I first met Alicia Harvey while we were both hostessing at Quartino. Little did I know then, as a reserved and eager 23 year old, what began as a friendship blossomed into so much more. Before I get started, let me assure you this is not a love letter dedicated to Alicia. Although, it can be, depending on what direction we’re going here. I love Alicia for many reasons—obviously as we all do—but I really love her because not only did she become my coworker, friend, roommate and confidante, but she introduced me to bocce.
I feel #blessed to have lived with Alicia when I did, because as we were roommates in a shitty-but-charming three bedroom in Wicker Park, there was an empty lot across the street with a ridiculous amount of potential. While I can’t pinpoint exactly what I was doing when I first found out about Wicker Park Bocce, I can tell you I witnessed a group of my friends take an idea and turn it into so much more.
There were many great times in that 1919 W. Crystal apartment. Wine nights, TV-marathons, dance parties, nap sessions…hey, even a break-in by a gang member. Through all the memories, though, one of my favorites was undoubtedly watching Alicia, Alex, Ben, Matt & the gang turn the empty lot on Crystal into the original (and still, despite it being gone, my favorite) bocce court. It’s pretty amazing to watch something basically condemned be transformed into a space for work and play. There were obstacles, of course and I can’t imagine the whole process was easy. My hat will eternally be off to the bocce crew for the endless hours, blood, sweat & tears that went into the creation of the courts on Crystal.
Soon after the construction on the courts began, I ended up moving to New York. I still remember sitting in our living room with Alicia and our third roommate, Jamie (also a member of my bocce team, Crotchy Balls) telling them I was breaking the lease and packing up. They were supportive and wonderful, as they had always been. When I moved to New York, I left behind my Quartino family. I had spent a few years hosting and waitressing there, having the time of my life. If it weren’t for Quartino, I wouldn’t have met Alicia, Alex, Ben, Matt, Will, etc, etc. Friends turned to family (and roommates) and it seemed as though I was leaving right when Wicker Park Bocce was really taking off. Moving isn’t fun—ask anyone—but as excited as I was for new adventures and an unpaid internship with a Chef, I was more nervous of how things would change if I ever were to return home.
A little over a year later, I was back in Chicago and living at home. One of my first nights back, I attended Wicker Park Bocce’s fundraiser at an art gallery in Fulton Market. I remember being nervous and being mad at myself for being nervous, as I was going to hang out with all my old pals. However, when you’re gone for awhile and your main form of staying in touch is social media, I think you’re allowed to be slightly nervous. Friends old and new welcomed me back home and I began to see all the progress that had been made over the past year. I left feeling excited, inspired and ready to start a bocce team.
Fast forward a few months and Crotchy Balls was born. (You can thank or not thank my boyfriend for that name). Now, we’re in our fifth season and I’m in awe of how much this little game has changed my life. They mean it when they say it: this place is a community. It’s where you meet new people, learn new things, drink delicious beer and play the greatest game known to man (not that I’m biased or anything). While I’m not some skilled or strategic bocce player, I can say this: while I started out playing to support a cause, I now play because I know I’ve invested in something great. Something that will do amazing things for amazing people that was started by some of the most amazing people I’ve been #blessed to know.