There’s a stretch of Elston Avenue between Chicago and Armitage that makes me swoon like a teenage girl for Frank Sinatra. There’s a sprinkling of condos and commerce, but it’s maintained an industrial feel for as long as I’ve lived there. It’s not just that there’s rarely any traffic and that it’s a nice shortcut to various east-west streets if you live in the area; that fact is really just a bonus, though for me it doesn’t add to the desolate charm. It’s the Morton Salt Building with the skyline in the background at dusk. It’s Stanley’s vegetable market and The Hideout (OK, fine, The Hideout is on Wabansia, which is just off Elston) and Star Car Wash. It’s the taxi garage south of Division and the stretch of undeveloped land across the street. It’s that in a huge city like Chicago, there are still quiet, open places where you can travel back in time for a minute, imagine life in a different, simpler time. Maybe it’s just me that gets all gooey about stuff like this, but driving down Elston I feel like the world is good and right. Kinda like how I feel about the rest of the city.
Photograph: Chris Strong