My friend Craig and I have a tradition of skirting up to the northerly extremes of the city on the three summer holidays, when one or both of us is not committed elsewhere. The idea is to relax and spend the day out and about without spending a lot of money or having to talk to too many people.
We started doing this in 2002, during a rather alarming period of depression on my part. The idea then was more just to get me out of my apartment (and, hopefully, my head) for a day.
It is still a pretty good idea for me to get out of my apartment once in a while.
It's a good way to spend the day. Sometimes we play card games, or read books without talking to one another. I've written on these excursions and Craig has sometimes done schoolwork. Sometimes we catch a movie. Once or twice we turned the Sunday New York Times Crossword into a collaborative event. The goal is, again, simpy to relax. Other than driving up to Rogers Park, walking by the lake and a visit to a coffeehouse, nothing is ever planned out.
People unfamiliar with Chicago always seem surprised that there are beaches along the lakefront. They know about the lake, of course, as it features heavily in sterile aerial shots of the skyline, but something about the city seems to give people the idea that the lake is just another thing like the buildings they see, a prop to make the whole thing look a bit nicer, placed there by a photo stylist in a moment of inspiration.
Sterile Aerial would be a halfway decent name for someone's album.
The beaches and parks along the lake are always populated on these holidays, although most of the shots I took do not reflect this. They are having barbecues with families, engaging in sporting events. There are always kites flying and children running all over the place. This helps to create the illusion that Craig and I are part of a huge gathering, like we are crashing a family reunion.
I brought a notebook, my camera, cigarettes, and my iPod. I only really needed the cigarettes and the camera.
The local movie theater (where I used to go all the time when I lived just a couple of blocks away from it in the mid-90s) now has several screens, each of which was showing the third film in a hugely successful franchise. Shrek, Pirates, Spidey. We skipped the movie this year, in spite of having seen both the first and second Spider-Man films on these trips in the past.
I always end up wishing I still lived up there. There is so much more to do than in my neighborhood.
A favored bookstore, the Armadillo's Pillow, was closed. We can never figure out in advance which holidays will find them open for business. It seems likely they do not know themselves.
We wandered a few blocks south to stroll the grounds of Loyola University, where I was once again swept away by the notion of all the space and beautiful surroundings existing only for the purposes of learning. I made a remark about how I wished I had gone to school, and Craig sighed. I say this every single time we go there, often repeatedly. I am a broken record on the subject of higher education. The Craig forgot the work for "track" and said "running circle" instead and we were back on the more normal, breezy dialogue with which we had filled the day.
We talked a lot more this year than some of the others. I talked quite a lot about writing, as I recall. Neither of us broke off and read a book. Craig showed some curiousity about you, Blogreader. He wanted to know where you live, which of you are writers also. I blathered on for several minutes.
"I'm giving you all the information I can think of," I said, "because I don't understand why you are asking the question. I don't know what parameters to confine myself to."
I asked Craig to photograph me at one point. I wanted to document how long my hair has grown before I finally chop most of it off (probably). I guess it turned out all right, although I can tell from the shape of my mouth that Craig is saying something mocking from behind the camera and I am moments away from retaliating. The next shot on the roll would no doubt feature an open, sarcastic mouth, had Craig not stopped when he did.
We spent much of the day walking around, so much so that by the time we were through, I was somewhat sore. I cannot recall the last time I felt sore from walking. Perhaps this is something to do with my advancing years.
We got to the car as the sun was sinking, somewhat weary, but feeling like it had been a good day. Not complicated, this relaxing business. I think I even got a slight sunburn out of the deal.
Plenty of new shots on the Flickr page, as well. Just click the graphic under "Email Me," at left.