#998: The Ride – Greater Grand Crossing to Bridgeport

October 26th, 2018

The tree is on the corner of Harmony Boulevard and Ravinia Road — they give the streets silly names in the graveyard.

I read a few more of the names into the recorder I brought with me that ride day in July, but I couldn’t find the good recorder that morning. What tape I have is minutes of crackling and wind. I make out odd words like “pine cones,” “birds,” “Symphony Shores” and “I ask why, but HUSBAND Harry Davies (1880-1949) won’t answer.”

I’m typing this in October and I can’t remember why I found the graveyard so loving.

If this weekslong ramble northward to wrap up the site has a purpose, it’s to find the city’s themes. I found labor and futility where the factories rot. I found community, home and hope in the neighborhoods older relatives have told me never to go to. And here, spurred by a graveyard at 71st and Cottage Grove, I found memory.

Or I found what I can’t remember.

I do remember the tree.

It was, and presumably still is, a large tree floofing out into hefty, weight-supporting branches only a foot or two off the ground. One long branch crooked horizontal for a length of close-enough parameters that a slightly chubbed middle-aged blogger wearing khaki cargo shorts over bike togs could sit in the tree, lay along the branch and stare at a pine cone-filtered sky.

I’m not saying I climbed a tree in a graveyard, Mom, but I’m not saying I didn’t.

As I sat in my tree, I talked into the bad recorder — not bad, per se, but so sensitive and un-windscreened whatever I said was lost between breeze and bird. I remember loving what I said into that recorder. I remember thinking this was good, solid, gave a sense of the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood in a way both accurate and avoiding the white tourism this bike ride risked turning into.

It’s just scratches and wind now, and I think that’s somewhat appropriate.

We live in lost history, with HUSBAND Harry Davies’ entire life crammed in that dash between 1880 and 1949. If we’re lucky, a few words spring through the noise. A name, a date, a moment caught on tape forgetting the fancy word for trees with needles. (It’s “conifer,” I remembered later.)

What better place to remember memory than in a graveyard?

Later, I’d head north. Later, I’d run into the line of crosses a Jesus guy put along Halsted to mourn Englewood’s dead. I ran that story early as #961. Later I’d ring through construction zones, try and fail to find the end of Bubbly Creek (ran that one early too) and ended up playing ’90s video games at a retro-themed hipster coffee shop in Bridgeport. That’s where we’ll pick up on Monday.

I guess Ida B. Wells is buried in Oak Woods Cemetery, the internet tells me later. And Harold Washington, Enrico Fermi, Junior Wells and Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The internet’s a wonderful thing, although I almost fell down a Wikipedia wormhole just now looking up pathologist-poet Maud Slye, forever sharing Oak Woods with the activist and missionary Nancy Green, who funded her antipoverty work by appearing as Aunt Jemima.

But I didn’t know any of that in my tree. I just knew pine cones and conifer needles. Birds, cicadas, airplanes and the honks of both car and the Metra Electric in the distance.

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