(I wrote this awhile back when the CTA was facing a round of serious budget cuts)
How The CTA Makes Chicago
Chicago is a city filled with the some of the most avant-garde, chic people in the world. The city has a rich tradition of creative minds, hipster expressions and an innovative culture virtually unmatched the world over. Although many have hypothesized, no one knows exactly how all this heavy energy came to be. While I give all theories credence, I am going to drop a new one - Chicago is one of the most vibrant and stylish places on the planet due...the CTA.
Yes, the same CTA packed with straight-laced suits and ties during rush hour, the same buses filled with grumpy Asian grandmothers and grotesque odor producing one-eyed bums. The same CTA with trains filled with dizzy Starbuck-possessed high schoolers chattering at warp speed about Vampire Princess Miyu and with Naperville Bree Van de Kamp's on their way to Armitage to dig deep into the "urban" shopping experience. That's the it, public transportation in all its glory and yes, all it's creative thrusts making Chicago such an intense scene.
What makes the CTA such a promoter of creativity one may ask? The reasons abound, and in these reasons lies yet another incentive for us all to support and love our transportation system.
The CTA allows the rider (as compared to a driver) to focus on the sights of the city while getting from point A to point B. While you can accomplish this on some level while driving or riding a bike, sitting on the train starring at the towers in the Loop, the colors of Chinatown and the grimy factories past Pilsen with full concentration opens up a virtual visual wonderland.
The CTA can take the rider to places one would never want to traverse in a car. Maybe you want to stroll Grant Park and the lake on a lazy Thursday afternoon or head over to Wicker Park for a righteous show at the Double Door on Friday night, but only the clinically mental would attempt to drive to those places during those times. The CTA drops you off reasonably close to where you need to be, no parking costs or headaches, no time wasted in traffic behind some AUDI from Wisconsin and as a result more time to enjoy the sights, sounds and ambiance of the city. All that in turn gets the inventive juices flowin' for the creative and for the hip, allows more time to quote Derrida, hypothesize about the death of Independent film and sip on a Hamms.
The CTA is a source of inspiration. A simple train ride from Damen to the Loop is worth a thousand words. The interesting people you see, the stories you hear and even the whiffs you catch, can be nothing sort of inspirational. We've all seen the guy that is a dead-ringer for one of the cats from the Bravery or heard some German grandmother talking to herself or the ultimate, smelled the guy who probably hasn't had a shower since Alf was your favorite show. How could you deny this is the substance from which creative legends are born?
The CTA gives something else. It opens the mind. Riding provides a mental interruption. A slinky transvestite gets on the train at Belmont, hot enough to be a Suicide Girl Model, proceeds to eye-fuck you for the next 10 minutes and leaves you with a wink and smile. You feel so violated, used. You go home, brush your teeth, take a shower and say 3 Hail Mary's. Maybe it scared you because you were disgusted or slightly turned on, but it got you thinking - it opened your mind. Or how about this one. The other Saturday I am on the train in the dead of afternoon. I am one of 7 riders on my side of the train, the only one solo. As we ride on I realize something. No one is speaking English. In front of me Spanish, behind me Arabic of some sort and beside me an African dialect. As we rumble down the tracks the sites are plainly familiar, but I feel so out of place. Unsure where I am. Mentally disrupted. I needed that. It was one of the better moments in recent memory. That flash, on the train, the $2 ride, opened me up to something I had never seen before - and it was pure delight.
The CTA serves a much grander function than just moving people around. It offers the city an identity but also allows the people to transform their identities without the use of cars and gas, yet achieving the same results. The CTA allows for the bored to find action, the lonely, solace and the creative, a muse.
What did you think of this review?