Last Sunday, the trees were glorious, and Wednesday the air was balmy at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. By Saturday, the trees that had glowed against the blue of the lake were bare against the gray of the lake, and the temperatures had plummeted to the 40s.
Only two brave souls sat outdoors together at Bonjour, each reading a newspaper section.
I frittered the days away with sporadic reading, browsing, and napping—I hadn't indulged in the latter for months, especially not since my UFE recovery period.
It must be the weather. Because I can't blame fluctuating hormones, at least for the moment, I'm laying my increased carbohydrate cravings and consumption at the feet of the shorter days and colder nights.
So far this year, however, I haven't been as chilled outdoors as I am indoors, every day by midday. My fingers are aching even as I write this. We can do so many interesting things, solve so many problems, and conjure up so many improbable theories, but maintaining a reasonably comfortable temperature in a state-of-the-art office beyond remains beyond our ability. It gives women something to chat about as we warm our hands under warm tap water in the bathroom where, at my old job, the main activities (aside from the obvious) were networking and problem solving. Now we use the bathroom as a combination waste disposal facility and warming shelter, except the air in there is chilly, too.
When I started working, managers and above sat in window offices (with their backs to the windows) and worker bees aspired to move into a window office. Then design became more egalitarian, and offices began to feature cubicles, er, workstations with windows. I have two and one-half windows, and do so my cohorts. The other day I noticed that nearly all of blinds down the hallway are closed, which struck me as amusing—an admittance that the view is not as important as the perceived prestige once associated with windows. But there are two reasonable explanations: In this gloomy weather, it's easier for the people across the alley to see us. And there isn't much for us to see, either, except the people across the alley. Which is easy to do because they don't lower their blinds.
With the change in weather, J. and I have not been as active. On Saturday we ate at the Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop, where we did not see Obama, just as we had not seen him at Medici on 57. Perhaps someday we'll catch him at Valois Cafeteria or Mellow Yellow.
I started to watch the 1996 version of The Canterville Ghost with Patrick Stewart, but left the final half hour for the next morning—by which time it had disappeared from the on-demand list. Now I'll never know how it ends . . . it was not bad for a modern version, although the father's character was disturbingly inconsistent. It was strange enough that he greets his daughter only in passing as he rushes to gush over his boys. As the movie proceeds, he veers illogically between the rational and the emotional. As a scientist firmly grounded in the real, he refuses to believe in ghosts or any evidence they may leave behind. At the same time, based on only the flimsiest circumstantial evidence, he roundly condemns his daughter as a cruel, even dangerous prankster. Then he has the gall to whine to his wife that he and the daughter aren't close like they used to be, to which the wife responds with grating predictability, "She's growing up." Too bad Dad doesn't do the same.
As I was waiting for a bus that seemed determined not to arrive on Monday, I heard sirens, saw a number of unmarked black cars whizzing about officiously, and noticed that traffic was backing up down 57th toward Stony Island. Access to Lake Shore Drive had been cut off, with Everett being the only immediate escape east of Hyde Park Boulevard. Obliviously I assumed there had been an accident and wondered how late I would be.
Then I heard the helicopter and saw the spotlight hovering above.
“It’s the president-elect,” a woman told me.
“Really?” I said. I didn’t think he’d spend much time in Hyde Park anymore.
After a while a motorcade came along. I didn’t pay close attention, but did spot a black woman peering out of the open back window of one of the limousines.
The motorcade had passed before I realized that I should have been more interested.
“Did you see the hearse? It wasn’t the president-elect; it was a funeral,” the woman said.
I hadn’t seen a hearse, but I couldn’t swear positively that I hadn’t seen it, either, so I let that go.
“The only person I can think of who’s died is Studs Terkel, and I can’t imagine all that for him,” I said.
“He died a couple of weeks ago,” she noted erroneously.
“I won’t get that kind of sendoff,” I said, perhaps a bit wistfully.
“Do I look like I will?” she laughed.
Silence for a bit.
“History is being made,” she added, but not conceding the funeral point.
“A better kind of history,” I offered.
“You know it,” she said as I was saved by the appearance of an X28 bus.
On the Chicago Tribune site, I saw that Barack Obama had dropped his girls off at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, then he and Michelle had taken off for Washington, D.C., to meet with George and Laura Bush. Hearse sighting aside, I’m fairly certain that all the excitement, complete with choppers, was over that daily ritual of every family with children—the trip to school.
The online photo spread showed Obama, sporting a Sox cap, hugging his daughters, who in their neat school clothes and backpacks look like any other Hyde Park student on a school day. They were the only ones who arrived with a Secret Service, police, and news escort, I imagine. How fascinating it will be to watch them grow up over the next four to eight years, now that they are in an inescapable fish bowl.
I spent many mornings waiting in the dark, cold, and snow, alone, for a school bus that never had a seat for me and my bass clarinet.
Yet I don’t envy them.
Well. Perhaps a little as they get to see the world.
Still, there’s the fishbowl.
At least they’re used to it.
I think it would kill this lonely guppy.
On the other hand, a life of ease and comfort would suit me well just about now.