Now my last entry was no way to start a morning. Not if it’s really a perfect day it isn’t. And let me tell you, today is looking a lot like something perfect. It’s 8am and I am sitting on the river’s edge in Chicago. There isn’t a cloud in the sky. People are running by here and doing the same thing on the other side of the river. I’ve found the perfect perch to sit and write – a table on a less traveled part of the river walk, just below a speaker that is raining down a rather arbitrary collection of music. My stomach flipped a bit when I saw this chair and table, then the music started blaring…U2, Beautiful Day. Perfect to fall inside. Now something not in English. Now Pearl Jam. There is the faint sound of water in the distance, which I love. It’s an impressive waterfall maybe 150 yards further down the river. Ten hours ago I was standing right next to that waterfall, trying to keep the mist away from my camera lens as I struggled with the settings, looking for the combination that would allow me to blend the night, water, lights and my family into perfect memories.
After I finished writing yesterday I met Karen for (more) coffee. She happened to be here for a wedding and staying right across the street. She came over and we caught up about work and personal things. Wasn’t weird. Wasn’t real in-depth either. I walked her hotel after we were done chatting, then skipped down Michigan Avenue to meet back up with everyone else. That allowed me some time to think about Karen, about work, about choices. I feel good about the work changes I’ve made. I think if I was in the same place right now that I was a year ago I wouldn’t be as happy. I’d be fine, but not as happy as I am at the moment.
Rhonda, Grandma and the girls went to some freaky doll shop downtown so Ava & Lily could get some new outfits for their ‘babies’, American Girl or something like that. I didn’t really put my foot down against going or anything…I just didn’t want to and no one much cared if I skipped out. Last time we were in Chicago we walked this store and sat down outside. One after one, girls and women walked in or out carrying these little zombie-looking dolls. Some of them were taking their ‘baby’ to the ‘doll salon’ where they could fork over $20+ to have their ‘baby’s’ hair done. Some were just going to lunch because there is even a restaurant in the store where every table is configured to hold those little zombie babies. Truth be told…I would have like to see one of two things: 1) A grown women who has one of these dolls but no children. The doll is just her obsession. To me, that would take Lonely Cat Lady to a whole new level. 2) A young boy who has been programmed to be so obsessed with the dolls. Those two things would be interesting.
When I finally caught up with everyone, we were all starving. We also decided that it wouldn’t make much sense to go out to lunch when what we are really in Chicago for is to go to the Taste of Chicago. To that end, we headed down the avenue towards the festival, allowing Bird to lead us in her Tour guide kind of way.
The weather wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad either, but it wasn’t great. At least it was warm, despite the sun’s absence. Periodically it would start to rain, just drizzing and very tolerable. But fuck. It’s July. Who wants that? I tried to get good pictures of everything we ate, but the truth is us having kids in that crowd made the food harder to focus on. For the most part, we parked Rhonda, Grandma and Lily under some trees where they could be semi-sheltered from the weather and Ava and I went on mini hunting and gathering missions, coming back with four or five paper trays full of delectables every fifteen minutes or so. There is a partial list of our finds at the bottom of this post, with some noticeable repeat items from last year. Clearly we are becoming connoisseurs.
What is never hard to appreciate was all the good people watching. There is no way to miss all the standout characters at the Taste…the homeless people who look forward to the fact that you can never really get rid of all your food tickets…the overeaters who in no way will ever let themselves end the day with any leftover tickets…families, daters, first-timers, veterans…
“Dude, I brought $20. Beers are $7! If I get 3 that’s like, almost all my money…”
Sometimes I take pictures of people just to remind me of something or someone I found interesting at the time. Also see below.
It was a good time and when our bellies were full and the kids seemed to be getting crabby, we headed back to the hotel for a little rest time. Lily was the only one that didn’t take a nap yesterday, which is unheard of in our family. Sometimes Ava goes all day. Never Lily. To make it even stranger, even Rhonda and I took naps. I kept watching her to see if at some point she would erupt. Didn’t happen. I picked her up and made her look at me.
“Lily makes daddy way, way happy.”
