Drive, drive, drive. I’m very nearly sick of it. I get to Chicago, the Windy City; not today. Hot and sunny. I spend the day walking determinedly in downtown Chicago, which I had visited in December. Hardly enough time to even get a bite out of it.
As I later learn (through my friend who’d been waiting in Chicago), I miss out on a bunch of iconic shots, including the very first McDonalds restaurant. I stop by for a burger at the nonetheless historic Billy Goat Tavern, below the Tribune building, where many a scoop has been discussed before being broken.
As the day wanes, I finally sit down lakeside, breathe in the sun setting behind the skyline. I begin to drive out but am stuck in Labor Day weekend traffic, so I stop in the southeast of the city and discover a scene unbeknownst (though not far from the pristine downtown area) to the tourist eye: all African-American neighborhoods, ostensibly poor.
This is the first giant urban city I’ve stopped in since all the way back in California, I had forgotten how striking misery becomes when packed densely into a grid.
I’m the only non-Black person in the neighborhood, save for the Chinese place where I order a takeout dish of noodles.
As I wait outside, a destitute limps towards me for change. I have no spare.
“You don’t help Black people…” he answers indignantly.
I smile instinctively, not out of joy, rather disheartened by the tragic self-fulfilling implications of this logic.
I park the car across the street, in a gas station, start eating the noodles. Another guy comes up to me for change, he just got out of jail…
Wish I could stay here longer, lots of untold stories, the other side of America, reminds me of the first days in Detroit. It’s not far from here.
I move again a few exits to the outer rim of the city, where the buildings are low and sprawled out, where the main road is governed by fast food franchises and general stores. Sleep in the lot of a dollar store, slightly uneasy.