Quarantined travelers: these alleys are for you

I don’t own a car and I haven’t been on public transportation in over a month.  So I walk.

I love walking and I especially love walking with HOB, though of course during this time of pandemic-avoidance walking comes with terms and conditions; no access to parks or the lakefront, we are advised to wear masks, and we must stay at least 6 feet from other non-family members.


Here we are, the good folks of Chicago’s north side, trying our best to keep a distance while walking down narrow sidewalks in our densely populated urban neighborhood.  It’s like that one Samuel Beckett play where faceless figures cling to the edges of a cube-like stage and rotate about each other, never touching.

I’ve been up to my normal pastimes—looking at architecture and researching various buildings—but all the choreographed people-avoidance makes me tense.  HOB and I are starting to branch out to new places—well some places we may have walked through before but never lingered in, like underpasses, parking lots and alleys.

These new walks started out as a way to exercise away from crowds, but now I realize that they are satisfying for other reasons.


In Rogers Park our underpasses are painted with murals which I’ve looked at many times before, but now I’m not looking, I’m looking through.  These underpasses have the quality of arches in Islamic architecture, a pleasing rhythm that draws my eyes around and pulls me in with curiosity.




As it turns out, parking lots without cars are pleasing, all jaunty lines and negative spaces.


But alleys—alleys are the best.


This is how I walk through alleys: framing up little compositions.


The gesture of pipes


The mass and form that makes up the business end of city living


The graffiti erasure that becomes an abstract painting


The patina of worn bricks


The fresco-like layers of paint



The museums are all closed, but here in the alleys are patterns


and color.



This nasty virus isn’t about me, and I’m luckier than most. Still, I can’t help being frustrated.

I know you’re out there too, fellow frustrated travelers.

I can’t get us into our backpacks and into airplanes. but I can help a little.

Hear me out.

Get up early, or go out late, or walk in a heavy rainstorm.  Sometime you wouldn’t normally be walking.

See—you’re already feeling it, that familiar/unfamiliar feeling of traveling.  Look at the morning light highlight the portico of the underpass.  Treat a vacant parking lot as a labyrinth.  Go into an alley,  just next to your home, where you used to walk to take the train to work before you were stuck in a quarantine.  You might feel like you’re up in an early morning haze to catch a bus with a schedule in a foreign language.  You might feel scared.  You might peek out of the alley and those familiar sights will seem unfamiliar and you will think “How lovely, this new place!  I’m glad I traveled here.”



  1. You have great power of observation; I struggle to notice things sometimes. You have inspired me to go out and take a look around.
    I live right on the beach and I am so bored of simply walking along the beach (we’re not allowed to sit down and have to keep walking and it does get crowded there, particularly at weekends). I have realised that I only enjoyed walking along the beach before because I stopped for ice cream. Now the ice cream shop is shut I have lost my incentive.
    Instead I spend my time taking virtual tours of museums and galleries, but it isn’t very satisfying either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are migrating birds right now—perhaps you can look for those when you’re out at the beach. Not as motivating as ice cream, though…:)


  2. Your “travel” blogs are a treat. I love your observant eye and the way you capture interesting shapes, textures, and powerful composition. There is something important here about just slowing down and looking. Whether in an alley, a foreign city or a museum, slow down, discover and be open to awe. I lost my email for a while but wanted to say how much I have enjoyed your coverage of Rogers Park,, my old neighborhood when I grew up in Chicago. A note about the pink Edgewater Beach Apts. Did you know that the sister hotel (now demolished) was a beautiful old charming hotel on the shore of lake Michigan. The lake came to just about Sheridan there. The Outer Drive and the park were filled in and built later. Perhaps a posting for another day. Be well. Best to you and HOB.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi there! Yes, you’re right, I should write a post about the old hotels in the area. There is a particularly swanky one over on Pratt.

      Can you please remind me where you lived in Rogers Park?

      I have been saying that, if i have to be stuck in a quarantine, I’m glad it is in Rogers Park since there is so much to see of interest. We can’t actually go to the beach but we can see the lake easily enough from the street and from Loyola campus.

      Hope you are healthy and all best to you also.


  3. We’re doing the same thing! Other Half and I are going out in the late evening, and in this time of the year it’s still nice and sunny at 8PM over here, and we’re having some great days lately, exploring our neighbourhood. The fancy mansions of Priory lane, the less-fancy-but-still-we-can’t-afford-one near where we rent and everything inbetween.
    Will copy your idea!

    By the way, that underpass with birch tree photos: could there be more in Chicago, perhaps down towards Lincoln Park? I have a tremendous case of déjà-vu but I haven’t been that far north to Rogers park…


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do post pics of what you are seeing in your walks with the better half!

      I’ve never seen any murals like this in Lincoln Park but it is likely you did go under the elevated trains so you saw similar underpasses. There are a lot of birch tree images here because prior to 20th century development the area was covered in fields of birches.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi again WOB. I went to Joyce Kilmer elementary school and lived on Albion and Newguard, almost across the street from Sullivan HS. Then moved to Ardmore and Sheridan. I went to Swift School, then to Senn HS. (More Edgewater/Brynmore than Rogers Park.) Many friends and family lived throughout the Rogers Park area, so I am very familiar with the area.. Lots of family in Evanston too. So while I enjoy traveling far away with you and HOB, but it is nice to wander throughout the Chicago neighborhoods too. I loved the iconic Chi bungalow post too. All of your other Chicago posts have been interesting too. Be well. Keep your distance. Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Albion and Newguard has lots of interesting buildings—I was just looking at the Terracotta on Sullivan HS!


  5. I actually know so little about Chicago. So more …

    In my city, when it was population 66,000 1918-1919 during Spanish flu, it killed more than 400 people. I had no idea…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just looked it up—in Chicago 8,500 people died from Spanish flu. We have to consider that our cities had smaller populations then too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was brought to our attention by one of our archivists on staff. I work for a municipality. Apparently at that time in Canada, they could trace the spread of the flu, with return of Canadian soldiers from WWI, on the train route across CAnada, with soldiers stopping and getting off to go home.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Everything looks different and meaningful. I enjoyed walking along.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you Sidran. What are you seeing in your walks?


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