A Chicago Bummer/A Chicago Hope

Posted by shana on Mar 5, 2009 in Chicago Thursday |

In my previously mentioned book club, we’re currently reading a fascinating little piece of literature that features, of all things, a lake monster.   In the course of the discussion over baklava last night, we got to thinking, in the book, this little lake in New York has a monster, and here we’ve got great big Lake Michigan right at our doorsteps… and sure, it’s not super deep, like Loch Ness (pictured – see the monster?)… 


from my visit to Scotland in 2003

but it is respectably large – with almost 1200 cubic miles of water, you think you could hide a monster in there somewhere.  But try as we might, we couldn’t think of any kind of Lake Michigan Monster.  


from our apartment shopping visit to Chicago in August - Lake Michigan from the top of the Hancock Building


So today I decided to do some (quick) research, just to be sure we all weren’t missing something, and aside from this totally legitimate article, there’s nothing, nothing at all for sea monsters in Lake Michigan, or any kind of mythical monster creature at all in Chicago – the only “monsters” in Chicago seem to have to do with sports, the only “myths” in Chicago seem to have to do with the mob, and the only “legends” in Chicago seem to have to do with… yeah, sports again.  Basketball legend.  Baseball legend.  Legendary debate: Sox or Cubs?  Monster.com to find a job.  But no lake monsters.  Bummer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the lake.  Living in close proximity to it was a priority for us on that apartment shopping trip back in August, and even for its lack of monsters, I feel a strong and almost spiritual sense of connectedness with the world when gazing out on its endlessness.

I’ve always been obsessed with bodies of water, and I like to imagine how I would trace a water route from wherever I’m currently gazing to wherever my loved ones live:

sample route home from Hong Kong, 2005, with a brief stopover in Southern France, of course

sample route home from Hong Kong, 2005, with a brief stopover in Southern France, of course, and a long weekend in the Phuket

These days it’s a pretty quick shot up the lake to Milwaukee for many (though not all) of my imaginary water journeys – heck, on a low-smog day, you can actually see Wisconsin from the top of the Hancock building.  

I really do believe that monsters help foster, among other things, a strong and active imagination, and in that respect, they’re very healthy, if not crucial, to the imaginative success of an individual and a city.  So for now, without lengthy imaginary voyages to distract me, and with this current book club book in mind, I think that when I gaze out on Lake Michigan these days, I’m going to have to contemplate the monster.  The yet-to-be-discovered monster.  The monster-that-maybe-nobody-but-me-cares-about monster.  The monster that spews ice all over the bike path.  The monster that makes the wind gust at 37 mph.  Every monster dream has to start somewhere, right?  Do you think it’s too late for Chicago?  Maybe the lake is too big, maybe it can hide too well… maybe we need a more defined body of water… the Belmont Harbor monster… I’m open to ideas… 



And in case you’re interested, the book is “The Monsters of Templeton,” by Lauren Groff, and I do endorse it, in a “Monday” sort of way, even though it’s Thursday.

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Mar 9, 2009 at 8:06 pm

I think you’re totally onto something here. There IS a Lake Michigan monster, but because it is so big, he hides really well – so well, in fact, that he’s never been seen. What we need to do, then, is name him after a smaller, more defined body of water, as you suggest, so he feels more at home. “Belmont.” Bel, Belmy…MONTY! Monty, the Lake Michigan monster, who sometime resides in Belmont Harbor. Love it.

cowboy's mom
Mar 9, 2009 at 8:53 pm

i’m reminded of your illustration of a canoe trip you took at one of your retreats. and i love that you never ever take the direct route to get anywhere! all who wander are not lost indeed!



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