Rogers park is where I went during college when I needed a break from life. I would take the bus almost an hour north from the south side and head over to Pratt Pier on the lakeside. On these treks, I used to get cheap coffee at an Ethiopian cafe on Pratt and Sheridan and I’d sit there and watch the buses and the cars go by while I enjoyed the breeze off the lake. Unlike the rest of Chicago, lake shore drive doesn’t block public access to the beach and you can walk uninterrupted between busy Sheridan road and tranquil Lake Michigan.
After a few of these trips, I realized that Rogers park was a far more special place than I’d initially given it credit for. The neighborhood was decent, with a very diverse population and a bunch of graduate students from Loyola and northwestern along with a helping of immigrants from around the world. It’s the most diverse neighborhood in the United States by race and income. Studios on the lake went from pennies, $600/month, and a 3-bedroom house sold for $250k, about 1/4 what you would pay on either coast.
But nobody evidently knew about this place. Every news story about Chicago focused on surging gun violence and pending bankruptcy. I couldn’t believe it. Here was an area where, by accident, people from around the world had come together and gotten along enough to avoid pointless materialistic striving for overpriced homes and petty luxuries to enjoy the best that life had to offer.