Mexican restaurants, Korean newspaper boxes, a storefront for an office decorated with medals and other trinkets from some Eastern European country.
Signs in Korean, Spanish, English, Arabic and whatever that Eastern European language is.
Travel agencies devoted to getting people back to visit family they left behind. A canvas supply store. They still have Internet cafés here.
A red curtain billows out the window, then gets sucked in as the pressure changes. It breathes in and out as the front moves in.
The signs for a glasses store are all in Korean. The models in the photos are all white.
And there’s Seoul Video Fishing.
Chicago’s Korea Town isn’t as much a “town” as Chinatown is. It’s more a slip of Lawrence Avenue in the Albany Park neighborhood where the racial mix is a lot more Korean than your average Chicago neighborhood.
There are still old Hispanic men pushing carts of novelty ice cream treats and women selling empanadas from stands with umbrellas, just like you’ll find in any neighborhood west of Western. You can still order food in Arabic or Eritrean and tattooed white gentrifiers still jog by.
There are pharmacies and opticians and bakeries and those newspaper boxes in Korean, but if not for the sign by the highway saying “Korea Town, Exit 84,” you would just think, “Huh. There’s another Korean place in this standard, average, completely normal multicultural Chicago neighborhood. Weird.”
Left in the windows of an abandoned corner storefront below abandoned apartments on an abandoned little shut-down stretch of what the highway sign claims is Korea Town, there are signs that say “Seoul Video Fishing” in English. The Korean characters above it presumably say the same.
One of the window shows a man fishing.
Inside, there’s nothing. Another empty storefront. Dust and carpet and a flattened cardboard box lying on the ground. Nothing to indicate what went on here, whether it was fishing videos, some 1990s VR simul-angling or some unique and heretofore unseen combination of videos, fish and the 10.5-million resident capital of South Korea.
I looked at the storefront a bit. Took some pictures with my phone. Then I wandered on past the Eritrean restaurants and Ecuadorian travel agents that make up Korea Town, another empty mystery I only know about from a sign.