One of the best kept secrets in Chicago is the Friday practice day for the air and water show. The air show is performed, pretty much as it will be on Saturday and Sunday, but without the crowds and traffic or the radio play by play. Although yesterday, one wise guy was playing the theme music from Top Gun.
The first time I personally experienced practice day was many years ago during a run. I was right along the lakefront, just north of Belmont Harbor, when a Blue Angel F-18 came roaring by at 700 miles an hour less than 100 feet away from me over the water. The memory of that unexpected close encounter, the scare I got, that sound resonating in my chest is still thrilling. Not to mention the extra cardio.
So I made it a point to be along the lakefront for practice day. I took the dog with me and we stopped at Diversey Harbor to watch for about forty-five minutes, (which really annoyed the dog) catching a C-130, four prop-driven aerobatic planes doing their routine and we stayed until the Blue Angels finished. It was great. It was fun. But a part of me said, “meh.” It’s just not as cool as when they fly over my house.
It must be that unexpected roar, the glass rattling in my kitchen window that sends me running out to the backyard whooping. The fact it’s so freaking out of context is what makes it exciting for me. Oftentimes the solos will turn around seemingly right over our house. I mean, I can see the pilot clearly. Once in a while the whole diamond formation thunders by. It’s really, really cool. The juxtaposition of something extraordinary happening in the midst of all my ordinary is what causes it to be more fun for me. And the surprise, the shock. When will the next fighter jet do its thing right over my backyard? When you can see them coming for ten miles, where’s the anticipation in that?
We rarely go to the air show. I’m fond of saying, “The last thing I want to do is look at airplanes on my day off.” This is the first year in many that I’ve gone; well, sort of. Watching the Blue Angels can still Take my Breath Away, but I guess I’ve Lost that Loving Feeling. But only a little. Watching those jets fly over my house is just better, somehow it makes me feel like I’ve walked out of the ordinary and right into the Danger Zone.