In Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood,
under the iron-wrought arches,
I accompanied my sullen father
to the dark improv theater,
the dank basement comedy club,
the genteel brunch place,
the Mediterranean restaurant
with some cutesy name like Aesop’s Tables,
and so on.
After my father passed,
I continued to migrate there,
like a V-shaped flock of geese
directed blindly by instinct.
The grave magistrate was no longer around
to judge me on those leisurely weekend days,
but his well-worn habits lived on with me.
The Old Town neighborhood I most associated
with those father-son strolls,
and aspiring comics trying to foist handbills
on passing pedestrians
to pay their dues while waiting
for their turn on stage,
was changing parcel by parcel, storefront by storefront.
The streetscape seemed slicker, glassier
with new infill condos and fusion restaurants
with sleek leather booths, Edison lights, $9 IPAs
and apps like buffalo cauliflower and ahi tuna
that were abbreviated to apps.
It would always be Old Town,
but it would not always be old,
no matter how silhouetted the sidewalks
with the shadows of memories.
—Joseph S. Pete