Even though the name of the outdoor photo show I went to see recently was “These Extraordinary Times,” everything was sort of normal.
South Loop Neighbors—one of the earnest, very hardworking community organizations in the neighborhood—organizes a photo show every year of South Loop scenes. This year there were two showings. Both were at neighborhood farmers’ markets.
I’d never submitted anything to the show before. It’s been going for about 20 years. As my Facebook friends know, I’m not exactly a good photographer…. But once in a while, by accident, I snap a good one.
I couldn’t resist. I submitted a picture I called “Christopher Columbus’ last stand.” The statue had already been attacked in Grant Park, at the entrance to the Museum Campus—and soon after I took the picture, it was taken down to appease violent rioters. I took the picture to put on Facebook. I did take time to frame it the way I thought it should be, before snapping it with my iPhone.
I submitted it on deadline day, August 21.
The first showing of the photos was Thursday evening, August 27 at the South Loop farmers’ market, held in the driveway of Second Presbyterian Church at Cullerton and Michigan; the second showing was the morning of August 29 at Printers Row Park farmers market on the 600 block of South Dearborn—and that was the day that struck me as a normal one, right out of old times–and better days–in the ‘hood.
It was a beautiful and sunny day when I left the house to see how my picture looked, one of 20 that were submitted of scenes from around the neighborhood. At both markets, SLN brought nice racks on which to hang the framed submissions. And at both markets, they were easy to see and get to without disappearing into a mass of masked attendees buying victuals.
Many people were there on that Saturday from the neighborhood, people who I’ve known for years. We’ve shared every aspect of our lives in every context, at everyone’s house and restaurant, park and cultural event; and we’ve shared opinions on every current event emanating from the neighborhood and the world, whether they directly affected our lives or not.
And so, this “normalcy” sprouted as a few of us stood there in front of my picture, catching up.
“Isn’t it terrible that the Kenosha police shot that guy in the back seven times?” asked a woman who I’ve known and been friends with for 25 years. Yes, it is, I agreed as I thought about Laquan McDonald and the Chicago cop who is serving a long sentence in prison for shooting him multiple times in the back.
Another friend and active member of SLN, who’d been in law enforcement at one time in his life said we have to wait to see what the investigation comes up with. He cautioned against jumping to conclusions. (Regardless of the burned buildings and the businesses ruined in Kenosha.)
I walked him home, not far from where the farmers’ market was, because I wanted to talk about my feelings of revulsion, not only because of a cop shooting someone in the back and paralyzing him and we still don’t know why—but for making the shootee—who’d been accused of sexual assault and wasn’t even allowed in Kenosha, and other things that got the victim to call the police—a hero.
Again, he said that we have to wait and see what the investigation turns up in Kenosha.
And we said goodbye.
I decided to pack it in myself, and as I walked toward Polk Street, I realized that a boarded up storefront in the iconic Donahue Building was actually a local antique store that generally showcases tons of beautiful stuff in the windows. I saw he had a crude “open” on the boarded up door and I walked in.
I’ve known the owner who’s lived and worked in the neighborhood for 25 years and found him in the maze of small rooms inside, which are all packed with everything from crystal bowls to Christmas nutcrackers.
I spotted a beautiful piece of wrought iron I’d admired for a long time in his previously unboarded window, which I thought he’d sold when it suddenly disappeared a while back. But he’d just moved it out of the window. And I said I was going to buy it. He told me he actually had two. Did I want two?
I asked him for a discount if I bought two.. He said OK, and I went home to get some cash.
As I came down a small path on the way to my house, I ran into another neighbor who stopped me, and even though he was masked, as was I, I could see he was mad. From his eyes.
“What the hell has gotten into you lately?” he asked. “Are you for Trump?” I think you’ve gone nuts.” Like everyone else i know, who sees everything as black/white, good/bad, like/no like, without nuance, he accused me of being a traitor. I’ve been very critical of Biden and Harris in this blog—and rightly so. Many times.
But no one is allowed to discuss their shortcomings. They’re the alternative to the guy who’s “stealing our democracy.” Exactly how he’s doing that, no one can explain. But he’s stealing it from us. And the only people who can save it are the Batman and Robin of 2020: Joe and Kamala. Not good enough for me. And it’s apparent the fix was in.
Another neighbor of mine, who happens to agree with me, and who I share articles with almost every day via email—and vice versa—is with me on this, as well. And I ran into him when I came out with the cash and was on the way back to the antique dealer.
I told him about my dressing down a few minutes before. He and I follow political pundits online who we like very much, such as Jimmy Dore (who for four years has called Trump a symptom of a sick political system that has gotten even sicker because of the dems; and Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti, who have discussed such ideas as Biden actually EARNING our vote before we vote for him, and Harris being nothing but a phony servant of the elite establishment, rewarded well by the corporate establishment and the neocons.
As I walked back to the antique store, I ran into another old friend, watering her front yard. I just happened to think, ironically, of how we met back in the very early 2000s and asked her if she remembered. Yes, she did. We met at a fundraiser for presidential candidate John Edwards who wanted to take on Bush in 2004 (which he ultimately did as John Kerry’s running mate).
There wasn’t much more to say about politics. We both remembered where we were and where we are now, the Iraq invasion still going on to one degree or another (for 17 years) which if we’d been told that back then we wouldn’t have believed. We were sick enough after a few days of it back then.
She invited me in to see her recently (and beautifully) renovated kitchen, master bath, powder room, fireplace surround and entry hall. And the transformation of her son’s room–he graduated from college and is out on his own. It all looked beautiful. Really nice.
How our lives had changed—yet stayed the same, I thought. When we met, her son hadn’t even started grammar school yet.
When I got back to the antiques store and paid for my beautiful new pieces of wrought iron, we got onto yet another political discussion. And I was given an interesting earful of the latest “conspiracy” theories emanating from MSNBC about Trump stealing our democracy. Or as competitor Fox News calls it, MSDNC.
Which I don’t mention to disparage either cable station, or any cable station, or any conspiracy theory emanating from anywhere or for any reason. That’s life now, for better or worse, win or lose.
The only reason I mention anything of this nature is to emphasize that in spite of almost everyone wearing a mask on a very pleasant, recent Saturday, life was very normal in the neighborhood.
People were out on the street, seeing old friends and neighbors, visiting the farmers’ market, seeing the SLN photo show, admiring a new kitchen re-do, remembering old times, patronizing local businesses (such as they are these days) and discussing politics.
That was all I was thinking about as I turned the key in the door of my house, shut it and locked it behind me and turned on the TV, fired up the computer and made myself a snack while I listened and read of what was going on in the world.
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