The hollowed eyes of the homeless gleam like Christmas lights strung along the sidewalk. That’s not apt, too romantic. And you’re trying too hard. Perhaps more like the glow of a predator’s eyes just beyond the light of the campfire, hungry. Now you’ve gone all hyperbole. They’re not predators, not by a long shot – people the same as you and me except God decided to make their lives a lot more interesting. Blessed enough to meet the basic needs of food and shelter? Boring.
We pass them every night on the way home, witness to a terrible redundant sadness but you learn to not see people – which is absolutely disgusting, how rendering inconvenient human beings invisible becomes normal. This scorned cross section of forgotten humanity is heartbreaking and my heart can only break so many times in one day so I stroll right on by each night just like everyone else because our destination is where my soul resides these days and the arithmetic says that the walk there and back is more than worth it. It feels downright essential.
If Wikipedia was searching for the epitome by which to foil gentrification it could just eat the whole neighborhood. Ten steps east, though, and a tunnel under Lake Shore and you’re in a gentle hill of grassy field that’s all Sound-of-Music-lite. The grass is thicker than carpet and it cushions your feet in such a way that when you arrive at the shoreline you have no recollection of the footsteps that you know you must have taken to get there. You’re pretty sure you don’t know how to glide over clover, yet there you are.
Hello blue waters. You sparkle just like the ocean except your waves answer the ocean’s violence with a whisper. Except in a storm – when, if you’re an idiot, you venture close enough to the rocks to re-cement your belief in God. Very effective geysers of lake. Look how temporary and powerless you are! Isn’t it great to be alive??
And there are no fucking sharks.
With the friendly field at your back, in lieu of sand you find enormous chunks of limestone, jumbled in loosely approximated tiers down into the water. Kind of like a bunch of giants had their wisdom teeth pulled out and are trying to comfort their themselves by creating some semblance of order with all their lonely molars but giants’ fingers are all thick and clumsy so they’re having a hard time at it. All summer (and even into the fall because we’re masochistic junkies) we get to play pretend that we’re just a bunch of happy seals basking on a quiet mile of perfectly imperfect piled boulders. Bliss.
My rocky shore feels like the best secret ever. No one goes – hey, let’s go to Chicago to that that beach without sand. You know the area, where people seem to meet up with bullets at a far greater frequency than even the rest of this crime ridden city. Let’s go there.
They don’t want it and that’s fine by me – more space for me to breathe. Friends on the north side refuse to visit in ways painstakingly spun so as not to sound like a refusal. They’re embarrassed by their discomfort which is just a milder form of fear. OMG there’s this tapas happy hour! You have to come! And I can only refuse so many times because there is no damn tapas happy hours in Hyde Park, are you kidding me?
We get bullets, but they’re in a hot bed of serial rapists. The whole world is unsafe.
Summer is like an oven trapped in a sauna that’s gotten lost in an urban rain forest at high noon. Seriously. And the tap will only run so cold. Plunging into the lake is like a slap in the face you’ve been begging for combined with an orgasm that you didn’t see coming. HA, coming. I’m not pandering I promise.
There are these bars of rusted metal drilled into the rock at intervals to serve as precarious ladders into the water but you quickly learned to jump. I’ve always been one to peel the band aid off nice and slow, but the lake is like liquid icicles and a slow descent would take hours and life is too damn short and too damn good. So you jump in and you’re body is spluttering – “What the FUCK?!?” But then in 35 seconds it’s all – “This is puuuuuure fucking heaven,” all purring and breathless, goosebumps and giggles.
This one time, these clouds in a hurry to get somewhere fast toyed with us the whole day but in the end we were taken by surprise because suddenly we look up from being happy seals to see pissed off storybook storm clouds devouring the skyline to the north. It looks exactly like the end of the world. Black as pitch and within a couple minutes all that you can see of the city is darkness with entirely too much lightening roiling in ways that could very well herald doom and hell-fire.
Never in my life have I seen insects get so emotional. They were freaking. the. fuck. out. It felt like all the species in creation were kamikazing my body. Because apparently suicide was preferable to the force of nature in the guise of a shockwave that was hurtling straight towards us.
It quickly got violently windy, as our city is wont to do, and the lake is pummeling its best come-to-Jesus waves into terrifying explosions against the bouldered shore. But we don’t leave.
And I know because I grew up in woods and stuff that you ignore the cues of your fellow creatures at your own peril. The forest goes silent and you know something is very, very wrong. Starving? Your best bet at not poisoning yourself is to try what the squirrels are eating. Cautiously.
A giant swarm of forty-seven different kinds of obviously panicking bugs should be enough of a warning but we don’t leave. Without meaning to, however, we start slowly backing away southwards from the predatory sky that’s come to kills us. Everyone knows not to turn and run, that’s how you become a meal.
When was the last time you were in a rain so hard that it drowned out even the sound of your own shouting? Not rain pummeling a roof loud – I’m talking rain that sounds like Niagara because it keeps hitting itself on the way down. In an instant it’s a veritable deluge and I tried finding another word for deluge because it’s kinda pretentious sounding but it’s what I thought of first and it’s totally apt.
Can’t hear, can’t see and there’s a whole entire gentle Sound-of-Music-ish hill of grassy field between you and the safety of the tunnel when when the lightening hits. Do Angelenos know this? You can judge the distance of a storm relative to your location by keeping track of the amount of time between the lightning and the thunder. The closer they are together, the closer the worst of the storm. Because light travels faster than sound. Pretty cool right?
Yeah, well, we weren’t really paying any attention to all that until it was right on top of us, one giant ongoing explosion of thunderlighteningthunderlighteningthunderlightening, ad nauseum. Then you turn and run. Lightning is dangerous, idiots.
It’s a wide open field and you’re just a giant, meaty, fallible lightning rod but you make it. Exhilarating. From the merciful shelter of the tunnel we listen for the silence between the thunder and lightening and by the time we figure we are safe the rain has eased to ever so slightly less than a deluge and we walk home in the downpour all heavy and watery, happy in our alive-ness. Delightfully, the thunder is still epic enough to feel deep in your gut and it keeps continuously setting off every single car alarm in the neighborhood. Blocks upon blocks of lights-flashing alarm. A grating cacophony of incredibly pointless technology because, bitch, Mother Nature reigns supreme and will always leave you looking like a fool. For some reason I still think that’s absolutely hilarious. And I miss it.
*image not my own