When did I learn to feel embarrassed about living in Uptown?
I’ve lived in the neighborhood for the better part of 16 years. I started noticing the insults about 10 years ago.
“I don’t want to deal with the traffic,” said one friend when I invited her for dinner in the area.
My Gen X friends told me they wanted to avoid “bro bars.” Or they raged against the newly constructed apartments for rich millennials.
But when I really drill into my memory, there’s one incident that stands out. I was a rookie editor at a local magazine circa 2006. I remember sitting at Nye’s Polonaise Room with a circle of older, smarter, much hipper colleagues.
Making conversation, one of my co-worker’s husbands asked where I lived. He didn’t like my answer.
“You should really move to Northeast,” he insisted. He wasn’t a jerk about it. He genuinely wanted to help me escape a terrible place.
I strained to listen in the loud bar as he cited Northeast’s rugged riverfront, its abundant art studios, its cheap housing. “And there are, like, bars everywhere,” he added, shouting over the music.
“I don’t care about bars,” I shot back, lying.
The truth was, I loved everything about my Uptown life. Despite my student loans and modest income, I had managed to buy a one-bedroom condo in a shabby brownstone near Hennepin and 28th Street. I found I liked the proximity to bus stops and bike trails. I liked my Saturday morning runs around Lake Calhoun. I liked hopping over to the Lagoon Cinema for movies. Or ambling over to Magers & Quinn to riffle through paperbacks.
I didn’t mind the cheap beer at Liquor Lyle’s, either.
It was the first time I felt uncool for living in Uptown.
It was hardly the last. As the years passed, I often avoided telling people where I lived.
Did I think about decamping for a less objectionable neighborhood? No. Not for a second.
By 2011, I was shopping for a bigger, fancier apartment with my now-husband.
He kept gravitating to the high-rises of Loring Park or North Loop. And who could blame him? He moved to Minneapolis from New York — and never recovered from his love affair with the big city.
Meanwhile, I was dreaming about a baby and envisioned our home in more verdant environs.
So I nudged him toward the tree-lined streets near my old Uptown apartment. I saw strollers there. I saw dog-walkers and green space galore.
“In a way, Uptown is more urban than downtown,” I assured him, citing the 24-hour Walgreens and the wealth of grocery stores.
We closed on our two-bedroom Uptown condo near Hennepin and 26th in November 2011. When we welcomed our daughter in September 2012, we resolved to stay put a while longer. “Let’s see how it goes,” we said with trepidation.
I won’t lie: Our living situation had its challenges. I disliked lugging my growing baby up three flights of stairs. As a sleep-deprived new mom, I became enraged by all the 3 a.m. brawls emanating from the Uptown Diner parking lot.
But then the neighborhood would charm me again. I spent my maternity leave hiking around Lake of the Isles with my newborn snug in her carrier. Saturday mornings meant stopping by the corner coffeehouse to show her off to neighbors.
New rituals developed as our daughter grew. Saturday mornings now meant walking one block to the nearest playground. All three of us made good friends there.
So we’re happy with our Uptown lives. Even if one of us remains a little self-conscious.
“Where do you live?” people ask.
“East Isles,” I say.
But don’t be fooled — it’s Uptown.
My husband and I have been shopping for more family-friendly real estate for the better part of two years. We’ve eyed properties in Seward, Prospect Park and Linden Hills. We seriously considered a townhouse in Northeast.
Then we realized we don’t want to leave the neighborhood. We’re holding out for a cheap house (or maybe an enormous condo) in walkable, sociable Uptown.
ABOUT 10,000 TAKES: 10,000 Takes features first-person essays about life in the North Star State. We publish narratives about love, family, work, community and culture in Minnesota.