Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cooler by the Swimmin' Hole

When I think beach, I think Lake Michigan. Back in the growing up days, I was never more than a brisk 20 minute walk to Chicago’s calming eastern edge. Now I live 34 blocks west, in a neighborhood where cooler by the lake means nothing—which is great in April. But now the temps are pushing 90, and my feet ache for sand and cool water.

Since leaving Hyde Park, I rarely make it to the beach, even though it’s only 30 minutes of biking away. In theory, that’s just 10 minutes farther than what I grew up with. Maybe it’s the return trip I dread, all relaxation evaporating as I pedal home into the sizzling asphalt sunset.

Still, the beach calls. This week, I tried to organize an outing with some other families, but the plan almost collapsed as we tried to work around non-synchronous nap-times. (You have to budget a good 40-50 minutes of bus time there and back.)

Then Julie suggested a sandy retreat that requires no buses, that, in fact, is a brisk 20 minute walk from my house: Humboldt Park Beach. It’s tucked into the jewel of a park just south of Logan Square. So what if it’s so small and shallow that a sudden cold snap would shrink it to a skating pond in minutes. So what if there’s no skyline view (hey—there’s no annoying hum of Lake Shore Drive either!) So what if one of our friends refers to it as “Diaper Beach,” because it seems to be favored by people with small children, like, er, now, me. The hovering lifeguard and jaunty rowboat lent an air of authenticity; he even assured us that it does get deep in the middle.

Zoe, who is two and some, seemed perfectly content to splash around in the freezing water. Miguel and Violet, each 7 ½ months, seemed content to rake the sand and yammer at each other. The adults seemed content to just be in the sun, nibbling on manzanas and dulces. And the slow 25 minute walk home felt just right.

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