Back Roads and the Crumbling Splendor of Gary Indiana
I drove to Chicago last Friday leaving in the early afternoon. I wanted to be in the River North Gallery neighborhood for the annual summer gallery walk. The are other gallery neighborhoods in Chicago but River North still feels like home to me after so many years showing on Superior Street at Ann Nathan Gallery. At 92 Ann has now gone into retirement and I now go with out gallery representation but I still like to go and visit this world from time to time. Going to a large city like Chicago and visiting the galleries and museums there is like getting a cultural bold transfusion. The Grand Rapids Art Museum is a joke! It's permanent collection is frustratingly small and its pre packaged shows all seem carefully chosen to not ruffle the feathers of its constituency. This being the case, being in Chicago, even for just a day, is just what the doctor ordered for this artist. Chicago is a home away from home.
This summer I made a very important discovery inside the preferences of my iPhone. I found that I could set up the GPS to avoid toll roads and major highways. This is has totally been a game changer for how I travel. This has become my preferred way to do my road trips when I have the luxury of turning a 2 1/2 hour drive into a 6 hour drive. It takes a lot longer to get where I'm going but maybe "getting there" is not were the real action is. Maybe that schmalzy framed poster in your sister's bathroom that she bought off Etsy that declares:
Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. -(Somebody other than me said this.)
I guess you could say that I have begun to take my journeys more seriously these days. Going back roads to Chicago took me though Gary Indiana for the very first time in my life and I was shocked by what I saw. At one point I turned off the main drag to go down a neighborhood street. I just chose one at random. I could hardly believe what I saw. Houses being taken over completely by over grown bushes, trees and tangles of vines and weeds. Empty lots where houses once stood now completely over grown like a jungle littered with an amount of trash that would fill several full size dumpsters. There were chuck holes in the street I had to drive around because some of them were actually large enough to swallow up the whole front end of my Toyota. And mixed in with disytopian crumble were a scattering of houses where people still lived. I saw a couple kids playing in wading pool and two boys swinging whiffle ball bats at each other. This looked like the set of a zombie movie. It made Detroit look like a paradise. The curious thing for me was how I never hear people talking about Gary Indiana. It's almost like it no longer exists. And you know, it's right up next to Lake Michigan. You could live in Gary and take the commuter train into Chicago and be there in 15-20 minutes. Could this city rise again? Is it's time at hand or is it just too late and to far gone?