Old Chicago

I received an interesting link via IM today from my friend Richard, one to a collection of old photos of Chicago. Good stuff from the Library of Congress. I always have a fascination with these glimpses into the past. I’m always struck simultaneously how alien and how familiar they are. Although they are 100 years distant from me, I could strike up a conversation with them. It would have some disconnects, but I feel that when when I talk to New Yorkers anyway. However if I did, there would be no disguising the fact that I Am Not One Of Them. I’d have to tell them I was from some far distant place, where my odd words and patterns must be common and I really wouldn’t be lying.

Here’s a secret confession from a science fiction fan: I hate time travel stories. From beginning to end, I can never shake the bullshit feeling I get from them. I read a lot of them where someone is dropped into some time hundreds or thousands of years distant from their own and they blend right in. Bullshit! I can’t go to Boise today and have as easy a go of it as your typical fictional time traveler. Years ago I watched a Masterpiece Theater piece about German counterfeiters during World War Two that were trying to pass forged pounds and undermine the British economy. There was a long stretch where this German agent, chosen because he could speak English, parachutes into the English countryside with a crate of fake bills and sets about trying to pass them. It’s a disaster, because he couldn’t even figure out the customs of what to order in a pub without drawing attention to himself. This was a guy trying to act naturally in country a few hundred miles away. I don’t care if there is a scene of futuristic scholars boning up on their Middle English, that’s one of a million bits of life that you wouldn’t be accustomed to. From the second you touchdown, a giant alarm will go off in everything you do, from the way you walk and open doors to the words and accents and customs of life.

I’m not sure how I got there from those old pictures, but I’m glad I got that off my chest. As you were.