Monday, October 20, 2008

The latest additions

There are topics I can discuss at length: the advantages and disadvantages of various egg substitutes for vegan baking (this knowledge coexists with the fact that recently I had two roast beef sandwiches at the Rax restaurant in Joliet, by the way); obscure and failed sitcoms of the early 1990s (knowing what shows Matt LeBlanc and Jennifer Aniston were on before Friends, for instance); groups, splinter groups, and internecine debates of the early women's liberation movement...But the furniture stores and other buildngs of Vliet Street in the Hillside neighborhood of Milwaukee? I don't have much to say. So for no reason these photos illustrate this post about my latest additions to the blogroll/links list.

I've moved some links to different categories, but never mind that. And, in the more political blogs, deleted a few that became password-protected, or were too much of an inside joke.

In the top, Chicagoland categories, I'm now adding photo sites and photo blogs. Please enjoy the fine work of Christa Lohman (chloeloe), Chris Brunn, Chuck Janda, Noah Vaughn (Rubbish), and Nick Suydam (Sights and Sounds). I've been so distracted by finding blogs for many other cities, I haven't looked for more Chicagoland blogs in a while except from people I already know. I'd love to find blogs about specific neighborhoods, but many of the neighborhood blogs I find (certainly for Uptown and Rogers Park) aren't necessarily coming from viewpoints I endorse...

I added the website of Chicago writer Lee Sandlin, who I had the pleasure of meeting over a long lunch in Lincoln Square a few weeks ago (thank you again, though I was quite embarrassed that one glass of wine made me forget how Cairo, Illinois is pronounced). And two blogs from Jessica of Elgin. She found some photos from my brief Elgin trip on Flickr, invited them to a Flickr group, then featured some on Life in Elgin, which was nice. She also has a personal site, We Love Thrift Stores.

Most of the adds are to the "City life/built environment (beyond Chicago)" section, mostly from a manic day or two of looking for blogs on many cities and areas I'm interested in, not all of which I've visited this year. If they feature abandoned buildings, if there's a historic preservation bent, if they discuss transit and infrastructure, and/or there's a real enthusiasm for their city, and I don't see anything that frightens me, and they seem to be fairly active, I'll probably add them.

I'm mostly sticking to the Midwest, Rust Belt, Great Lakes, Third Coast region (by the way, Ted McClelland's recent book The Third Coast is HIGHLY recommended; I hope to interview him about it if I can). I love New York City, and San Francisco, and Seattle, and Portland, and Austin (well, I've only been there once), and I'd enjoy reading about them, but frankly I don't think those cities need much publicity. I'm much more interested in people seeking to improve and promote overlooked and "uncool" cities.

Newer stuff: Detroit (Faded Detroit, and the hugely popular Sweet Juniper). Indianapolis (The Urbanophile, Urban Indy). Columbus (All Eyes and Ears). Cincinnati (Building Cincinnati, and I added Cincinnati, As I See It, but that ones's completely vanished). Youngstown (Defend Youngstown, I Will Shout Youngstown). Pittsburgh (Cleveburgh Diaspora). Louisville (Broken Sidewalk). Buffalo (Greater Buffalo Blog). St. Louis (Mississippi River Valley Girl, Vanishing STL). Twin Cities (Twin City Sidewalks, Uptown Mpls Blog, and the extremely entertaining, fairly new Mall of America blog, by "wolf," who is "a guy who goes to MOA...a lot...").

And two that feature people from many different cities: The Where Blog, and Rust Belt Bloggers (I noticed I got a mention on the latter, so I've joined in the community). I haven't yet found Omaha blogs that fit my criteria, or any from my home state of Iowa, sadly; if anyone knows if there's good built environment/urbanism/city life blogs from there, please let me know! I may start looking for Denver and Phoenix blogs as well (even if those cities are a little too "popular" for my criteria, heh).

I added Chicago Steel Heritage Project to Organizations, Chicago History in Postcards to Even more Chicago stuff (formerly Random Chicagoland fun) and a bunch more to the non-Chicago/non-blog built environment section: Braddock Pennsylvania; Forgotten Ohio; Forgotten Buffalo; Preserve Minneapolis; Omaha (Historic Omaha, Landmarks Inc) and Denver (DenverInfill, Historic Denver), and more architectural foundations (Michigan and Denver). I've become quite fascinated with roadside America, Route 66, Lincoln Highway, etc. recently and that'll probably be the next batch of additions...

My blogroll categories are organized roughly by how much those topics turn up on City of Destiny. City life and Chicago and buildings the most, books, food and shopping somewhat less, politics the certainly doesn't mean I consider those the least important. I'm sort of a wuss who tries to avoid conflict and controversy here.

