Monday, May 07, 2007

Ketchup 2: From Airport to Mikvah.


Things got off to a rocky start. While I arrived at the airport over forty minutes before the flight, Jess hadn't arrived yet, or if she had, I couldn't find her at our meeting place. I walked back and forth for about a half hour before I bumped into her (she was upset) at the baggage check. She explained that one bus she rode (the M 60) had taken over two hours to get from the Upper East Side to LaGuardia. This is partly because she was riding at rush hour on one of the first nice day's of the year. Of course, in New York we don't have convenient color-coded rail lines connecting to either airport. For LaGuardia, one has to take a bus from some remote corner of Queens, or at best, upper Astoria. For JFK, one has to take the over-complicated and expensive SkyTrain just to get to the A.

We were instructed to fly standby on the next flight, leaving at 8-ish, about three hours later. I got a cup of coffee and tried to dig into Derrida. Jess worked on her Microbiology. We got good seats, which was good, since LaGuardia is the most cramped airport of its size I've ever seen. We met a fellow passenger (who was, in fact, on the very same bus as Jess had been), and she reassured us that we were likely to get seats. Later, Jena, who we knew from college (and who was going to Chicago for the same wedding) showed up. We talked for awhile, and she wished us luck. She was taking the same flight as we were. We tried calling Hallie to warn her not to pick us up, but all we got was voicemail.

Later, as the sun was going down, our optimism was affirmed. Not only were we permitted to fly, but we got seats together. I read Derrida the whole way, managing to get further than I expected (probably about a dozen pages in the whole four-odd hours of reading). I also got a whiskey, since I figured I'd earned it. We touched down in Chicago and again marvelled at the space and freshness of Midway (which had its own facelift just a few years ago).

Hallie had, in fact, gone out to meet us for the earlier flight... the cel had died, but her boyfriend, Rocco, took the bus out to tell her what had happened, then they drove back to Hyde Park together. They were gracious enough, though, to returne to pick us up a second time, and getting our luggage and getting to the train was all pretty painless. I remember another visceral sensation... noticing that there were brick tenements instead of brownstones, wide straight boulevards instead of angled sloping streets with broad sidewalks, Maples instead of Ginkgos, and the flatness of the prairie ground... in short, all those things that make Chicago feel so distinct from New York. In high school I thought that for all this feeling different, the two cities resembled each other very closely. Now, I don't think I could possibly mistake one for the other.

Back at Rocco's, Hallie had prepared us a wonderful meal of steak and pasta and muffins, and the four of us stayed up until late... I think about two... talking. Then we inflated the Aerobed, and Jess and I went to sleep. Classical music played on the radio, and there was a glow of teal from a digital clock, if I remember correctly. I remembered that the lights on Woodlawn are of the yellow carbon kind, bright and garish, and of the shadow play they make when the leaves are out on the margin. I just a moment to notice all this, because I fell asleep almost immediately.

The next morning, I got up very early. Before eight, in fact. I had an important meeting with Amber and Sky, and I didn't want to be late. In fact, I had to make some preparations. I did my Biblical readings (I try to do these each day, and usually I do, although the past few weeks it's been pretty patchy), took a shower, found my coat and all the materials I was taking, and set off. It was a cool morning, but the sun was out and it promised to warm up soon. I passed St. Thomas on the way.

Again, it's easy to take things for granted, living one place, and visiting another. In New York, there are twenty streets to the mile. In Chicago, this number is eight. It took longer to walk from 54th Street to 57th than I had expected. I got the the park at 57th and Kenwood, and met Sky, wearing his kilt (of course). A few moments later, Amber arrived. We went to the Medici, ordered breakfast, and talked about our lived for a few minutes, and then got down to business. I was eating eggs and potatoes with hot sauce and ketchup, and also drinking a lot of coffee. After about three hours, our important discussion was over, and we left to meet our friends at the Point.

On the way, we found a concrete tube and ran through it.

At the point, we convened at the wrong place, but just a little later we found our friends: Jessica was there, and so was Gemma, Sam, Milligan, and of course, Colin and Nora. Have I left anyone out?

A Mikvah is a Jewish pre-wedding ritual of purification that can be conducted at any body of open water. Nora, in her infinite consideration for her friends, invited us all to join them in balmy water of Lake Michigan in April. Colin looked like his lungs were about to collapse as he crawled out, and nobody except Nora took their time with the experience. I was pretty wretchedly cold myself, but I'm glad that I did it.



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