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Gale's Door To Nowhere:Response by dahoglund to Billybuc's Writing Challenge
Frank Lloyd Wright
I figured it was time for me to get a uniquely Chicago story for my TV show. My name is Gale and I do a weekly TV show on a Chicago station.. My audience is made up of women stuck at home and hopefully a few guys who think I'm hot.. I specialize in feature materiel and local color stuff. My beat is Chicago with occasional forays into other parts of the viewing area. I enjoy the areas near the “Windy City” but once in a while I figure I better pay tribute to Chi-town. Tribute to the hand that feeds me, so to speak.
Since two historically prominent architects were natives to the Chicago area a show about local buildings seemed like a good idea and maybe fun to do. The show didn't have to be about Louis Sullivan and/or Frank Lloyd Wright. A show on local buildings was apt to include them somewhere, so I did a little internet searching for background.
I'd heard a lot about the two having had a falling out and being competitive in their styles but as I read, that seemed unimportant. Wright, early in his career went to work for Sullivan who in his own career was often an artistic leader.Sullivan has been credited with being a pioneer in designing skyscrapers. Although he didn't originate the term, he did use the term that form follows function. In other words the designer should start with what a building is used for and make that the basis of the design. A concept it Wright adopted.
Well, I decided to do the tourist gig. I put on a pair of blue canvas shoes, a pair of faded jeans with a wide belt and a pull over shirt. I topped it off with a straw hat and shades. Then I proceeded to make the rounds of some of the better known local buildings. Many of them, such as the Sears Tower, are well known must see places for visitors. For my show I wanted to find some buildings that were a bit more offbeat, not so well known. As I drove by an old warehouse in an older section of town, Gary, my camera guy said we should stop and check it out.His having an art background made him a better authority than me so I agreed we should give it a try.
We parked my Jeep and walked back to the warehouse. There was something about it that caught my eye. I checked my guidebook but no such building in that area was mentioned.
First Hand Look
Well, I thought, Some first hand research would make the story more interesting. At first glance, it was just a warehouse. On the other hand there was something that a layperson, such as myself, could not define.There was something different about it. Maybe someone inside would know more about the building.
Once inside there was a stairway to what looked like some office space. We went up there and I found a young guy in a suit. Must be a supervisor. introduced myself and my purpose for being there. He introduced himself as the building manager by the name of David Smith. Since it was almost noon by then he invited us to have lunch. Unbelievable to me, we went up an elevator two more floors and into what looked like a quality steak house in this place that looked like a warehouse.
After having lunch David gave us a tour of the building. On the opposite side of the building on the third floor I noticed a door. It was sort of like a freight door. I don't know why it got my attention, except there was no apparent reason for it to be there. Why wasn't it on the street level? I suppose there are a variety of answers to such a question but what David said was: ”Nobody seems to know. Maybe the landscape changed since the building was built over a century ago. Some of the warehouse workers call it the door to nowhere.”'It certainly doesn't seem to go anywhere.”:
I should know better, but that got my attention. Call it curiosity and you know what that did to the cat. In spite of protests from David, I went over and pulled the door open. Outside the door was a grid platform and steps that looked like they would swig down, but not far enough to reach the ground. I gingerly put a foot out and then stepped out.
Behind me I heard a clang as the door slammed shut. I felt for a handle, but there wasn't any.
Door to nowhere? I think I knew better. This door was to an alternate universe. I've been there before I looked around and I wasn't in Chicago anymore. I didn't know where in the universe I was, but I was pretty sure there was a ghost town down below. I was also pretty sure that I would meet some people who didn’t have the slightest idea where they were. No the door was not to nowhere. It was to a crossroad in an alternate world and I always run into people as confused by it as myself.
“Are you having trouble up there, young lady?“
I looked down to see what looked like a whole bunch of people. I saw a middle age man who looked like he belonged in the 19th or early 20th Century. With them was a bunch of young folks, college age, I would think. I asked them for a rope I could use to let myself down. They shrugged helplessly. I could be pretty certain that Ed from Carbons Creek would be tending the saloon a short ways from where we were.
Go tell the bartender at the saloon over there that Gale Nielsen needs some help and bring a rope.“
Pretty soon I saw Ed coming and he had a rope which he expertly tossed to me so I could catch it. I tied it to the stairs and slid down fireman style. All that time I spent hanging out with cowboys at rodeos wasn't entirely wasted.
“And you folks, I bet, are heading to Taliesin.“ That would be Wrights place in Arizona.
By this time I figured out that this troop of people were Frank Lloyd Wright and his students, heading to Arizona for the Winter. Good choice and I told him I think it would be nice to go with them.
Are you an architect, Gale. Is it alright if I call you Gale?”
“”Yes, you can call me Gale, Mr. Wright. And no, I am not an architect. I'm a journalist.”
Äha,”he said,”that explains your flamboyant introduction with the fire escape and all.”
I shrugged. I don't think I could explain my ghost town adventures.
“ well, Mr. Wright, we do have one thing in common. We both come from Chicago, but we look to the west for inspiration.. Take a look at that saloon. Whoever built it instinctively followed the maxim that you and your mentor, Louis Sullivan used. You know, “form follows function”. I mean it's plain common sense. The roof is extended out to cover the sidewalk to the building.
“Truthfully, I knew your design was influenced by the western design. Things like overhanging eaves. But isn't all back to form and function. I gather that is the guiding principle.“
“That's it Gale. You're a journalist. Don't you choose how you write to fit the kind of information you wish to convey? Or your editor does.“
I was really starting to get into this conversation when I looked at Ed's saloon. A wind was starting to blow and the sky was getting darker. The town was fading from my view. Wright and his people were were fading from from my view.
Ain’t it the damnedest thing? I find just the greatest story in the world, and I can't use it because nobody would believe it. People would think I'm just another journalist making things up to build a reputation. Oh yeah! And the big bucks paychecks. I do love Ed and his saloon, even if he passed on many generations ago.
Was it really only yesterday I passed through that door to nowhere?
© 2015 Don A. Hoglund