#846: The Purpose-Driven Life

November 6th, 2017

For all I know, I’m romanticizing a stage set from a guerrilla student film.

For all I know, this is a fantasy I concocted on a drowning wet day in a vacant bread factory in Bronzeville.

We were cordoned in the front fraction of the factory — maybe the third, quarter or eighteenth. Vacant but for peel-paint columns, a bit of old machinery that didn’t look like bread, rain-shed lakes oceaning swaths of floor and a waterproof boombox for construction sites blasting opera, it was hard to tell how far the rooms and crooks of the factory floor leaked past the yellow tape.

And a mantle. A fake wooden fireplace, carted from some unknown scrap heap or wiring-stripped flophouse to be set between the bit of machinery that didn’t look like bread and a fallen Butternut sign that said it was. A fake mantle next to a ficus that was either also fake or exceptionally hearty. Fireplace, potted plant, waterlogged recliner and bust-smash-soak-endlesscoatsofdustandpaintpeels coffee table somehow standing enough to keep aloft a turntable and a hardback of “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

The man from the developer didn’t know where it came from either.

It was like that when they bought the building and rousted the squatters to start the long process of turning bakery into data center. The squatters hadn’t gone upstairs, though. When the man from the developer went to clean up and turn out the upper floors, he found them dusty but vacant, no signs of human life since the Schulze factory stopped making bread in 2004 and gave up on being a shipping facility in 2006.

“Too spooky,” a woman wearing a Chicago Architecture Foundation Open House Chicago T-shirt joked.

Along one wall of the factory floor, a turn and a room from the mock ’50s dad den, among lookie-loos and lollygaggers there for a two-day shot at gaping at the space, an old man sat on a stack of boards. He sat with bare legs, a madcap scragglebeard and three plastic grocery bags of possessions. He lolled and rolled, he wrung his hands and dozed atop that neat, tidy stack of lumber.

Who stacked the boards? Who carted a mantle, ficus, turntable and Christian devotional hardcover into a vacant bread factory? Was I in a set from a terrible student film or had this man or a man, woman, child like him wanted to feel human?

Had they wanted to feel human so badly they broke a recliner into a squat?

For all I know, the man with the bare legs had never been there before, just took advantage of the open house to get out of the rain.

For all you know, I made this all up.

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