Week 4, Day 6

You could almost hear the sidewalks here in Chitown relax and breathe a sigh of relief as the first big raindrops smacked against them. It’s been hot here, and the air is heavy. It somehow feels different than it does back on the East Coast, as if simply combining heat and humidity doesn’t get the whole story. Certainly city heat is different from suburban heat. It radiates from and off buildings in a way you can’t get away from, except maybe in parks and along tree-lined boulevards. In Connecticut, I can often get some respite from it by stepping into a forest, which are so plentiful there. I’m not complaining, mind you, I tolerate heat well. I’m just saying there’s more to the story than just two numbers.
It’s Saturday, which has become something of an “Adventure Day” for me, a day to get out and explore and try new things. Today was no different, though it started with a now customary activity: 7am Hatha yoga class. It’s always a small class – I thought I might be the only one today, but another classmate arrived just before we began. Slow and relaxing, it is a great way to end a week, or start a day which holds unknown activities.
I did have one planned activity on my agenda today: I planned to attend an outdoor yoga class with my TAs up near Logan Square at 10am. “What?” you say, “TWO yoga classes in a day?” Sure. There’s nothing like warming up for one yoga class with another. Besides, I had already paid for the first, and the second was free.
Owing to a complicated series of events I shall not go into here, I arrived for the second class without my mat or a towel. Prior experience has taught me that grass makes an excellent mat for certain poses: downward dog, all the lunges and all the balances. It has really the perfect amount of friction to hold you in place without slipping. It is also fairly comfortable for ground poses as well. The only time it distracted me today was in poses such as child’s pose and puppy pose where my face was virtually planted in the grass. The air was a bit close then. I was a bit concerned about a repeat of a final relaxation from an outdoor class last summer when I had ants occasionally crawling over my arms. It was a challenging mind practice to see if I could find a way to tolerate them without moving (they weren’t going to hurt me). It was interesting to try to track them individually. Where are they on my arm. It is surprisingly hard to tell.
After class we ate lunch and I continued on to the zoo. I only saw a bit of it last week, and wanted to see more. I saw a few more animals and then wandered over to the boardwalk which surrounds South Pond. I was just thinking to myself, “Hmm what should I do now?” As I got under the bridge over South Pond (I was on the west side), there was a young couple on the other side of the pond, also under the bridge, doing something unusual (No, not THAT. I said UNusual. Get your mind out of the gutter for a change, would you?). The woman was tearing leaves off a tall stocky plant, and fishing it through the fence that ran alongside the boardwalk into the mud below. I could barely make out what it was she was after. I called out “Are those your keys?” She said yes. One of the couple had dropped the keys over the rail into the mud about 5 feet below. I sensed an adventure. “I have a selfie stick. Do you want to try it?” They said OK, so I found my way around the pond. On the way, passed a group of about 15 people all staring at their cell phones as they walked (two biked). I surmised that this was some sort Pokemon Go posse, having confirmed about ten minutes previously that Pokemon can be found in the zoo. (Do you get the sense that I talk to a lot of people here in Chicago? I really do. I talk to three or four strangers a day. More on weekends. People are really nice here and like to talk. Also, it’s a kind of safety technique. Last weekend I found myself waiting for a bus [Google maps is great at bus times, but has no info about neighborhoods] in kind of a sketchy neighborhood where my skin color made me stand out. I struck up a conversation with an older woman who was working on getting her GED. I definitely feel safer having a conversation with a older local than just being awkwardly alone. I can see others’ tension relax when they see me just having a normal conversation.)
I was able to retrieve the keys with my selfie stick, and in return, they let me take a picture of them. That is not as awkward and weird as it seems. I actually asked them if I could take a picture of them with George, my traveling companion and explained why. (You can see him there – he is a pot-bellied pig. How he became my traveling companion is a story for another time and another audience.) I also took a picture of Rocky, their dog.

After that, I played a bit of bus roulette. That is when you get on a bus that you don’t know where it is going, and trust that the transit system will work out. For this, I only take buses headed in the general direction I want to go. I get to see parts of the city I would not see if I always knew where I was going – it IS Adventure Day, after all. Eventually, I made my way to my familiar Number 8 Halsted bus to head home.
I hadn’t traveled very far when I realized I was going to pass through Greek town, I rode my bike there yesterday morning, and was interested to get back.
[ That reminds me. I rode Ellie (my bike) to my first yoga class this morning, and stopped at the bakery across the street for something to eat and drink before my second yoga class. No baked goods for me, I opted for two fruit cups instead. Mmm, watermelon. As I came out of the bakery and unlocked Ellie, a man stopped to admire her (she blushed) and said how beautiful she was. It turns out he also has a Schwinn (two actually, a boy and a girl), which he can no longer ride because of an injury. He loves them very much. He bought a springy gel seat for his, and loves how smoothly it rides over bumps. He is looking to sell his bike, but not to just anybody – they have to love Schwinns. He said if I knew anyone, to let him know. His name is Roger, and he delivers ice to the bakery. I told you I talk to a lot of people. People really want to be listened to and heard. They all have stories. [That word just reminded me to do something. I just got a ticket to the GrandSLAM Championship. I’m vviiibbbrrraattiingg. Man, I love stories!]
Anyway, I’m in Greektown (some of the street signs are in Greek I love Google street view. I can show you stuff I didn’t take a picture of ), hungry and thirsty. I was going to go to Meli just because it looks so nice. But then, I turned and Artopolis called me, I don’t know why. As a decision, it didn’t suck.
I choose what to eat by the “I never had that before and I don’t know what it is” method (remember, Adventure Day). I ate (descriptions stolen from their online menu) “Yuvetsaki – Oven braised lean beef, with Orzo pasta, red wine tomato sauce, Kasseri and Myzithra cheese.” So good. The sauce barely tinted the orzo pale red but had SO much flavor, and the beef had a really nice cinnamony flavor to it. I was thirsty, so I had “Vissinada Refreshment – Traditional sour cherry beverage”. I had to drink this slowly, because I did not want it to end. Ever. As I sipped the last, I kept thinking “No, no, no… oh.” It was very sad.
On the way out, I got some baklava and something called diples, which is like a deep fried thing. I haven’t tried them yet. When I got them, I noticed the box she was putting them in was too large. At the end, she added two melomakarono. I brought all this home with me, but have put off eating it since I’ve been eating the last few times I’ve written. I can wait no longer.

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2 thoughts on “Week 4, Day 6

  1. So cool to read these travelogues …

    Just curious: What does a compassionate scientist think of zoos?

    And again … Who’s mowing your lawn these days?

    I’m envious re Chicago’s rain: both your and my neighborhoods have missed big storms of last 2-3 days. 😞

    And finally, re “sketchy” neighborhoods: In the late 40s, when my father-in-law was attending Columbia Law via the GI bill, he was walking in a local but unfamiliar neighborhood alone when a female resident saw him and somewhat brusquely asked, “What are you doing here?” He explained that he was walking back to his apartment, whereupon the woman told him in no uncertain terms that a man of his color was taking inordinate chances being there. She literally walked him to some kind of line of demarcation, where they went their separate ways. It was a story he remembered into his nineties.

    I’m glad you haven’t found yourself in a similar circumstance.

    Have a great Christian Sabbath, and try to go to a church where they speak English, will ya? 😉

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