The only political blog I've added is Rustbelt Intellectual. I added Healing Self-Injury to the mental health section, just because. Nothing new in the body image or adoption categories right now. In the latter, Marley at The Daily Bastardette has done a fine job covering the fiasco of Nebraska's Safe Haven was definitely on my mind on my recent Omaha visit (another teen was abandoned that day, I believe). If you've never been exposed to views on what's wrong with "safe haven" laws, I highly encourage checking her blog out.

That's it for now...I hope to have a zany-adventure post up soon to compensate for my long absence. The photos keep piling anyone following me on Flickr knows, I've been to Omaha and Denver on my first-ever Amtrak trip recently, plenty to say about that... (And yes, that trip happened after the date on this post--don't ask!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ruins at sunset

As promised, some late afternoon exploration at an abandoned, ruined, and since my last time by, partially demolished industrial facility in Chicagoland. Enjoy this horizontal photo; it's the last one you'll see for a while. And all but this one are in chronological order.
I may be well past the "why does every abandoned building have so many chairs and sofas?" stage in my exploring career, but I'm still in the "why do so many abandoned buildings have pianos?!" stage. This was a fantastic sight.

It's an imposing building from the outside. I'd driven by with a friend, but we didn't go in that day. I'd been at the nearby Metra stop, but it was too busy around to try. Finally, Saturday I biked downtown for a bike/Metra trip.

Stay 25 feet away?
I didn't start off here. I started with my first solo trip to what might be the most fantastic ruin in all Chicagoland (not counting Gary). My trip there with a friend, a year to the day earlier, was incredible. (It's in the archives. Not a story, though; I still haven't written the story from last year; both trips merit their own post, later.)

After more than two glorious hours there, I biked to another nearby spot...well, I couldn't find it. I'd never been in. Then I biked to find a place I'd only briefly explored after discovering in the spring. Went the wrong way, couldn't find it either.

But this site was there, if missing at least one building. As is common for a new place, I went in a more difficult way and found the easy way later. It was all easy, except for the building sealed up for asbestos abatement. I could have gotten in but decided to take those signs seriously this time.

I still had plenty to see, even if much of it was emptied of anything but a few signs, pieces of equipment, and yes, chairs.

I walked through all of two low industrial buildings, one much bigger, and by then, giving off a beautiful late-afternoon glow.

As with most exploration spots I've seen this one in other's photos. But I didn't study them before I went, I wanted the place to be somewhat fresh.

Of course, now a lot of it's missing or less accessible, and I wonder if that's where all the stuff (the research labs) were, and if I should have tried the abatement building, or if it'd been cleared of anything intriguing anyway.

Rubble + nature = another cliche of Katherine's photos!

And factory windows, factory windows...I did what I could with the back buildings and figured I'd better try the main one before it got dark.

This beautiful stairway awaits at the main entrance (seen in the first vertical photo). I didn't do much on the first floor because of debris blockage. So I went up and zipped through the second and third floors of this enormous building, stopping where it met the sealed-for-abatement adjoining building.

One part is extremely open to the major street in front. The sign across the way says "Outreach Plaza." Outreach Plaza and signs for new condos viewed from this rubble--a little too perfect, another cliche of Katherine's photos!

I had more trouble than I anticipated getting down from the third floor, making a dozen or so unnecessary jaunts down this hall or that, wondering where the stairway had gone. I think I handled being alone in a very ruined building I'd never visited before, in an impoverished suburb, as it was getting dark, and I only had a small flashlight, with aplomb, or at least a minimum of panic. (And why is this quality never mentioned in personal ads instead of tedious requests for a woman who's equally comfortable in jeans and a party dress?) Oh, past that door at an angle, there's the stairs. I got out quickly, so exhausted, yet ready for more, I left my bike locked outside that Metra station to come back the next day.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Detroit afternoon, part two

The much-delayed follow-up to Detroit afternoon, part one (which has now been pushed off the front page here). Delayed even further when one accidental cut-and-paste meant half the photos and the first 9 paragraphs of text (which took me about 3 hours...see why I don't do more long posts?) completely vanished and "undo" did nothing. (In the early days of this blog [2005, though hardly anyone I know now knows the pre-2007 version], I'd press something wrong and a whole post would disappear; adding the autosave feature was a vast improvement...until it autosaves your terrible mistakes!)

These photos are from mid-August, my fifth visit this year and the most recent when I'm posting this, with probably the best weather of any of my trips.

