My Time at the Pacific Garden Mission

Then came the day they told me I was going to Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. My mind barely registered what was written on the card, simply an address with no directions. I had a hazy thought of some run down homeless shelter in the middle of a bad neighborhood. Then I was out. After a year of being a lone shut-in that barely talked out loud, I was in the hot July sun, breathing fresh air and trying to see, my eyes squinting. I remember the cut grass lawn, how it smelled so much better than the stale air of Read. My feet where not used to the uneven surface and there where no walls to guide my walk. I climbed onto the CTA bus with just a bag of old clothes to my name and a months supply of the meds they had me on. How ironic, that after spending a month on suicide watch, they send you out on your own with enough drugs to kill yourself with. The smells where overwhelming. What with the year of only smelling myself and not having a cigarette in months, it was not good timing to have my nose start working again. I could feel perfumes wrap around my face like a wet towel. I recall standing on an L platform, the Montrose blue line stop, and hearing the stark roar of cars screaming by on either side as I kept from stumbling over the unguarded edge to the rails. Presently, I was on the rocking and swaying subway, lights flashing by as I tried to get my sea-legs, the squeal of the rails so loud that my eyes squeezed shut. I had gone from death’s waiting room to a toboggan flying down the slope of an erupting volcano… and I didn’t care, my mind was a blank.

The mission didn’t look at all like I thought it would. It is a big, solid and clean structure that greeted me on the inside with a wide inviting hallway who’s floor is painted yellow. The PGM is a miracle. They get no federal funding, yet feed, shower and give beds to over 600 people a night. More than just temporary comfort, they also provide a life changing Bible program to those that want to try to get back on their feet.

When I had walked in, I had no idea of anything, no thought on what my future might be, and any wild thoughts of being ‘rescued’ from my situation had long ago faded. I merely existed. I stopped at the security kiosk and asked where to go. The guard could tell I was new and offered up a sack lunch and told me to sit on a bench near by. The food was the best I had had in months, as the food at Read was nasty government surplus swill. Soon, a kind grey-haired old man called my name and waved me onto his tiny office. His name was Wendle Davis and within 5 minutes got me to smile for the first time in weeks. he explained that I could do like 90% of the men there and live on the edge, or I could join the Bible program and sleep in a separate, safer area upstairs, all I had to do was sign a 30-day agreement.

Now, every decision I had made in my life so far was wrong, so I wasn’t in any hurry to go down any road too fast. I thanked Wendle and told him I’d read the paperwork and think about it. It took me an hour of reading and pondering on that bench, I was way too tired to walk anywhere, and finally decided to sign up. I had nothing left to loose.

The next few days where kind of a blur. They gave me clothing, a bag of toiletries and a top bunk up in dorm 3026. When I think of 3026, I think of the inside of a submarine with 60 guys and a skosh more room. It measures about 60×50 foot, it’s hot and stuffy and well, there are a lot of sounds and smells that guys make while snoring and out the other end. Oddly enough, you get used to the smells after a week, but I’ll never get used to the sounds.

Rules, there are lots of rules, and they are needed. You are dealing with a bunch of guys that did it their way so much that most have lost everything, so we need structure.

Writer:  Zac Lowing
Location: Pacific Garden Mission

Soapin the Streets

He’s out there on the corner soapin the streets at Foster and Walcott, the bodega owner’s son, or nephew, or cousin or whatever. If he’s even related to the owner. Maybe he is the owner. He looks too young to own his own corner store though, I don’t know. In any case he’s out there washing away the winter, the remnants of leaves and gravel and coagulated exhaust, broken glass, and shards of bud light cans and cig butts. Swept away on the first day of the year that smells like spring, the sidewalk perimeter lathered and brushed coarse, as shiny as dull concrete.

It’s astonishing how this city changes from the cold months to the warm. Chicago Depression: it’s a regional-seasonal-emotional condition, and it’s a pandemic. Seems like the winter eliminates 30% of the public space here. The sidewalks are trenches (when shoveled), or lunar surfaces (when the owner is a dick). The streets become an obstacle course of dibs and snow mounds, and the parks don’t really exist because you can’t actually go there. Urbs in Horto? Just fuck you. The aforementioned horto is covered in 26 inches of snow that’s been here since November, concealing a Noah’s Ark of dog shit. But I haven’t noticed that the parks don’t exist because I haven’t left my house for non-essential business since Thanksgiving.

Then one day, you walk outside and your coat is a little too heavy, your hat unnecessary, your scarf just an accessory. You’re waiting for the bus and your hair is actually hot. The streets don’t have that snow barrier. People are lying on blankets in the park. Things are vibrant. The music in your headphones sounds just a little better today than last week. Maybe things aren’t so bad after all.

That day is today. It’s the first warm day in Chicago.

Writer: Kevin Borgia
Location: Foster & Walcott

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

We leaned against the theater building
as if we were waiting in line for tickets, but
the show got out over an hour ago and

I’m still waiting for you to take me to dinner. So
I un-roll the program and re-read the same
actors statement.

We are under a broken streetlight, but down
the corner to my right is another couple waltzing
in a lit pool.
My red 034 lips part and I click my heel even faster.

And your tie is blowing in the air and you are still
whistling at an empty street
trying to hail a taxi, but you are not from this
wind blown town and I’m just watching you

inhale even harder. But now, the couple is tripping
over their laughter and I am growing jealous of
their Brunello laced evening.

And I think they too missed the show.


Writer: Sonja Lynn Mata
Location: The Neo-Futurists