Chicago woke up in a moody snit this morning. She really didn’t know what kind of weather to have today. It started out as high overcast as I set off for breakfast with Shanzeh and Courtney in the north end of Chicago. By the time we got our food, it was intermittently drizzling and pouring, and kept on this way while we ate and talked, but the sky kept getting lighter, too. I was really glad I threw my umbrella in my backpack because we needed it for the walk to the train station when we were done. We said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch, then headed in our respective directions.
Today was supposed to be an Adventure Day, but the weather wasn’t really holding up its end of the bargain. There were no indoor attractions nearby, and I didn’t relish the thought of wandering around outside in the rain, so I entered the Belmont station and climbed the stairs to take a Brown, Purple or Red line train (I had my choice!) south into the loop or all the way home. When I got onto the platform, I felt a little revulsion at the idea of just heading home. Something deep inside just said, “No.” Not angry or upset, just, “No.” So I walked up and down the platform a bit and stared at the sky. I looked north – high overcast with dark puffy clouds underneath (nimbostratus), to the south, the same thing only with rain coming down. I put my hand out, felt a few light drops, but fewer than before, and took a chance. I turned around, headed back down the stairs, put up my umbrella and walked a half block down Belmont, then headed north. I was only two or three blocks from Wrigley Field, so I might as well see the place.
That turned out to be a bit trickier than I planned. You see, I actually wanted to touch it, at least the outside (that’s how I can tell I was there). There was a lot of activity, and the surrounding streets were closed off with temporary fences. I’ve since learned that they were beginning set up for the Pearl Jam concert tomorrow. There was no way to get close to the south side of the building (security people everywhere), so I walked past it to see if the north side was any better. Not really, but that’s where they were bringing stuff in, so I was able to sneak behind a truck and touch the gate. Done.
The sky looked less threatening at this point, so I folded my umbrella, and headed toward the lake and Lincoln Park. It’s Adventure Day, you know. It’s easy to tell how far you are from the lake: just look up. All along the park there is a line of tall apartment buildings – thirty stories and more, but everything else is low. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do at the park – it had just rained, and I had only my backpack with me. I thought maybe I could touch the water in Lake Michigan or something. I ambled for an uneventful half hour to get there.
As I walked along the breakwall looking for a place to touch the water (it was about three feet below the wall and not very easy to get to), two men were walking along near by, carrying folding chairs and coolers. I thought this was odd because we were walking out to a point where there was no sand, just a breakwall. One of them said to me, “Do you think they’ll be flying today?” like it was the most natural question in world. “What’s that?” “The jets from the airshow.” I said I thought the airshow was tomorrow. “Practice runs.” With that, the adventure began. Sometimes, you just have to wait and the adventure comes to you.
I sat quietly on the top of the breakwall for about half an hour. Lots was happening. There were people gathering, eventually about thirty at the point, but more across the channel and down the shore as far as I could see. Six or seven sailboats floated out of the harbor to my right on their way to a race. Many other powered craft left, too – most of those anchored offshore about a quarter mile, waiting.
It started as a little static way off behind me, rapidly growing, when suddenly, there they were.
When six Thunderbirds roar overhead, I am a little boy again. I can feel the tingle way down in my, um, pelvic floor, as they say in yoga. I shivered with excitement as they passed again and again, flying lower than some of the skyscrapers I could see downtown. They flew all around inside the city. After about half an hour, they flew off, so I started my walk back to the bus or train (who knows which?). I found the eastern end of Belmont again, and started west, only to be drawn back to the park by the scream of an F-18’s afterburners propelling the plane high into the sky for a loop.
As things quieted down again I walked back toward the Halsted bus line, but not without a stop at Bobtail Ice Cream for their special flavor of the day: Merlot with Chocolate Chips. Since it is National Soft Ice Cream Day, I let it get a little soft before I ate it.
My whole bus trip home, I looked down every east-west running street, trying to get a glimpse of the aircraft. I knew they were there because the calm rhythm of the bus starting and stopping was punctuated by the piercing wail of engines hurling planes into the air. Eventually, the sky quieted, the bus came to a stop, and I hopped off, walking down my tranquil street to the apartment.
And so, we come to the end of the story. Summer is slowly turning to fall here: the sun wakes up later and slips under her covers earlier, the drone of the cicadas has started to stutter, and dried, brown leaves are beginning to appear along fence lines and under bushes.
There are a few things I’d do differently, if I did this again. I’d find a way to bring Jean and Alice out here, at least for a little while. I’d get a bike sooner, a week without one was too long. If I come back, I want to start a new blog, Churches of Chicago, with pictures, inside and out, histories and stories of all the beautiful churches here, all denominations. (There is a Buddhist Temple just down the street that was clearly a Christian church before its conversion in 1992 – what was it? What is it like now?)
Before I go, there are a few people I need to thank for their support while I have been here. First and foremost is my wife Jean, who is back home holding down the fort, having sweltered all summer but trooping through all of it. Next, Alice, who has been supporting her and taking care of Scarlet (and somehow getting Scarlet to run almost everyday).
Thank you to my parents and Jennie for trekking all the way out here to see me. We had a lot of fun.
I’d like to thank Shanzeh and Courtney for being who they are and making this an awesome summer for the girls at GWC SIP Accenture and for the instructor as well. Thank you for your hard work, sharing your humor and many talents, and above all, your friendship.
Thank you too, to a certain erstwhile librarian, who has been my most ardent supporter as I’ve written this blog. Your thoughtful, almost daily comments really kept me going.
Thank you to all my readers – just knowing you’re out there means a lot.
Well, that’s it. I’m off to some kind of art party now.
So long, and thanks for all the fish.