I admit my initial attraction to Detroit was its status as the abandoned building/ruins capital of the central U.S., if not the whole country. But I've made it a point to seek out unabandoned, even thriving, places on each visit. Still, I did start this day checking on a vacant place I'd noticed on the prior visit. I couldn't get in and had to content myself with sitting across from it, soothing the defeat with chili cheese fries and coffee from American Coney Island, at 7 am on a Saturday. Moving on, I made my third trip inside Michigan Central Station. An abandoned building I'd noticed nearby was "open" for the first time I'd seen it, so I had a brief excursion there. I hadn't found a way into MCS the previous visit but it was easy enough this time, if I didn't mind getting a little dirty. Surprisingly, a photographer I saw on the ground floor was the first person I'd encountered in there; the second was across from me on the roof. I went up for ultimately disappointing shots of Tiger Stadium (far along in its demolition by then) and noticed an explorer-looking guy. I went over and we had a brief friendly chat. "I don't run into too many women alone up here." I imagine many have thought this about me, but he was the first to say it.

Leaving coated with a fine misting of grime, I hurriedly walked from Corktown to downtown, Campus Martius, where Preservation Wayne was conducting one of the four walking tours they offered that day. I paid my $10, a few minutes late. Surprising that though all my Detroit visits were ostensibly about architecture, I hadn't gone on any official tours. I chose downtown because it seemed the most "basic." At around three hours, the tour was too long for my taste (nearly all of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's walking tours are two hours), but I wasn't bored. I threw in a few bits of info that I knew (without sounding like a know-it-all, hopefully). And I saw pockets of downtown, particularly east, that I hadn't seen before. The tour ended in the fantastic Guardian Building, in the Pure Detroit shop. I'd wanted to buy a Detroit t-shirt that was neither sports- nor crime-themed, and there they were. I got a beautiful blue "Enjoy Detroit" t and crossed the lobby to a fancy coffeeshop, the store clerk following to serve as barista (this WAS downtown Detroit on a Saturday). I now have a punch card for the coffee place (the Rowland Cafe).

I've needed to make contacts with Detroit people besides urban explorers, and Michelle Lynn on Flickr is one. She suggested a number of places to visit, but the only one I made it to was the Eastern Market. It took some doing to get there from downtown, even with my map and directions from the tour guides--Detroit's diagonal streets trip me up. Mildly lost, I stumbled across a beautiful apartment complex, and noticing a historical plaque, was surprised to learn it was a Mies van der Rohe project I hadn't even known about. Lafayette Park, which is a National Park Service Historical District. I'm not the biggest van der Rohe fan, but this was impressive.

Much of the way, I was still tackling the coffee (a large hot coffee in August? why?) and something that almost made the entire visit worthwhile, a waffle cone of key lime pie ice cream from Happy Cream, a delightful ice cream shop/cafe on Monroe Street downtown. Worthwhile because I'd noticed that flavor on my first visit, but they were out. And out on my second and third trips to the store. Yes, I visited Happy Cream on 4 of my 5 Detroit trips. And I had to bravely endure other flavors before getting to key lime: pineapple upside-down cake ice cream, banana pudding ice cream, strawberry cheesecake ice cream. (I assure you, they have flavors that AREN'T based on other desserts. But I hope they have pumpkin pie ice cream for fall. And wow, if anyone could come up with a tapioca pudding ice cream, I'd totally endorse it. [Said knowing that my level of celebrity is roughly commensurate with the popularity of tapioca pudding.])

So, the market. First I noticed the beautiful buildings--including those in the top 3 photos, and this one with the mural. Then the produce. Oh, I couldn't believe I'd missed this on my previous Saturday visits! I'd only vaguely heard of it before. Some of it is a farmer's market, with locally grown/produced food (lower prices than Chicago markets, needless to say). Some of it is a produce market with conventional produce at good prices. I couldn't believe I could get a package of blueberries for $1, which I ate that afternoon. I was upset to think I had a bus ride in hours, with miles of walking before then, and couldn't buy much. I need to visit, buy a ton of produce, and stay at someone's apartment and cook a giant dinner...

I ate lunch at a restaurant Michelle had mentioned, one of the very few sit-down restaurant meals I've had in Detroit. And I had a salad, when nearly all my Detroit dining had been hot dog-, pizza-, and ice-cream-based. I went to a variety store/gourmet market and bought some coffee, chocolate, etc. They had an amazing selection of Arcadia Publishing books, and I bought my friend's book about Kalamazoo, his hometown, which was out of stock when I placed a giant Arcadia order (mostly Detroit books, which did come in handy) in January.

Kalamazoo came up the other day and I babbled about how they'd had a variety of industries, including celery, and corsets. (You can tell from my blogroll or Goodreads how much I'm interested in industrial history, especially of the Rust Belt. I just don't think anything I'll learn will seem more fascinating than that Kalamazoo was once called the "Celery City.")

I'd forgotten the other day (I did read the book soon after buying it) that they were also known for Upjohn pharmaceuticals, Kalamazoo Stove, Checker Cab, and the major industry, paper mills. (Oh, wow.) Back outside, I found a booth with more great Detroit shirts, but couldn't justify buying more that day, even if they were 2/$35. I'd already done much more shopping on this trip than most. I left the market, walking towards Woodward.

