Monday, October 13, 2008

The End of the Stranded Midwest Tour 2008

Ghetto school in East St. Louis © Jacob Holdt
Yesterday was brutal. We drove from St Louis to Chicago (298 miles) and found only one situation to shoot. Definitely not the best way to end a 1,500 mile search for stranded motorists. Normally I would be completely frustrated, but this project is all about the collapse of certainty in America during the second term of the Bush administration, so coming up short seems symbolically appropriate.

When I do these trips I often speed from city to city, rarely stopping to visit the bounty of attractions America has to offer. For the final leg of this trip we slowed it down a bit and took in some of the sights.

First stop was a pilgrimage to Miles Davis' boyhood home in East St Louis. East St Louis looks exactly like New Orleans did after Katrina, only the devastation in this city was caused by the gradual decay of America's industrial economy. More than ninety percent of downtown East St Louis appears to be boarded up or falling down and there didn't appear to be but a few liquor stores providing the basics for people. No place to buy milk or gas or diapers or work. It's really tragic that the richest country in the world allows this kind of poverty smack dab in its heart.

Cahokia Mounds
A short ride from East St. Louis we stopped to see the Cahokia Mounds. Cahokia is the ruins of a massive ancient city inhabited by Native Americans between 650-1400 CE. There are over a hundred mounds that still remain on the site including Monk's Mound, the largest man-made earthen mound in North America.

Mathew Brady
Much further down the road in Springfield, IL we visited the tomb of Abraham Lincoln. The tomb was closed, but we had a good time watching as an endless parade of minivans pulled up and unloaded pods of dirty faced sausage children to pay their respects to the Great Emancipator.

When we got to Chicago we realized too late the city was running the marathon and hosting an outdoor country music festival on the same day. Several tense hours in traffic later we made it the Gitelson's for a delicious dinner and proper introductions to the new Git on the block, Archie.

After dinner we drove to Milwaukee (92 miles) and caught a few hours of sleep before our early morning flight back to New York.
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