My neighborhood, Bucktown, is named for goats; male goats, specifically. Four or five decades ago, this neighborhood was almost exclusively Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, and other eastern Europeans like Latvians and Slovaks. Almost everyone had goats for milk and cheese; a hold -over from the old country. Goat cheese is delicious and the Europeans sold it to Italian and Greek restaurants in the city. Like many new immigrant groups, at times, they felt, intuitively, the disapproving gaze of other tribes that surrounded them and endured the ethnic baiting and slurs that come with being the newest immigrants. The phrase “DP” was a hurtful reminder of the xenophobia that was not uncommon, often spewed by other immigrants.
Bucktown was a tight community and there were goats everywhere and they loved running the streets. Goats are the randiest of creatures and not particularly picky about what they mount. One older gentleman told me of having to chase off a goat who, in his words. “tried to put the dick to my beagle.”
It was not uncommon to see goats banging like jackhammers in the middle of Damen Avenue. It is no accident that they are the symbol of the sexually insatiable satyr. In Bucktown, it was one big goat fuck-fest. They would bang dogs, cats, and even the odd large opossum.
Still,they produced the milk and the cheese and were in this neighborhood for years and endured the goat orgy as part of the life-cycle; a necessary part, actually.
Bucktown has changed a lot over the 16 years I’ve been here. It used to be a perfectly good bad neighborhood, full of shysters, thieves, hookers and junkies. . .the good old days.
Now there is a Marc Jacobs store on Damen. The bodega down the street from me with all of the fighting cocks in the backyard is an interior design studio. The churro guy is gone and you can get croissants now.
I like my new neighbors; I just missed my old ones. They were the ones with the stories, and the lives lived curb to curb, and by their wits. I miss the bakery across the street that made the best rye bread I’ve ever eaten and also sold salty creamy butter with it. It was butter that didn’t come in a square or a brick. It was amazing.
There is a lovely flower shop there now, Larkspur, and its owner, Beth, is my dear friend and I become instantly cheered up whenever I walk through the door and smell all of the flowers-. They are the smell of life and repositories of light.
I still love Bucktown. Once in a while, I’ll walk down the street and hear snatches of Polish and Spanish and realize that the real estate creatures have not been able to wipe out the immigrant flavor of this place completely. And this thought gives me great comfort.