Heat, Hatred and Independence on the Lakefront

“All I’m saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On the Fourth of July,  I decided to ride the bike path to Navy Pier before the heat rose to its full 101 potential. At 9:45 AM there  were lot’s of people out claiming their plot of lakefront land to barbecue and view fireworks. I passed two of the usual suspects: The lady with curly red hair that exercises by taking a million tiny sideways steps with hand weights. The tall skinny old guy in a  tiny speedo and giant sombrero-like straw hat. He faces the bike path with an assortment of work out paraphernalia as if performing for an olympic audience. It would be really funny if I was on someone else’s list of crazy looking characters they see on the bike path.

I am starting to slow down by the time I get to Belmont harbor because it’s so damn hot. Because of this heat, I am actually wearing a bathing suit (never happens) with shorts while dreaming of jumping in the water (also never happens) at Oak St. That wet dream is crushed by the reality of what I’m gonna do with my wallet and phone. Crap.

There was a lot of bad behavior on the bike path, making it difficult to pass without fear of collision. I came upon this young African-America man who seemed to be deliberately riding in on coming traffic, yelling something about white people and then swerving back in front of me. I was right behind him trying to figure how to pass when he turned his head and asked if I was following him. I said “No, I just want to pass” and did so. Then he said something about me having a nice ass. I was pissed, as I always am when guys say that kind of thing, but I kept riding and imagined all the things I would like to say to him to make him feel stupid.

I got to my turn around point and stopped to get a drink. My water bottle was hot enough to brew some coffee so I dumped it on my head, refilled at a fountain and started riding back home. Then I saw that guy again and as we passed each other he yelled “Why don’t you ride your bike into the lake and kill yourself?”  Circling around I said “Whoaaa! What is your problem and why would you say that to me ?” He replied that he hates all white people. I asked “Did I do something to disrespect you?” He answered “No, you didn’t do anything but all white people in Chicago are racists and they deserve to die.” Well, what do you say to that? I turned and rode off. I felt like crying but I always tend to take things too personally.

You can say he must have been crazy. I mean, who goes on a July 4th hate tour of the lakefront just to tell every white person on the path they should die? Therefore I should dismiss him along with all the other crazies I’ve passed and already forgotten. And yet… I can’t stop thinking about him and imagining this conversation where he sits quietly and listens to me while I tell him the way it is my world. I explain to him very eloquently and in great detail the law of attraction:  Life serves you up all that you believe. Kind of like all those people who go to Paris believing that all French hate all Americans. They brace themselves for the legendary rudeness and inevitably that is exactly what they get. Another person that leaves those pre-conceived notions behind will discover warmth and kindness. But I don’t give him the Paris analogy as I’m sure it would inspire supreme hatred of my privileged (nice) ass. I just know that all that hatred cannot be serving him well. He couldn’t be happy. He couldn’t have noticed how beautiful it was to ride a bike next to the lake in the summertime while regurgitating all that prejudice.  There can’t be any space for joy in a heart so full of misery. When I’m done with my lecture, he admits that maybe he should rethink his philosophy on life. We shake hands and he rides off  stunned and exhausted with all negativity spent.

Unlikely for sure but it’s my dream and it feels better to work it out this way instead of dwelling on the sad reality. I wonder if anyone else replied to his comments that day at the lake? I might have been the only one that challenged him and honestly I think he may have hated me a little less because of my question. He had to think about the fact that I had never done a bad thing to him. In a sea of generic white faces I spoke out for myself and who knows? Maybe after we rode our separate ways he stopped his rant for the day.

Finally in regards to the beautiful M. L. King postcard that leads off this post: I hesitated to use it for fear of appearing to sell myself as overly righteous. I’m not the political volunteering type nor am I one that marches for causes. I rarely  listen or read  the news because I find it so depressing. I do however make an effort to go out in the world  with a positive attitude and hope to spread a little peace and love on my path. And if this story of mine was in a Woody Allen movie I’d  just happened to have some  inspirational Martin Luther quotes that I pull from my pocket and give the kid before he rides away.


3 Responses to “Heat, Hatred and Independence on the Lakefront”

  1. 1 Inga July 13, 2012 at 1:21 am

    I anticipate your next post.
    It’s like a great book…and I am waiting for the next one to come out. I hope it is never ending….

  2. 2 Startare August 1, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Great read! It’s hard to face that type of attitude, and you showed great bravery, congrats.
    As I write the convent maternity bell strikes 18 times,announcing that six little babies have been born into this world during the night (it is now early morning). Don’t know why, but I just thought I’d tell you about it.
    Keep well!

    • 3 theunmetfriend August 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks for reading! Wow, six babies! The convent bell announcing births sounds like such an old world tradition. Nothing like that going on in my neighborhood! Have a beautiful day.

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