And then I stumbled across the abandoned public housing project, subject of the earlier post. Only a few blocks from the fancy salad and gourmet grocery and organic locally grown produce.

Moving on, I was in the land of buildings standing alone, surrounded by vacant lots. I saw this church--not the best photo, I know. First I went into the ruined structure to the left. I couldn't get into the church itself, but attracted attention wandering around. A woman drove up and asked what I was doing/where I was going in a concerned-seeming way, then added an odd remark that I should get photos of the church because it was going to be burned down. And there was this house--abandoned but charming.

A little further, and I found this lovely castle-esque apartment building. Not difficult to get into.

But rather frightening once you're in. No sign of recent human activity, obviously no, like most abandonments I've explored in Gary, this is one where the biggest risk was the building itself.

There's no longer much distinction between the ground floor, upper floors, and basement; floors have collapsed on each other.

I did tentatively go upstairs, but didn't get too far once I was there. I left the empty can of the San Pellegrino Limonata I'd gotten at the gourmet store, as a weird, obnoxious gesture, I suppose. (I've left an empty Izze grapefruit soda bottle, purchased at Starbucks, at the abandoned silos in Chicago.)

The place had nice windows, anyway. But I needed to move on. And I did. I was right near Woodward, and ran across another gourmet market, one I'd passed without ever visiting. I wanted more food for later, and bought containers of edamame-tofu salad and glazed sweet potatoes from the deli. Now, Chicago has ruined buildings and empty public housing and Chicago has produce markets and gourmet stores. But they aren't a couple blocks from each other the way they were that Detroit afternoon. The "castle," a dangerous ruin, was literally surrounded on all sides by rehabbed houses and newly built homes. The mind boggles. I'm not bashing the place--I love abandoned buildings and I love gourmet vegetarian treats and it's certainly convenient to find them a couple blocks apart--I just wonder what people who live there think.

The day went on for hours more but I'll leave it here for now. With my favorite find, though certainly not best photo of the day, from an area in the Eastern Market vicinity that reminded me of Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. In the midst of vast displays of unofficial Barack Obama t-shirts, and beauty products, and framed posters, this juxtaposition. (I wound up posting it on Flickr on the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech. If Hello Kitty has a dream, she's having trouble telling us.)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

it's that time of year

indeed, we are.
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

Oh, no reason I'm posting this photo during baseball playoff season. No reason at all.

Well, yes, I'm worried that hopes are dim for a sequel to When Chicago Ruled Baseball, which I'd just checked out of my local library but won't start till I finish the baseball book I'm reading now.

Enigmatic sign seen on this week's trip to Milwaukee, on the marvelously-rich-in-photo-opportunities area of Vliet St. between 12th and 14th, a little west of the former Pabst brewery. I could do a whole post or Flickr set on the furniture stores there. I photographed a furniture store sign with a friend on an earlier trip, but he didn't want to walk and take photos in this area (or at least not with one of his expensive cameras), so I went on my own. I've made this image my "buddy icon" on Flickr, at least for baseball season, perhaps for election season as well.

Thursday, October 02, 2008








(and another one I forgot before I could write it down), all words used by my Greyhound bus driver yesterday while addressing passengers on a (very slow and very delayed) Chicago-Milwaukee trip.

And he mentioned knowing some French and German, but not Spanish (when a cell phone kept ringing and he thought the owner might need instructions in Spanish). As I left I wanted to say, admiringly, he was the most loquacious driver I'd ever had. I'm glad I didn't, because although he was a bit talkative, the word I really should have used was "erudite."

That might be my favorite bus-related story this year. I've had many trips by Greyhound and/or Megabus in 2008: Detroit (5 trips, one including Ann Arbor); Pittsburgh (1); New York City (1); St. Louis (2); Cleveland (1); Milwaukee (5); Minneapolis (1); Des Moines (1). As well as seeing Gary, Hammond, and Whiting, IN; Ames and Nevada, IA; Elgin, Aurora, Kenilworth, Waukegan, Bensenville, and Joliet, IL; and Kenosha, WI, by commuter train and/or bicycle, and sometimes even by car (someone else driving, always).

I'm drowning in thousands of photos I took of these places, of course. But the upside of having so many photos and trying to not post them too quickly is that I can build up sets of images. I've been photographing similar places in many cities and can post them here, or on Flickr, together. Beautiful old train stations and grand hotels and theaters, main public libraries, farmer's and gourmet markets, light rail systems, shopping malls and arcades, major league ballparks...and of course, Greyhound stations. Top to bottom: Milwaukee, St. Louis (former station), Des Moines, Minneapolis, St. Louis (new station), Ann Arbor, Cleveland. I have more. And many shots inside the stations, or from the bus. And the story of the driver who made a few personal phone calls--to me, after a trip--but that's part of whole strange story of my summertime accident, which I have yet to tell in full here.