alanna, in preparation for moving out to seattle, (WOOT!!!) asked me to write a piece about what i miss most about chicago.
this is it. ready?
i miss coming home to the ice factory.
what i mean by that is not, perhaps, what you'd think. i dont mean that because i live far away i miss when i could come home to visit chicago and know that the Ice Factory was always open for me to walk in and share a beer and a song and a laugh with the crew that lived in and revolved around that space. i mean, i do. i do miss that.
but thats not what im talking about. im talking about that period of time when, in the fall of '04, i lived at the ice factory and worked at logos bookstore (r.i.p.) in oak park.
when id hop the green line shortly after 8pm at the oak park stop and watch the entire west side slip by--austin, the park, the projects being torn town to make room for the townhomes and mixed income housing, the barbeque and checks cashed places with active parking lots at all hours, the brachs candy factory, the warehouses...and the ashland stop. the one with the swimming pool and the community center. with the walk-over bridge from one platform to the other that was the best view of the downtown skyline id ever found.
i would stand up against that railing, soaking in the image of the last of the light reflecting off the skyscrapers for the length of a song before i ran down the stairs, headphones bouncing off my ears, and hit the pavement rushing. not rushing in a im-in-a-hurry-gotta-run sort of way, and certainly not in a im-a-woman-walking-thru-
a-sketchy-neighborhood-at-night sort of way. i never learned that one. no, i was always rushing in a im-a-part-of-the-huge-city-rhythm-and-i-got-somewhere-to-be sort of way. and usually its cold, so there is that urgency, plus im prolly listening to radiohead and you know how insistently energetic they can feel...
so im walking thru what no one could rightly call a neighborhood, its just a bunch of warehouses and industrial business buildings. so much dirty concrete and brick you'd think it would drive a person to do something drastic like move to the emerald city to get away from the grey of it. and maybe thats what i did, but right now, i miss that walk. i can close my eyes at this moment and walk every step of that distance from the el at lake street to the ice factory front door just north of grand. its a lonely stretch of street. south of lake and north of grand are interesting and populated with buildings and businesses that people visit. but my walk was always desolate in the most gritty-city-abandoned-boarded-up-neglected-almost-grotesque-
beauty sort of way. the smashed glass and shredded plastic bags, the exhaust and noise of the trucks and buses, the dickies and vsop ads, the cuervo one in spanish, they all brought a bit of this-is-my-fucking-shitty-ass-'hood feel to my day. an emotion i enjoyed pressing on like a bruise cuz the ugliness felt beautiful (or vice versa) just like the bruise pain is pleasurable. or maybe its the other way around. cuz there were moments of true urban beauty that i cant forget. i miss the crazy tall clump of sunflowers that bloomed practically under the metra line overpass. i miss the warehouse window that was broken by a bird fooled into thinking its expanse of sky could be flown thru. i even miss the rat carcass near the hubbard st. bus stop. it was there decaying for months, and yes, i watched its progress with interest, if not awe.
i would start hurrying more at the intersection of ashland and grand cuz i was almost home and finally there was civilization. the western union and betty's blue star lounge, the apartment buildings and the glass blocks of derek and keiths place. i always unlocked the green door marked 526 and stepped up into the funny entryway having to remind myself that this is me coming home. home to a place where my room is painted dark blue and has no windows, where you open the fridge out of habit knowing theres nothing in it, where you dont look in the kitchen cabinets for clean glasses but head to the bar for a solo cup and the semi-flat coke and maybe a drop or two of whiskey from the bottom of the handle on the shelf. where you walk thru the venue space with the remnants of the last party/show strewn everywhere, up to the lab where maybe things could feel livable if someone wasnt fucking around with mics and cables and protools for once. and yet, thats where you find it. home. in the stares on the faces of the boys pointed at the tv, computer, and mixing board, respectively. a fucked up family of 20-somethings trying to run a home for artists of all kinds--a space to foster comfortable creativity--while feeling desperate to carve out that tiny spot for the creature comforts of a normal house. an 8" sink's worth. that uphill struggle for balance drove me to find an actual house for myself to live in, but meant i was always super protective of that space. the ice-factory-as-home space. home for everybody a lot of the time. and home for 4 bodies all of the time. cuz i have to admit, as draining as it was to be picking up cups and cans and bottles, and sweeping and mopping every other day, those hours of cleaning with seth and aaron, the music cranked thru the PA so high you couldnt even hear the breaking glass, those are some of my fondest memories of chitown living. i miss coming home to that shit. i keep looking for something like that here, but it doesnt exist. its not the same.