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Finding the Festive: Limestone, Water and Fireworks at Promontory Point

Fireworks, Parks & the Great Outdoors No Comments »

When I first came to Chicago in 1994, I lived off Lake Shore Drive near Promontory Point in a charming, yet somewhat decrepit hotel that had been pressed into service to house the precocious youth in attendance at the University of Chicago. I was one of these youth and I was set on exploring the Point as soon as possible, if only as a safety valve from those who wanted to compare SAT scores endlessly and offer long-in-the-tooth panegyrics inspired by Plato’s Republic.

Created by the government largesse that was the Works Progress Administration, this pregnant outcropping of landfill buttressed by an array of limestone boulders is best experienced in summer. If you’re out in the early morning, you might encounter a clutch of yoga enthusiasts setting up shop, dog walkers leading their charges, along with cyclists and joggers, who are as ubiquitous as squirrels.

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Return to Your Senses: Skinny dipping in Lake Michigan

Swimming & Beaches No Comments »

By Michael McColly

Imagine a Chicago summer night, well past midnight, a long day of crowds and trains, sirens and screens, dirt and smoke, and more of the same the next day. But all of these are behind you, literally, because you are not stewing in a bed of thought and worry, you are doing the breaststroke out to a buoy 200 yards off the shore of Pratt Beach. And in an act of defiance, you’ve slipped off your running shorts and hung them around your neck.

Memorial Day usually marks the opening of Chicago’s great exodus out of our condos and apartments back to the sun and the waters of Lake Michigan. But for the tribe of lake swimmers, we’ve already been braving the fifty-degree waters for a month and some as early as April.

For me, it began in graduate school twenty some years ago. Demoralized and already behind after only a month at the University of Chicago, wondering if I ought to quit, I followed the path of all forlorn U of C students to Promontory Point to stew and stare in hopes of some Delphic answer. And the oracle presented itself as they always do in a symbol of absurdity. As I looked out into the grey waters that mild October afternoon, I discerned four bobbing objects, swimmers making their way through the choppy surf. Amazed, I watched and waited for them. And then, to my complete surprise, what came out of the water were not he-man triathletes, but three septuagenarians without wetsuits, smiling and waving me in. I was hooked. Read the rest of this entry »

1968: A U of C student spends a long hot summer away from home

Memoirs & Miscellany No Comments »

By Martin Northway

“The whole world is watching, ” they chanted: but you didn’t have to be a protester stuck in the “police riot” in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic National Convention to know that Chicago was in the hot crucible of history. You might have been an inquisitive observer like me, a (remarkably perhaps) non-radical University of Chicago undergraduate remaining in Chicago through the summer. By fall, it seemed as if the whole world was exploding—or at least America, as we had known her.

Arriving as a freshman in 1966 with the draft nipping at my heels, I had reported for the upstart, vaguely counterrevolutionary Other. We thoroughly covered a campus appearance by Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was challenging the Vietnam War leadership of President Lyndon Johnson. Once I breathlessly phoned in a radical student leader’s impassioned challenge to the U of C’s cooperation with the Selective Service. She pleaded for “peace, justice … and the democratization of the University” (hints of Superman: you can’t say the Left totally lacked humor). Read the rest of this entry »