The City by Tim Hermesdorf

The City by Tim Hermesdorf

The City

You think you saw the City. You took the tours ate and drank at the bistros and cafes. You strolled the shops and viewed the galleries. You have not scratched the surface. You have not entered the bowels or seen the guts.

Walk under the railroad viaduct unknown to commuters. Pass beyond it. Here there are no doormen or concierge.  There are no coat checks or valet parking

Streets are not as friendly here. They trip you and force you to walk around puddles and pothole. They are shared by railroad and truck. Cars are interlopers here.

Coffee is Joe. No espressos or lattes. Alfresco means a roach coach or a brown bag and a bench. Restaurants appeal to the basic need to eat. There are no white table clothes, only bare Formica. The purpose is to nourish the stomach and not dazzle the eyes. Service is quick though friendly. No one can linger over a meal. Work calls.

Form follows function. Buildings are for purpose not aesthetics.  Nothing here attacks the tours; no French Revival or early Colonial. Peasants in the world of architecture they do their job unnoticed.

Sounds are banging metal and diesel engines machinery. Spanish music drifts from the loading docks. The gasp of air breaks punctuates the cacophony. Thuds  are heard as trackers hitch trailers.

Smells of smoke and soot and pungent alchemy pervade.  There is the scent of diesel in the air. Occasionally the aroma of burgers or Polish Sausage hot on the grill excites the appetite. In a few spots fetid garbage make itself known in the heat.

The river front is not inviting. It lacks tours and trendy eateries. Grass and weeds choke the bank keeping you away.  Barges ply the narrow channel like serpents of lore. Rats are the dominate fauna.

Activity abounds. Activity with purpose and a need to be done permeates. Rail engines idle crouching at street level ready to spring to life when the signal comes. Semi’s back trailers into slots like fingers to a glove.

Talk is not about stocks and short sell but loads and tools and ways to make things happen. It is about machines and how to make them work. Directions are given short and curt without concern about feelings and innuendo. Curses are the byword of the day.

Late night here is called the grave yard shift. Wheels squeal as freight cars are placed for the next day’s work. Many streets are empty so you can hear your footsteps. Other are checked with light from loading dock doors as the work never stops. Cats prowl the darkness. Unhooked trailers stand on their paws.

Hands are calloused and dirty but the handshakes are firm and sincere. Smiles are spontaneous and genuine. There are no hidden meanings. Talk is straight and to the point.

On a few corners laughter is heard under popular beer signs. Shots and beers are almost exclusive. Relaxation from today’s work; rest for tomorrow’s

Here they sweat not perspire. Here is strength and truth and honesty. Strength and industry preside.  A rugged beauty exists. Like a dirty child the charm shows through the filth. Here the city is made.

© 2015 Tim Hermesdorf


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Bio: Tim Hermesdorf is 58 years old with 25 years of health care and firefighting experience. He loves reading and writing. Tim grew up in Chicago, he loves the working part of the city. To him the city is not downtown but where the people labor. He Likes to study history, especially the history of Chicago. He hopes to portray the working side of the city. Tim’s father was a Chicago Firefighter and a truck driver. His wish is to show the City as he saw it riding with his father.


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