Thursday, August 14, 2008

Day 13: Still catching up

On Sunday I had a nice lie in (much needed I'm sure). I rolled out around 10, and immediately into the Starbucks down the street to get my daily fix of internet news and nonsense. Vowing again to stay away from the toll road, I headed east towards the lake and took a nice local highway along the shore.

Graham says "Jesus would approve"
This eventually met up with the interstate (post toll section thankfully), which meant traffic. Sunday afternoon traffic going south into Chicago. My regiment of drinking as much water as I could was starting to catch up to me, as well as a slight irritation with the crowds of cars, so I took an exit looking for a bathroom. From here I decided to move towards the shore line again as I had heard the shore line road was interesting and goes right through downtown. This part of Chicago was pretty interesting, reminding me of a blend between northwest and southeast Portland.

Traffic began increasing as I approached the shore, which I realized was due to the giant public park the road I was on led to. A combination of traffic, stress of driving in an unknown city, and a renewed desire to use the restroom caused me to turn on what I thought was the correct road, but turned out to be one that ran parallel, with no way of connecting.

This began an adventure in navigating downtown Chicago trying to get on the right highway. Taking a wrong turn I eventually joined up with the correct route, however in the wrong direction. There must be some psychological effect that a full bladder has on the brain, because I was making some pretty poor judgment calls about turns and such. By this point, I was at the stage where had I been able to discover the proper logistics I would have used one of the empty bottles I had rattling around.

Once I was finally able to get on the shore line drive in the right direction, I decided to sacrifice my comfort in favor of not getting lost again. The road was nice, good speed and right on the lake; I was able to take in much of downtown Chicago at 60 mph.

Eventually, though, I was led into south Chicago. This is where my trip took a turn for the culturally interesting. I had this conversation with Graham, who helped me really flesh this out as he had the same general observations. Being from Portland, I hope to be a liberal and open person, and for the most part believe myself to be. However, with that in mind, the other element of being from Oregon is a lack of extreme economic diversity; for the most part, the state (at least the Portland metro area) has a range of middle class with few outliers on either side. Driving into south Chicago, I was abruptly thrown into a poor, predominantly African American community. In and of itself, not necessarily a threatening environment, but I was already lost (sort of) and quite out of my element. Against my intellectual self, I admit that I felt uncomfortable. I am unsure whether it was from expectaions and biases from what I've seen in popular media, a lack of personal experience in this kind of situation, or most likely a combination of the two. But the worst part was that I was frustrated in myself for succumbing to a fear that I know to be illogical. I know that the chances of anything adverse happening to me are low, and probably mostly equal no matter where I am, but I couldn't help but feel uneasy.

How do you combat those kinds of personal biases, when you know intellectually that they have no base? Putting yourself out there, out of your comfort zone, forcing yourself to confront your unease perhaps? I don't know the answer.

Needless to say, I found my way out of Chicago and into Indiana. This is where I had my first taste of the delicious institution known as White Castle. If what you want are tasty little burgers and fries, White Castle delivers. No frills or extras.

You provide compelling arguments.
I got out to Graham's around 9 (being in the Eastern time zone now). We went out to what is referred to as the "Oregon District" of Dayton, a street of shops and pubs that don't serve any Oregon beer. So why the name? Graham's housemates Bree and Ben postulated that it has something to do with the Oregon trail, and this district perhaps being a staging area. Probably the best explanation I heard. Despite not being from Oregon, the beer wasn't half bad for sure.

Monday we spent tromping around Dayton, visiting the Air Force Museum (very interesting), then heading out to Yellowsprings (the town Graham originally lived in when he first came to Ohio). The town is quite nice, but probably more suited for young families just settling down. We took a nice long "hike" through a nature preserve and rewarded ourselves with some beer (Stone Ruination IPA on tap!) and spinach dip.

On Tuesday, we began our journey north towards Cleveland...

Trip eh? Canadian
Kilometers eh? 6646
Music eh?
The Manchester Orchestra - Like a Virgin Losing a Child
Colour Revolt - EP
Lily Allen - Alright, Still

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have to pay attention to your gut reactions no matter where you go. Your natural feelings in strange neighborhoods are there for your survival. The fact that you are uneasy is not racist, it is human. If you did not honor your feelings and threw caution to the wind, you may be sorry and regret your naivety. That is not racist, it is acting wisely.