Out in the streets

So I’m up in the Clurb, and nobody’s girl is dancing up on me because I’m staying at the only place I can find that is within walking distance of the Metra system and not obscenely expensive. I managed to roll into Chicago, likely the biggest settlement of lace curtain Irish and wannabe Irish in the Americas, on the eve of a St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday, so of course lodging downtown costs an arm and a leg and a stupid little plastic green bowler hat with an elastic chin strap tonight. One weeknight on the Magnificent Mile was manageable with a $45 credit, but I’m not magnificent enough for more than that.

I happen to be familiar with the area where I’m staying tonight from a trip to Chicago that my parents and I made fifteen years ago this week. That time we stayed two or three miles east of the Lake-Cook Road Metra station in a hotel expensive enough that I preemptively screened it out this week. I’m staying instead at a Red Roof Inn that’s a mile or so around a big corner from the station on Waukegan Road. I’m able to walk this distance in twenty minutes, give or (usually) take. Being on foot this time, I’m noticing the condition of the local infrastructure that I ignored on my earlier trip, when my parents and I drove to the Metra station and everywhere else we went in the North Clurb. The main takeaway is that the sidewalks here fucking suck. In the course of a mile on two major arterial roads (Lake-Cook and Waukegan) I’ve run into several places where the sidewalks abruptly end, some of these hundreds of feet from crosswalks; several big piles of snow that have been left covering sections of sidewalk from a small storm several days ago; and exceptional amounts of gravelly construction and road maintenance debris, strewn across sidewalks and parking lots parallel to sections of missing sidewalk alike.

The common thread here is that no one gives a shit. This is a wealthy area, so it’s unlikely that the local constituencies have been abandoned by hostile or uncaring governments with nothing to lose on account of their neglect. I assume a number of the locals would tell me to drive or take Uber like a normal person. Fuck Uber, of course, and I see no reason to waste money on cab fare when I’m fit and awake enough to manage the walk, but having driven around here on my previous trip, I’m not eager to do so again. Chicagoland is laid out on an endless grid with hardly any diagonals, the roads are slow all day and into the evening, and Chicago drivers are terrible. As long as Metra’s schedules aren’t useless, only an idiot wouldn’t ride dem shine train. It’s $8.00 for unlimited all-zone travel systemwide on Saturday and Sunday, starting at midnight, although, as I implied above, the weekend schedules aren’t great.

Most of Chicago’s suburban development shouldn’t exist. The urban planning in the neighborhood where I’m staying is iffy, and it’s nowhere near the worst in the region. A bunch of barely serviceable crap has been allowed to spill out willy-nilly forty miles onto the prairie. These are terrible places for the poor to live, but with rents going up in the better urban neighborhoods and the worst urban neighborhoods going completely to hell, much of the working class is in fact forced out into areas with half-assed sidewalks and probably even worse bus service. Then there are the rich parts of the Clurb, which Fabius Maximus mentioned a few weeks ago. A study had come out showing that children raised in fancy parts of the West Clurb dramatically outearned those raised in bad parts of the West Side of Chicago. I haven’t read the study because I doubt it’d tell me anything I couldn’t already guess. High Whitey segregated itself into some ritzy shit with strategically drawn municipal lines so that it could continue to make the derelict choice to do nothing to resolve Chicago’s mutually reinforcing class and race problems, which are dire. Duh. I don’t know a whole lot about Chicago, but I know enough to infer that.

As a friend said about some fun-time hospital narcotics he had taken, it’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.


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