This post was inspired by a blog that showed the toilets on a Disney cruise ship. A blogger on another thread on another blog had designed the toilets, and there the toilets were for all to see because a passenger had thought to take a photo of them on her honeymoon. I’ll never find that cruise ship blogger again, but she and her friends were in the midst of a blogging challenge to take photos of one day of their lives. Their project was to take a picture no less than every two hours throughout the day, and then to take photos on a working day as well as a non-working day, to give an idea of both work and leisure. It sounded kind of weird at first, but then I remembered that that is what history is made up of. It’s not the battles and the generals, it’s how the ordinary people lived day to day that most fascinates the historians, from Heisod on down.
So here is a day in the life. It starts out in front of the computer with a cup of tea next to the mouse. Then a bus ride through a Polish neighborhood on Chicago’s farthest south east corner traveling north through a Hispanic neighborhood (with firetrucks at the bus stop). I stop long enough to visit a library and an elementary school classroom used for adult education, then get back on the bus for a ride through a Hispanic neighborhood. At the end of the bus line, I walk further north though the Hispanic neighborhood and then a black neighborhood, crossing a train track which is a bit of wild forest in the middle of the city–a sort of stopping by woods moment–and am rewarded by a commuter train passing through. Finally I arrive at an auto shop with a blue crenelated roof. Then I do some errands: the drive-through cash machine, the dollar store to pick up coffee cups for class, a gas station, the Arab neighborhood for bakery goods, cheese and tea, and the Salvation Army store for used books that cost a dime (and I find another Sayers mystery). Finally I end up back where I started, with a glass of tea next to my computer mouse. This time I have a traditional Palestinian date bread from the Arab bakery heated in the toaster oven to go with it.
So what is there to reflect on? The neighborhoods may look dismal to some. They are among the poorest areas in Chicago economically. The murals. Some of them remind me of the Minneapolis Seven Corners neighborhood in the 70’s. The blue on black background of the mural with a man with camera is actually a map of the neighborhood. In a closeup view of the rows of circles you can see an angel wrestling with a devil.
Some of the buildings interest me very much and are fun to look at, but of course in Europe everything is much more interesting and older besides, and restored and finished to within an inch of its life, so I don’t know if there is much in them that is unique.
The Chicago brick, perhaps. One building in the commercial district is apparently being demolished, the brick stacked on scaffolding to be very carefully salvaged. Chicago brick is famous.
If I could travel back in time to when I was a sixteen year old growing up somewhere outside of Lake Wobegon, studying high school Spanish and peering at the outside world from my protected bubble, this is the exactly the kind of gritty ethnic environment I would have romanticized. It doesn’t seem terribly exotic now. Maybe I’m due for a change.