Monday, June 21, 2004

The Fleeting Nature of Summer in Chicago

This is when summer begins for you: the Lamprey Pig Roast and belt sander races. You lock your bike to the nearest rack, change shoes, and head in armed with a twelve-pack. You make a beeline for the roof because that's where everyone you know would head. But before that, you make a cursory loop around the garden, checking the spit where the pig's roasting, the veggie grill, the makeshift stage where Danny Black's Healthy White Baby will play later in the evening, and the dj booth.

You make it to the roof, pull out your camera, and start snapping pictures of the area. The Dan Ryan expressway is uncommonly congested for a Sunday evening. You can almost feel the road rage from the cars. The quickly setting sun makes some unique shadings for your pictures. A woman you never met offers you a pull of Maker's Mark and smiles as you drink heartily from the bottle. Your friends slowly show up, but by that time the social lubricant have made you less bashful. Herbal refreshments are broken out. You take a puff, holding it in deep for full effect. The guy who built the belt sander race track walks around drinking beer from a mold made from a prosthetic leg. You just have to snap a picture of him.

The crowd is a beautiful mix of Hideout Hipsters, starving Pilsen Artists, bike messengers, anarchists, bartenders, and neighborhood guys from "long ago." It's a crowd that works, no one gives a fuck about social status here. They're all here for a good time. Tattoos are everywhere. You head down to the garden as Danny Black's Healthy White Baby just started their set and the pig is carved up for serving.

You snap some more pictures and head for the bathroom. Along the climb you pass Miss Mia, who's always got a smile for everyone. Your heart does a slight skipping. She's the kind of woman you just want to buy a cup of coffee just to listen to her talk. More friends show up with beer, which is good since you ran out a while ago.

The belt sander races begin. Bets are placed. The crowd favorite is a simple sander with the name "Slutron" written all over it in marker. Her sander loses quickly to the Toast Master.
Dollar bills fill the wells between the tracks as bets are placed. There's good matured ribbing about baseball teams. You remind the loud, slightly obnoxious Cubs fan that he's in an American League neighborhood and that you're relating this to him from experience. The races bore you and you wonder if that hot blonde with the red checkered schoolgirl skirt is still there. You head for the roof, but there's nowhere to move, so you cut your losses and head for your bike, the party not seeming to end in the background. You change into your cleats and pedal the ten blocks or so to your apartment with a stoned smile on your face and not a care in the world.

This is how you ring in summer in Chicago.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tail end of a decade well-spent in my adopted beautiful and beloved fair Chi-city and before making the forced jump back to the grimy Dickensian-era brick smokestacks belching coal ash and soot all over the fishstanky cesspools that reek from Brooklyn to Baltimore, I happened to get a brief respite from dreading this move backwards when a friend, dragged me out of my torpor, out of the lower depths of a Humboldt 3 flat, and onto my faithful steed, a candy apple red chrome-fendered Schwinn and we rode wildly from Humboldt to Pilsen grinning madly, racing from block to block, and just in love with being alive. That was a fine day. Thanks for the writeup. It was the catalyst for remembering that day, that night, that summer.