Hey all, apologies for last Monday without Mike. I took Memorial Day off — in fact, I took the whole week off. I hadn’t had a vacation in, well, I don’t remember and I was getting more squirrelly than normal. So, for me and for all those around me, a little rest and relaxation was in order.
My goal was to not think about work or check work email at all for a week, with the intention of getting out of that twitch-respond mode that electronic communications can put us in. A little nature — as in getting out of the concrete jungle of downtown Chicago — was also a goal.
Travel to a faraway place was at the top of my list for a while. Nothing gets me out of my own brain and my own rut like being overseas. But I only had a week<!–more–>
and airfares were sky high so I passed. Thought about a mini-camping trip but…was too lazy.
So, I stayed home. I mean, I left the apartment, but I stayed home and made selected ventures out — to see the White Sox-Yankees-Derek Jeter farewell game with my nephew, for example. And to see pianist Eric Reid at Jazz Showcase. Or, just down to Hackney’s to watch a ballgame or hockey game knowing that I had time to do my laundry whenever I wanted — after I slept in. And to Chicago Sweat Lodge, where I shared Russian and Turkish saunas with a bunch of East Europeans and very little English was spoken. It was like going overseas without the jet lag.
Best of all, I got my nature fix when our friend Brad and I spent a fantastic afternoon at Shedd Aquarium. We paid full price and got access to all the newer stuff (like the Oceanarium, whales, penguins, jelly fish and my favorite, the Wild Reef Exhibit. Spectacular). Prices are a little steep but you can also get in for $8 with somewhat limited access that amounted to the original aquarium area I remember from the days of school field trips.
It’d been 10 years since I was at Shedd and about the same for Brad, so we were like a couple of kids, oohing and aahing. It’s cliché, yes, but the diversity of life forms on this earth is almost imcomprehensible. Blue iguanas, puffer fish, anacondas, jelly fish, poison dart frogs. Kicks the daylights out of a 3D movie. It’s like, you know, really 3D.
Which brings me to the only wart on the experience: Incessant picture taking. Now, because I do occasionally suffer from electronic twitch syndrome, I understand the temptation to stop and take a picture of that crazy looking lungfish. Except…why not just pocket the phone, and look at Mr. lungfish directly, unmediated by a lens or electronics? I mean…that’s why you go, right? Because…and this is the killer: because in the modern electronic world, I can find you absolutely stunning photographs of all those species — better than any photo you’ll take on your walk through — on the Interwebs.
Brad and I are separated by around 20 years, but we share some, shall we say, traditional sensibilities. And we were both annoyed by all the folks putting their camera phones to the glass. The topper, though was when a girl — who looked to be a Tweener, nudged me, pointed to the gaggle of girls lined up in front of the glass and in an annoyed voice said, “Excuse me? We’re trying to take a picture here.”
Because, you know, the shark’s not important. The other museum-goers — like the guy with the beard standing entranced in front of the display — aren’t important. What’s important is that WE’RE HERE and we need to tell everyone about it.
I would’ve gone all shark on her but I was well into my vacation and my quick twitch muscles were on holiday, too. I let it all run off the proverbial duck’s back.
I don’t get it though. I really don’t. Probably never will. I think with all the talk about privacy these days, a bigger problem is forgetting how to act in public spaces.
Apart from issues of propriety or decorum, I’m thinking these behaviors limit the shutterflies’ own experiences. As Brad and I walked out, for example, because we were just walking and looking around and not thinking about how we could be advertising ourselves in some way, he noticed some incredible detail in the ceiling of the original Shedd building. And beautiful wall sconces. We just stopped for a bit, heads on swivels, it was the end of a mostly perfect afternoon.
And I’d show you a picture but I didn’t take any.