Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chicago Life

I live in a city of sirens. Police cars. Ambulances. Fire trucks. Twenty-four hours a day of sirens. Living on the 9th floor of a building within unobstructed earshot of a nearby fire station does not help, and living on a block with two large senior citizen complexes adds to the fun. Ambulances scream down my street (never mind that it is primarily residential and that at 3 a.m. there is very little traffic that needs to be warned to get out of the way) at least five times every day. One would think that at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. they might not need to keep their sirens screaming full blast, but they do. And every paramedic visit is, for reasons I’ve never quite understood, accompanied by a huge fire truck, which has not only sirens but a horn. A very loud horn.

And all this sweet, soothing symphony of the city is set against the every-three-minute rumbling and roaring and, especially in wet weather, shrieking, of elevated trains not 1,000 feet from my window.

And yet, for all that, Chicago is a wondrous city. Laid out roughly in a grid, with eight city blocks to a mile (though there are many, many exceptions), “major” and generally commercial streets down which busses run, are located every four blocks, and the streets within the squares formed are residential and most lined with trees. Chicago is flat as a pancake, so the towers of the loop can be seen from considerable distances, and they present a great skyline, especially seen from the lake front which is, in effect, one long park running the length of the city. Even in the canyons of the Loop (so named because of the elevated train lines which circle the inner core of the city) one can easily walk to the green spaces of the lakeshore, with the spectacular Millennium Park with its Ghery Music Pavilion, and adjacent Grant Park with its beautiful Buckingham Fountain.

And there is always some free event going on, from spectacular to quaint. A great example of the latter was held this past Labor Day: the twice-annual Woogms Parade. Woogms stands for “Wellington/ Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society” and consists entirely of residents of two residential streets near my apartment, who gather to have a parade. Well, it’s just a walk, mostly. But they join up on Wellington…lots of kids on bikes, moms and dads with baby strollers, and an entire spectrum of citizens, many with silly hats (Dr. Seuss is a favorite), many waving small American flags, two guys on stilts, and led by the Jesse White Drum Corps…six or eight very enthusiastic and quite talented kids from the ghettos of the South side.

(A brief aside here to explain that Jesse White is the Illinois Secretary of State who has started a number of programs to get disadvantaged kids off the streets.)

So the parade starts on Wellington, and is led by the drum corps followed by a line of several assorted residents carrying large American flags on poles, and the 300-500 participants march…well, walk, or stroll…down Wellington to busy Sheridan Road, half of which is blocked off by the police to allow the perhaps block-long parade to pass. It moves south the four blocks or so to even busier Diversey, where it turns left toward the lake, then turn left again to pass in front of St. Joseph’s hospital. There the parade disperses and the people gather on the lawn to watch the Jesse White Tumblers go through their routine. Perhaps 20 kids, ranging in age from 8 to 18, performing some truly impressive leaps and tumbles, some aided by a small trampoline. And when the show is over, to the enthusiastic acclaim of all assembled, the kids pick up their mats, take them to two large vans parked beside the hospital, and go home, as does the crowd.

I love Chicago.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

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