Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ashland Avenue Barrens



Steve offered me his old camera, but I'll stick with my disposables. Years ago I owned one of those Kodak Disk cameras and got the film developed at a FotoMat, remember those? Well, this photo was on the same roll as the Alley grafitti photos. At Ashland and Archer, you can get off the el and walk across Leavitt Street to the fenced in South Branch of the Chicago River. It's more common name is Bubbly Creek because of the methane bubbles constantly popping at the surface, the rendered carcasses of cows from the old Union Stockyards still slowly decomposing far, far below the green/grey waters. But if you don't climb the fence to get closer to the waters, you can walk up a bit of a treacherous climb, gravel with few footholds up over the Archer Avenue bridge (which itself has appeared in previous posts on Bubbly Creek), then there's a little hobo jungle on the other side. I've posted the photo of what it looks like from the top of the gravel climb, you can see an old spur for the Amtrak train that breaks apart like an old walking bridge a dozen trestles in. There's an abandoned factory in the background, and everything below is quite isolated. Spindles of barbed wire, gutted appliances including a refrigerator, and in the summer everything smells like piss. Several winters ago, I tried to take this same photo you see here, but there was ice on the gravel and I slipped, my right knee making a cracking noise that echoed the way everything echoes in an open area in Chicago's winter. My leg numb, my camera broken, I slid down into hobo town, thinking, well, as usual, nobody knows where I am. I wasn't afraid of thugs or squatters (the homeless that do not stay in the Loop seem to be more prone to violence the further south one goes), rather I was concerned that my knee was broken. I have a fairly high pain threshold, in 1999 I spwnt an entire day playing ball with my nieces not knowing I had fractured my right elbow in three places. And I realized the last time I was heading downtown that I never did take that photo, and I made a note in my head to come home in exactly the right train car, so I'd be in the right position and would have the photo centered. And here it is, one of the creepiest areas in Chicago, even in broad daylight on a Saturday summer afternoon...Wayne

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

here is a place where instead of the ghosts eerily sounding booooooooo one hears mooooooo..........QQ
couldn't resist.......Linda

Anonymous said...

Hey,

I don't live in a creepy area- but Bubbly Creek is about as creepy as water gets between here and Love Canal, actually I live about two miles from there. If you take the Orange Line past 35th/Archer to Western, you pass the old Union Pacific and Santa Fe Rail Yards, the hobos run wild in that area since most of the factories are abandoned. You better get your pictures while you can, its slated to become mixed income housing. in other words 200l and up.

Mike-

Anonymous said...

Hey,

I don't live in a creepy area- but Bubbly Creek is about as creepy as water gets between here and Love Canal, actually I live about two miles from there. If you take the Orange Line past 35th/Archer to Western, you pass the old Union Pacific and Santa Fe Rail Yards, the hobos run wild in that area since most of the factories are abandoned. You better get your pictures while you can, its slated to become mixed income housing. in other words 200l and up.

Mike-

Steve Malley said...

It's not 11:11, but I *am* watching a thing about that hobo serial killer (weapon of choice: a hammer) while reading this!

The Dynamo and I plan to one night ride the local rails...

Anonymous said...

Great googly-moogly! Bubbly Creek is where I've been thinking of setting the finale of this little novella that's been spawning in my head. Thanks for helping to locate the place for me in my head, though the story takes place in 1973.

Cthuhu's kid nephew has been in lurking in the Marquette Park lagoon -- or somesuch creature like that. And once summoned up makes it as far as Bubbly Creek. And C-spawn/spittle/somelike thing is the source for this green-tinged angel dust making the rounds of local druggies.

I'm still trying to get some more info about a couple of local places -- like that big hole in the ground, a quarry, on the northeast end of Bridgeport. Was that big hole ever filled in? I remember stories from Bridgeport residents about that thing once being used as a landfill and getting overrun with rats. It doesn't show up -- yet -- on any Chicago history sites and not even the maps I have show that it ever existed.

Less dramatic, but important, is the name of a restaurant that was situated on the other side of Kedzie -- that is, west -- of the Marquette Theater. On the south side of the street, a few doors west of the corner. Our family or parts thereof used to go there after "the show" sometimes. We liked the club sandwiches and the hot beef sandwiches. Like a lot of local restaurants, they had these big photo-murals of Greek islands or something similar. And for the life of me I can't remember the name of the place now. My brother, whose memory is usually infallible when it comes to movie-related stuff, can't recall the name (though he can remember the bottom of a double bill we saw in Feb. 1968). Ah well, if worse comes to worse I'll just have to make something up.

I also heard that there's been some "gentrifying" along Bubbly Creek. New townhomes and stuff. That seems almost as bad as placing new houses over the site of a toxic waste dump. I wonder who would want to live there. People with names like Whately, Tillinghast, Curwen and West, I betcha.



-- Rich

Lana Gramlich said...

Ouch! I can almost hear your knee cracking. Yeesh!
Kind of depressing photo. Icky-urban style, I guess. Not my thing.
I remember Fotomat & also had a Disk camera. Although the photos were grainy, the camera sure held up to abuse. I even dropped it down steep, wooden stairs once. I broke into different pieces. When I reassembled it, it still worked!

Charles Gramlich said...

Bubbly Creek definitely sounds like a place to end a story or book. Now I'm going to be seeing those bubbles rising in my dreams.

HemlockMan said...

You know what? I'll be kids play there. No. Really.

When I was a kid, we knew every freaking creepy, dark, shadowy place that there was. How to hike to it. How to sneak in (if you hadda sneak, that is). When the best time to go.

Yep.