Tuesday, July 4, 2006

The problem with holidays

The problem with holidays is that everyone has them off.

In Chicago, that means that every park, every beach, and every potentially quiet nook is overrun by people. You might as well be downtown during rush hour being mowed down by pedestrians on their way from or to the train stations. Come to think of it, business downtown might be the only place to get any peace on a summer's holiday.

I could take the opportunity to thank all the people who inundated my neighborhood last night. A side street on which I rarely see more than two cars at a time suddenly looked like midtown Manhattan. People found creative ways to park their cars in the overflowing park district lot, as 7–10 cars that were never going to fit circled in perpetual hope. Clumps of 10, 15, or more people were everywhere—in the parking lot, on the sidewalk, and on and around the benches. One large group apparently decided to take over one lane at the corner of the side street. They stood around a car, laughing and gabbing, pretending not to notice the line of cars they were blocking from making the turn. None of them made any attempt to get out of the way until the whole group, en masse, slowly wandered off.

If course, what kind of holiday would the 3rd of July be if, after driving miles to be in someone else's neighborhood and winning a parking spot (legal or not), you didn't spend the late (and wee) hour setting off firecrackers? Sure, people possibly live in those half dozen buildings with hundreds of apartments, people who may be trying to relax or maybe even to sleep, but of course if they'd been smart they'd have fled their neighborhood, like we did ours.

Let the party begin. After all, isn't the right to annoy others one of the ideals for which the Founding Fathers (whom we commemorate with burned hot dogs and chicken, potato salad , and beer) fought?

But I am enjoying the 4th of July. The weather is perfect, and this morning while I was at Promontory Point a great blue heron flew 20–30 feet over my head.

Now that's the kind of visitor I'd like to see more of in the neighborhood.

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