And then I visited Chicago

August 28, 2004 at 3:10 am Leave a comment

Chicago is a tomb. A city chocked by logic, it’s founding in 1833 dates it at the origins of victorianism, and it’s founding philosophy of utilitarianism in 1863. Such a cold logical basis has marked it’s history. Chicago’s subway is the least efficient I’ve ever seen. It’s tracks branch out in a well laid map of the city, but magically goes no where. New York’s subway seems like a foot-map of it’s most used areas, by comparison Chicago’s subway seems like a simple map of the city that cares not for culture or really getting you anywhere. To get from O’Hare to Harlem requires a 30 minute trip into the city, then a transfer down to another line and then another 30 minute ride up the new line to Harlem. O’Hare rests approximately 10 dollars in cab fare from Chicago’s Harlem, in essence the subway is to controlled, it’s owners not alleviating heavy traffic with multiple lines, or even building connecting or crisscrossing lines: it assumes you came to town to go downtown and then come back. Once u leave downtown, you have to go all the way back to reach another line. New York’s underground foot print seems like a more organic beast with lines crisscrossing like footprints and a train always at the ready to sync between lines, meaning u can move east, west, north, or south every 2 – 3 stops while on average you have to travel at least 7 stops in Chicago to reach another direction. What Chicago needs is imperfection, small spaces of useless line that make a neighborhood valuable, a bar easy to get to, a ghetto a possible refuge from over-taxed highways and trains. It’s cities also obey this logic. Born 200 years after New York’s founding Chicago didn’t have to obey New York’s statute of at least 3 feet between buildings (before centralized air ppl would suffocate in tenants’ lower rooms unless a space allowed air to flow between the buildings) and it’s roads are laid out in perfect grids (except lakshore drive etc), it’s a city by clockwork where downtown is work and the suburbs are home. It’s founding philosophy could kill it, Chicago needs a demolition crew, to break down it’s older buildings and put something new in, to destroy it’s streets so even the businessmen can take a break w/o having to resort to starbucks. High-rises are next to high-rises, no intermittent spaces, no community gardens, no textured spaces between stops lights, no benches, no life. It’s multifarious offices spaces have morphed, a taco stand has a venue in back where emo-rockers play, it’s musical staples are Reckless Records and the now closed Chicago Music Exchange. Reckless is a fine store, but doesn’t actually contain music in it, instead all cds and LPs are held behind the counter, like a museum of music, it requires the purchaser to give up the responsibility of morality, the custom of not stealing and respecting the store. We the costumer can’t be trusted, but this loss of freedom comes with a collection of hand me downs that are more impressive than any music store anywhere. Pharaoh Sanders LPs, Hair Police Cds, all the older tunes by various bands, are collecting dust behind the counter while you can efficiently shuffle through their covers picking out a variety of styles most stores don’t carry. And this is a good thing about Reckless, by relying on used vinyl and cds it stays in touch with it’s populous, the jazz folks trade intheir jazz, the electronica kids pick up their electronica, and everyone trades musical tastes, no single trend marks the store except the populations diversity.

