Monday, June 14, 2010
An Early Valentine for My Beloved Midwest (1.11.09)
Ten days in Florida over Christmas had me forgetting all my morbid fears of being crushed in a California earthquake or smooshed by a Miami Mr. Magoo while crossing a Florida intersection bored and distracted by the heat.
"Let's move someplace sunny and warm!" I suggested to Hubby yet again as we sat on the beach and yet again he nodded, eyes still on his magazine, both of us knowing I could never leave Chicago permanently.
Even though the Wrigley Field hockey game had me squinting at the TV, unsure for a second whether the blimp footage of gray neighborhoods under a gray sky was really shot in color, even though I sniffed actual jasmine blooming the day before we left, even though our return to the Land of Monochrome from Technicolor World was via the depressing portal of O'Hare's lower level, surely the ugliest corner of America's least pretty airport, I was genuinely happy to be home.
The temperature that night was 30 degrees, just cold enough for a gentle snow, but not bitter enough for the wind to feel aggressive. As we approached downtown on I-94, checking out our cheerful Mural Building with ritual affection, I was moved once again by the sight of the skyline. Maybe this view, broken by billboards and the Morton Salt factory, is not the most stirring (try the views from the Roosevelt Road bridge or the south lakefront bikepath at sunset for the postcard look), but it is undeniably Home.
Home to jaw-dropping politics that temper our starry-eyed hope with a touch of cynicism, home to Mag Mile excess and simple neighborhood pleasures, home to the most real people I've ever known.
Sure, the Capital of Wonder and Whimsy can make our children's eyes go wide at life-sized Princesses and Mice, but yesterday we had a family adventure of a purely Midwestern flavor and on a more modest scale that left my entire family limp with giggles (well, maybe not Hub, but he did get a kick out of it.) On frozen Bluff Lake, near Antioch, sits Illinois' oldest operating toboggan run. Nothing fancy, just a steep wooden ramp with slightly upturned sides supported by sawhorses.
"Can you F-A-L-L O-F-F?" I asked the kid who handed out rental toboggans. "Aw no," he replied. "You're stuck pretty good in there." And so I was as I flew down the hill, gripping my snowsuited daughter who screamed with laughter. The bumps at the bottom were ferocious, but then we glided deliciously over the iced lake, past the piers, bumping gently into a snowbank and falling over with laughter.
The low-ceilinged knotty pine bar/restaurant at the top of the hill offered mugs of buttered rum, snitzle sandwiches, potato pancakes with applesauce and on Fridays, a fish boil. Icicles trimmed the view of the frozen lake out the picture windows. My six year old had to be lifted just to grip one of the frozen water sticks and pull it down.
Beat that, Mick.