Phoning a friend with access to Google Maps lent some dim recollection to the fact that the McKinley’s been closed for repairs since 2001. (Those memories of recently driving on it? Well, they’re over seven years old. Wow. A bit of time/space loss there.) Picking up said friend, we hurried over the PSB, up Route 3, through funky little Venice and near the river. The eye-opening highlight was passing Moore’s Lounge, a tavern located in a semi-wooded area, found between railyard yards, coal hills and other industrial detritus. It’s near impossible to describe the fortress-like vibe this place gives off. To be searching this area, at night… not a good sign. (I view Moore’s as the final frontier of local adventuring and need coping time before I’m ready to walk through its front door; last night, especially with cars on the parking lot, was not that night.) Eyeing a nearby hill, the car rolled to the edge of what seemed like a complete falloff; it was a sharply-angled hill, navigable by car, but the darkness made it look twice as steep and wind-y as it turned out to be, but the initial shock of pulling up to it was a real one.
I put things off ’til this morning, when I decided to head back over to the Ill Side. I set the alarm for before 9 a.m., a rarity, then headed back into the region’s industrial underbelly, that long, weird stretch between National and Granite Cities. The trucks were out in force, the trains were moving and some construction dudes were watching a power station fall near last night’s hill o’ death.
Figuring that the “no trespassing” signs were just an annoyance, I tried to veer my way on foot to the river, nearer to the McKinley, only to be turned away by groves of trees, huge, brambly weeds and shifting footing; instead of solid land, all this foliage had grown on huge berms of waste coal, broken rocks and slabs of cement. Workers on the bridge was shouting distance, but didn’t see me or didn’t care, though I wasn’t really up for some I-Dot security hound to find me dawdling near the work zone. I figured I had one last burst of energy on this find-the-boat project and plunged into the scratchy, scrappy, scraping, human-high weeds, only to find my footing constantly giving way. Being typically under-dressed for this type of urban jungle walk-through, I was soon ripped to bits by various burrs and stickler bushes. Sheesh.
Getting to within a couple-dozen feet of the passing river, I realized that there was a good, little drop-off between myself and the water and, as I tried to find one last place to stand, I realized that I was out of my element, vaguely frustrated and not interested in proceeding in helping fill-out the headline, “Local man falls into river.” To hell with the sunken boat. I climbed back out of the various holes I now found myself in, wrenching my back in the process, though that wouldn’t manifest itself for a couple hours. I drove back out of Venice, then the quiet burg of Brooklyn, passing the morning-shift hookers near the highway and saying goodbye to all of our least-attractive stretch of Illinois geography.
Sitting at O’Connell’s and eating lunch a bit later, I told Leonard Voelker, the O’C’s veteran day bartender a half-truth: my back was sore, maybe I’d pulled something while sleeping.
“Could be,” he reasoned, before turning to pour a drink. “Could be that you’re just getting old.”
Yeah. Could be.