Revisiting his roots

by G.T.

     I’m both fatigued and rather bored in the hours leading up to my overnight job, so I thought that I might as well use this time to write another post for this blog. According to my blog statistics, there have been thirty visits since I started this blog yesterday morning. So that at least tosses out the idea that I was just talking to myself.

     Monday morning, I met my friend, Roger, at his house, for a morning cruise to nowhere in particular. This is a common activity among most of my friends: aimless driving. Especially so ever since Illinois enacted a smoking ban in all public places back in 2008. Before the ban, we did a lot of late night lounging at twenty-four hour diners throughout the South suburbs and Chicago. Roger was in the mood for a morning drive, while listening to jazz on the radio. I thought it was a fine idea, so we jetted off in no specific direction.

     At the very beginning of the drive, though, Roger asked if I had any suggestions as to where to drive. Thinking of this blog (that I had started only a couple hours earlier), I said that we should drive to the site of Joliet Iron and Steel Works, on the East side. Before that, I said, let me show you the house that I had grown up in. It was on the way to Joliet, so we stopped at the house where I had spent my childhood.

     It is a vacant house. In fact, I don’t think anybody has lived there since my family moved, back in early 2000. Some renovations had been made by whoever bought it, but oddly enough, nobody has moved in. New siding, a central air unit, and an area next to the garage that used to be a pen for my old Belgian shepard, Bo Bo, is now paved. Weeds are overgrown and the lawn is far from manicured. However, some of the plants that my mom had planted there over a decade ago are still coming up, which surprised me. As for the rest of the block, the neighbor’s house is vacant, and judging by the appearance of the house across the street, that one is vacant, too. The neighborhood had certainly changed, and it doesn’t look like it has changed for the better.

     We got back into the car and drove to the Eastside of Joliet, where we visited the site of Joliet’s abandoned steelyard. Roger and I walked on the bike path, each of us smoking a cigarette, taking in the old stone wall that is broken down in so many places, with chunks of it lying in the grass. It looked as if it were some shellshocked site of an old battle, as did the factory, with all it’s broken windows and rotted pipelines. It’s an interesting sight no less.

     After visiting my old house, Roger suggested that we drive to Chicago, and visit the neighborhood and house that he grew up in. I thought it was a great idea, and after visiting the steelyard, we made way to the Southside. Roger had never returned to his old neighborhood after his family had moved years ago. I had a good feeling that this excursion would mean something to him.

     Once we arrived, Roger began pointing out all of the things he remembered, as well as everything that had changed. The restaurants his family had eaten at. His old bank. The doorway of his grammar school where he would wait in line for the bell to ring every morning. All of the details, so articulate, came back to him. The little corner store where he and his childhood friends would often frequent. Every street, every block, every business that was still there, all of the old neighborhood came back to him. It was a pleasure to listen to Roger reminisce his own version of ‘back in my day’. I’m sure that it was a fulfilling trip for him, as it was for me.

     After the drive, we had lunch at Maxwell Street, known for it’s Polish sausages and bone-in porkchop sandwiches, complete with mustard and caramelized onions. It happens to be one of my favorite haunts. Maxwell Street happens to be a food stand very special to me since I was a child. Monday was a look back into the past, especially for my friend, Roger. A recollection into his childhood that proved sentimental and memorable. Perhaps it’s such a nice trip because it’s something that we can’t do often, because doing so would grow redundant and lose it’s sentimentality. Or maybe it’s something that we wouldn’t want to do often, because it reminds us of a darker period in our lives. All of this aside, it is still a worthwhile trip, because no matter the past, it is still a part of us and has shaped us in some way that continues to resonate within us to this day and everyday thereafter.