She looked at me for a second and then gave me a huge hug.
“Hugs make daddy way, way happy too Bean. So do kisses.”
Then she gave me a big kiss on the cheek and I almost cried. Little Lily and I had a moment, and I believe it was because I had picked the right words to put something in her terms and she understood, and she responded…she feels the same way.
Fireworks were a priority tonight since we didn’t make it happen last night. However, once again our viewing was impromptu and not what we had planned. Turns out we had conflicting information about where the best place was to see them. Instead of watching the show while lying on our backs on a blanket (ok a mattress pad that Rhonda stole from the hotel), we ended up watching them through a break in the trees while walking back to the hotel from the Taste (our second trek of the day). You know what though? I have realized that our kids do not think fireworks are as spectacular as we think they would (or should). Lily was tired and just trying to get to sleep on my shoulder or Rhonda’s. Ava would watch every now and then, but seemed far more interested in checking out the growing pool of people who had found this little portal through trees where we could see the display. And then there was us adults – me, my mom and Rhonda, looking at the hundredth something firework display we’ve seen in our lives, not finding it all that spectacular but really wanting our kids to. Maybe fireworks are one of those things that are always a bigger concept than a reality. Although, during one particularly huge and green explosion Ava yelled a loud “WOW~” and made everyone laugh. But that was about it.
It was about 10pm. Ava hadn’t taken a nap and was revving to stay out and play. As we passed over the river one last time to get to our hotel she realized there was a river walk below and suggested that we all go down and wave at the boats. Of course we said yes. Lily seemed amenable to the idea and hey, all of our experiences these days are 50% +1 about what the kids want to do, so why not? The challenge for me (dad) would be getting that stroller to the bottom of the four flights of stairs that separated us from the river’s edge. I’m good in those situations though. I prefer to just take charge and make it happen. Last night that meant sending them all to the bottom and carrying the stroller over my head, past the people ascending the stairs while I was going down, doling out a lot of excuse me’s and sorry’s but not really caring about anything besides my family waiting for me at the bottom. They got such a kick out of the boats. Every one that passed they’d have to climb up on the fence and wave at them all. Some people waved back. We continued on until we found this amazing little waterfall – the same one I’m listening to now. It’s actually right by the huge spray of water that you always see boats going under when you see Chicago in pictures or on TV. I’m pretty convinced that stream is strong enough to blow the skin right off your body.
After that, we headed inside. My friend from last night was working in the bar again. I walked up and gave her a big hug, told her I was there with my kids and my mom and wife. Just then my mom came up and I introduced the two of them.
“Is it ok if we have kids in here?” she asked.
“Honey, your son right here can do whatever he wants. You know why? This right here.”
She pointed to a union pin on her lapel
“Thanks honey,” I told her and we spread ourselves out on a comfortable couch that had room enough for the girls to lie down. Minutes later she showed up with a bottle of Pinot Noir, clean glasses and some ‘kiddie cocktails’ for Ava & Lily. We stayed for awhile and then decided we could retreat to the rooms where the kids could be more comfortable. I called Diane over and told her we were leaving, asked her for our check, which she produced rapid fire. Another hug and an apology about how messy we were leaving our table.
“Hang on honey…stay right there.”
She disappeared quickly then returned…with more wine.
“This is for you.”
“You know what being rude to people gets you mom? Usually nothing. Know what being nice gets you? Sometimes something, sometimes nothing. But you feel better all the time.”
My mom agreed. And hopefully she’s happy that her son isn’t a jackass and does see value in being kind to others. She’s the one that set my moral compass after all.
Before we went to bed Rhonda commented that yesterday that this 4th of July didn’t feel very patriotic. I agree. That isn’t to say it wasn’t fun, it was. Didn’t feel like the 4th. I’ll have to ask her what would have made it feel more like the 4th. For me, I think of grilling at home, doing fireworks at home. I bet she’d say the same thing. I’ll find out.
Boats are starting to pass. Huge, beautiful boats are heading under the bridge, out, into the lake. I feel so good right now. Time to wake everyone else up and make a plan for the day.