Friday, December 19, 2008

No, No, I'm Not Bitter.

Someone, this morning, asked why I was so anti my home town.

Which of course reminded me of my miniature freak out session I had over at Mongo's blog (you are a source of controversy, my glorious friend.)

This person said, this morning, "I mean, I go to the bars there, and I love it. You just hate it because everyone else loves it."

But I had a different experience there, man. Now, of course, it's like this big deal, to go out in Naperville. People actually like it there, they want to move there, almost as badly as I wanted to leave.

I literally watched the population explosion happen. At eleven, I was aware of it. Places I rode my bike weren't there anymore. It happened over the winter, even. One summer, there was long stretch of prairie with bike paths, and the next summer it was giant houses. The forest behind the soccer fields was ripped down and replaced with crowded mansions, they even built on top of our makeshift dirt baseball diamonds. Everyone wanted to live there because it was quaint, with good schools and great things for children to do. Great things that needed to be improved upon, apparently, by snatching them away.

Did they even realize that this giant influx of young professional baby-makers would ruin the atmosphere of the town? That by closing down all of those family stores and diners and bars downtown and replacing them with a fucking Bar Louie and a Barnes and Noble and a Mongolian Barbeque and a fucking Eddie Bauer, they made me hate them? They gutted my bowling alley, ripped down my forest, mowed over my prairie, bought out my comic book store, bankrupted my video store, closed my favorite restaurants throughout all of my teenage years. How can I not despise that?

I spent a lot of time at BookZeller, this fantastic-scented used book store in a basement underneath a coffee shop(which was converted into our second Starbucks on the block). I worked at their warehouse for awhile, sorting, researching, and pricing the rare books they couldn't keep in the store. It was one of the greatest jobs I ever had. BookZeller closed a couple years after the Barnes and Noble busted open.

They choked out the stable I worked at, literally, until it was forced to shut the gates. I could see it happening, I watched them build crap so close to our paddocks that the horses wouldn't go near the fence. And the new people, the new people that purchased those houses with perfect knowledge that they were by a barn had the vicious audacity to complain about the horse smell. They took away our smell. We used to smell trees and grass and earth.

It's funny, because in my head, those people that moved there? The chains and the bullshit? They thought it was an improvement. They thought they were making it better. They thought that by upping the trend factor, adding designer stores...they thought that made the town more valuable. And according to Money magazine, it did (number two).
Looking at it now, there is a very healthy mix of small and large businesses, wonderful schools, more trees, better libraries. The people who live there, right now, are in love with everything. Sure, there are still boutiques and private businesses, antique dealers. There are some bars that I still love, with that perfect greasy, homemade bar food*, but none of them are downtown.

The changes that happened within that town stole everything that I loved, everything that connected me to the world, to my childhood, my identity, and fucking lit them on fire and laughed when it pissed me off. I mean, when you're a teenager, that's how you identify yourself. Where you go, what you like. That's what shapes your identity later on in life. That's why I'm so retarded about associating myself with things that I love...I don't want them taken away from me too soon. I want that time when they're mine to share.

Change is good. Conflict is good. It is, I love it, I love it, I love it when things are different. But when you change into a clone...that change is bad. Bad change.

I love my family and friends that still live there, and I don't look down on them for living there at all. Most of those friends moved to Naperville during the boom in the 1990's. They weren't there when it was...what I remember. I still go there every other week.

But I will never, never, never live there again. And no, I'm not bitter. Not at all.
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* I've only found one bar here with excellent, unchallenged bar food (thank you, Gyna) Still, it's up on that designer burger trend, but the rest of the menu is fucking bar food. Dirty bar food, like homemade chili and potato skins, burgers like a hockey puck - no, a baseball. But I'm still looking for bars where everything costs five dollars and tastes like grease, but deliciously so, places where newcomers stare at their chicken and pat a napkin over it to get out the oil, where bloody marys are thick, dark, and heavily spiced, without all that frilly lemon-celery nonsense. That's one thing that Naperville's got.

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21 comments:

Angela said...

This is fantastic explanation of everything I hate about the corporation-ing and new-ifying of things that were great to begin with.
I totally understand why you would never want to go back.

suriel said...

I grew up in Naperville, too -- left when the population was still somewhere under 40,000 -- and I haven't been back since. it was such an awesome place to grow up, but the moment I heard there was a Jaguar dealership, I knew it was no longer the place I'd loved :\

meloukhia said...

This is a perfect description of everything that is going wrong in my own hometown. (And across America.) People move here because they think it's "quaint" or "rustic" and they totally tear it apart in the process. It's so frustrating to see everything around me being destroyed while I feel totally powerless to stop it.

Kitty said...

Much of the landscape in my hometown is unchanged except for one thing. They've built a casino.
Now everyone is addicted to gambling, always broke, and the place is actually degrading because people are losing their farms left and right.

Peter Parkour said...

I've never lived in a small town, but I've watched the city I live in grow like crazy since I was little. Makes me want to pack up and move away to some tiny little town, but I wouldn't want to f*ck it up for them.

Meagan said...

I saw something similar happen in Eugene, OR when I was a kid. We used to have a filbert orchard behind our house, a horse pasture down the block, empty fields... you know. Most of that changed by the time I was eight though, so for me it's more fuzzy not quite real memories.

pistols at dawn said...

My hometown has exponentially increased the already prevalent amounts of similar doucheification over the years, and I think that's sort of the way of the world.

