Citylife: The bus turnaround

July 29, 2010

 

“I put myself in the Lord’s hands,” says Shirley Jackson as she leans against the shelter in the bus turnaround on Western Avenue just north of 79th Street, the same place nine people were shot on Monday night. “It’s up to him to get me to my destination.”

Fact is, Jackson can’t do anything else. The bus she’s grabbing here is the only one that’ll take her where she needs to go.

“I can’t walk it,” she says with a smirk. “Can’t cab it, don’t have no car. What am I gonna do, fly? Teletransport like in the movies?”

The turnaround’s at a three-way neighborhood border – Gresham, Beverly View and Wrightwood – and far from isolated. It’s across the street from a McDonald’s and an H&R Block, kitty-corner from a huge Marathon station and next to a CVS. Local businesses – a Sharks Fish & Chicken and Nicky’s Family Restaurant and Pancake House (specializing in salmon croquettes!) – look out on the turnaround. St. Rita of Cascia High School, a college prep for boys, is just down the street.

Since the shootout – mercifully, no one was killed – a Chicago transit police car sits squarely in the turnaround. This afternoon, commuters come and go with regularity, most avoiding the crazy toothless man with the Baltimore Orioles shirt who’s begging for change.

There are three other men sitting on the concrete ledge at the bus stop: one has his head down to his knees and doesn’t move for at least an hour, another chain smokes through about two packs, yelling at each bus that comes by but getting on none. The third fellow, who’s wearing a suit jacket with no shirt underneath says his name is Fred Lee Cartwright.

“Can’t talk about the shooting,” he says. “I just got released: I was locked in a psych ward. I gotta get home.”

Jose Rodriguez, a large man with a bag of popcorn in hand, strolls along, leading his 2 year-old, Ricky. “I just picked him up at his mom’s,” he says, “and I gotta get all the way to 141st. I heard about the shooting but … “ And he shrugs.

Feliz Marrero is considerably less sanguine. “My god, I was here, right here, six hours before it happened. I was waiting for a bus – I had to go see a lawyer, which is what I’m doing now. And when I was on my way here today, I had it on my mind but … you know, you do what you have to do.”

Fred Lee Cartwright looks up, blinks in the sun. “And what’s that?” he says. “What is it that you have to do?”