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``The Amazon'' starts ``Borrowed Hooks and Other Looks''

It’s a month later than I hoped, but let’s start “Borrowed Hooks and Other Looks” with an e-mail sent by Bill Fuhry in response to my memories of the area around Bubbly Creek and the South Branch in the July 13, 2008 Sun-Times.

Originally, I thought of “Borrowed Hooks” only as a chance for others to voice a divergent point of view on the outdoors. But I thought Fuhry’s note on his memories of “The Amazon” was riveting enough to be the first.

Here it goes.

“I enjoy your writing, and look forward to your columns. Last Sunday’s was especially touching. I regret you’ve lost a friend, but as a parent of young children, was moved by the happy outcome in the story of your son. Your use of “The Amazon” as a metaphor for life was particularly moving, as it holds a special place in my memory.

“I have often told my wife, a Downstater who grew up riding small motorcycles through endless fields and woods, about “The Amazon,” which for my friends and I was a few blocks north of the turning basin, near 31st Place and Little Throop. I think the name “Amazon” described much of the industrial and overgrown area surrounding the river banks, but for us, it was personified in a hilly, overgrown trio of lots there, where as grade schoolers we would climb the trees (many of which had once been weeds, no doubt) and ride our bikes up and down the hills (and avoid the older kids drinking beers they’d swiped from their fathers’ stashes). There are homes there now. With cement yards.

“I recall days playing ball at the nearby VFW field –mostly neglected by the time we enjoyed it except by a few nearby neighbors who voluntarily cut the grass– and exploring the acres behind it. Today, of course, the VFW field is Bridgeport Village, and I’ve no doubt those caretakers who were old men 25-years ago have long since passed.

“And I remember Anderson’s [fish house]. Especially on Good Friday, when we would load up on shrimp and perch and french fries, which tasted of the fish with which they shared oil. It looked like the sort of place from which one couldn’t imagine consuming food; dingy, isolated and serving seafood next to a river we thought teeming with giant rats and abandoned automobiles. But it was a treat worth the long lines, and I’ve yet to find a place to replicate it.

“For a kid from Bridgeport, that was wilderness – at least until the first time my senses were overloaded by Owassippee –but I guess that’s another wistful email for another day.

As a adult suburbanite with no real ability to fish or hunt (yet), and a treacherous suburb-to-suburb through Chicago commute, I have a new purpose about getting to the outdoors. Mostly, it will have to wait until my small kids are a bit older. But it fills my daydreams.”

Now called Canal Origins Park, it looks much different today. I wonder about the irony of calling that area “The Amazon,” considering the famous book, The Jungle, about the area around Bubbly Creek.

Send Borrowed Hook ideas to I will only edit lightly, if all.