The official user's manual for sunshine

Men in White: The venerable sport of lawn bowling carries on, hidden in plain sight on the lakefront

Parks & the Great Outdoors, User's Guide to Summer 2 Comments »

Bill Ibe, Sam, JoeBy Ilana Kowarski

Hidden near the parking lot of the Museum of Science and Industry, people meet in a green near a little brick building. Seen from afar, their rituals seem somewhat strange. They dress in all white, use odd hand gestures, and throw balls on their lawn. I have decided to meet these people. A Scotsman dressed in white shakes my hand, and smiles, “I’ve got something for you.” He introduces himself as John Clark, reaches into his bag and takes out a tiny ball, which he twirls between his fingers. Clark grins and exclaims in brogue, “These are the best bowling balls out there. There’s no excuse for not playing well when you have these.” I nod. I take the ball and throw it across the grass. The ball bounces and goes only a few feet. “Try again,” he tells me. I throw the ball harder, and it goes further, but in the wrong direction. “It’s not an easy game,” Clark shrugs.

Like many Scots, Clark loves land bowling, and considers the sport to be an important part of his heritage. Clark has been playing the game for years, both in Scotland and here in Chicago, at the Lakeside Lawn Bowling Club. Read the rest of this entry »

Blowing in the Wind: Michael Workman goes and flies a kite

Parks & the Great Outdoors, User's Guide to Summer No Comments »

A few years back, I tried flying a dual-line stunt kite at the Eiffel Tower. It was a violently hot day and the only wind was an occasional dry wheeze. The standard launch technique of backing the kite off the ground by yanking the grips doesn’t work in such conditions. At best, it stays aloft a few seconds before crashing to earth. There’s simply not enough wind.

While the Eiffel Tower may have been just for the birds, summer in the Windy City attracts kite fliers from all over the country. Chicago’s a natural for the pastime. But there are some unique challenges to kiting in the city: power lines are everywhere, all the parks are lined with trees, there are very few wide open spaces. FAA rules don’t permit flying above 400 feet and it’s rainy enough to deter fliers who know that: even though they’re flying with a cloth line, it’s still capable of conducting electricity when damp. Nonetheless, throughout mid-summer, the sky above the city’s lakeshore gets dotted with everything from traditional diamond kites, four-line “quad” sport kites, parafoils and seven-foot Japanese Rokkakus, or “roks,” octagonal kites with richly illustrated sailcloth front panels. Occasionally an inflatable lizard or an octopus kite shows up floating across the ether in Astrobright orange, as if it just crawled up out of Lake Michigan and took to the skies, trailing tentacles of wind-whipped Mylar. Read the rest of this entry »