#753: Whispering City

February 17th, 2017

The downtown whispers at night. 

It whispers amid the honking, squealing cars and the cacophony of maddening, maddening lights.

Downtown at night is beautiful but not lovely. The lights glare rakish from angles one aggravating skosh off. It should be a mosaic, a stained glass of glows and hues. Instead, it’s not worth the metaphor. It’s just a bunch of security lights, convenience store innards and occasional office blocks with a few rooms switched on for cleaning crews.

And a city that whispers.

It whispers in each face that goes by, each person who looks madder, happier, more in love or confused than the situation should entail. It whispers in the waft of cuisine coming from the different restaurants. Fast food mixed with pizza with steaks with gourmet fine dining mixed with whatever that is coming from the dumpsters out back.

It whispers you’ll never know. You’ll never ever know.

A favorite building of mine downtown is clad in cast iron, the first floor entirely bound in intricate now-green whirligigs of sheep, fish, columns and the word “typewriter.”

I touch the iron sometimes. I walk between the dark of the alley and the blast of light from the two-story theater sign across the street and pat the fish, trace my fingers around the words “Oliver Typewriter Company.” I love the building’s bold futility, a testament to past confidence that a place that made typewriters was permanent enough for iron.

The words “Oliver Typewriter Company” appears 26 times in the iron facade, an architectural website tells me. I can’t figure out where. Of the nameplates I can spot, I frown at the ones feet out of reach from my hungry fingers. What would those words feel like? How would it be different to trace my fingers around those letters?

You’ll never know. You’ll never ever know, the city whispers.

Why is the old man walking all herky jerky and angry? How do all the dishes wafting bao and marinara into the air taste? What’s his name and hers? What are the women laughing about in Chinese, Spanish or Polish? What’s in every office, behind every door, down every alley and did the CTA seriously board up the underground tunnel between the Red and Blue lines’ Washington stops just to drive customers down that pedway path through the shopping mall?

The city whispers an answer I don’t want to hear. I take a look through the dark and glare and decide to head home.

More thoughts on permanence 

Another fancy downtown spot

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You are currently reading #753: Whispering City by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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