when folks talk to me about the transit system in chicago i cringe. if you digested whole-heartedly the chatter, you would be led to believe you were for sure going to be robbed, and just might get killed if you step foot on ANY of the ‘L’ lines. and it is quite funny the dissonance in consensus on the violence of each line. Red, Blue, Green, Pink, Orange, Brown all have been deemed a danger to be on at night. And I can’t diminish the threat of “shit happening,” but for a city that is SO segregated as that of chicago, i am curious about the relationship between travel and social stigma of certain communities. The west and south sides of chicago have their reputations. and the city is about as segregated as you can get! and when i say that, im thinking not just geographically, but the mentalities of its inhabitants. never have i been to a place, where residents of a city are so ignorant of communities outside of their immediate surrounding or those deemed like theirs. my favorite line “there is really nothing on the south side” is rivaled by the complete ignorance of the north side i get from people on the south and west sides of chicago (Black, White, people in between, and of varying class/education levels).
the transit system however is talked about with a sense of certain transgression. the criminality, violence, and unknown is unleashed from its contained zones, making a train ride an uncertain journey with danger lurking in every corner. With the amount of warnings I’ve gotten about the green line, I’m surprised I’ve seen my dear friend @james-bliss at all since we’ve been in chicago. a white boy and queer boy seem to have no place riding green (unless of course james is homeless or i’m turning tricks).
after 8pm, if i say im riding blue: “oh my gosh, be careful” red: “north right?” pink: “good luck” green: “whatcha gotta do down there!?” and the list goes on. i always wonder, is it my middle class demeanor, queer flare, or bright california eyes that let people know, i don’t really know what I’m doing riding these trains (transgressing the rules of segregation)?
and again, im not diminishing the threat of “shit happening,” but an ‘L’ train ride after 8pm is not a journey into the ‘heart of darkness. Or for some, perhaps it actually is…