This interview is part of the Project LRN: Evanston Interviews series, which will be featured in the new book Say It Forward compiled and edited by Voice of Witness. It was recorded August 8, 2014, and is presented here in full.
Noelle Krimm is a writer, director, and public speaker with a particular interest in using art and personal narrative as a means of community building. She was an ensemble member with The Neo-Futurists for 9 years, writing for and performing in their signature show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Currently, Noelle is using her experience as a writer of creative nonfiction and crafted, self-referential story-telling as a means of activism through a series on her blog “The Amazing, Affordable Adventures of Mama, Bunny, and Pip” that is hosted by Chicago Tribune subsidiary ChicagoNow.
Noelle hopes that by sharing insider views into the lives of people affected by changes in legislation and the hopes and fears of average people on both sides of the ever-widening political divide, she can help build some bridges and foster understanding. Noelle is also a regular speaker on behalf of Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network where she crafts stories about her “Miracle Child” son as a means of raising awareness about the importance of medical research funding.
Listen now or read an edited interview excerpt, below:
TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT (EDITED):
Noelle Krimm: There’s a bunch of things that I love. The school is great. I just recently looked it up on the Great Schools website, and it’s a 10. And it was one of the schools on our list that, when we started looking, we knew we wanted one of three or four schools, and that was one of them. I love that we can ostensibly walk to the lake, although I never do.
And rarely ride bikes to it, either, but… we could. That is an option. It’s right by the train. It’s a quick one and a half block walk to the train. We have playgrounds on either side of us, so half a block one way is the Fireman’s Park; half a block the other way is Tallmadge Park. I kind of like being on the edge of campus because the college students amuse me.
And it feels a little bit more like the city, being over there… because the students are walking back and forth to class. And there are shops right around the corner. There’s a tiny grocery store; there’s some restaurants just right in walking distance—which feels a little like the city. I was worried when I moved to a suburb. You know, when you’re young and in Chicago, and you’re like, “Oh, I’d never become a suburbanite.”
And so I became a suburbanite, and I was like, “Oh, it’s going to be so cliché and awful… and strip malls… and no public transportation.” But this was a nice—I’ve never really missed those things about living in the city, because it all is actually right here.
Int: So then what do you like least about living here, or what are the things that are difficult or frustrating about your neighborhood?
NK: The first thing that comes to mind is the property taxes. The property taxes are just insane. Infuriating.
So high and they just seem to randomly suddenly get higher. And then… if you decide you want to fight the property tax, you have to hire a lawyer. So the condo association periodically hires a lawyer and fights for the property taxes to be lowered from “completely-not-affordable” to “somewhat-slightly-less-heart-attack- inducing” is basically what the scale seems to be over here. And I’ve talked to a number of people—after, of course, we had purchased this condo and we’re underwater—a number of people were like, “Oh, I’d never. I’d just go to Wilmette, because, you know, you go just slightly north and your property taxes are way lower.” It was like: Oh. Well, that’s good to know. Thanks! Thanks for telling me after I purchased this condo.
But to me, that’s the biggest thing. That’s the biggest thing that would drive me out of Evanston… the property taxes are bad and I don’t see them getting any better because I just see Northwestern inheriting more and more homes as alumni pass away and leave them those homes, and then the city has to make up for that loss of property tax somewhere. And apparently, they find it here. In my pocket.
Int: I’m curious, because I know we’ve lost some families in our neighborhood, or in our school, because of the property taxes. Have you noticed anybody heading out because of that?
NK: Nobody that I have talked to. You and I live in sort of a different neighborhood. When we had decided to buy this condo, we took a walk from the condo to the school that the kids go to, which is Orrington. And you pass nothing but mansions. And my husband turned to me and was like, “Well, I think we got the one place in Evanston that we could afford, you know? The one place in the Orrington district that we could actually live in. So there won’t be any moving and keeping the kids in that school, because that’s it.”
And so…on the playground, those aren’t the complaints that I hear. We have a lot of people in the Orrington district who are from other countries. So we’ve lost a few different good friends to them going back overseas.
Int: So I’m curious, because I know you and I have talked about this a little bit outside of this [interview], but what is that like—that experience of knowing [you’re] in this area that’s clearly affluent, and feeling like there’s a bit of a separation between what you see around you on the playground and where you’re coming from?
NK: Well, what’s interesting is I haven’t ever experienced anything else, because we moved here before Lily started kindergarten. So she did go half a year to preschool at a public school in Chicago, but: not the same thing. So I would say that I don’t really have any good friends among the moms on the playground. I tend to notice that it’s like: groups of moms on one side and me by myself pushing my kid on the swing on another side.
I don’t know how much of that is me not making friends very easily. They do live in a very different world than I live in, with very different problems. And the few that I have told my problems to, or my struggles to, who can’t fathom what it’s like to be me, sort of pity me whenever they look at me, because they’re rich and… you know. And then the other people just… I just don’t even bother.
Let’s see. I mean, I will say the people are certainly nice enough to me. They’re nice to my kids. When we had kids over who are little enough to say exactly what they think before they’ve been trained to you know, not—
Int: To filter.
NK: I did get questions like, “Um, this is where you live? Is this what an apartment looks like? How can your car be this small?”
I mean, for the most part, I think it’s fine. Although you know, there are some times when I look at what you have at Washington and I envy all the networking that goes on over there. My people over at Orrington don’t have need for exchanges or barters, you know, the nanny does it. So I wish I could start something like that at Orrington. I just don’t know that there would be a lot of call for it.