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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Corridor of smells

Sometimes I think I could ride through Chicago with my eyes closed, still knowing exactly where I am based on the smells.

I bike to work via Elston, an industrial diagonal that's quieter than expected during rush hour. It cuts through factories along the interstate and Metra lines. Within the first few blocks on my route, I pass Home Depot. Sometimes if they're busy, the fresh scent of sawdust will waft out to the street. A few blocks later, Dunkin Donuts' sugar and Popeyes' oil compete for air space.

The Metra has a stop at Ashland and Elston, and squealing brakes burn metal. At North, Stanley's fruit stand spills out onto the sidewalk. Last week the ground was littered with pineapple cores and rinds.

Further south, after Elston runs into Milwaukee, I pass the Matchbox, Chicago's smallest bar and the scene of frequent hijinks in my early twenties. And it's clear that, though I have moved on to more sober pursuits, there were many behind to take my place.

Somewhere in the area is a bread factory, but only my nose knows where.

I've reached River North by the time I start smelling chocolate, slightly burnt, like you'd smell from hot cocoa. Blommer's Chocolate Factory is where I leave the diagonal and plunge into Loop traffic, the frentic pace causing me to lose touch with smells and focus solely on watching for impatient morning drivers so I don't get hit.



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