Yesterday was the epitome of American civic afternoons. We were in the Portage Park area to visit our friends Erik and Ashley during their local neighbourhood block party. It’s a slightly more suburban feel than where we live, but still very convenient to get to – just ride the Blue Line up north and then take a short bus. All of the cars had been cleared from the street, and many people were sitting out in their front gardens. Wholesome activities had been organised for the children: musical chairs, a bike race, a two-storey water slide. Every so often someone would come to sell raffle tickets. Most people waved hello as they walked by.
We were under a tent, shaded from the sun, drinking lemonade and beer. And then the state representative comes by, introducing himself as the sponsor of the free snow cones. He recognises Erik from the school board. He is trying to promote his bill to turn Chicago’s school board into an elected body, and I argue for a bit about the virtues of endless elections, and try to persuade him to recast the Illinois state constitution in the parliamentary mould, and then we all agree about taxes for a while. I think he was with us for about 45 minutes.
It was a very lovely afternoon.
It hasn’t exactly been ‘quiet’ for the last few weeks, but it has been busy at work, and I am very aware that I’m about to disappear for two weeks for our upcoming (and incredibly exciting!) summer holiday. In mid-July I was actually back in Palo Alto for a few days for a large work gathering. It was much more organised than my usual visits, with fancier accommodation, and so having gone out of my way to pack my swimming trunks when I saw that the hotel had a pool I felt obliged to wake up early one morning for a quick swim.
On my (late and delayed) flight over there, my plans for sleeping or reading about Soviet computer networks (as you do) were foiled by the obnoxious headphone-wearing human to my left and his misunderstanding of the volume scale as a virility test. So I kept on the Soviet theme by watching The Death of Stalin a little more loudly than I wanted to. It was a bit odd. I mean, I did enjoy it, but not in the same way that I can really enjoy The Thick Of It which is able to propel itself into full-scale farce without having to slow down for any actual murder or torture.
A better option than a plane for engaged film watching is the Music Box Theatre. They even have a guy playing the organ as you arrive! Here I exchanged Katie’s generous birthday gift card for tickets to Three Identical Strangers, which is an excellent documentary about identical triplets who discover each others’ existence as young men. It’s a rosy human interest story… until it’s not, and becomes much more sinister. Check it out.
In the last few weeks I also saw Incredibles 2 with Amanda (at an equally incredible $5 movie night) and Terminator 2 with Toggolyn. Newsflash: Terminator 2 is better than the original film, mostly because it has more plot strands and I guess partially due to the liquid robot things, although at the same time John Connor is perhaps the most annoying screen child ever created and is exactly the type of hideous creature who would grow up to sit on a plane and leak sound from his headphones.
Recently we also splurged on giant sundaes at Margie’s Candies with Arielle and Amanda, spent a nice afternoon at Loyola Beach (hence the photo of me and my flip flops) and Devon Street (the Little India and Little Pakistan of Chicago, which I had long wanted to visit) and played a bunch of games with Joe and Julie and others as they prepared to head off for GenCon. For the record, our schedule was Sushi Go Party, High Society, Codenames and Quiplash. I thought I was doing well at High Society before realising I had forgotten one of the most important rules.
And finally, today we took advantage of another sunny Sunday to have a post-brunch stroll around Humboldt Park with Carolina and Poncho. Unless I’m misremembering, this is only the second time I’ve been to Humboldt Park proper, and the first time was during winter. It’s so beautiful, and almost Heath-like!
P.S. After being inspired by Julie, I have taken up Spanish on Duolingo and am slowly resurrecting my memories of conjugations and basic vocabulary. I’m writing this here so that everyone has licence to bug me as to whether I’ve completed my daily Spanish exercises or not. Gracias.