I am writing this on the Prairie View station platform, on another mild and sunny morning; although a gale is forecast for later today, no sign of it yet. Yesterday I sat here too, and caught the same Metra train to Union Station, an hour's ride away through suburbs that went from leafy (with fountains) to industrial (with worn out, brick warehouses). Around O'Hare airport it's just wasteland, criss-crossed with wide and busy toll roads. Nothing there to comfort the soul, other than the prospect of a quick getaway.
|A bascule bridge in Chicago|
|Fellow passengers on the Metra train|
Tall weeds and prairie grasses grow in the disused spaces between the carparks and pylons. If I try hard, I can just about imagine the prairies as they used to be before settlers intervened, where the buffalo roamed and the Canada geese came and went. We're passing a ballroom dancing studio, an iHop restaurant in a shopping plaza, a beauty parlour and a dog grooming place, the posters reading: We buy scrap metal, Blue Cross of Illinois--siempre contigo!, Banquets.
|In Chicago, by Lake Michigan|
by digging a canal to connect the river's south branch to the Des Plaines River and, ultimately, to the Mississippi River. Because the canal was deeper than the river, gravity pulled lake water into it-- thereby reversing the river's natural flow and keeping Lake Michigan clean.I'd been wondering where Chicago's name came from and found the answer on a pictorial plaque under one of the bridges. It seems to be the French corruption of an Algonquin word, shikaakwa, which means stinky onion. Plants of that name used to grow here in profusion. Louis Jolliet and company, from Quebec, were the explorers who discovered this area on their way back from the Mississippi, so many nearby place names are French: Les Plaines, Des Moines, Lafayette and so on. If it hadn't been for General Wolfe, this would all be l'Amérique Française now.
(From a Chicago Architecture Foundation leaflet)
|The Trump Tower|
|Chicagoans crossing DuSable bridge|
|Reclamation work in progress to lengthen the Riverwalk|
|Steps up from the Riverwalk|
|The Chicago Tribune Building, Historic Revival style|
|A skyscraper in modern style|
|333 West Wacker Drive, the curve of the building echoing a curve in the river|
|AMA Plaza Building and "Aqua" behind it,|
with its wave-like balconies
|One of the old warehouses that's been attractively "converted"|
|Unofficial Chicago homes: tents among the trees|