. People choose to live in suburban environments for, among other things, safety, space, and tranquility, in turn giving up the benefits of a more urban environment. If a suburb offers neither safety nor tranquility, it makes little sense to live there.

Finally, as to the potholes, I am willing to give Chicago a pass on the condition of the roads due to the weather. In Hyde Park, however, complaining about potholes would generous; complaining about there being no roads is probably more appropriate. Hyde Park does not experience more severe weather than the rest of Chicago, yet the conditions of its roads are significantly worse. And as far as I am concerned, the reason why is not at all relevant—my car sustains damaged regardless of the reason.

Bottom line: if it wasn't for me attending school here, I would never even consider living in Hyde Park. And with any luck, in two months I won't have to any more.

...or the atrocious condition of said roads (I use the term loosely) that suggest one is on a cataclysmic safari through a LSD-induced nightmare of post-apocalyptic 1950s America.

I can't even begin to imagine what such a safari would be like, but it sounds pretty bad.

Glad to see you're not getting soft in your old age.

While I'm no Hyde Park apologist, how can you fail to mention that if one goes to Hyde Park Produce on a weekend, one can buy a delicious baked treat from a friendly nun, never realizing that you are way overpaying for this baked treat because it was sold to you by a [redacted] nun? That has to make up for at least one old person.

Tom, I was not aware of the nuns with baked treats. But in any case, there would have to be a lot of them to make up for the potholes.

This is genius. Sharing with all of my friends. Love it. :)

This is idiotic. If you think you're fucking life is so bad, go try living in North Korea. University of Chicago students love to rant about how they have it so hard and how they work so much harder than Harvard and get worse grades. Well guess what? You can always leave. Nobody is forcing you to be here, and frankly, the neighborhood would be a lot less shitty without you assholes in it.

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