Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Living in Riverside (or 9 Things You Should Know About Riverside)

Okay, so we moved.  I know, it was like a year ago and trust me I’ve tried to write about it but there’s so many things to write about when you move and I had a hard time focusing in on one thing and the next thing you know I’m rambling, I’m at three thousand words and I haven’t really said anything and who the hell is going to read a blog post that is three thousand words and doesn’t say anything, I mean my mother barely ever reads this so I don't want to scare anyone off, especially not an agent or editor at a large publisher looking for some dynamic writing talent...wait, I'm doing it again.  Okay, I'll stop.  So, narrower focus, and there will be a bunch of posts about moving.  But for now, let’s talk a bit about where we moved.  Here's a little joke to get us started.

You the Reader: So, where did you move to?
Me: Riverside.
You the Reader: Where’s that?
Me: It’s next to the River.
You the Reader:  HAHAHAHAHAHA, you are so funny.
9 Things You Should Know About Riverside
 (This is a terrible title but I see these types of terrible titles on every article on the interwebs so I should just shut up and conform).

The first thing you should know about Riverside is that no one seems to know where Riverside is located.  For a long time that list included me.  So, for those of you who don’t know where Riverside is, do you know where Brookfield Zoo is located?  Riverside is right by the zoo (more on that later).  But, let’s get to know Riverside.

1)      Riverside is a small town.   With a population of about 9,000 people and a area of less than 2 square miles, Riverside is situated 12 miles southwest of Downtown Chicago.  First started in 1868 by the Riverside Development Company, Riverside was one of the first planned towns.  It was laid out by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who is most famous for his work on Central Park in New York City and his contributions to the Chicago World’s fair of 1893. 

2)      Riverside has curvy streets.  It is easy to get lost in Riverside because none of the streets are straight.  Olmstead laid out the entire town’s streets, which cannot be called a grid, before anything was build and he included curved streets that meet other streets at weird angles, leaving triangular shape green spots in the middle of streets (see map).  The street we live on starts at one end of town, curves 180 degrees and then ends halfway across town going in the complete opposite direction from which it started.  Pizza delivery people hate our town because it is so easy to get lost (more on Pizza delivery people later).

3)      If you move to Riverside, you must own a tandem bike.  Okay, this is not actually true, but it should be.  Prior to moving here, I had seen maybe a dozen tandem bikes, mostly in cartoons from the 40s (find example).  The day we moved in, I saw at least six.  And that trend has never stopped.  We have yet to acquire the required two seater bike, but I’m hoping that someone will take pity on us and leave their extra tandem bike as a gift on our driveway.

4)      Riverside is a small town.  I know I said that already.  The entire town is two square miles.  That’s it.   It is physically small.  And people never leave here.  Well, most don’t.  One of my kid’s teacher grew up here.  She went to school at the school where she now teaches.  She knew the people who owned our house before we bought it.  She described playing in one of the bedrooms.  She described the bedroom.  Half the people we have met here grew up here, then moved to the city in their twenties only to move back here after having children.  Everyone knows everyone.  At least the ones who have lived here forever.  We’re just getting into it.  (Full disclosure: my father-in-law grew up in Riverside.  I go past his childhood house every day on the way to the train station.

5)      Riverside is dark.  The modern electric streetlight came in to favor in the late 1800s, replacing the expensive and dangerously fire prone gas lights.  Except in Riverside.  Yes, we still have gas lights.  Yes, technology from the 1830s is what we use to light our streets.  Except it doesn’t really work.  If you look at a picture of the Chicago Metropolitan area at night, you’ll see a very dark spot (no not the one on the right side of the picture, that’s Lake Michigan).  Look straight west of Downtown, then a little bit south.  See that black area?  That’s Riverside.  Now, if you find a good picture, let me know so I can add it.  Every time I search for Chicagoland at night, I get pictures of a race track.  At our old house, the street lights were so bright I could read a book on my front stoop at midnight.  In Riverside, it takes my eyes five minutes to adjust to the darkness before I can pull the car into the driveway.  Oh, and gaslights burn all the time, even when it is not dark out.  So, we’ve got that going for us.  And remember those Pizza delivery drivers I was talking about earlier? Combine curving streets that turn back on each other and almost total darkness and what do you get?  Late pizza!  It’s not just them.  I’ve lost count of how many times I have driven past my house while driving home at night.  You just can’t see it.  Everyone loves December in Riverside because with everyone’s Christmas lights on, you can actually see.


Looking at the river as I type this
6)      The Des Plaines River is the river that Riverside is alongside of.  (oh what a terrible sentence!)  I grew up in the Northwest suburbs where the Des Plaines rivers is more like a creek that you can step across.   The river is a bigger down here and people actually fish in it  Downtown riverside abuts the river.  As I write this, I am starting at the river out of the Riverside library’s reading room.  People spent a lot of time watching the River.  Especially when it rains and the River levels rise.  Since we have moved here, the river has flooded its banks in downtown riverside 3 times.  Don’t be alarmed, part of that is by plan (link to cool pictures).  One of the times was in January when ice dammed the river and then it rained, which scatter huge boulders of ice into the park next to the river.  When the river is high, everyone in town comes to the river’s edge to watch the water.  I’m not sure I totally understand this, but after a few minutes, watching the water can be mesmerizing, especially when it is moving fast, or its full of driftwood.

7)      Our new house in Riverside has 14 stairs from the first floor to the second floor.  Every other house I have ever lived in has thirteen.  I found that out one night in total darkness and took a little spill when I thought I was at the bottom.  I just figured I’d spare you that experience if you ever come over.

8)      Lots of famous people have lived in Riverside.  Um, well, not really. Former Chicago Bulls announcer Johnny ‘Redd’ Kerr lived here, a couple of Al Capone cronies and two current Illinois politicians do, but that’s about it.   But we’ve had our share of movies and TV shows that have used our lovely town.  The Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. In the Company of Darkness, a made for TV movie starring Helen Hunt. And Betrayal, which was already cancelled.  Um, so not much going on here either.

9)      Riverside is home.  It didn’t feel like it a first.  I drove home the wrong way from work a few times, almost got on the wrong train.  But after a year, we are settling in.  So, if you can navigate your way through the weaving streets and don’t get lost in the dark, come visit us.
Coming up.  More about moving.

Thanks For Reading

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