Jul 7, 2013

Notes on 4th of July at Navy Pier

 - On the El there are guys in sunglasses and girls in billowy, optimistic, white Gatsby-style summer clothes -- all looking like the young, rich, and wannabe-famous. It's a heartening sight, though. Sticky, humid, hot, lively... little flags stuck on windowsills. Everyone's headed downtown.

 - 7.30 pm. It's a crush of bodies, and you truly do feel like cattle shuffling towards the McDonald's trough. I wanted to interview the boy behind the counter who looked on the verge of breakdown. The noise inside the foot court was enormous, a physical weight.

 - Wind-blown hair, face-painters, brown skin bound in red white and blue. People leaning over the railing, in the thick salty air of Lake Michigan. In the midst of it all, you feel overwhelmed with voices, sweat glands, footfalls, and gestures emanating from all sides. The crowd turns into an ever-morphing maze. We plunge through the gaps between people (there and gone in an instant), pushing on to get to the end of the pier. And all this for some sparkles.

 - Seagulls are swarming and circling overhead, pining for the deep-fried carrion scattered below.

 - Police officers everywhere, drinking Gatorade and strolling in pairs. They stop some black teenagers and root around in their backpacks for no discernible reason. My brother and I watch and are sad for a moment.

 - Now with McDonald's coffee thrumming in my veins, I walk to the end of the pier and pace beneath a line of fluttering American flags. The sky is flushed peach-pink and Chicago's skyline is gleaming orange in the sun. Clouds are red and pulpy over a patch of setting sun. There is a white van positioned at the edge of the crowd for WGN 9 News, "Chicago's Finest."

 - 9.15 pm. We're all watching the sky, waiting for a sign. Waiting for the flying saucers. Come, angelic bombs! A flattened popcorn box makes a cushion on the concrete for the woman sitting next to me. Across the water are the brief match-flares of faraway fireworks.

 - Fireworks bursting at last -- cheers, hoots, whistles, relief. There are blooming marigolds and halos... gunpowder gray smoke hanging in the hazy sky. Artificial stars, supernovas, mushroom clouds. Drooling golden chandeliers. Glitzed-out thunderclaps. The Ferris wheel is lit up & beautiful and there are electric garlands draped over McDonald's golden arches.

slow down
eat a sugar
lookit the sparkles
all is well