Down Route 66: Settling in

Image by David Mark from Pixabay
Tom Wray Editor, Illinois Eagle

It’s been just under a month since I moved into my new home in Springfield. And it’s going well. Just a little bit of getting used to.

West Ridge, the Chicago neighborhood I lived in for two years, is a very diverse area, even for Chicago. Walking around the corner to a Walgreens, basically half a block, I could hear three different languages. I was a ten-minute walk from Indian restaurants, Mexican restaurants and a Turkish one. Pretty much every neighborhood I lived in was diverse. Almost none of them had a majority ethnic group. I enjoyed it.

Springfield, on the other hand, is not quite as diverse. When I’ve gone to a store, the vast majority of people are white. Most of my neighbors (who have all been welcoming and friendly) are white. After more than 20 years in Chicago, it is actually strange for me not to see the world, almost literally, in a trip to the supermarket.

Then there’s my new home. For my entire time in Chicago, I lived in apartments. Except for a couple years in a two-flat, my home has always been multi-family homes, usually a Chicago courtyard building. I’ve always had neighbors above or below me, often both. But now, I’m in a single-family home. My habit is still to be pretty quiet so I don’t bother neighbors, even though I don’t have to be. I would have to be screaming at the top of my lungs or have the TV blaring at maximum for my neighbors to hear. It still feels odd to have so much more space, both living and storage, than I’ve had in decades. I also don’t hate it.

Getting around is much different as well. A common phrase is everywhere in Chicago is just “twenty minutes” from anywhere else in town. That is also a lie. West Ridge to the Loop can take at least half an hour in good traffic. If you’re lucky. Going across town can be 40 minutes or more. Meanwhile in Springfield, when I go halfway across town to get to Walmart, it’s taking about 15 minutes. I use Google Maps until I learn the city and the directions look like I’m going a long distance, crossing the entire city. I’m actually going maybe four miles. It was a longer trip for me to do grocery shopping, both in time and miles, in Chicago.

The noise throws me. I didn’t live in really loud neighborhoods for the most part in Chicago. But even in those areas, there’s always the background hum of the city. What is a busy street in Springfield would feel almost empty in Chicago. Which means a lot less traffic noise. There are train horns in Springfield, which you simply don’t hear in Chicago where most tracks are on viaducts and separated from any road crossings. I kinda missed hearing them, surprisingly.

Now none of these are complaints about either Chicago or Springfield. I adapted to Chicago to the point were so many things just moved below notice, from the noise to the density of people. And the same will happen in Springfield in time. But I just find it a little fascinating how the smaller details between the two places is different.

I’m still unpacking, but I have gotten to a point where I don’t have to pull clothes, dishes or toiletries out of a cardboard box every day. Each day this new place does feel more and more like home.