#914: Change and the Pilsen Night

April 13th, 2018

There still aren’t stars.

I know they exist, that they’re out there burning away in a deep black eternity, the smallest still on a scale grander than I have capacity to comprehend. But on a street corner in Pilsen, they’re drowned out, washed away by overhead lamps, security lights and the glow of a late-night gym full of sweaty people in activewear.

But that’s OK.

There are stories behind these darkened windows along the Pilsen corner. There are tales of families and love, of couples fighting, of languid nights and of artists plying away alone just hoping to get a dab better with each new work. I was down in Pilsen to talk to one of those artists, and I’ll post that in a few weeks after I compile notes and take down tape recordings. This isn’t that story.

And that’s OK too.

Pilsen is a changing place. The Mexican-American enclave by factories that don’t open anymore is facing an influx of the young and crafty. Murals now show Anglo faces and I spent $2.50 on a single piece of chocolate daubed with gold leaf and spiced like curry. It was my dessert after slamming a few pierogi in a bar full of construction workers in union hoodies. Pilsen doesn’t yet know what it wants to be.

And now, after pierogi and curry chocolate, after an interview at an artists loft and a brief nighttime stroll to a bus stop by a glowing gym, I stood wondering about stars I couldn’t see.

This is life.

This is it, the big show. This is the main event. Boring, happy moments are just as much a part of the picture as the heart-rending triumphs or losses, as those burning stars or burning artists we can’t always see. Life is standing, waiting, aging, sipping, downing overpriced chocolates or underpriced pierogi. We wait for buses, for inspiration, for someone to tweet something interesting so we don’t have to spend any seconds so surely bored. The stars burn hydrogen, the sweatsters in activewear burn calories, the artists burn the midnight oil hoping to whittle ourselves into the people we want to be.

It’s all here on a street corner that glows brighter than distant suns. Life is waiting for a Pilsen bus on a spring night as clear and sharp as broken glass.

Another scene from Pilsen

More pierogi

And, just for fun, a breakdancer

What's this?

You are currently reading #914: Change and the Pilsen Night by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • Get Stories by Email

  • Chicago Corruption Walking Tour

    Join the email list for tour dates and info.