Archive for September, 2015

Stories from the Lakefront Path

Scan 1918

Lately, my travels have been confined to daily bike rides on the lakefront path. Every morning, sometimes noon, afternoon or evenings. It has been an obsessive joy and my time of complete peace. While riding I am writing stories in my head and taking pictures with my eyes. Almost an entire summer of collecting so many moments. These are the unmet friends that will mostly remain unmet save the occasional meeting of  the eyes. They have become colorful characters in a series of daily short stories. Really short. It’s a snapshot moment as I ride by. If I had a camera I couldn’t catch them. It completely fascinates me.  The earlier in the day, the better. The noisy beach crowd is a distraction from the real deal.

There was the man, that appeared at first glance to be deep in prayer. His hands were joined in prayer position on his lap, but then, I noticed, he was shading the sun with those hands and worshiping the cell phone God. I  find it amazing how many people walk, ride, run or skate next to our big beautiful lake with eyes locked on their phones, missing out on a million miracles!

Between Belmont and Diversey harbors I take a detour from the path and ride on the wide stretch of concrete next to the water. While I dodge the broken glass and beer cans of the late night gang bang crowd,  I witness the peaceful morning rituals of random people. There is a young woman with long dark curly hair and pink shirt in a powerfully perfect Warrior 2 pose. Then, Surprise! I get smacked in the face by a giant white dandelion which explodes in a million particles and scatters to the wind. Exiting the harbor I see a beautiful African woman sitting in long dress while gracefully wrapping a scarf around her head. My iPod is singing, “It’s a Beautiful World”.

There is an older woman walking with hands behind her back in such a determined on a mission to walk manner. What is she thinking, planning or scheming? She has the aura of mute Norma, from “Orange is the new black”. I pass her again on the way home and she is still walking with those hands clasped behind her. Another elderly lady is running wearing something that I can only describe as a pink sparkly tutu. Neither of these gals notice me as I whiz by. But there is one that sees me. She’s standing near the concrete steps opposite the lake. She  flashes a big smile and gives me an “It’s a beautiful day enjoy your ride” thumbs up. Maybe I’m the subject of her blog post?

One day I am riding and kind of zoning out. I’m on the bike but my mind is traveling elsewhere and then I see something coming at me from the right. It’s a squirrel doing somersaults! I flinch, and brace myself for collision. But then, I realize…it’s not a squirrel at all. It’s a sheet of newspaper in forward flip. You may be thinking: WTF? Well, earlier that day I had a meeting with an exterminator about rats in the basement and squirrels on the roof. I had rodents on the brain, okay?!?

There are lots of beautiful people. Men and women with perfect bodies, riding, skating, running. One woman on a bike, could have been an android with her exquisitely sculpted muscles and flawless skin. Only the messy hair sticking out of her helmet…and the helmet for that matter,  proved her mortal. There is a skater with a lush head of silver hair and equally amazing muscles, moving so gracefully and literally passing bicycles. All that beauty intermingles with lots of homeless or crazy ugly. Men and women sleeping off their drink and wearing layers of clothing in 90 degree weather.

A man sits on the bench near Oak street beach. He is meticulously shaving his chest the first time I pass him and on the way back he is working on his legs. Now that’s not something you see everyday!

The runners are a very diverse crew. There are the serious athletes with perfect form , moving in sync with the universe like well oiled machines. Then there are those with no form, red faced, sweating profusely, spastic or duck like, gasping for air. It is the crooked spine runners that I want to stop and take directly to a chiropractor!

When I ride past Foster Ave beach it is always in time travel mode. Only a  glimpse of colors, people and umbrellas but I see it as an impressionist painting of Chicago between 1920-30. I don’t know why and it’s only at Foster that I have this vision.

At the start of summer, on my north bound detour around Diversey harbor I pass a regular threesome of drunken perverts sitting on the top level of concrete. The bronze Indian Chief glares at them with disapproval from his horse. As I pass I keep my iPod volume high, only hearing muffled jargon and seeing lips move against a back ground face of pure dip shit ignorance. After a few times I stop looking. Then, one day I see two bicycle cops standing in front of the those men and they have the leader handcuffed! It was so great. Justice prevailed and those creeps no longer slime the lakefront.

There was at least a week of dragonflies in the early evening. I’m talking about a festival of dragonflies, so many it was hard to not collide while cruising. Sometimes I would stop to watch them fill the sky and animate the landscape. Like a million little helicopters, they were amazing and beautiful to me but I noticed others were creeped out, only seeing them as giant flying creatures. Come on! No gruesome claws, no sharp pointy teeth and definitely no breath of fire.

One day I see a girl sitting alone, head hung low. I think she is crying. I want to turn around and go sit with her. Put my arm around her shoulder and ask her to tell me what’s wrong. But I’ve been her before and I don’t think I’d have welcomed that gesture. Sometimes you just need to sit by yourself and cry in front of the Lake.

Of all these little stories and moments passed by on a bicycle there is one that is particularly memorable.  A couple is sitting on the steps, last lap before Grand ave.  The young black man sits with his head in his hands. His face is covered in misery, anguish and devastation. Next to him the young white woman is pressing her forehead against the side his face with complete compassion and love. It is so intimate, so private. I feel both sorry for intruding with my eyes and honored to bear witness.

I think about all those people and their stories now and before there was a city, bringing their joys and sorrows to the Lake. She silently beckons us to sit by her shores and tell her our troubles. We gaze, we meditate, and maybe send the stress and worries away on the waves. Each day, no matter how bad I feel about this or that problem that I can’t seem to work out, I am distracted by the Lakes spectacular beauty. It always gives me hope and I remind myself to be grateful.



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