Monday, October 24, 2016

A not-so-harrowing trip through Chicago’s South Side

  October 14
Hosea L. Martin is a Chicago writer.

A not-so-harrowing trip through Chicago’s South Side

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_480w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2016/10/13/Editorial-Opinion/Images/SAmarshall021371236828-1758.JPG?uuid=f45NQJFjEeamo9UAYaqfrg
Artist Kerry James Marshall works at his studio in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side in June 2013. (Brett T. Roseman/For The Washington Post)


My 96-year-old mother lives alone in a building on Chicago’s South Side that she and her late husband moved into more than 50 years ago, and the other day I drove her to shop for groceries in a small store a few miles away. She prefers this store because she likes to stand in line with neighbors who also shop there and greet her, and she doesn’t get that kind of attention and intimacy from the big-box supermarkets that have a wider selection of products and sometimes lower prices.
After we finished shopping, we returned to her neighborhood, where young men who live on the block helped me unload her grocery bags and carried them to the building entrance. I followed them with a load and, as usual, didn’t bother to lock the trunk and doors of my car. Nothing was taken from the vehicle, as usual.
Leaving my mother, I drove down the busy street to the expressway that would take me to my home several miles away. Along the way I passed a shopping center, where mothers with small children went from store to store. (The kids, probably anxious to go to an ice cream shop, tugged at their moms’ hands.) In the center strip, boys pounded rhythmically on tin drums, and peddlers offered an assortment of merchandise to motorists at traffic signals. I declined to buy a bean pie and black Muslim newspaper from a young man wearing a neat bow tie, but I gave him a donation.

After I reached my exit, I stopped to let students cross the street, on the way to Illinois Institute of Technologyclassrooms or, because it was warm, perhaps the Lake Michigan beach a mile or so east. Or maybe they were just going to Starbucks. Many of these students had come to Chicago for the world-class technical education to be had at IIT; others were no doubt enrolled at the University of Chicago or Loyola University. That evening, hundreds of eager baseball fans would pour out of the “L” station and hurry across the street for the opening innings of the White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field to my left.

On my right and several blocks away were the charred remains of Pilgrim Baptist Church, said to be the birthplace of gospel music. The church conflagration was devastating, but the congregation refuses to surrender to adversity and now holds services in a building across the street; it isn’t as imposing as its predecessor, but joyful sounds come from inside on Sunday mornings.

Eventually, I came to the park that’s named after Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose poetry, written in “Negro dialect,” embarrassed me when I was in high school. Now I slow down respectfully as I pass his statue; as with many other African American literary figures, Dunbar’s fame came posthumously.

I finally rolled into the parking lot of my apartment complex and climbed out of the car to go to my unit. There I prepared a simple meal, which I ate at a leisurely pace as I sat in front of the television and waited for the Monday Night Football game to come on. I felt I deserved a bit of relaxation after surviving another harrowing trip through war-torn Chicago.