Waterfall 1 (Double-click picture to play video)
The other day while walking to meet some friends at a pub, however, I discovered that Chicago actually does have naturally occurring waterfalls. Perhaps "naturally occurring" is misleading. What I'm talking about is when water runs off the roads and highways and then descends into the labyrinth of streets that lie beneath. Downtown Chicago, unlike downtown New York or San Francisco, has complicated multi-level streets beneath the apparent street level. We rarely hear about these spaces, except when there are related construction accidents, but many people use these streets to commute; most of the major buildings in downtown Chicago use them for deliveries and trash removal, and our homeless populations use them to avoid the rain and bad weather. It's a very interesting underbelly of the city. When I first moved here, walking down in this underbelly made me uncomfortable: not only are the spaces not designed to be pedestrian friendly, but also you'll observe homeless people peeing on the streets, or if you're in an automobile, you'll observe concrete walls passing a few feet from your vehicle at 50 mph. None of these are particularly choice-worthy experiences. But, in my subsequent time living in downtown Chicago I've come to appreciate these sometimes magnificent multi-story spaces with their rust-covered columns, walls of concrete, and visible girders. They are intentionally designed spaces, lit 24 hours a day, and some are even adorned with architectural highlights, but even so, they are the sort of thing likely to be completely ignored by tourists and tour guides.
Waterfall 2 (Double-click picture to play video)
Because they are ignored, they're not always maintained in pristine condition. And it is when these systems break down during heavy rains that some of the more remarkable waterfalls in Chicago make their ephemeral appearances. It would be fun to see a collection of more of them, but I include three waterfalls from the night on my way to the pub here. Each one transfers large quantities of water, and persists for a while even after the rainstorms end. But it is sometimes difficult to see design errors as beautiful things. And there is no doubt that some of these are design or construction errors: they are eroding girders, damaging streets, and can potentially damage automobiles (see the video with the SUV below). But I like to think of these as naturally-occurring waterfalls, manifestations of nature taking back its great Metropolis. In that light they can be examples of unexpected beauty that refuse to be tamed.
Waterfall 3 (Double-click picture to play video)
This individual might want to park the SUV in a different locale!