In about a week, I’m heading close-ish to my hometown of Waukegan, Illinois. Technically, I was born in Park Ridge, down the road. But Waukegan is where I lived for roughly twenty-five of my forty-four years on this planet. I met my wife there in high school. Most of my firsts take place there It is where I became who I am, in so many ways.
Waukegan ,for those who don’t know, is a city of about 90,000, that sits on the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s one of the last Chicago suburbs. Drive ten minutes north and you’re in Wisconsin. Hop on i-94 and you’re in either Chicago or Milwaukee within an hour or so. It’s like many suburbs, in the upper Midwest, in that most of its people move elsewhere. It’s most notable exports are Jack Benny and Ray Bradbury. Yeah, try following his act into being a fantasy writer. No pressure there.
I don’t know if I’ll take my daughter to see my hometown now. The saying about you can’t go home again becomes even truer the longer you stay away. But I used to know this town, inside and out. I never bothered to learn to drive until I got married. I have literally walked all over Waukegan, from one end to another. The number of its streets I have not trod are few. But most of what I loved about this town is gone.My friends have all left, save two.I give much respect to those who have stayed, because, damn, sometimes hometowns don’t give you a reason to. In the years I’ve been gone, Waukegan no longer has a movie theater, a bookstore, a hobby store, or even a mall. They tore down a two-story mall and replaced it with a Wal-Mart. It’s funny how much places you used to despise being in, end up being missed once they’re gone.
Still, I might take her over there. Show her the house I grew up in, if it’s still there. Nothing around it is. Out of the four guys I knew growing up, two are down for life, and never getting out. It’s amazing how downhill the town went once the factories started dying out..
But she fights on, and there’s still stuff there to recommend. The new Genesee Theatre is great, it’s on PBS about every other day for music programs. The city seems to keep trucking on. I’m sure there are those who will have their own stories to tell, to live laugh and love.I joined a Facebook group about my hometown. I have the attitude that “hey, I know its a horrible place that is polluted, corrupt and dying, but damn it, it’s mine.”
If I could, I would. drive my daughter down the Amstutz. We’d stop at Jordys, grab a 99 cent burger and fries. Maybe go down to the lake shore, so she can see what a real lake looks like(all the ones here are man made). In a dream world, I’d take her record shopping at Strawberry Fields, eat lunch at Leno’s and have a pizza dinner at Quonset, or the special at Aunt Millies. Unless you’re from there, none of those will meant a thing to you. That’s OK, though. We all have our own special code we speak, for places we have been from. It connects us with strangers, and renews our present. I hope you can be somewhat proud of where you’re from, or wherever you call home.
Last post title:“Mr. 44” was a song by Kenosha ,Wisconsin’s own Electric Hellfire CLub. I saw the lovely Satanic band’s last gig in their hometown. Less said about that ,the better. I think the song was a reference to Berkowitz, the Son of Sam Killer. Honestly, i just liked the title for a birthday post.