Editor’s Letter

Posted on February 1, 2010 – 4:04 PM | by OldManFoster
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by Tim Foster

I lived in Oak Park for 11 years.

In that time I had two cars hit and run, my windshield broken, a side window smashed, a bike stolen, countless power tools stolen, was attacked and ‘whitey-bashed’ by a drunk teenager, watched as my neighbor across the street got shot at, and finally, had my home robbed for three days straight by a gang of crackheads who plundered everything they could cart off (make that ‘shopping-cart off’) while I was traveling.

I would say that I would have a right to be, let’s call it ‘frustrated,’ with Oak Park. And yet, I still love the OP.

For all the rotten things about it- and there are plenty- there were wonderful things too.  I loved the sense of neighborhood that Oak Park had.  I got to know more of my neighbors in a few years in Oak Park than I had in a decade of living in Downtown/Midtown.  And they were a varied bunch.

There was the guy that lived next door with his very aged mother who would knock on my door at 6AM so I could give him cigarettes.  I don’t smoke.  I’ve NEVER smoked. There was the guy who sold magazines door to door.  Old, used magazines.  He knew that I played music, so he would turn up with eight month old copies of Guitar World and Bass Player.  Sometimes he’d give me the hard sell, saying things like, “This is a good one-  got an article about Larry Clapton.”  Once he dropped by as we were about to start band practice and he ‘sat in’ on a song.   He turned out to have an amazing voice, and as he left he mentioned that he’d made a bunch of soul records back in the sixties.  Another character was the car guy who cruised Broadway constantly in a chopped and primered ’58 Chevy.  He saw me working on my old Valiant in front of my house one day and pulled over to chat about cars.  When he figured out that I also played music he lit up and hurried home to get his guitar and amp to show me.  Ten minutes later he was back, plugging in in my living room to show off his songs.  He had never learned how to play, or even how to tune, but he had figured out a setup where, somehow, that didn’t particularly matter.  He played a series of strange, strange songs that I can’t actually describe, because I have no idea how he was doing what he did.  I think it’s the closest I’ll ever come to seeing the Shaggs.

And that’s Oak Park.  You never know what your day will bring.  It could be the dirty, dirty Chevy guy playing atonal alt/noise in your living room for an hour, or it could just as easily be the ‘wife’ of the Tattoo guy down the block throwing spark plugs through his shop windows at 3:30 AM.  It’s a crapshoot.

That’s a big part of why I moved to Oak Park.  Sure, some of it was that I could rent a place for about half as much as in Midtown, but the bigger draw was the sense of freedom.  Oak Park was so fucked up, there was no way I could make it any worse.  Band practice half the night? Sure, nobody cared. Forgetting to have someone water the lawn while I was on vacation?  No biggie, it was mostly weeds anyway, right?

And I liked the sense that I was a pioneer.  We actually used words like that.  At least we didn’t say ‘gentrification.’  We just thought, ‘hey, we’re artists and we like to be left alone, and we’re too poor to have much to steal, and this place is cool. It’s gonna be fine.’  And, for the most part it was.  Sure, there were extremes, like having crackheads robbing and living in your house for three days, but really, what’s three days out of eleven years?  Look at it that way and nothing is a big deal.

We’ve talked about doing an Oak Park Issue for years now, and I’m stoked that we finally got around to it. Oak Park is a special, special place- a fucked up special place, but special, nonetheless.

Thanks for picking us up.

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