Chicago is a smoking city, amazingly bookstores don’t care if you smoke in there, restaurants don’t care about smoking sections, everyone is lighting up everywhere you look. Un-employment marks it all, fewer people are homeless here than before, but it’s homeless are tenacious. At Starbucks asks for a cigarettes and then for cash. When I tell him I don’t have any cash he sits down and continues to tell me his war stories, I put on my ipod and listen to music, he doesn’t care, he keeps talking, I give him a dollar. Another man comes into Starbucks and starts cursing when no one will buy him coffee, another guy asks me to start a business so he can get a job, he seems the best of all of them, at least he’s got an original pitch, he wants me to start a business selling buttons with my name on it so he can give them out. He’s a little more entrepreneur, might make it somewhere someday. By night me and Liz make it down streets where more beggars ask for change, a homeless bohemian won’t take Justin’s sandwich and the sheer amount of buming it indie and punk rockers is amazing, no one has jobs and the indie-homeless mysteriously won’t take food, belying that maybe all they want is cash for another reason. It’s odd to think this of someone your own age, college educated, and like you still un-able to find a living. Interestingly the homeless-indies look like me, breaded, shredded jeans, thrifted clothes, and you realize when your parents say you look homeless their right. But still there’s something disturbing about them, we are a community of youngins commited to ideals and an attempt at a living, a type of life. Traveling around the country I’ve seen us creatively engaged, us weirdos of couches and music, of art shows and projects that don’t exist to make money but perhaps a point, in so many different contexts from New York’s happily well off bohemian set to D.C.’s wealthy but venue strangulated groups and Chapel Hill’s diversified record shoppers, Atlanta’s pretentious achievers, Miami’s clustered trend set, Orlando’s humble but slightly proud group of kids who always seem to be doing new things that the homless seem un-necessary I mean christ dude just move back in with your parents. My point is also Chicago’s scene is diversified like Chapel Hill’s, but isn’t as hopefully, it’s a product of mostly downtempo and bland post-rock and pointillistic experimental seem like reflections of a totalarian downtown, a space that won’t give, that won’t care, that won’t play. It has cultured packed into it, shows circle at an uncanny rate, one night I have to decide between a new york free-jazz group of one of the guys from the microphones or a tech-house night. There’s a lot going on, and often it’s got a good amount of people there too (around a 100 at most it seems). Chicago bustles, committed to an ideal of continuing it’s musical culture of building a better scene and it’s shopping staples only further confirm this. But it has lost ground, attendance is down for shows everywhere while people decide on more important matters (the election, staying alive, money) and of course here I am the dandy kinda floating down it all: the one guy with cash and a cool job. Ray tells me he wishes he did what I was doing, which is odd cuz he lives in a cool office owned by Hefty surrounded by 2 really cool guys and a record collection that’s just fucking amazing (Al Green, Can, 80s techno, spiritual jazz are all in the Hefty library). It seems like the type of job most people are dying for, a decent label, a decent place to stay, a decent salary, and a good amount of mobility (no one seems to care about hours and no discernible manager can be found). But anyway, I’ve gone off track.

Surprisingly Chicago has a beach, you don’t hear about this but the great lake is one giant ocean of fresh water. It includes waves and a horizon so vast you can’t see past it’s end. It creates the illusion of an ocean and it’s chocked full of boats and sunbathers. People even surf it occasionally during storms. Waves, a product of the moon’s magnetic pull, are the biggest surprise, salt water has more electrodes and hence a better amount of stuff to pull around, but the great lakes sheer size makes enuff to produce a pathetic, but still interesting say 6 inch surf (it gets bigger during some times of the year and around high-tide I’m told). It’s lake is sorrounded by a giant park recently constructed that seems to compete with Central Park, but stangely is a little bit better. A huge ampitheater (predictably designed by Frank Gehry but still of course really fucking amazing) and even a conession to Chicago’s other obession: bikes. The city is becoming un-passable by car. Lakeshore Drive congests to the point of a go-slow and the subway can’t get you w/n 1/2 a mile of the average club hence the bike has become a necessary aspect of Chicago life. Justin’s friend works at a bike shop, and the shops dot the city like garages, and even seem to be talked about like one. Naturally Gehry, not a logicist but more or a pragmatist, has built the world’s coolest bike garage. A series of hydralic pumps circulate the garaged bikes in a chain that drags them along a glass roof by the parks entrance. It’s a really cool idea, and the bikes are like sculptures, celebrations of Chicago’s changing culture. And of course the Millenuim parks marks Chicago’s change from the Utiltarian history of it’s urban planning to the neccessity of providing it’s citizens play, a space to be lazy and compete. Gehry’s ampitheater looks like Central Park, couples dot it’s lawns in a display that seems almost showy, like the park was designed specifically to make everyone seem like super-models out on it’s lawn. And why don’t we have one of these in Orlando? Why can’t we get Rem Koolhaas to design a lawn ficture and performance space? Chicago is taking steps to alleviate it’s past, Gehry’s ampitheater asks that we not take it seriously, it’s construction even looks climable, like a giant children’s toy of titanuim and pre-amps, but the city isn’t mixed yet. New York combines the firm anti-aesthetic work ethic of America’s ancestory with the more expansive areas of play a city requires, but Chicago has them segmented with frivolity running the length of the coast and seriousness marking the cities major areas. By night me and Liz sit on the only sittable piece of granite we can find in the business sector, and look out on a sixties minimalist sculpture that dominates the pavillion. It’s orange body frames the 19th century metropolis, providing that one spark of usefully uselessness in a section where even park benches seem to have been removed to keep everyone on the go all of the time.


A

Entry filed under: media.

why electronic music bothers me an essay in 3 parts by Andrew Jones oh yeah

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