I remember watching Donnie Darko in my Chicago apartment. All the lights were off and my laptop was perched on an old kitchen chair that I had bought off a guy on Craigslist in St. Louis. Occasionally I’d hear a car whiz by, someone outside talking on their phone as they walked to their apartment, or sometimes there’d be faint music drifting from one of the bars on Division into the open window of my bedroom. Even when I was alone in my apartment, completely secluded, I could hear the noises of my neighbors, the sound of laughing, and the bustle of a crowd.
My apartment was very small and was one of four in my building, which was sandwiched between two newly renovated walk-ups. I didn’t have central air or a washer and dryer in the building, and sometimes when it got really hot, I slept on my couch in the main room. I felt like a kid living in a dorm room.
Sitting on the L wasn’t just a morning commute. It meant being squished between total strangers. I often had to sacrifice personal space to allow the cars to fill up with other people on their way to work or wherever it was they were going. What I felt wasn’t isolated or ostracized, rather comfortable and at ease. Living in the city felt communal.
On the days that I didn’t ride my bike or take the L to work, I walked. I lived a few blocks from Chicago Avenue, which was the street my building was on. It was no more than a 30 minute walk but it was the perfect routine. It’s one that I’ve continued throughout the years.
Recently, during my walks through my St. Louis neighborhood, Tower Grove South, I started taking photos. After encouragement from others, I decided to start sharing some of them here.
I understand that living in a city doesn’t seem appealing to everyone. And I’ll admit there are cons as there are to living anywhere. But it’s on mornings when the light hits right and the world around me falls in place that I find it reminds me of that familiar, communal feeling. It reminds me of how it felt to be in a city, among thousands of other people, and be one of a whole. There’s so much beauty in the buildings and the layout, and what I find that Chicago and St. Louis share is this great big story that their neighborhoods seem to tell. It just takes an open mind, willing to look for it.