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Monday, 5 June 2017

Chicago Trip I: the Places Between Cities

I took a road trip with my two best friends, Mike and Nick, a few weeks back. It was an early bachelor party for my August wedding this year. Better to get these things out of the way early, and avoid being a still-drunk groom cliche later.

We started our trip riding out of farm country, Adrian, in what can only be considered a light class monster truck. Mike, my oldest friend, was the driver, and the only man I know capable of parallel parking an F-250 in a spot meant for a Prius, Lucky we didn't have to; the concept of a truck for personal use was a novelty in Chicago, and granted us a very special parking spot.

But out journey was not as easy as finding that spot.

We have a saying in Michigan. There are only three seasons: Fall, Winter, and Construction. Illinois and Indian, as it turns out, have the same saying. Routed from I-94, our five hour journey turned into a back roads adventure, eventually dumping us off in Gary, Indiana.

I have no photos of Gary. I grew up, and live still, just outside Detroit. I walked the Cass Corridor nightly between 2005 and 2010 in order to avoid parking fees on campus. I'm used to seeing abandoned homes, empty stores, hollowed out skeletons of things stripped then burnt. I grew up by a city of fire.

But in Detroit, there is hope. The corridor has WSU. Where, I used to park, there is now a textile shop. The old Blimpy was torn down to make way for high rise apartments. When all else failed, all I had to do was look up, and see the Downtown sky line in ink black silhouettes, incandescent, and neon lights.

In Gary, the sorrow went on, seemingly forever.

I know we left Gary, Indiana at some point. I just can say when that point was.

"We've got to be out by now," Nick, my newest friend, said, appealing to the logic of time and space in a place frozen from both.

Mike checked the map. It, too, was unsure.

Finally, Mike said, "Oh, we're coming up from the south."

"So this is the South Side now?"

It might as well have been Gary.

Slowly, the South Side turned into the city interior: Streeterville, then the Miracle Mile. All turned glass, and glorious. It the world inside Chicago, Gary might as well have not existed.

Driving through it, I feel that Gary is more than just a place. It's an idea. It's a sense of despair, of loss, of a time and place that left it behind. In Gary--and all that surrounding sorrow that Gary seemed to infect--time was immaterial. And to its detriment, very material to the world around it.

That's all from Elliot at the Kitchen Table