Miles of stockyard, rusting remnants of industry, run south of downtown, and green of un-welcome vertical gardens mixed in rust-tones reclaim abandoned train tracks and warehouses. I have never driven south – legacy of segregation, urban decay and abandoned steel industry. Monstrous complex of elevated train platforms arc over expressway – delicate as if to collapse abruptly on traffic below. Graffiti intermixed with fading, hand-painted signs peeking over concrete barriers transform into green of new vegetation, trees, weeds and field of trash: plastic food packaging and cigarette butts. The asphalt on the way to Kankakee, is congested with cars. Not until I pass south of the town do I open up the throttle.
I find a good stretch to punch it, push accelerator to the floor – tachometer passes 4000 rpm. At 90 mph, I check the rearview, crowd lost behind me. Wind challenges the needle reaching 100. Gusts flippantly change course, simultaneously pushing and pulling my tiny coupe in all directions. On a stretch, I blow past 100, sensation of car skimming the road, barely touching pavement, flying, under its own control, indifferent to my touch. A curve approaches rapidly, and I pump the breaks, decelerate and feel the inertia of my body lurching forward in slow motion. Cigarette break at highway rest-stop, and the gas-gauge needle tips on empty. Ten miles down the road, locals smile at a general store, warm in a way that city life has made unfamiliar. I am wary of the friendly cornfields that voted to criminalize abortion.
Trucks filled with lumber and machinery saunter into car park in a small-town, indiscriminate dot on the map between large, rust-belt cities. Construction runs for miles from here, so I turn around and lock-in at a solid 75 mph for the ride home. Blue-grey of clouds flushed with rain between bursts of sunlight, farm houses on the edge of fields. Return to city after burst of rain; the clouds march above in a rush. Fresh rainfall of spring leaves the city wet in a way that makes all dull surfaces and abandoned American ingenuity shine like a new Cadillac fresh off assembly line en route to aluminum-built bistro tables of fast-food and jukebox yesterday – dash of sleek, industrial mirage of glory over blighted streets.