Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Destruction of Dawn's Garden, 2011

To us,  our old neighbor Dawn was Mrs. Madrigal, from Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City."  She was older, a landscaper and an old Chicagoan.  A regular genuine person.

We met her when we first moved into the two flat around the corner.  I was looking for a garage to rent to store our old Volkswagen.  I was riding through the alley and saw the old 'For Rent' sign posted.  It was an old garage, built in the teens or twenties.

I returned home, called the number and Dawn's friend and companion, Bryan, called back.  The price was right so Bryan cleaned up the dusty remnants of an old garage sale, oiled the old sliding door and let me take a look.  Only a Volkswagen or a Model T would have fit into the space.

Soon after moving the Beetle in, Dawn invited me to join her for some coffee in her backyard.  It was a beautiful backyard - chock full of wonderful smelling shrubs, trees, flowers and other plants.  We had one of those introductory share-your-life conversations in which you talk about personal things that you don't really bring up again.

While sitting at Dawn's white cafe table in her backyard, lo and behold, a good acquaintance of mine came our of Dawn's house.  Turns out Amy was living in the tiny upstairs apartment.  Amy and I met during the anti-war years when we were both protesting the money-motivated invasion of Iraq.  The middle apartment was also rented by a nice woman who was an artist.

Dawn loved seeing Amelie and Oliver.  Amelie and Oliver loved seeing Dawn's holiday ornaments.  Dawn was quite good at crafts.  We still have the easter bunnies she made for the children from round pieces of styrofoam.  Amelie fell in love with scarecrows because of Dawn's decorating ability.  One year she had about twelve November scarecrows in her tiny front yard.

As I am remembering, Oliver was born a few months after we moved in.  He had known Dawn his entire life when she passed.

The garage was knocked over first, and then the yard torn out as a new garage was put in.  Eventually Amy and the artist moved out and the place was sold.  Bryan had moved near his brother's by Chain-o-Lakes.

Bryan had been a football player in high school and won a full scholarship to college.  In college his grades dropped, he was drafted and went to Viet Nam.  I remember Bryan telling me about about going to the Kinetic Playground up on Lawrence in UpTown after returning from Viet Nam and seeing many of the big names of 1969 perform.  Bryan was a great, friendly guy.

Eventually the house was torn down, too.  The whole neighborhood had been changing.  Regular working class houses were being bought for half a million just for the lot.  Honest houses were being torn down, replaced with million dollar homes.

One house on a wide lot was torn down and replaced by two narrow houses which sold for a bunch of money.  The people that lived there threw the best Halloween when we first moved in.  The whole neighborhood was already ga ga for Halloween, but these people were incredible.  They parked a car half up onto a curb like it had hit a tree and recreated an accident scene.  The year after, they dug a grave in their front yard and the old man would lay in it and rise up when unsuspecting trick or treaters came by.

Dawn's house used to be a general store.  The garage was used to store produce and other things for the store.  It had been built in the 1890s.

Dawn's house was truly a wild onion of Chicago.  Rest in peace.

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