I could see my breath on the way to work as late in the month as June 16th. For real. My buddy at work, Bea, she told she had never met anyone so obsessed with seeing their breath. I tried to explain that it was not the phenomenon of visible breath itself that attracted my attention so much what it indicated about the current weather situation – June 16, it’s cold out. See-your-breath cold out. I did talk about it a lot, I guess. I talked about it because it was interesting, because I like the weather, and because it was something to talk about. I sit chairside with people while their mouths go numb so we can drill their tooth out, we’ve got to talk about something neutral! But just because I talked about it a lot doesn’t mean I wanted it to end. And it certainly doesn’t mean I wanted it to get hot out.
Saturday, it finally felt like June here in Chicago. It was hot. Ice cream melted instantly. Eggs fried on the sidewalk. Mac and I took a walk to the bookstore, and the air was slow, sweaty, sticky, gross. I was slow, sweaty, sticky, gross. I turned to him and said, “ok, summer, we did it. I’m ready for winter now.”
Mac’s gaze remained steady on the hazy horizon. ”Nope,” he said, “I could go another week or so.”
Break out your sundresses, kids. It’s (finally… finally?) summer.
The blog is dead!!! We plan to resurrect it, sometime, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe in the meantime you could watch this video about how to make a robot out of a toothbrush:
I know that when you all saw this headline in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, you probably immediately thought of me:
In fact, it was someone else. I know, I know, and it’s not that I couldn’t have won, it’s just that I actually didn’t compete, see, because I think you had to have been a barista for more than like a month and a half… anyway, congrats to Mike Philipps, the owner of Intelligentsia, a fantastic coffee roaster and cafe in Lakeview, for actually winning. I’m going to work on my cappuccinos, and get ready for next year, not that my cappuccinos need work…
Remember when driving was fun? When we lived in places with wide open spaces and scenery and no stop lights or cars in your way? Corn as high as an elephant’s eye zipping past at 55mph? Before the guilt of superfluous carbon emissions took some of the joy out of a joyride? Before we moved to Chicago?
I remember. (Those of you who didn’t actually move to Chicago with us probably remember even better.) Me and Daisy, my little (“little”) Eagle Summit Wagon, zipping around Iowa, downshifting to make it up the big hills by the river, eating pie in little towns 40 miles from anywhere else, pulling over on the shoulder to take pictures of the sunset…
those were the days
I remember, but barely. Here, driving is a nightmare. It can take an hour to go the three miles needed to get to the freeway on a Saturday in December, for instance. A really, really hellish hour. There’s traffic, traffic traffic traffic, all the time! No left turn arrows, lots of people running red lights (not that I blame them, it’s sometimes a matter of survival) and parking, oh sweet Jesus, Chicago just leased its parking meters to a private company (for the next 75 years, ???) in an effort to make a little money, and this private company went bezerk on fees: instead of paying a quarter to park for an hour at most meters, starting last month parking rates doubled, tripled and quadrupled, with meters in the neighborhood downtown where I work now demanding 14 quarters for an hour. That’s $3.50 (or two full loads of laundry, depending on the specific value you place on quarters).
At any rate, there are a million reasons not to drive, not the least of which is that it’s just not necessary. Usually. The vast majority of the time, even. Of course I endorse biking, and public transit, walking, and good ol’ fashioned staying in your own neighborhood – no need to drive 40 miles for pie anymore when our neighborhood is so inundated with delicious bakeries…
But every now and then, you craigslist an end table from 2 miles away that would be just a bit too much to carry on the bus. Or you need to make a run to Hobby Lobby in the suburbs, the dead zone of public transport (alternative solution would be getting a Hobby Lobby in Lakeview, now wouldn’t THAT solve all our problems?!?!), or you’re closing at the cafe on Saturday night but your dad is speaking at church up in Milwaukee at 9 on Sunday morning, and between midnight and 8 there just aren’t any greyhounds, amtraks, or metras going your way… it’s times like this that you maybe do need a car, but not to own, just to share.
Enter I-Go Car Sharing, its fleet of cars waiting in strategic locations around the city (one right across the street from our apartment!), its array of flexible and affordable monthly/yearly plans, and its super helpful and friendly staff, on call 24/7. It makes a lot of sense: I only “need” a car for, say, 5 hours in an average month. So why not let other people use it for the other 715 or so hours instead of having it just sit there, expensive to park and a risk for break-ins and accidents?
I can reserve a car months or minutes in advance – there’s almost always one available nearby – and I don’t have to worry about paying for parking, insurance, or, get this, even gas. It’s all included. And sure, I can’t store my umbrella and my lunch leftovers for the last couple weeks in the back seat, but with so many cars to choose from, it’s kind of like I own dozens of cars… I’ll say to Mac, “do you want to take the Civic today, or the Prius?” Or the Honda Fit, or the Honda Element? The silver Civic, or the blue one? So many choices!
You may have perhaps heard of Zip Car, a national car sharing program that works similarly. We also have Zip Car in Chicago, and I do support their mission as well, but we chose I Go because it’s a non-profit, and because it’s Chicago. Their goal is to make car sharing an integral part of the public transit system, and to that end, they work with neighborhoods and with the Chicago Transit Authority to ensure that people can get around to wherever they need to go, whenever they need to go, without having to own a car. They’re also interested in turning the freed-up space and resources (owning a car can cost up to $7300/year in Chicago, I Go membership starts at $50) to foster growth in Chicago communities. Says their website, “We expect that lower car ownership would free up resources that could be used to increase home ownership and business development in our region.” Talk about big picture dreaming, hey? I like big picture.
I really do strongly believe that the freedom to live without having to own a car is a birthright. Furthermore, life without a gas and money guzzling weight on your shoulders shouldn’t seem impossible, it should seem normal, and it should definitely seem liberating, particularly in a big city like Chicago. I Go Car Sharing is making that dream of not owning a car a reality for us and hundreds of others. For that reason I heartily endorse them this Monday afternoon, for that and for the little glimmer of a thrill I get on those rare occasions when Lake Shore Drive isn’t so crowded after all and we’re flying on down the lake, faster than the busses… it does feel good. I remember.
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, 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.
I have a Chicago Tribune news feed on my home page, among other things. Yesterday, after a lovely bike ride home from work, I opened up my internt browser and saw the following headline:
There was, somewhat ironically, an actual article attached to that headline, instead of just a picture of the beach and a temp reading. But I didn’t read it. I don’t think whoever wrote that headline actually wanted us to.
Rohn also wanted to go outside and play.
Ah yes, it was beautiful. Shirt sleeves and warm breezes sitting by the lake at sunset…
We knew the weather gods were just teasing us. We knew it wouldn’t last. But wow, those 30mph rainy winds this morning sure hit hard.