Driving down South Howard on an early weekday afternoon, really taking in the area for the first time in maybe a decade and a half — the proliferation of hip restaurants, shiny condos and chic office buildings that, for me, might as well have occurred the night before — I was struck by two thoughts.
The first was about the sheer, staggering amount of change that has taken place.
And the second was about how little that change impacted me on a personal level.
Hyde Park is looking good, in the way that historically funky, quasi-urban neighborhoods always do after the money and the development roll in. Generally speaking, when that happens, a lot of folks who remember the good, gritty old days tend to get more than a little bitter about it. They’re more interested in remembering the way things used to be, and how much that affected who they became, than in waxing orgasmic about the new holistic spa and vegan laundromat.
Well, they’ve earned that right. They made a home somewhere, a home that helped shape their lives and perspectives, and to see that change into something unrecognizable can be a frightening experience.
During the early and mid-’90s, I took up residence in four or five places in Hyde Park, from Melville to Platt to the corner of South Boulevard and Cleveland (that one featured a landlord with a resemblance to Wayne Newton and an amusing habit of responding to every spoken fact with a bright-eyed “No shit?!”). Hyde Park was where the friends and bandmates and new acquaintances who were willing to put up with me lived, because the rents were cheap.
For a lot of us, Hyde Park was a pivotal place at a pivotal time in our lives. It was where important choices were made (or not made), a DMZ between college (or the possibility of finishing college) and what came next, be it a corporate job or a full-on commitment to the sort of creative pursuit/service industry/nightlifer combo best typified at the time by Ybor City.
Hyde Park was my neighborhood for a while, but I never made a home for myself there. I was a habitually itinerant kid, an ex-military brat who always felt about 15 minutes from having to leave. I never earned the right to call Hyde Park my home. Yeah, the Chatterbox and the original Ho Ho are gone. So is the guy who stumbled between them and the Tiny Tap, looking for a girl to buy him a drink.
Maybe that’s why, taking in the bustle and the architecture of today’s Hyde Park, I don’t really feel like I’ve got a dog in the it-used-to-be-so-much-better race. Like me, Hyde Park has moved on, and changed its stripes to become what another generation of community needs it to be. I can’t find a reason to be maudlin about that; it’s not my place. In fact, I’m pretty OK with the whole thing.
I hope the new community is happy with their Hyde Park. I hope they make it their home.