Hanna picked up a double cheese burger and fries and a medium Coke from ye’ ol Mc Donald’s…she needed some salt, ketchup and caffeine stat. She was really sick of work and just wanted to go for a drive in her beautiful city and see how it was limping along. She was done, like “stick a fork in me, I’m done,” tired of “the Virus”. People were not at their best…all sense of logic was in the pooper and it was becoming more and more obvious how fragile and yet dangerous human beings could be.
Stores with butcher paper in the windows, neon signs dark… for lease posters dotted the facades of former “historic” bars, theaters “founded in 1946”… shuttered. Old posters from last St. Patty’s Day falling down haphazardly in random taverns that now were silent and cold in this 30 degree weather. All the good cheer and tinkling glasses was but a ghost in these vacant former bastions of merriment.
Ice skating rinks still had their lights all a glow but no skaters. Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile…Gold coast…was now boarded up, vacant, dark or eerily illuminated by all the police SUV’s blue lights.
People were high on violence…everywhere former church lady grandma’s bragged about going to the gun range and suburban couch potatoes boasted about the heat they were packing. Men in the street were stabbing each other over a “slice” someone was supposed to pop for at the local take out pizza joint…not because they were hungry…they were bored. The drug dealers were busy, busy busy…they worked long hours and took shifts, they came to the street around 2pm and by eight the pockets of addicts roamed like “The Walking Dead.” She never did like zombie movies.
YET, in the sanctity of her toasty warm 2007 FJ Cruiser she road through these once traffic jammed streets and she gazed upon all the champions of industry, large and small that were being crippled by this lethal flu. Some fine feel good jazz moaning low over the radio, carried her past street after street until she looped around the downtown heart of the city.
Father along, heading back north she took a residential street past a house called , “The Gingerbread House,” built in 1884 a beautiful old Victorian with opulent stained glass, ornate iron work in intricate swirling colorful almost otherworldly motifs. Built in a time when craftsmanship mattered- it was your calling card. Reputation and words like integrity meant something…but she wasn’t a fool…there had always been scoundrels.
Modern bad guys flaunted their arrogance and superiority to the lesser-thans…they had polished fingernails and were playboys living off their daddies legacies. Their father’s knew shame, so they threw some money around to the people they hurt and their guilt was assuaged. Their sons and daughters didn’t know guilt…all those hard luck cases were chumps. It rang from wall to wall at every country club she’d ever been a guest at. They were never her people…but she found them curious.
For better or worse she was a student of society. All people interested her. She loved Pilsen’s Hispanic community, Chinatown never got old, Bridgeport mirrored Boston’s proud working-class pride, Wicker Park’s polish taverns where on the right night someone’s wife or grandma might honor you with a little polka tune on the concertina, Taylor Street and it’s gelato on a hot day with business meetings in back rooms behind closed doors, the hallowed halls of The Union League where “business” also got done after a round of lunchtime cocktails. Afternoon games in Wrigleyville and Reggie’s Rock and Roll Sox buffet bus and brunch on Sunday game days at Sox Park. Garfield Park was more then it’s botanical garden, it also had a cool old record store called Out of The Past Records where grandma priced the music, grand-daughter ran the register and the son took care of the stock. There was musical treasure in that cluttered trove of heavenly vinyl relics.
She even loved driving around the industrial sites. Some were closed up and long decaying, housing obsolete machinery to make outdated products and no one could quiet recall the names of what those factories made anymore. They would become lofts someday or at worst a pile of indecipherable rubble. Literally, she had seen cathedrals after the wrecking ball had done it’s job…and all that was left was broken pieces of concrete. Old stone gargoyles…just rocks in a parking lot with some weeds sticking out of it, like bristly whiskers on the chin of a great age demolished. Ashes to ashes they say.
Things have to move on. They either adapt or are destroyed. No one likes to hear that…it doesn’t sound very bucolic or romantic but that’s why we don’t live forever. Good folks are sentimental creatures. We like to see the past honored and commemorated- we like to see wrongs get righted and broken things fixed…in theory.
She was done with her burger, and had taken her last hit of the fizzy fountain drink until it gurgled dry. Her street was dappled with Christmas lights in the darkness of the swaying trees. The wind had become blustery and George the cat from across the street came whizzing by from out of nowhere, making a grand and graceful leap right through the wrought iron gate in her backyard…not even getting stuck on the chicken wire hidden around the parameter of the fence so the dogs wouldn’t weasel out and go missing. Everyone had wondered if he was alive since it had been so long since anyone had seen old George, yet there he was patrolling the whiles of our Rogers Park neighborhood like there was no COVID, violence or weird shit going on…he was just doing what he did best. Living in the moment, grooving on one of his nine lives, finding a way through man’s obstacle course and enjoying his life regardless. He’s got it right, Hanna thought as she walked inside her house and locked the door so she could get upstairs and get ready to do “it” all over again.