Sunday, February 18, 2007

From where the Workers work

In the building where the Workers toil, there is an underbelly: a series of industrial hallways that lead to trucking docks, other businesses and sometimes nowhere at all. With the recent snap of cold, these hallways—but mostly the dock itself—have become a haven for the smoking Worker.

The building was probably intended for the manufacturing of things. Everything is made out of concrete and steel, and there are right angles everywhere. It was made to function, not to please the eye. The company I work for moved in a little over a decade ago, drawn by the incredible amount of physical space it could occupy for a song. They are primarily a photo studio, and the vast majority of the area is occupied by darkness, with most of the illumination coming from little clusters of activity where the photographers have set up their lights and lenses and the merchandise they need to shoot. It is easy to spend day after day in the office, especially near the front, where I am, and not be reminded of all the right angles, all the concrete and steel.

The bowels of the building serve as a reminder. Although it is not pretty, it can still be a little beautiful. I took the accompanying pictures with my phone, at night after almost all of the workers had departed for their homes.

The neighborhood is now pretty run-down but remains a shipping hub, even though it lies on the fringes of the city limits. Across the street, the closest restaurant is not in Chicago itself but in Cicero. A driver passing through on nearly any of the roads in this area can expect lengthy delays due to the huge rigs backing their cargo into one of the hundreds of the little industries which are seemingly everywhere. The roads are not wide enough for the trucks to pull in easily, and they shimmy themselves backward carefully, sometimes getting themselves aligned in one or two readjustments, but more often taking ten or more. Normal-sized vehicles will dart around the front ends when there is enough of a gap. The roads are also not wide enough for the trucks to turn efficiently, and they often turn right from the left-hand lane.

The run-down nature of the neighborhood is most easily seen through the high volume of trash on its streets—which sometimes catches in the wind and is trapped to form little tornadoes—and by the occasional appearance of streetwalkers. The latter is not so common as it used to be, but still happens. They are most common early in the morning, possibly at the end of their night's work: waiting for a bus, or walking along Roosevelt Avenue, holding their arms against their bodies in their skimpy outfits to ward off the cold.


Anonymous said...

I always like buildings best when they are empty, especially at night. They are then full of a sense of possibility which is never fulfilled in the daytime.

I hated school but liked wandering around the place when everyone had gone home. It seemed more real then, not less.

I sometimes wonder if buildings in some strange way record all that has happened in them, the sad, the funny, the serious, the grave. You know: life. In an empty building you sometimes feel as if you could almost... almost... play it back.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to write about this same place, at various times, in little blips here and there on my blog and have not so as successfully as you have here. Very well done.

And I adore the photographs. Amazing, amazing shots. Your talents, Mr. T, are boundless, aren't they?

Unknown said...

Thank you for this snapshot. Beauty is not always where we think it should be.

Liz Dwyer said...

The glow at the end of the hallway in the first picture is just magical. What a great shot.

Caroline said...

Fabulous photos.
I'm moved to feel sad, which is rather odd.

The Moon Topples said...

SilverTiger: Yeah, the laughing ghosts of former Workers still roam these halls at night. I believe the expression is: "If these walls could talk..."

GT: Your flattery is noted. I was as surprised as you that I wrote what I did. I thought I was just going to talk about the hallway for a minute so I could post the pictures I had taken.

Minx: Thanks, and I agree with you.

Liz: It was looking down that hallway that made me reach for the camera in the first place. I'm thinking of returning with a real camera one of these days.

Caroline: Glad you like the images. I don't find the sadness all that odd, unless you meant that it's weird for you to feel sad in general. There's something in the hallway here that evokes a time which is gone, and I think it's natural to get a little mournful. That's probably why I wrote what I did.