I haven't been out in Boystown in ages. I used to live nearby Belmont and Clark, and generally enjoyed the neighborhood, and felt safe there and all that. (Because really, where is it safer for a single woman than a neighborhood chock full of gay guys?)
So, on Friday night my friend J texted me and asked me to meet up with him and the rest of the gays for a night on the town. I was ready for it, not only to see J and the crew, but because I rarely make it out of Lincoln Park these days except for work. It's just too easy to go to the neighborhood establishments near my house. And frankly, I love a good gay bar because the guys are smoking hot. (It doesn't matter that they have no interest in me...I just like to look.)
J lives right on Halsted, and his place has a huge balcony that faces Halsted, right in the heart of the bar scene. What struck me is that there were vast groups of people congregating/loitering (what's the word?) on the street. They weren't waiting in line for the bars, they weren't waiting to get into the restaurants....they were just hanging out. There were thirty or forty people in the 7-11 parking lot alone. There was a big double dutch jump roping situation going on right on Halsted. There were people camped out on stoops, steps to closed businesses, hanging out on the corners, curbs, etc. Just hanging out. And to just put it out there, all of the congregators/loiterers were black. This is just a statement of fact, although I know by saying this I'll be labeled a racist or something.
Now, Boystown, which is part of Lakeview, was never a "black" area when I lived there. And the last time I was out in Boystown, the scene on the street was very different. It's odd to me that people just want to hang out on the street without anywhere to go. Thinking back to when I was younger, like in high school, we used to hang out in the White Castle parking lot. But usually the cops would swing by and tell us to leave at some point. (I guess they didn't like a big group of 16 year old white kids hanging out at the WC.) So, maybe I'm just getting old in that it's baffling to me that people just want to hang out on the street until 3 in the morning. (Heck, I had a midnight curfew until I was a freshman in college!) There are apparently no anti-loitering laws in Chicago, other than for gang related loitering, which didn't seem to be the situation Friday night. It was just a lot of people hanging out on the sidewalks/streets/parking lots in Boystown. And the vast majority didn't seem to be LGBT kids.
I can't fault anyone who likes hanging out in Boystown, because it is a ridiculously fun place, but the vibe of it all feels different to me now. It's strange how much a neighborhood can change in the span of a couple of years.