Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sense of the City

(This is a little late. I have been home with my family. It was a lot of fun. I took a lot of pictures, you will probably be able to see them on my Picasa page. Also here is my latest article in The Urban Coaster.)

There is an unspoken rule with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) that most everyone follows. With few exceptions, everyone is deadly quite. No one talks to each other and everyone finds something to keep themselves busy. Some read. Some listen to music. Some stare out the window.

I usually go the rout of looking out the window, unless I have class and need to read a long assignment. You see a lot of the city from the CTA. The bus runs down on the streets in the muck of the dirt and depravity. And the train runs high up in a pulled out view that shows a whole new set of problems.

The el train runs pretty high up. It’s high enough to look down on top of the smaller buildings. Two and three flat apartments that look beautiful from street level look a little silly from above. Their plain tar roofs are in stark contrast to the decorative walls and windows. That tar contributes to the heat of the summer. Asphalt and concrete surfaces absorb the suns energy and releases it as heat, as opposed to the grass and trees of the country that use the energy to grow. The farm of my childhood was cooler than the city I currently call home.

Even if everyone turned their tar roofs silver to reflect the sun, which some already have, I still don't think I would feel comfortable. It's still a lot of wasted space. On the farm we never really left an area with no purpose. Every place we wouldn't normally walk turned into a garden, or a flower circle, or left to it's own devices to grow wild plants and trees. These roofs are flat usable surfaces that are going to waste.

I'm not pretending that a few roof top gardens are going to save the world or even cool down the city, but it would sure be pretty to look at. I wish I had my own roof to plant fruits and vegetables on. It seems like it would be fun, and it would bring a bit of my old home to my new one.

These are just a few ideas that run through my head on the el. The train is the opposite of a sensory deprivation chamber, so much information comes at me that my brain turns in on itself and I get lost in my own thoughts. It gets even more true when the Red Line goes underground. The Click-Clack of the wheels echo off the tunnel walls and turn into a roar loud enough to drown out the children yelling behind me. The outside is so dark the windows turn into an almost perfect mirror, reflecting the reflections from the other side of the train.

I don't ride the train much any more. The bus has been able to take me where I want to go. But if absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also makes curiosity grow stronger. Little things I take for granted become much more interesting when I don't see them for a while.

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