“The El” or “The The”

There are many elements of urban living that define a particular city. You have the arts, the teams, and the weather. But one of the most important is the public transportation. New York has subways, Boston has the “T” and LA has…well…not much. Chicago has the El. I used to think that was pretty redundant. “The El.” Isn’t that really “The The?” Then I realized that El is sort for elevated train. There’s something about that system that is magnificent and frustrating. For many Columbia College Chicago students, the El is the lifeline to campus. The commuter rainbow of Red, Blue, Green all serve the public good.

Getting around Chicago using the “El” system is a simple and somewhat inexpensive way to see the city. Honestly it’s more expensive than a lot of other places, but its cheaper than a cab. At least we get a student pass. The “El” setup combines a typical underground subway and an above-ground train system. Learning the color combination of the “El” can seem difficult, but once you know the hot spots, it will be easy for you to see everything Chicago has to offer.

This is a city, however, and I cannot overstate the reality of city living. Is it safe? For the most part it is. But we’re students with a big target on our foreheads. So is it safe? I’d say until the double digits…meaning 10:00 PM. Therefore you’ve got to be careful. Stash the iPhone. Be aware of your surroundings. And on a late night, don’t be afraid to take a cab. But let me hop off that soap box.

The first time I ever rode the El I was in second grade. My Dad had gotten box seats to a Sox game, and we all shuttled down from Oak Park. What stuck with me were the faces. They were young, old, black, white, brown, sullen, euphoric, drunk, and sober. Whew! A cross section of the city all within my reach…literally. All of their hips were at my eye level. Still, it was pretty intimidating to an eight year old.

I did not ride it much again until high school. Then it meant freedom. My world was pretty small at that time. I only had a bike, no car. So to go to Grant Park was like going on a cross country journey. It wasn’t quite “The Motorcycle Diaries”, but it was adventure none the less. I mean, where else could you see someone puke pure wine?

Of course it sounds like I’m really down on the El. Nothing could be further from the truth. I find the train to be a vehicle of both history and majesty. Its mere visage inspires the artist. In fact, I look forward to my daily commute just to watch the lines speed past the train window. The video above is an example of my daily El experience, shot and edited on my camera phone.