Day 2 of the Chicago Blues Festival found me starting the day at a different festival altogether. I attended the Lit Fest in Printers Row. I again rode the subway downtown, and then walked south on Dearborn Street. There, the street was filled with large white tents, where used book sellers and independent publishers had set up shop to display their wares, and to chat with attendees. I conversed with an illustrator, an editor, an author, and a young woman exhorting visitors to join in mass protests to put and end to the fascist Trump/Pence regime.
Growing thirsty, I stopped in a pub for a beer. I have come to select beers the same way I select teams in a football pool or basketball bracket: by how much I dig the logo. There are so many interesting beers these days, that I simply have no criteria by which to make an informed choice anymore, so it’s “gimme something interesting and new, how ’bout that one with the cool tap handle?” The beer was called “Pipecleaner” or “Pipewrench” or something like that. It was good, but it was served in a plastic cup of the sort you receive at a picnic. Maybe I’m overly particular, but a plastic cup cheapens the experience. It didn’t cheapen the price – it was still a $7.50 beer. But, really, a fancy beer should be served in a proper pint glass.
Having finished my beer, I staggered around LitFest a little more and then hoofed it back to Millennium Park for more Blues. While I walked, I thought about what I had seen on Printers Row. So many people had come out to check out a bunch of authors and to buy books. It gave me renewed faith in humanity. People do actually still read! Even though the commercial printers and publishing houses who gave Printers Row its name have long since gone, this neighborhood is still iconic as a center for the accoutrements of literacy and the written word.
On the way to Blues Fest, I was approached on Michigan Avenue by a saffron-robed Buddhist monk. He handed me a shimmering gold card. As I looked at it, he spoke some heavily-accented words that I could not understand, and he placed a beaded bracelet around my wrist. He indicated a symbol on one of the beads and spoke a few more words of broken English. I came to understand that he was asking for donations. I declined, and he took the bracelet and card and moved on. In retrospect, perhaps I should have given him something. If I can afford a fancy beer, I can afford to support a man in his quest for enlightenment.
Back at Millennium Park, I heard a few more magnificent bands, including the Keeshea Pratt Band who was just smoking the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage. The crowds were building and the temperature was climbing when I finally decided to wrap it up and head back to the subway station, but not before I took a few minutes to just take it in and appreciate where I was. I sat on a cement curb near the “Bean” listening to another unkown band playing under a small tent in the plaza. Music and the aroma of BBQ filled the air. People of all makes and models gathered under the Chicago skyline to drink in our native music on a summer afternoon. What could be better?
Interspered with my weekend experiences in Chicago, I have been reading a book of essays. The author had spent some years living in New York City, thinking it was the place to go to become a real author, and she hated it. As a native Chicagoan, I admit that I have a predjudice against New York. But, I’ve never been there, so I personally can’t really hate it (well, except the Yankees… I DO hate the Yankees.) I wonder if the author brought her own issues to the city, and that’s why her experience was so bad. She should have moved to Chicago instead. You can’t hate a city where so many people from so many different backgrounds can get together in song and dance and literature and have a great time of it. To be sure, there are some things to hate about it, but it’s still my hometown and I still love it. See you again soon, Chicago.