I take a right from my front door and walk, crossing Archer Avenue, under the expressway, until the street ends at a park by the water. I’ve come here a few times now. Once, all the benches aside from an uncomfortable one in the playground were taken. I sat there and read a book, then made a sketch of the towering pole, mountain of beige sand or gravel, the grain-elevator-like structures, and NO WAKE sign across the river.
This piece of water is where Bubbly Creek joins the South Branch of the Chicago River. This is where the runoff from the stockyards used to end up. Now there are people fishing here. I don’t know how polluted it still is. Judging by the people who I see here every time I visit, they see it as a place to relax rather than worry about disease. A woman hauling groundskeeping equipment asked to look at my painting was happy with what she saw and introduced herself as the person in charge of making sure the park is kept clean. I told her I’d see her again soon. I plan on coming back.
After a month in the new apartment I feel like I’m starting to get my bearings. I finished a charcoal drawing and some sketches. Everything but my collection of Chicago-themed books has found its place. I’ll need to get another bookshelf and then, hopefully, keep the rooms reasonably clean. It feels like the right place to be.
Each evening after I’ve stopped working on whatever thing occupied me during daytime I sit here and just take it in. It’s better than the way I pictured it over most of the past year leading up to the move. Feels peaceful here at the end of the day.
I wish I could say the same with what’s going on outside. The spots of calm like the waterside park at the end of my street seem few and far between. The turbulence has been just below the surface a long time and no doubt the enforced isolation of the past months has accelerated its burst to the surface. I’m not one for marches or crowds but I support the sentiments behind their cause. I’ve rarely had good experiences with police in this country. One time I made the mistake of calling them because I believed my roommate was trying to kill herself by overdosing on pills. When they arrived they treated her like a criminal; their job is to keep the peace but oftentimes they escalate bad situations into worse ones. After a half hour standoff I had to carry my terrified roommate down the stairs to an ambulance. She refused to let the cops near her. I’ve regretted calling them ever since. There’s something wrong in the way they are trained to do their job. It has to change. Monday morning Marisa from The Rumpus asked for an illustration for a statement in support of the protesters and I was happy to oblige.
I’ve seen the NO WAKE signs along various points of the Chicago River a long time and never knew exactly what they meant. After visiting the river a couple times over the past weeks I looked it up and learned that it’s an instruction to passing craft to operate their engines at the lowest level possible in order not to cause waves to splash ashore. It sounds like an appropriate way to be in this moment. To be extra mindful of the terrain we’re passing through, to be aware of those around us, to recognize that rocking one’s own boat leaves damage to others in its wake.