Union Station Blues
This is a painting I did several years ago, “Union Station Blues”. It is a fairly straightforward representation of the Union Bus Station in Champaign in 1980.
At that time there were no cell phones. There were telephone booths on every corner in commercial areas. I remember when I did this painting I was reluctant to include a touch-tone telephone because some telephone booths still had dial telephones and I thought including a touch-tone telephone would make it look too “high tech”… Time has solved that problem.
At the time, the Union Bus Station in Champaign was populated mostly by college students, senior citizens, people with limited incomes, shifty-eyed drifters, prostitutes, homeless drug addicts, and petty criminals. Every taxi cab was a Checker Marathon sedan (some were classic yellow, some were green) with a back seat big enough for 12 college students and a trunk bigger than the back of a UPS truck. Coffee vending machines dispensed just two kinds of coffee (lava hot, and lava hot with white stuff) into a paper cup with “ear handles”.
And now… everything in the picture is obsolete. There are no more phone booths because cell phones killed ’em (I am not sure how Superman deals with this). The Union Bus Station is gone, replaced by the “Illinois Terminal Intermodal Transportation Center” (good luck working that into a blues song). The Checker Marathons are long gone. Now it is more common to see a a Prius taxi. Maybe the Aztecs were right about the world coming to an end. Modern coffee vending machines now have more possible choices and combinations than a strand of DNA, and I have not seen an “ear handle” cup in years. I am afraid they are extinct. Maybe the “American Pickers” will find one somewhere. Or, maybe, one will be brought in to the “Pawn Stars”… think they have a paper cup guy that knows everything there is to know about paper cups?
At the time, I painted “Union Station Blues” because I was working nights and I wanted to create an image that portrayed the film noir “after dark” side of life.
You know the scene – 0300 (three AM to civilians), a cab driver with a back-story parks at the curb and stops in a phone booth for shelter from the cold wind, a cigarette (menthol, to kill the smell in the booth), a hot cup of vending machine coffee, and then a quick phone call to a mysterious woman. Not his wife. Maybe someone else’s wife. He is waiting for the bus from Chicago to arrive in hopes of drumming up a customer so he can make enough money to pay the rent, which is already 2 weeks late. He thinks about the bottle under the front seat. Only enough left for one stiff drink. Drink it now? Maybe save it for later when the five AM “what have I done with my life” panic usually hits. While he dials the phone his thoughts wander to his last customer, who was she, why was she crying, why did she have him drop her off in an alley, what was in the purse that she held so tightly, and who or what had her so frightened? Maybe life. Maybe it was life that scared her. He understood.
Just another verse for “Union Station Blues”.
Image and text © 2015 James Golaszewski