Friday, February 3, 2012

What I'll Miss About Chicago, Part 2

One of the main things I'll miss about Chicago is the CTA El trains. I spent so much time on the el. As a kid, my mother didn't drive, so anytime we needed to go downtown, we hopped the green line or red line to get downtown. As a teenager, I used to take the buses more, as I went to Dunbar Vocational High School, which was still technically on the south side where I lived, but much further, and was near downtown. I had to take two long bus rides to get to high school everyday. And then, sometimes, I would ditch school entirely to go downtown to the Borders bookstore on State Street (shhhh...don't tell my mom!)

The thing I think I will miss most about the el was taking it up to the north side just to explore. I spent a lot of time on the red line, going up to the Clark/Belmont area to go to all of the used record stores to sell CDs and buy some for less than $5. A lot of the stores aren't there anymore, unfortunately, but The Alley is. The Alley is this gothy store where you can find the coolest things. I was going there years before I knew what a "Hot Topic" was in the mall. This place has been there since I can remember! It's also the first place I learned about different types of people. I saw different races, gays, straight people, families, all co-existing in the same neighborhood. And I never saw any ignorance or intolerance or anything like that. These were back in the days where I would be out in the city, by myself, sometimes late at night, and I was too worried about getting robbed or stabbed or shot...though perhaps I should have been to some extent.

Then, in my early 20s, I met Brayman, who would later become my husband, and we would meet up north and hang out around Depaul University, where there was a Crow's Nest Record store, which was bigger than the one I used to work at downtown. I was at Columbia College at the time, and sometimes after class, I would take the red line to meet him up on the Clark and Belmont stop, and we would literally walk from Boys Town on Halsted to Lincoln Park. Those were the days when we would walk everywhere, perhaps hop a bus, and then go home to our individual houses on the south side, just to call each other and stay on the phone all night. Ahhh, to youth!

After I got married and had a baby, I moved to the suburbs, got my license, had a car, etc. and I've barely gotten on public transportation since. But sometimes, I miss those days where I would just ride, not caring too much about what time I would arrive at my destination, listening to my Discman, blasting Anathema's "A Fine Day to Exit" and pulling out a pad of paper when hit with inspiration to write a song, or a film idea. I miss the feeling of being scared to ride on the brown line and the orange line because they seemed way too high up and would go around those curves way too fast!

But I guess that's a metaphor for youth. When you were on a train, with no particular destination. I would just go with no time in mind, not caring when I would arrive or get back home. I guess that changed over the years, now that I have children and a husband and a career, it feels like everything is about rushing. Everything is about time. When will I arrive at my ultimate destination? And I don't necessarily mean death, I just mean the things that I dreamed about while riding the trains and buses, praying to become something more and doing more than what people expect of me. Now, I'm counting down the days until I arrive.

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