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