The present, if the most important tense, is often also the least interesting

I wish it were still January,  © 2014 Celia Her City
The present is the most important tense: a proposition that fills me with a sort of dread.

Yes, the look of the river and the feel of the cold is important as I advance mechanically through my commute each day.  The present is where we feel pleasure and pain, where we endure monotony, where we encounter ugliness so overwhelming that our minds fly off as soon as they can. More

West-side industrial

West-side industrial

Yesterday we had to take our car in for service, which meant driving out to the west side on Division.  It’s an old industrial no-man’s-land, with a rusty old bridge over the Chicago River and an old paper factory made of aged red brick.

Crowded river scene

Crowded river scene

The Brown Line trains are running again now that repairs to the Wells Street Bridge have been completed.  It was quite a project!  When I took the train north across the bridge yesterday evening, the river was still crowded with repair barges and equipment.  A tour boat plied the waters, carrying its passengers toward an up-close view of the site.

Busy river (poster), © 2013 Celia Her City

View east of the Chicago River from the upper deck of the Wells Street Bridge.

Images have been ‘posterized.’
Click to enlarge.

One moment in Chicago’s long life

Repair barge in the Chicago River at Wells Street, © 2013 Celia Her City

The city is always building, leading to the complex vista that Celia, commuting, sees daily: the buildings, bridges, and balustrades rimming the River, offering a pleasing spectacle to the passing trains.  Cars, trains, boats, and pedestrians pass distractedly through a landscape that’s the work of many decades and thousands upon thousands of laborers’ hands.

The repair barge in the river, for fixing the bridge, is fleeting evidence of all that goes in to making this the home that we know.

The bridges we don’t see


The beautiful old bridges spanning the River: Celia doesn’t notice them much, and neither does he.  They are just the things we cross over, abstractedly.  Yet without them we would be divorced from ourselves, stuck with just a part of all that we are.

The Chicago River skyline and its bridges, © 2013 Celia Her City

The Chicago River skyline seen from atop the Wells Street Bridge.

The river today

Chicago River steaming on a frigid day, © 2013 Celia Her City

The temperatures have dropped in Chicago, from 60 earlier in the week to nearly zero today.  The river this morning was giving up its heat to the sky.

I love the closed-in, rectilinear look of this cityscape.  So many surfaces, each with its own distinctive patterns and scale.  Reflections inside the bus add to the vaporous dreamy feel.

Skyway perch

Skyway perch (Credit: Celia Her City)

The Chicago Skyway has always fascinated me.  It’s a high-arching toll bridge that runs over the industrial hinterland hugging the Lake south of the city.  It’s nearly unavoidable if you want to go to Indiana or Michigan because it’s by far the fastest route there from the city.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to take good photographs of the Skyway scenes.  It’s wouldn’t be safe to pull over on the bridge itself, and its structure obstructs many of the views.  The approaches to it are steeply sloping, so the resulting pictures are angled in funny ways.

It’s too bad, because the area around the bridge is an ungodly mix of aging industrial and maritime sites.  There are marshes and canals nearly invisible in the thicket of hoists, bridges, and junk heaps.  The area, so strewn and cluttered, nonetheless foregrounds interesting views of the Lake and city skyline.  So I always do try to take pictures when I’m on the Skyway, even though they don’t usually turn out.

I managed to take this one that isn’t too bad.  It shows some strange little buildings that are somehow necessary to a massive hoist that is near the Skyway and, for some reason, nearly as tall as the Skyway itself.

Someday I would like to go see this no-man’s-land at ground level, but for now this one picture will have to do.

PS  This picture on Wikipedia shows the location of the hoist next to the Bridge.