Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hot town, summer in the city

One can rarely go wrong by starting a post with Samuel Johnson:
No wise man will go to live in the country, unless he has something to do which can be better done in the country. For instance, if he is to shut himself up for a year to study science, it is better to look out to the fields, than to an opposite wall. Then, if a man walks out in the country, there is nobody to keep him from walking in again: but if a man walks out in London, he is not sure when he will walk in again. A great city is, to be sure, the school for studying life.

As usual, Dr. Johnson is right. The city is, doubtless, man's proper environment.

My afternoon began with some reading in the breezy quiet of the lakefront park, interspersed with some napping. Then by bike to the Printers' Row Book Fair, where I spent a few hours working my employer's booth and enjoying customers' excitement at discovering books on Chicago that they didn't even know existed.

I returned home to spend a few last hours of daylight sitting on the back steps reading about the American Revolution. I had intended to listen to the Cubs game while I read, but a party at the house four doors down was hosting a backyard party featuring a satisfyingly loud and effervescent Tejano band, so I enjoyed that instead, marveling not for the first time at the cultural conjunction that led a Spanish-language music to be built around the accordian and polka rhythms.

Looking across the yard of our next-door neighbors, I saw that their ten-year-old daughter, Grace, was sitting on their back steps at the same height as me, reading, as her golden retriever thumped her tail at her side.

"Hi Grace," I said. "What are you reading?"

"Marley and Me," she replied.

"Have you been warned that it gets really sad later?"

"I know. I'm ready for it."

My duty done, I returned to the American Revolution, the Tejano band bounced away in the background, and another summer day floated away.

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