Earlier this week a friend shared a post on Facebook about an alligator discovered in the lagoon at Humboldt Park. Uncle Ivars posts frequently about many bizarre and diverse things, usually ahead of the wave of things that go viral. I shared it with the following:
Fucking gentrification. When I lived in Humboldt Park, no self-respecting crocodile or alligator would live anywhere near there. Now they walking with their double strollers, sipping fish-flavored lattes and eating frog and avocado toast. All while causing property taxes to skyrocket for the old time residents.
My audience got a kick out of that.
But soon the media started to pay attention…….The alligator now has a name, Chance the Snapper, though I think Hector Smolinski would be more appropriate. And two twitter accounts! @HumboldtGator and @HumboldtParkGator probably have more followers than I do as well. People are going to the park to watch the hunt for Chance. Maybe because the All-Star break is this week and there aren’t a lot of sports to watch?
I grew up in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in the 70s, 80s and a bit of the 90s before moving as soon as I could afford a place of my own. Back then, I can tell you, there was nothing interesting or exciting about Humboldt Park. Nothing that would make you make a special trip to the hood unless you had to be there. We had crime, gangs, and drugs. Not as bad as many West Side neighborhoods but still. I recall in high school even my Hispanic friends who lived elsewhere were like
“You live where? No, I cannot give you a ride home but here’s some bus fare money.”
The park was actually one of the few bright spots back then. I spent hours after school exploring the park, including the lagoon, which by the way has a man-made island called Turtle Island.
Where was all this media attention when people when the neighborhood was struggling?
Maybe I’m just feeling a little Daoist and not knowing how this will turn out. My mom still lives in the
money pit crapshack house I grew up in. The Four Horsemen of Gentrification have already started riding throughout the 606. What if some developer decides that they really want to step up their game. Maybe they offer my mom market value for her home. Or maybe they go the bribe the aldercreature route and suddenly my mom is on a first name basis with the city inspector. Who Knows.
By the way, it seems the borders of Humboldt Park have been shifted (thank you realtors) and it’s possible I was in West Town instead of Humboldt Park. Fuck that noise, as we use to say, it was Humboldt Park!
New Rule: If you live 2 blocks from a park that a neighborhood is named after, you are in that neighborhood.
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