The First Hundred the light of eternity. "Life's a tough proposition, and the first hundred years are the hardest." Wilson Mizner

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Taste of Chicago

Yesterday my husband and I carried out one of our annual traditions. On the opening day of the Taste of Chicago we strap our bikes on the car carrier and head for the lakeshore. (There have been times we've actually ridden our bikes on that part of the jaunt, as well, an extra eight miles each way, but this year Richard had mercy on me, knowing it was my maiden voyage of 2005.) We try to be parked and riding our bikes by 9:00am, knowing that latecomers will have to cruise the parking lots in sweltering heat waiting for someone to leave. Parking was a piece of cake, but there was no way around the sweltering. Did you know it was the hottest day in Chicago in six years? No matter. You see, tradition is very important.

You're going to think we're strange, but for us the Taste of Chicago isn't about the crowds, or the music, or even the food. If it were, we wouldn't pick opening day, and we wouldn't arrive while they're putting on the finishing touches and testing microphones, an hour before they start selling the food.

For us, it's all about getting there (and back), experiencing all the sights, sounds and smells along the way. It's sixteen miles of pedal-pushing; usually into the wind, because no matter which way it's blowing when we leave home it always seems to change direction depending on which way we're going.

Yes, it's a workout, but I can almost forget about the toil and heat if I keep alert to all that's going on around me: other bikers, fast and slow; joggers of all abilities, all serious about their jogging; people strolling, or pushing strollers; babies sleeping; children playing or crying; the tennis courts, sidelines filled with fuzzy yellow balls; the lady in a proper white outfit, waiting her turn; dozens of white-shirted kids on a long stretch of green grass, getting ready to score in the tot-sized soccer goals; dust flying upward off the baseball diamonds; die-hard golfers trying not to sweat; the waders and swimmers in Lake Michigan not sweating; someone at every water fountain, filling a bottle or drinking long and deep; the sailboats bobbing in the harbor; the huge ferris wheel on Navy Pier, ever-turning (almost imperceptibly) as tourists gaze out over the skyline; the man fishing for perch, his small son squatting to peer into their bucket.... all this, and we haven't yet arrived at the Taste.

So, who needs the Taste of Chicago? The best taste of life, in Chicago or anywhere, is in experiencing, being a part of, the day-to-day living that's all around us.


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