Monday, October 12, 2009

Drawing the faces of the morning commute

I loved plodding through the muddy streets of turn of the century Chicago with Carl Sandburg. Just like walking around for a day with all but the closest of bosom buddies, Carl occasionally spewed some opinions with which I didn't agree, but I still appreciated his vigor, his enthusiasm, his love for a city so flawed. So I took him up on his suggestion, to "hang on a strap with me here" (p4) and board a Halsted Street Car, as I rode the 21st century blue line to campus. I couldn't spot any obvious cartoonists on the train with me, although one high school kid was doodling on the brown paper cover his mother had undoubtedly folded onto his new textbook. I imagined the "pigsticker" and the "overall factory girl" crawling down Halsted Steet on the way to the yards. I imagined that they lived in an apartment in Stevenson or Lincoln Hall. They might have walked the same ground we walk each day, wait on Halsted for the street car that never seems to come, hoping perhaps praying that Chicago transit doesn't make them late today. Flashing forward, I see a man in a tie anxiously check his watch. A woman in scrubs shifts impatiently in her seat. One man, in a restaurant uniform slumps over-- coming home from the night shift at 8:00 am.
"Find your pencils
a way to mark your memory
Of tired empty faces." (Sandburg p. 4)

One woman in office clothes stares forward-- ipod in her ears-- the previous evening's concerns still lingering on her face. Contrary to the quiet malaise that hangs inside the car, the train hurtles forward, just as the street car once clanged down Halsted. Instead of standing in rooms full of raw carcasses, these passengers look forward to days spent answering phones, flipping burgers, cleaning bathrooms, administering flu shots and clicking mouses. They cling to coffee cups, cell phones, children's hands and newspapers. Another Chicago work week has begun.

Just like Sandburg witnessed so long ago,
Tired of wishes,
Empty of dreams." (p. 4)

1 comment:

  1. Love it. LOve it. Love it. You could write forever about this and I'd read it. The malaise in the car stuff is great. I really respond to that. Not sure why. Perhaps because my malaise in my life was crap jobs and the bus--we didn't have trains. I hope you'll consider a creative writing long piece based on this.