This past weekend, when I began my taco tour in earnest, I took transit from my hotel to Pilsen. Part of me longs to live in a city with transit (or even the option of taking a taxi, just to have it), and then the other part of me remembers how miserable it is to wait for a bus that just won’t come (I’m looking at you, bus 12 in the Beaches. Long and hard and angry).
I paid for a transit pass, found out that the cost of the card (5$) is reimbursable if you register online and saw once again how the system works against you if you are poor. So, I took the subway, and then a bus. And when I got home, I registered my card so now I have 5$ of transit credit with the Chicago Transit Authority. Now, while I was conferencing and wandering about the pretty part of Chicago, I blended. At least enough that some lady from a Midwestern town (judging by her accent) asked me for directions. This blending in ended when I got off the subway and onto the bus.
I was headed for Pilsen. Unfortunately, the bus became more diverse as it passed the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. There were more and more hipsters. I was devastated. I wondered if there would still be any good taquerías? What if gentrification ruined all the things I love? What if people think I am one of them?
As I get off the bus, one stop too late, naturally, and walk back down 18th street to my destination, Don Pedro’s Carnitas, I notice all the hipster coffee shops that were not here two and a half years ago. I notice a bunch of condos in what were formerly abandoned-looking lots (probably previously social housing of some kind).
I am overcome by the same urge that I have whenever I see Amish or Old Order people, to say: I am not like the rest of these people. I am like you. (I never say this. Although on the train to Chicago I did tell a lady her baby was beautiful, but I think you can never go wrong with that. And then tried to recover my shock when it turned out the baby wearing a dress and a kerchief is a boy.) In Pilsen, there is no way to prove that la güera es banda.
I chat with a lady selling atole and almost buy an alegría para aguantar las ganas (peanut brittle, or granola bar-thing, to stay the hunger pangs). This would have been a good idea. Then I see a long line of people waiting for carnitas (Mexican pulled pork). Y me asomo. (And I get in line).