The line snaking through the deafening, dripping bowels of Union Station, waiting to squeeze up the stairs to Madison Street, can take an eternity. When you finally break the surface, into light and air, one more hurdle awaits: the permanent pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses hoping to break you on their rack of literature.
No biggie. Sidestep them and be on your way. But they are also the opening salvo in the constant barrage of admonition and entreaty that is the price of walking downtown.
On Madison Street you’ll likely encounter a mendicant or two on cardboard, blessing you for whatever funds you contribute to their meth addiction. And if you’re really unlucky, Joe Scheidler and the entire Pro-Life Action League will be waiting across the bridge, human easels for their five-foot-tall color posters of the diced up fetuses of women they wouldn’t bother to spit on in person.
That’s life in the big city. Window shopping on Michigan Avenue? Dare make eye contact with a well-scrubbed millennial holding a clipboard and they will bound over, flash you a Colgate smile, asking some inane question — “Do you like animals?” — while snaking a hand into your pockets, metaphorically.
Finished? I’ve barely begun. State Street is the home of gaunt, Elmer-Gantry-style preachers screaming into blown-out loudspeakers about the fiery pit that awaits cigarette smokers and sodomites. All December much of Daley Plaza becomes a jostling religious anti-science fair, with little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay close by Muslims brandishing their star and crescent and the brutalist steel menorah of the Chabadniks, a decoration Albert Speer might have used at the Nuremberg rallies had the Nazis, you know, been into that kind of thing. Worst of all, the flimsy, anemic glowing red “A” of atheism, a physical manifestation of their feebleness relative to the Biblical passion of the Godstruck.
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