So I was in my old stomping grounds of west Champaign….Illinois. Hadn’t been there for a few years.
Stopped by a hot dog stand I used to like for a Chili-Cheeze dog mid-late evening…. As I was driving to the place, I failed to see the subtly different demographic, signs….. the slightly less well kept neighborhoods, etc. The different cars, that sort of thing (‘Twas full dark, after all…).Not “bad ghetto” change, but the differences were there if you looked and bothered to notice. Sadly, I didn’t…..bother to look, that is. . After all, in my mind, this was a Safe Place…. Bad form for me. I wasn’t on guard here like I should have been. There was something nagging me at the back of my mind, but I wasn’t paying attention…
The lot was well lit, and the place was still well kept. Being a Tuesday night, there wasn’t that much traffic….But the cars that were there were not well kept and had a subtly different feel, as well as their occupants….different music and a different “vibe”… Not the crowd that I expected, if you know what I mean…….It was obvious that I was not part of the “Tribe” that hung out at this parking lot……(and by ‘Tribe” I don’t mean color, either)…When I got out of the car, a dude in the parking lot, (a very friendly (and stoned) black guy) said “Lobby Closed”. He was not confrontational, just helpfully letting me know. He was correct as well. The Lobby was indeed closed….a little before 8 PM… Nice of him to tell me, actually. I went through the drive through, and got my hot dog, parked, ate it with great gastronomic pleasure, then left, but with a bit more awareness as I went out of the neighborhood. Yep, different demographic…less well kept lawns, different styles of cars….and the fact that a place that 20 years ago was open until 2 AM even on a weeknight was now closing the lobby after 7 PM…..
It is sad to see how the changes are affecting the older neighborhood. The “Bad” part used to be a few miles to the north and east…now it is spreading to the other parts of the city. Things like gas stations now having bulletproof glass in front of the cashiers and such….not oppressively so, but the signs are there……this is no longer the safe place it once was. Other parts of the city still are, perhaps, but crime and other factors have changed at least part of my old hangouts.
But the hot dog was still delicious.