Archive for July, 2002

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July 25, 2002

So today I went to the Field Museum to do some last minute, supplemental research for my current writing job. More on that, maybe, later. Coming back I spent a few minutes at the Library elevated train stop where I was briefly transfixed (a nice word when you mean it) and serene before I realized I was on the wrong side of the station. The peculiarities of Chicago�s one-way Loop system (simplicity itself from above, difficult when you�re trying to look like you know what you�re doing) put the Brown line going north on the southbound side of the station.

From the waiting place on the station�s sides you can see down the side of a handsome, stone building with cherubs and brown rock leaves. Ground floor, a 7-11. Just below the platform is an architectural office�s common space, with little models of buildings that may or may not exist yet or ever. Sketches of other books and sheaves of paper are neatly stacked around. This meeting space has no blinds or window hanging of any sort, perhaps to show the architects the city outside. More strangely, the apartment above this room has no window hangings either.

This apartment is at about eye level from the platform and blankly white. There�s a couch, a coffee table, a corner table, a chair, a bicycle and a television. On the corner table is an ornamental birdcage the size of a Coke can. Large, Chicago Loop windows look into this living room. It�s on the corner, too, so it�s windows look out onto the platform and out into another street. Without window covers (which have only been purchased for the next room in the apartment, perhaps the bed room), the occupant must be on display whenever he is home. The apartment was empty at two in the afternoon.

Likewise, the closet for this unit is plainly visible except where obstructed by a dry-erase board depicting a funny-colored smiling cartoon face. Green hair, red eyebrows, that sort of thing. Metal racks with white plastic coating unify this little closet, which displays all the occupant owns to anyone who uses the Library stop (on the Orange line side).

Across the street from this apartment, still on the Orange line side, is a tall brick building, so dark it made me think of coal smoke and bowler hats. By the third floor this building holds apartments as well. Most have window coverings, all have the same pairs of hanging lamps and wood trim. The most visible from me had decorated walls (frames, black and white subject matter) and a couch facing away from the window. A great many were lit up. This most-visible one has someone on the couch, scratching his head with a wrapped-around arm while his other pressed the phone to his ear. This is a great many people home on a Thursday afternoon at 2 o�clock.

On the Brown line side of the platform is another plenty-visible office environment. A corner office with a nice view of the train, a wrap-around desk, paper towels with spray bottle, computer and a disorganized workload. The office was empty, but perhaps its occupant was the fellow next door in the meeting room with filing cabinets on the walls. Each cabinet is adorned with yellow post-it tags, presumably because the contents are in a constant state of flux. Perhaps because the contents are theoretical. The fellow in this room has tall hair and a bald spot and is seated sadly at the head of the empty table with a newspaper spread out before him. A brown paper bag suggests that he�s eating, but also that he�s not the sort of powerhouse downtown executive one would hope to find in a downtown office.

Outside all of this, down the tracks and jutting up into the white sky, is the Cook County jail. Tiny, arrow slit-like windows are cut into the side of that weird building, which gives the distinct impression from the platform that there is no way out. As though the inmates were interred while the building was going up. At the top, through a chain link fence and a concrete frame, you can just see a basketball arcing and gray figures standing around. One, in orange (maybe their leader), leans into the fence, which he grips with his hands up over his head. Falling, I guess, would at least mean he was outside the building.

Between all of these buildings is an effortless rain which genuinely falls. A lot of rain actually dives or pounds or shoots to the ground. Some slants out of the sky like bullets strafing out of an attack plane. This rain limply fell, gray and soft and almost invisible. It seemed like something in common between the head-scratcher and the lunch-eater and the fence-leaner. It filled the space in between the buildings, made the place into a setting. The city. I�ll miss it when I�m gone. I leave next week.

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