It makes me think of a Lawrence Arms song about Chi-town: "There's a park in the city where I used to go/but now it's covered with fences and cops and lightposts/And I'd never go back if anything was the same/but it kills me to know that it's changed....and what's left in the smoke and sprawling debris/is grownups like them and losers like me."

Also, Seaweed: "This island was bought for a handful of trinkets. Look at it now, it's the best they could sink it."

I'm mostly a compendium of sub par songs, really.

nursemyra said...

"... they paved paradise, put up a parking lot"

Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)

Andrew said...

Maybe now when I get asked why I hate Naperville so much I can just direct people to this blog instead of drunkenly ranting about it. Way to go!

Rassles said...

Here's the thing: right now, that town is thriving. It's doing better than most communities, and I think it's because of the mix of business sizes. But the ones I liked, those are the ones that were hurt.

Yeah, this is happening everywhere. It's been going on for hundreds of years in many forms, and it will continue to occur indefinitely.

I'm just getting sick of people saying that I hate it because everyone loves it. It's not just the demographics that changed. It's that it effected me, personally, and people I cared about. But many people who grew up there the same time as I did still love it there, and love what it's become. Not everyone.

Rassles said...

That being said...

Angela: Thanks. Newifying is not necessarily bad, as long as the old remains intact. Re-creating things might take the specialness away from a thing, but they allow others to enjoy them as well.

Suriel: We moved in when I was several months old, and the population doubled to 40,000 by the time I was ten. Now it's up to 150,000.

Meloukhia: I'm sorry you had to watch it happen, because it sucks. But if someone wants to enjoy the feelings of a quaint town, they should move there. As long as they don't bring those horrible changes with them.

Kitty: God, I fucking love gambling.

Spidey: I don't know if I ever lived there when it was "small." It was always suburban, just more private, with subdivisions, farms, and a small downtown. Now it's all upper. They're tearing down perfectly good houses on larger plots of land and building huge ones that take up the whole yard, piling them on top of each other. It's gross.

Meagan: Did it make you bitter, watching things fade away? I really need to let it go.

Pistols: Leave it to you to whip out random punk lyrics to express my angst.

Nurse: See? Even Joni Mitchell knew what the fuck was up. Yeah she did.

Andrew: Hopefully I won't have to go on as many drunken rants now too. I find that I do that...once I've written it, it's old news, and I don't bitch about it as much.

Me: Oh, your insight is astoundingly common, and is in fact not insight at all.

Kitty said...

Hey Rassles, congrats again on another post in "Best of."
You're just tearing it up, girl. Yay!

Bluestreak said...

Now I need a bloody mary.

I feel exactly the same way every single time i come home to find that another one of my favorite dives has closed. It's depressing. I'll go through intersections and not recognize where i am anymore, cause it's all been replaced. And it doesn't matter where you are in the city. There is a Barnes and Noble, Olive Garden, and Kohls within a mile. Which makes the concept of place completely irrelevant. Well, except for the weather. You don't need long johns here.

ghost of keywork said...

Could be worse, your town could have been Galveston. The only thing worse than watching your hometown grow is watching it shrink.

prayingtodarwin said...

Gotta go with Key on that one. Going back to a town with it's entire mainstreet boarded up, where the only people left are the old ones, because they're too frail to leave, that's sad. (Why yea, I AM looking forward to visiting my grandparents!)

Cold Spaghetti said...

Hear, hear.

Rassles said...

Kitty: So. Cool.

Blues: But it's not just the chains. I honestly don't think the chains are bad, and I don't blame them. I blame the people who ignore businesses I considered landmark in my life that were forced to close because of that attitude that bigger is better--chain stores are inevitable. Fuck it, I'll shop there.

GoK: You make a valid, valid point, which is one that I don't think concerns enough people. I've seen that too, but never lived there. Fucking Michigan.

Ginny: Like that town in Pennsylvania that was unknowingly built upon an underground river of molten lava, and the ground is literally burning, and some people are so sick from the fumes that they're like, addicted to it, and they're all crinkly and old, but there's no more stores and schools childrenj and they can't leave?

Spaghetti: Thank you, friend.

Bluestreak said...

Oh, I totally shop there too and crave chain food. But it just erases place and makes everything look like everywhere else. It throws you into some kind of situational vaccuum where you could be anywhere, it doesn't matter and nothing is distinctive of place anymore. Maybe that's why I love Europe so much. But it's happening there too. Just a couple decades later.

Liz said...

Galveston, TX?

suburbanization, over population, sidewalkification, deforestation- all ramifications that no one has seen at this level before us or even imagined would happen.

the trick is to find a solution to either make your life easier or to influence those around you to help fix these problems. stating them over and over again just makes it nothing but that: repetition.

btws... my dad got newt gingrich's "drill here, drill now" book for christmas. it came with a bumper sticker, too.

Rassles said...

Blues: It's unavoidable.

Liz: Did you even read what I wrote? Those things Iloved are gone. There is nothing that can change that. Thinking about it hurts. The problem is mine. My solution was to extract myself from there. And I keep going back, whether I want to or not, because friends who live there, like YOU, are more important to me than a grudge against an invisible enemy.

I didn't even realize I was still so angry at that town until everyone started assuming my feelings grew out of a desire to be different, rather than a longing for places I love and can never visit again.

Gypsy said...

Trite as it is, sometimes you really can't go home again. And sometimes I wish I hadn't.