Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Glow

It was announced this last week, to little fanfare, that the city of Chicago was to begin replacing its sodium-vapor streetlamps, which have since the mid-70s bathed the nighttime city in their distinctive pukey-orange glow, with a more-energy efficient (and much less orange) model. I rejoiced at the news--I've always found the city's Glow more or less nauseating, particularly on overcast nights when the reflective cloud-cover makes it especially pukey and unnatural. And I'm by no means alone; an architecture critic for the Tribune once described the lights as a "city-wide orange abomination." Of course when you live in the Glow night in and night out you don't really notice it any more--it's when I return home from time abroad that it's always hit me with a sinking ugh.

They've already replaced the lights all down the stretch of Western Avenue I ride almost daily, and the change is indeed striking. Might just take some getting used to, but y'know what?--I don't think I like it. The new metal-halide lamps certainly give off a cleaner, brighter, less queasy-making light, but they also feel somehow... clinical. The old Glow might have been downright ugly but it's been the Glow of my youth, steeping so many of the joys, pains and drunken episodes of my early life in its off-golden radiance. Chicago readers will know exactly what I'm talking about, but for you out-of-towners here are a few photographic examples, various friends of mine basking in the old Glow:
The new lights, 'much as I thought I'd appreciate them, make me feel like I'm in Toronto or something, and I think I might miss that awful old Glow after all, when it's gone--fortunately, this being Chicago, they'll be lucky to have the project completed within the decade. Tan while you can!

1 comment :

  1. I wouldn't debate any of the adjectives you used for the old glow, but I always fucking loved it.