Sunday, June 19, 2011

To each his own taste

I have discovered that my client has an administrative assistant who is a huge NASCAR fan.  I found this out when she was sending her boss to North Carolina and mentioned the track in Winston-Salem.

I know this person to be extremely bright and well educated.  She has an advanced degree in science.   She said she loves NASCAR so much if she could have she'd have gotten a Bachelor of Science and a Masters in NASCAR but the latter wasn't offered anywhere.  She said she considered getting a Masters in Physics so she could work in NASCAR but was afraid she'd have to be an engineer and didn't want that at all, so she married an engineer who also loves NASCAR.

I asked her my question:  how is NASCAR a sport?

She explained how going around the track pulled 3Gs or three times gravity which, at such high speeds, was a constant assault of Gs on the body.  The aerodynamics required to stay on the heavily-banked track, the lightning fast reflexes required, the peak physical condition someone has to be in to complete a race in high heat with no air conditioning can only be done by an athlete.  She also pointed out that if there is are winners and losers, then it is a sport.

According to that last criterion, I suggested that Ballroom Dancing is a sport.  I said that to me, sport is the triumph of person over the physical self in conjunction with an external apparatus that is powered by strength, talent, years of training, stamina, and the determination of the athlete using the established guidlines of a governing body, like 300-pound Julius Peppers of the Bears running fast with the agility of a much smaller, thinner man.  (Like the professionals on "Dancing with the Stars," really.)  She said, "Hmph.  Football.  That's not a sport."  I pointed out to her what she'd said about there being winners and losers, lightning fast reflexes, and peak physical condition, and she changed the subject.

In the days since our conversation, I have given careful consideration to what she said, and using all her criteria, somebody riding one of the more intense rollercoasters at Six Flags Great America is an athlete because they are pulling 3Gs at several points in the ride where aerodynamics are employed to stay put and require lightning fast reflexes in order to grab their heads and scream like girls.  The rides are not air conditioned.  Does this mean those riders are athletes?   Nope, nor are they part of the other group that sustains Gs:  astronauts. 

While I enjoyed this person's perspective, and certainly appreciated it because I know no one else who gives any sort of car-racing a second thought, I twirl off into the night still thinking that NASCAR is expensive and loud entertainment.


One of the wackier things done by Mayor Richard M. Daley while in office was turning Meigs Field, the almost downtown small airport, into a park.  Wacky because he did it overnight.  Really.  He was tired of screwing around with the committees and the protests and the "Friends of," and at midnight on a Sunday night, sent in some very large machinery and had the massive machines punch larges Xs into the runway.  Yes, of course he'd ordered the equipment in advance (and probably shelled out triple overtime to union Teamsters).  Yes, of course there were planes parked there.  They were given enough fuel to get to the Gary Airport and only the pilot could be on board.  Came with your family?  Oh, sorry, they need to take a cab or rent a car or hitch a ride to Gary. 

I feel ex-Mayor Daley is responsible for having the vision to turn Chicago into the world-class destination it has become and not simply an urban locale that is wonderful alongside its chief geographic defining point, i.e. Lake Michigan, but otherwise plenty seedy just a block or two off the lakefront, which it was for a long while.   (It's still great here but an edge is returning so, hey, if you live here or just visit here, please be aware of your surroundings.)  Anyway, I was a very vocal supporter of Mayor Daley until we woke up on a Monday and heard this news.  Even I had to admit that I thought this was the turning point for him:  sane to crazy, measured decision-making to in-spite-of-the-law choices, mayor to emperor.  The result of this is Northerly Island Park.

There is a fairly large outdoor concert venue at Northerly Island called Charter One Pavilion.   I understand it is a cool place to see a show, being right on the lake with that gorgeous Chicago skyline backdrop.  I also understand there are spiders and small bugs which like to visit patrons during the show.  We move on to the real reason to visit.

No golfing allowed
There is a paved trail that loops to the farther accessible part of the island (which should be categorized "peninsula," but no one much cares about what I think).  See the view at the left?  Looks like a golf course, right?  There are many birds in residence including swallows that hover and skate on the wind, Canada geese with their determination and large poop, red-winged blackbirds clinging to bare branches.  There are killdeer and robins, two birds I can actually recognize as "killdeer" or "robin."  When you get to the south end of the island, you turn and see Chicago from yet another wonderful vantage point.  It is every bit as magical a view as you could hope to see of our kind of town.  Consider a visit to Northerly Island but expect to pay for parking near Adler Planetarium.  Be tidy!  I picked up a stray plastic shopping bag, just to take it from the scene, and within 10 minutes it was filled with other trash.  The three of us -- my sister, brother-in-law, and me -- picked up a lot of stuff that people left behind.  If you were among those people, please be tidier next time.  Your reward for your neatness is this view.

Enjoy the view and pick up your darn garbage.

1 comment:

  1. I agree this was the moment when we all saw that he had gone from mayor to emperor. Northerly Island is also a wonderful city park, spacious and well kept and lovely and free to all. Daley took something that had been taken over by the few, the privileged, and turned it into something better - a beautiful place that belongs to the public, for the public to enjoy. This may have been the last time something like that will happen in this country of ours.