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Hog Butcher, Stacker of Wheat

Posted by admin on August 1, 2014 in Musings, Travel |

Chicago

“The great trains howling from track to track all night. The taut and telegraphic murmur of ten thousand city wires, drawn most cruelly against a city sky. The rush of city waters, beneath the city streets. The passionate passing of the night’s last El.”

Nelson Algren

The El © Ken Rodgers 2014

Chicago is a muscled-up version of Denver or Phoenix. Brassy and confident, the streets alive with jive and new suits and Teslas and glassy buildings that scratch the edge of the sky.

Among other big league teams, Chicago’s Cubs play here and their fans are raucous and wear blue hats and shirts with big red Cs. The El loops around this brawny town and the rumble and crank of wheels on its seasoned tracks, the moan of its superstructures, roll on all night.

Wrigley Field. Home of the Cubs. © Betty Rodgers 2014

From the Art Institute the works of Van Gogh and Monet and El Greco and Chagall shout out for the home folks and the tourists to tread before the museum walls adorned by some of the finest art in the world. A location where museums reside, Chicago plays host to the sublime and other more mordant things, museums that record the art of war and the memory of war.

View From Inside the Pritzker Military Museum & Library © Ken Rodgers 2014

Down the canyons of Jackson and Monroe, the wind rises off Lake Michigan and buffets as you stop and gawk at the line queued up at Dunkin Donuts. Chicago native Lou Rawls sang about the winds of Chicago. He called the wind, “The Hawk,” and at dawn The Hawk swoops down and cools the seething streets.

Lake Michigan © Ken Rodgers 2014

And the food: Italian, German, Asian…the list is long.

Say New York? Chicago yawns. Say LA, Chicago laughs. Say London, Chicago shrugs its industrial shoulders.

We shared meals and sightseeing with new friends and old: the writers and artists, Patricia Ann McNair and Philip Hartigan; our old Cowboy Poetry pal Michael Lawson all the way from the Monterey, California region; tenor Don Hovey, Betty’s four decade friend; my Jarhead mate Michael E. O’Hara.

A Chicago Canyon © Ken Rodgers 2014

Carl Sandburg, 20th Century Pultizer Prize winning author and Illinois native, called Chicago a hog butcher and a toolmaker and a stacker of wheat. And Chicago is still those things and a lot more. He’s a capitol city: Capitol of the Midwest. He’s an educator and an entertainer, he’s a high tech maven, he’s Chicago.

Let me end this paean to the Windy City with more Sandburg.

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Bareheaded,
Shoveling,
Wrecking,
Planning,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse,
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing!

For those of you interested in reading fiction, I have begun posting short-short stories on this website. If you are interested in reading them, you can find them at http://kennethrodgers.com/flash-fiction/.

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