At the end of an afternoon of wandering across the city’s south side with bike and camera, I made my way east on 47th Street, seeking the Red Line as the sun dropped behind me. Suddenly I heard a strange clonking noise from my left. I look, and there’s this fellah, galloping after me on his metal rooftop. For a second I’m worried, but then I realize that the drop and a barbwire fence are keeping us safely separated. I stopped to photograph a colored glass block building across the street, and he soon lost interest in me.
…until I moved again to get a better shot. Then he came galloping right back. He never made a sound, never barked once, but the sound of him on that metal roof would ensure that anyone trying to cross the fence would know about him, and know they were being watched with great interest.
The area he’s guarding is part of a huge swath of industrial land, a square mile or more where the street grid vanishes between 47th and Pershing, Ashland and Halsted. Scanning my tattered old street map on the train trip home, I was amazed by the volume of railroad tracks running through this area. Railroads carve up the city’s street grid to an amazing degree, putting the lie to the notion of easy travel through the city. I was very amused by a map at the 47th Street Red Line station showing the city streets as if they were a solid, unbroken grid. Ha!