Most people don't think that there are many swamps in Illinois. But these people haven't been to Riverdale. This suburb is practically Chicago, right on the southern edge (As Evanston is to the north side, so Riverdale is to the south side. And they're as dissimilar as two suburbs can be). It looks and feels just like the south side, complete with occasional murders and gas station car jackings. If you can muster up enough courage to take the trek down Halsted, through the swamps and violence, past Harold's Chicken Shack and into the train yard under the viaduct, you'll find yourself at Artisan Signs.
And as of this week, this is where I work. I made sure to bring my camera today, because this place is intensely photogenic. I walked around their backyard for a while this morning. Check out this sign graveyard:
I wandered around this graveyard for a good half hour today. Everywhere I stepped there was sharp, plastic confetti. Broken signs from who knows what former business, who knows when. Sixties? Fifties? Who know...
As much as I wanted to give some order to the massive piles of signs, it was clear that whoever threw this stuff back here had no interest in giving the dead signs any sort of organization. It's not like all of the restaurant signs are resting together on one side, and the deceased neon lies in the back corner. No, this is chaos. This is what it will look like when our capitalism caves in on itself. Intricate designs, bright colors and expensive lights will be reduced to scrap.
Piles of bricks, busted chairs, rusted cars and crumbling buildings. There's no life here. No hope. It's just a swamp, buzzing with those little bugs that you can't see until they're swarmed all over your face. Then you spit, and jerk your head down. Surely, this graveyard can't be good for the environment in general. The ground must be soaked with battery acid. But I'm not going to clean it up. All I can think to do with this mess is share it with you, dear reader. Look at the mess. Know that it's real, and always will be.
This is an image that has been in my mind as far back as my memory will go. The decrepit building used to be caked in graffiti. "Demon N Brat." I didn't know what it meant, but it made me nervous. I always wished that I could see that rooster's face. But I never really needed to, I knew what it looked like. It's a simple rooster. He would tell me, "don't come over here Dylan. Don't come around here. It's not a friendly place." And up until this week, I've listened. But lately, I've been feeling like performing some self-mutilation.
I'm trudging around in the Illinois swamp, but I don't own any boots.