The conglomeration of pines formed into a giant “tree” at Daley Plaza is no more, replaced by a single, more ecology-friendly tree at Millennium Park. While the cool color scheme is modern, managers of buildings along the Chicago River opt for the traditional red and green.
Here’s another example of a Belt of Venus seen from downtown Chicago. Darkness above and color below, partly due to old-school sodium vapor street lights.
Here’s a Cutler mail chute at the Merchandise Mart. I wonder if it’s brassy underneath the paint. The sticker looks old.
Related: Cutler mailing system with mail chute and lobby mailbox and A different mail chute
14 October 2018
While returning from a walk on the “ancient dunes” trail at Eggers Woods, one of the Forest Preserves of Cook County that’s almost in Indiana, I spotted this doe and two three-quarters grown fawns on and to the side of the trail a short distance from the parking lot. They have lots of room to roam at this park a few blocks from I-90, but friend J and I saw at least five to six deer near the trail and/or lot. While this looks like a challenging stance and she kept an eye on us, she didn’t seem inclined to scare easily. They’re used to hikers without guns, I suppose. Some of the deer seemed thin to me, which isn’t good for them with winter around the calendar corner.
29 April 2018: While on the way to the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, I noticed people were looking down and skirting something on the sidewalk. From a distance it looked like it might have been a pigeon, which could account for the apparent distaste.
When I got closer, this is what I found—a beautiful belted kingfisher, killed when it hit building glass during spring migration. It’s fall migration already—a time to see more beautiful avian visitors passing through. May most of them survive Chicago . . .
14 July 2018
When I woke up, all I could think of was the name Robert Brown. It had been threaded throughout a long dream mostly unrelated to Robert Brown.1
I was at a performance of a long play.2 During a break I ate with two handsome men my age who looked and sounded interesting. Did they notice me?
I went to the cash register and found it in the dark underground. I overheard the cashier berating someone.
Somehow my aunt had a large student loan that she hadn’t needed, and I was to pay it on her behalf. Before I could tell the cashier my business, she started belittling my aunt and accusing her of fraud and theft (maybe I had already told her my business since she knew what it was?) When she took a break, I told her who I am. She didn’t react, but she stopped ranting.
I kept thinking I had left my dishes in boxes on the back steps, but I didn’t recommend this for others because of animals. Mine would be safe for unknown reasons. I went outside for dishes and saw that the steps led to the lake, which lapped at the bottom, and overlooked a great city on the other side. I marveled as I realized I lived in this place and could go down these steps any time, although now they were icy, wet, and treacherous. I went back up them carefully, afraid to step into the lake water and feeling like what I’d seen was an illusion, a mirage.
All the while “Robert Brown” kept running through my head.
1 Robert Brown, born under the far more interesting name Robin Adair MacKenzie Brown, played “Lazarus” on the Star Trek episode, “The Alternative Factor.” Famously, he was a last-minute choice after John Barrymore, Jr., failed to appear.
2 This may come from my attendance a few years ago at All Our Tragic, an adaptation of all the Greek tragedies into one 12-hour play. Hypocrites’ effort won six Jeff Awards.
Crossing the Calumet River on an Amtrak train passing through the former South Works steel region. Chicago Skyway in the background.
25 March 2018
J. and I headed to the Calumet area, specifically Deadstick Pond near Lake Calumet. There’s no public access I can see, and a fence separates the area around Lake Calumet from the frontage road parallel to I-94, Doty Avenue. Collected against the fence is trash—tons of trash. I envision hordes of high school students and adult volunteers spending a few hours a few weekends cleaning up the accumulated trash along the fences at Lake Calumet and Deadstick Pond. The area seems so little traveled that no one may notice, but it’d be a small step toward restoring a semblance of beauty to the area—as long as it isn’t trashed again.
The Calumet area, for many years the center of Chicago’s steel industry, carries an eerie air of a transition zone. Stony Island, a broad, heavily traveled avenue through Hyde Park, South Shore, and other communities, turns into a two-lane, potholed, unmaintained road flanked by tall grasses, nascent parks like Big Marsh, landfills, and the occasional industrial-style building and parking lot. There’s not a house to be seen, nor any sign of a neighborhood.
Eventually, the avenue that further north boasts restaurants, stores, churches, hospitals, and other urban fixtures dwindles down to a cracked, littered pavement that ends abruptly short of a curve of the Calumet River. Traveling down Stony Island can feel like a ride on a time machine toward a future apocalypse, when industry’s mark is visible but faded, and nature is slowly creeping back through the piles of plastic bags and bottles. It’s like the end and beginning of the world.
As J. carefully navigated the potholes, a few cars and trucks sped past at speed—in a hurry to get to who knows where. We stopped on the roadside at Deadstick Pond and peered through the vegetation and fence for a peek at some ducks bobbing along among gray snags. There may have been swans, or plastic bags masquerading as swans.
Next we found Hegewisch Marsh, where he parked by the rail bridge and we wandered down a rough road parallel to the tracks. Many ducks floated on the open water while their passerine counterparts flitted about the bare trees. Along the way I found a lot of scat, most loaded with fur. The open areas connected by the river, rail lines, streets and bridges, along with wildlife-rich marshes, must be coyote havens. I hoped one was following us with its amber eyes as we tread on its territory.
Rail bridge near Hegewisch Marsh
We stopped at Flatfoot Lake in Beaubien Woods, also off I-94, which roars over the otherwise serene setting.
Flatfoot Lake with I-94 beyond the tree line
Flatfoot Lake pier
On a satellite map, Lake Calumet, the largest lake within Chicago, looks artificial. I couldn’t guess its original contours. It’s surrounded by nearly empty, decaying streets, the occasional vast building, the ceaseless noise of a busy interstate, and other trappings of modern dreams. There are other dreams, though. The Lake Calumet Vision Committee has a dream for the Calumet region that includes biking, jogging, paddling, and sailing, along with a trail connecting the Pullman National Monument to the young Big Marsh Park—potentially 500 acres of new habitat. It’s going to take time, and it can’t happen fast enough for me.
Now if we could only do something about the roar of I-94.