The best ‘new news’ we received all week came not via email, but in the form of a package in our mailbox containing an advance copy of Never Leave Your Block, written by Bucktown resident Scott Jacobs, pictured at this past June’s Holstein 100 Celebration.
Published by Dead Tree Press, the paperback collection of 32 essays will be released and available for sale on Sept. 13, 2012.
Holstein Park was a fitting place to snap the author’s photo, considering he finds so much of his inspiration in Bucktown, which he describes in “A Grudge Match,” focusing on the Holstein Park Adult Basketball League (of which he devotes an entire 7-Part Series spanning 44 pages) as ”a little like a Balkan state,” due to the immigrants from Germany, Poland, Russia, Puerto Rico and Mexico that have inhabited the area over the years.
“Even as the real estate developers lure in young professionals with new condos and McMansions, there are always pockets of neighbors who refuse to let their blocks get redeveloped for the next big thing,” he writes.
More so than an observer of the area’s changing demographics, however, what sets this book apart is Jacobs’s sharp and compulsively readable observations of family, friends, neighbors, and even places like Whole Foods on Kingsbury Street, which he visited on New Year’s Day 2010 with his wife Lucy and chronicled in “Breakfast at Whole Foods.”
The trip ends back in his Bucktown kitchen with a chilled glass of coconut water. How going to the grocery store can captivate a reader for more than a few pages is a testament to Jacobs ability to write what he knows and write it well, without trying to be clever or overly introspective.
In “The Bus to Horseshoe Heaven” Jacobs joins seniors from the Holstein Park Senior’s Club on a jaunt to the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana on the occasion of Dorothy Majewski’s 82nd birthday. There, Florence, one of the members of the club, tells Jacobs, “I know the bus driver for the Trump Casino and, if I call him, he’ll come by and pick me up right at my house. I stand by the curb and my neighbors think I’m waiting for the church bus. What do they know? But I might as well be going to church. People do more praying in a casino than they do in a church, that’s for sure.”
Though we knew that Jacobs publishes stories on The Week Behind website, which sends out an e-newsletter we’ve been subscribed to for the past few years, we were unaware until we read the press kit for Never Leave Your Block that he’s also served as a public affairs reporter, among many other jobs over a four decades long career including stints in filmmaking and political consulting.
In the summer of 1979, Jacobs was working as a consultant for Mayor Jane Byrne and was among the brain trust that ushered in– for better or worse– our city’s Winter Tow Zone Parking Ban.
The experience came back to haunt him decades later, when his car was towed as a result of the ban and he found himself in line at the auto pound, where he took to describing the people joining him, like a group of women who break into a round of caroling as a disgruntled man screams, “Get your supervisor! That’s her right there– the one in the gray sweatshirt– she’s the one who told me to get the form notarized… All right, then, fuck you. Fuck you all. You can keep the fucking truck.”
So that’s what everyday people are saying. And doing. They’re at the pound, going to the casino, hanging out the the park, playing basketball, trying to potty train their son as Jacobs attempts to do in a section of seven essays titled, “On a Personal Note,” where he also finds himself hanging out with the ‘Moms & Tots’ of Holstein Park, likely the only 58 year-old man with a toddler son in tow. Though nobody at the park is asking for his advice on how to raise their kids, his years of wisdom and experience raising two sons to adulthood come into play when, in the safe confines of the written page, he tells the moms to “chill out,” adding, “Growth takes time.”
Indeed, it does. And so does reading. The Pipeline highly recommends this book, as it’s worth the time it takes to turn off your phone, find a comfy spot, and delve into it as we did. If you’re a local resident, you might recognize people you know inside Never Leave Your Block, too.
Never Leave Your Block, Adventures in Urban Living. Published by Dead Tree Press and Distributed by Wicker Park Press, Ltd. Call 877-751-5043 to order your copy. $14.95. Books will also be available for sale at the upcoming Bucktown Arts Fest, too.