Sunday, February 7, 2010

RIP Animal Kingdom

Born and raised in Chicago, I feel like an old sage, although I am only 32. I grew up before the gentrification of this city and in my young age I can tell you tales of old.

I spent most of my childhood in a Polish neighborhood near the intersection of Milwaukee and Pulaski. We'd have to take Milwaukee Avenue down to Logan Blvd., to the Expressway, to Fullerton to get to my grandma's house. You'd pass tons of Polish deli's, bakeries, and clothing stores. Old furniture shops and five and dime stores. One store you'd pass was Animal Kingdom, my only template for a pet shop. Its neon sign with a little puppy and jungle themed mural in front becnoned you in. And when you got in you got to see tropical fish, rabbits, gerbils, among other live animals. The real treat of Animal Kingdom was the fact that they had a real live tiger in a cage, along with chimps, and parrots. As a kid there was nothing better than to see a real tiger in a 10x10 foot cage, up close. In later years, when I came back to Animal Kingdom, that tiger and chimp were replaced with a coyote and some other kind of primate. The economy and hipsters did that place in. Those hipsters love a kitchy, ethnic neighborhood full of taverns and cheap rent and empty storefronts ripe for the pickin', but they sure don't like caged animals or puppy mills. So another True Chicago vestige of old is gone forever,probably replaced by some hipster lounge or club called Kuma's Corner 2, The Avondale Inn, The White Eagle , or worse even, Animal Kingdom.

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