we’re not our skin of grime (part i)

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Chicago trains are named with different colors. Red and green and pink and purple and yellow and orange and blue. Despite economic growth of chicago, much of the rail and train system is still from the 60s and aging. Blue line starts from o’hare international airport and after a few suburban stops, it’s rusty rails enter America’s third largest city. It passes through the mostly blue color Polish neighborhood whose elderly never seemed to have bothered with English and it then greets old school Chicagoans of Albany park and after that, it scratches the side of Arabic neighborhood and falafel places and then, it takes a break at the cool pants guitar wielding hipster stops. Shortly after, the blue line train crawls underneath the giant glass towers of downtown and with one breath it reaches university of Illinois and there a few international students get off. From there, the blue line train heads west and its black passengers take majority of most of its cars. Their neighborhood seemed to have been forgotten since the sixties race riots and after decades of negligence, it’s been on a tight grip of criminal gangs. Exhausted and worn out, The blue line train eventually reaches the last stop on the edge of the city. Everyday, the blue line train crosses the thick and invisible borders of racial and economical segregation in chicago and with such childish stubbornness, it sows them together. A few days ago, on my say home on this train, a tattooed sentence on a back of a passenger got my attention. It read: “We are not our skin of grime.” She had her child on her lap and was headed northwest bound from downtown. I asked: excuse me, your tattoo has made me curious. Her name was Ellie, from South Africa, she was here with her husband, a teacher, and their kid to pursue her PhD in anthropology from university of Chicago. Her tattoo was  a line from an Allen Ginsberg poem who since the fifties and sixties, had taken on militarism, material consumerism, and sexual oppression in his poetry. Read part II in next post (click here).

Chicago – Fall 2014

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