Train From Chicago


The facades of row houses resemble castle turrets. Sidewalks are heaped with black garbage bags spilling off the curb. Ornate copper downspouts and manicured hedges parallel vacant lots and ringlets of razor wire. After the 115th Street station, the tracks veer to follow the curve of the lake. Tall grasses bow and trees wave as we pass. Freight cars full of automobiles sit motionless on the siding. A Trumpeter Swan on her nest is juxtaposed with discarded railway ties stacked on flatbed cars. Garbage decorates the tracks after Hammon as we clatter above rows of houses with postage stamp lawns and one grass-filled pool. East Chicago: Rowdy Roy’s Fireworks, a burned home with You are the 99% graffitied on its walls. The park of Gary, Indiana, is infested with weeds, the fountain empty. The Steel Cats play a block east. The Interstate Inn has been reduced to two rows of hollow rectangles. One half of a city block has been given over to the trees while the other half is manicured to keep up appearances. Outside the city limits could be the swamps of Florida. A line of rusted Studebakers is hidden among the trees. Passenger cars of the 1930s with tattered yellow tarps covering their roofs alongside piles of twisted trestle steel sit in a weed choked lot. A tattooed man with stretched earlobes stands beside a young boy, their fingers in their ears as they watch the train pass. Exit only where you see the conductor. Pink short shorts hang in an upstairs window. A cross, a circle of flowers, and a baseball have been placed next to the tracks. The First Christian Church has broken windows and a blue tarp on the roof. Worship is at 10am on Sundays.