Thursday, January 29, 2009

View from the Second City (First column)

(I wrote this after Christmas, and it was published in this weeks Journal Republican, the newspaper from my hometown. It's the beginning of my monthly column comparing Chicago and Monticello/White Heath. I hope to show everyone that it's not so different.)

Most people think Chicago greets commuters with heavy traffic and billboards but I prefer to wait until I see the el for the first time to welcome myself to the Second City. The train system is the cities bloodline and when you drive North on Interstate 57 it pops out of the ground like an animal. The roar silenced by the passing cars.

The el splits into several lines named for colors. Each line cuts through the different neighborhoods linking the diverse people and places.

Mine is the Red Line. It runs from the North Side down to the South Side and soaks up the intricacies of each neighborhood in between. It goes from tunnels to street level between the interstate; then back underground and final becomes elevated again after downtown.

The Brown Line circles downtown, creating “the loop,” and then runs northwest. The Blue Line links the west side with downtown and then goes back west. Each line has its own feel, its own personality.

I grew up outside of White Heath, but I now live in Chicago on the North Side. It is hard, sometimes, to know which is my home. I am comfortable in Chicago, but my roots are in the country.

After an emotional Christmas break my mother drove me back to Chicago--back home. I love the drive North on 57. The monotonous interstate drive is broken up by a few surreal oddities: the 20 foot tall Abraham Lincoln, the Kankakee hand clutching the world. It reminds me of our Midwest humor, dry and spars and often very strange.
Unfortunately, on this drive I missed the Lincoln because of a semi we passed at the exact wrong time.

Clouds covered the skyline until after we first saw the Red Line. I prefer the skyline coming from the South. Maybe because my first glimpse of Chicago was from this angle or maybe because the buildings look more compacted than the usual picture from the East.

The lake greets me after we pass the Bears’ playground. My first lake sighting tells me that I am finally home. We just have a little more to drive on Lake Shore before I am technically there, but I already feel good. It has been a while since I had a visit that lasted longer than a weekend. It was nice to be in Piatt County for so long, but I am glad to be back to my life.

1 comment:

Dustin said...

Awesome! The L map always reminds me of those posters of the circulatory system you see in doctors' offices and stuff. The L tracks really are the veins and arteries of this city.