Who cares what they call that strip of South Michigan Avenue--south of Roosevelt all the way to the Stevenson? Motor Row? Music Row? It makes no difference. They both fit. The history of both is there. For instance, the home of the historic Chess Records is at 2120 South--and it's a great little museum, a great destination if you want to hear about what it was like when everyone from Muddy Waters to Mick Jagger was recording music there.
And if you want to look at buildings that housed the earliest car dealerships in the country--including an early Ford dealership
or the historic location of the dealership where Gilded Age farm implement Prairie Avenue magnate John J. Glessner bought a Pierce Arrow
--his first car--in the very early 1900s, you can reminisce about that, too.
When I was at the Columbia College Convocation
in Grant Park Friday morning, where the students filled the east side of Michigan from Harrison to Balbo--not to mention the west side with its tons of Columbia classrooms in three historic buildings--I thought why not be thorough, city fathers, and call this strip of South Michigan Avenue Columbia Row? That is, if you have to be so precise. And rigid.
In the fight between motor and music, the powers that be want to halt condo construction and widen the sidewalks south of Cermak along Michigan. And that's why they say the designation "Music Row" is so important. To me, it sounds like a bunch of shady music venue operators have it in mind to blast loud music and sell a lot of booze--and they don't want pesky residents complaining about drunks, noise and throw-up on the widened sidewalks. (They have to be wide for the drunks, so they have plenty of room to meander from side to side.)
But I noticed a little situation Friday night that the city fathers better give some attention to. Fast. Forget the music and motor for the moment, OK? I was running late to catch a production of Let Me Count
, a wonderful and quirky one-woman show with Kate Healy about a woman taking stock of her life at the age of 37 1/2, which is currently one of the productions at the Chicago Fringe
Theater Festival in Pilsen. I decided to hop on the Orange Line at Roosevelt and get off at Halsted and backtrack to the storefront theater where the show is playing at 19th Street. Ordinarily, if I had the time I would have walked west on Roosevelt to Halsted, and South on Halsted to 19th. But I didn't have time.
In any case, when I got off the Orange Line
, I had to cross the Halsted Street bridge over the South Branch, which is always a kicky, albeit extremely quiet walk into Chicago history. But on Friday all the lights were out on the bridge. I had to walk in pitch black; I couldn't see what was ahead at all. There wasn't a single bulb that was lit on any lamp on the bridge. It was dark as it was when the Native Americans lived there. There wasn't even any moonlight.
There could have been any scoundrel or group of scoundrels laying in wait--and I would have walked right into it, no warning and nowhere to go other than jumping into the river to get away--or into the traffic across the traffic barrier. No one could see if I was being hurt. (On the other hand, the scoundrels couldn't see either.)
All I could see on the walk was in my mind's eye. And as I walked across that bridge I saw Rahm Emmanuel and his merry band of toadies giddily talking about what to call South Michigan Avenue--Motor Row or Music Row--while any unsuspecting goof like me was wandering very dangerously across the South Branch of the river on the Halsted Street bridge in the dark. Turn on the lights!
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