Chicago, like most of the United States, is experiencing wintry weather that has no business showing up in mid-April. Mind you, I know better than to expect a balmy, shirtsleeves spring beside the Lake. But I do look forward with desperate longing to the arrival of the daffodils every year. Once they bloom, I feel a certain sense of accomplishment in having survived yet another nasty go-around on the Hivernal Carousel.
This year, they bloomed, and then got sucker-punched by snow squalls and freezing temperatures. The bed of daffodils I pass every morning on the way to the office is blackened and shriveled, and I don't feel so well myself.
On the other hand, the other spring arrival–baseball fans–is right on time.
I've nothing against professional baseball. Truly. In general I regard it as most Americans do the opera season, which is to say not at all. Because the transit line I ride services both ballparks in Chicago, however, I do have to deal with baseball fans. Especially Cubs fans.
And yesterday was the home opener.
Illinois is supposedly a blue state, but I've noticed that North Shore (i.e, white and affluent) parents who bring their offspring into the city for Cubs games turn a violent shade of tomato red.
I've tried to understand why this is so. I've concluded that it's because they see a trip to Wrigley Field as a to connect their children with their own past, in those halcyon days when America led the free world, gasoline was cheaper than milk, and Certain People had to sit in the back of the bus.
As the train heads south and Addison Station looms, the parents become so emotional that some actually produce handkerchiefs to deal with the tears. "We're almost there," they gasp, choking on rising nostalgia. "Can you watch for the stadium, Caitlyn? Do you see it coming up?"
I'd be the last person to have a problem with this except that in the midst of a crowded commute, the parents get pushy about art directing the experience and become visibly (and sometimes audibly) annoyed at any extras (that would be the rest of us) who don't fit the motherhood-flag-apple pie aesthetic they're after. For example:
- Passengers occupying window seats, including the elderly. (I once saw an able-bodied man unblushingly ask an old woman if she could give her seat to his five-year-old daughter so she would have an unobstructed view of the Wrigley Field sign.)
- Persons of African, Latin or Middle Eastern descent.
- Persons speaking languages other than English.
- Persons whose appearance deviates in any way from the white, suburban, middle class idea of "normal," i.e. goths, punks, transvestites, homeless people.
- Males of any stripe who are knitting lace.
This was a source of enormous consternation to a father whose daughter–she was perhaps six–was interested in the progress of the christening shawl.
I didn't notice the family of three–Dad, daughter, son–at first because I was, well, knitting lace. But the daughter kept getting up from her seat and leaning toward my needles. After she'd done this three times I glanced up and gave her a smile.
She smiled back. And then her father yanked her away and pushed her firmly into her seat.
But she got up again, and came over, and this time asked if the design had flowers in it. I was about to explain that the shapes were fir cones when her father yelled, "Halley! Get back here now."
I honestly thought he was concerned that she might be bothering me, so I smiled and said, "It's okay, I don't mind questions."
To which he replied, "You leave my kid alone!"
And then, not directly to me, but just as audibly, "Goddamned freaks."
Rude? Oh yes. But this is not supposed to be another man-knits-in-public-and-attracts-idiocy story. Those are too common to be interesting in and of themselves.
This is a reminder to myself that my own brain's not so different from his.
I may not be inclined to tell a stranger on the subway she's a freak, but it doesn't mean I don't think it. I do it all the time. In fact, I did it at the beginning of this entry, no?
I look, I categorize, I judge. And just as I believe that man got me wrong in believing me to be a threat to his child, I'm certain I often misjudge others.
One of the aspects of elusive Enlightenment I'm pursuing through Zen Buddhism is (I hear) a genuine understanding that between yourself and myself, there is no difference. If I didn't believe that to be so, I'd probably give up sitting zazen. But even though I believe it, I haven't grasped it sufficiently to act upon it.
Hmph. Back to the damn cushion.
Tomorrow: actual knitting. (I know! I can hardly believe it, either!)