Recently I had a reader get on my case about unfairly portraying Naperville’s downtown area, as a haven for liquor, booze, bad behavior and all-around general chaos and mayhem. The reader also mentioned that no one has been murdered down there in ‘quite a while’. He might be right on that one too, depending upon how you define ‘quite a while’.
So I decided a week ago last Friday to work up the courage and venture downtown at midnight and see what’s happening. I chose Friday night, because I was ‘eyes wide open’ awake, and it took less courage than going there on a Saturday night. I grabbed an Arnold Palmer drink, some cashews, along with my fully charged cell phone (camera) and headed north into town. The closer I got, the more I began to question what I was doing. I drove my 2000 yellow VW Beetle thinking I had a better chance of not getting hit by an over-served texter. It worked.
I started by heading right where the action is, the corner of Washington Street and Chicago. It’s a live, vibrant area, and very colorful with about five squad cars lined up in the middle of the Chicago street between Washington and Main, with their blue and red lights flashing. Impressive. Chances are that’s not where mayhem and chaos will erupt.
I continued to drive throughout the 20 square block area, and found lots of revelers, but no police presence. I stopped on Jackson, a one-way street westbound between Washington and Main, to take a few notes, along with a swig of Arnold. Just then I see a vehicle slowly heading eastbound on the street heading towards Washington, obviously the wrong way. Fortunately for the driver, he made it to Washington and disappeared into the night.
Ultimately I did see a couple of police officers on Jefferson Avenue (bicycle patrol), and one officer walking northbound on Washington from Chicago to Jefferson. But that was it. The concentration of Naperville’s finest remained on Chicago talking among themselves along with about five officers on bike patrol. During my ‘cruising’ of the downtown area which is against the anti-cruise ordinance, I noticed some patrons stumbling out of my favorite-named Naperville night spot…Wise Boxer Pour House. Whoever came up with that name was ahead of his or her time, considering Naperville’s fighting and liquor issues.
I then headed over to the action corner (Washington and Chicago) to see if any chairs or tables were flying around in Five Guys restaurant. The place was busy, and all the tables and chairs were upright. Considering the recent mayhem at that location, the owner may have decided to bolt them to the floor.
It was my lucky night, because I was able to park in the prime spot for people-watching; the corner spot in the southeast parking lot where Rose Bud and Five Guys is located. An absolute clear view east and west on Chicago, and north on Washington. If I had a cashew for every pedestrian crossing against the light or J-walking, I’d never have to purchase another cashew this year, and maybe even next year. No effort on the part of the police to help educate pedestrians on the meaning of a red light.
One young girl was stumbling across Chicago street, maybe in an effort to get to Barnes and Noble on the other side. A guy was chasing her, maybe to either assist her, or let her know the bookstore was closed.
It looked as thought a kerfuffle was about to break out in front of the Lantern on the Washington side of the corner. Some guy took issue with another guy when the offended guy was offended by the offender for calling him an offensive name. Fortunately the offended guy had some less offended friends step in and diffuse the situation.
The revelers and the police began to dissipate about 2:15am. I almost didn’t want to leave, because it’s next to impossible to find a parking spot in little popular shopping area. As I drove home, after my night of people-watching, I could only hope that everybody I saw after a night of fun, folly, and heavy drinking made it home safely. Maybe the best part of the night, was getting into my home without my two poodles barking and waking up my wife.