Crisp and cold has a smell, one you’ll never know until someone cracks open a hydrant on a hot summer day.
A blade of water launches out, slams its way onto the street past car tires and gutters lined with muck to whirl and whorl down storm drains half a block away. Cars slowly stutter through, although a quick acceleration would be better on the paint. A group of young guys hangs by the stream chatting and taking iPhone shots.
The droplets of water spatter and evaporate into the air, creating the illusion of smell. It sweeps away the 6 p.m. aroma of sweat, car exhaust and heat-drooped tree leaves. The absence of summer funk almost stings the nostrils.
A few other young men, these ones dressed like Mormon missionaries with laptop bags, trudge to newly carved condos plopped onto two-flat lots.
It’s Humboldt Park, I think. Maybe Logan Square, depending on how far north you go and what the developers think will sell.
It’s the same block either way. The same cracked hydrant. The same old men and women in shirts like Puerto Rican flags playing dominos or cards in a parking lot a block north. The same bodega with a little bell over the door that jingles when people go in for goods that can be purchased with cash, credit or Link.
Same condo blocks. Same garage-top patios only visible from the new 606 trail on the old rail lines.
I can’t get involved in who’s original Humboldt and who’s a newbie. It’s not my game, and even if it were, the hipster cruising slowly on his Trek taking mental notes for his blog probably wouldn’t win ol’ timey street cred.
But it would be inaccurate to say the battle lines aren’t drawn. A cruise down an alley revealed a garage door decorated with two handmade mockups of the “Building A New Chicago” signs the city puts by construction projects. The word “Gentrified” was painted in street art graffiti text after the word “New.”
I can’t write about what should be. I can only write of what is.
And what is is a sweaty ride on a beautiful day, workers coming home and the ding-a-ling of a bodega door.
And a cold, crisp gush that stings the nostrils as it washes everything away.