Yesterday I spent the better part of three hours in the Chicago airport. Did I mention that Chicago is one of my favorite places? The “so close/so far away” frame of reference immediately came to mind. Had it not, I was in the airport terminal long enough that it would have surfaced before SWA and I bid farewell to the neighborhood. I was close enough that I could have taken the “L” (Chicago Rapid Transit System) into the city. My only issue was lack of time.
Despite the reported “reputation of the mob bosses and organized crime” serving as a back- drop to the city’s origin, I’d opt to take the chance to live in Chicago for any three consecutive months of the summer. The only qualifier is that all three months must sequentially fall into the category of summer. “April, May, June won’t work”.
If you’re going to dream, why not dream big? I want to live in a high-rise in Chicago on “The Magnificent Mile” with a view of Lake Michigan on one side and the view of the City on the other. Hey, it is April Fool’s Day, I might as well play this out for all it is worth. The three-months would be dedicated with one goal in mind. The goal would simply be to write it down.
The three-month sabbatical would offer opportunities to both resurrect memories and create new ones. Isn’t it important to periodically do both? At the end of the day, or the end of the week, or perhaps even at the end of summer, I’d have carved out the time to write it all down. Hey, it’s April Fool’s Day, I might even identify myself as a writer if a neighbor in the high-rise were to ask: “What is it that you do?”
I can imagine that on a summer’s evening or two looking at the city of Chicago from the outside patio area of my 40th floor high-rise accommodations, I’d have the thought: “If they could see me now” as my mind went back in time to the nondescript small three bedroom frame house and neighborhood in which I grew up. I can even remember the street being unpaved during the early part of my childhood.
Finding time for a balance between resurrecting memories and creating new ones is a luxury that few people find. I think both are important. Reportedly, even a man of prominence and influence like Henry Ford once negated the importance of the past. How did he express it? In 1916, he verbalized it to the Chicago Tribune this way: “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”
I am inclined to disagree with Mr. Ford on that one. I think we have to know where we’ve been to fully appreciate and embrace the concept of where we’re headed. Everything in our lives blends together to craft the fabric of our identity. We draw from both our strengths and our mishaps as we chart our course for the future.
When I was a little kid growing up, one of my heroes was Davy Crockett. He was one of that “handful of brave men” that fought to their death at the Battle of the Alamo. He also was a man of wisdom. In 1835, he reflectively said of President Andrew Jackson: “I myself was one of the first to fire a gun under Andrew Jackson. I helped to give him all his glory. But I liked him well once: but when a man gets too big for his breeches, I say Good bye”.
The gift of memory and the realization that one could not have arrived where they are today without the influence, support, nurture, encouragement and “yes – even the disappointments of the past” and the lessons learned is humbling.
Whatever we become, the common denominator we share is that “someone (often times many) helped us on our way. Even in infancy, if we had not be held, loved, nurtured and fed, we’d have been at a deficit even if we survived. Those are the things that build trust and activate brain development. Crockett is right. When we get to big for our own breeches (or britches) folks have a tendency to shy away. No one wants to share time with a self-absorbed genius.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill was known for his candor. Frankly, you don’t have to look beyond Lady Astor to know that Churchill could be at the top of the leaderboard when it came to put-downs. When Lady Astor disapprovingly accused him of being “disgustingly drunk”, without skipping a beat he replied: “My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”
On another occasion, he was seated next to a man at a dinner party that had an over-exaggerated sense of self-worth. The man talked incessantly about himself all evening. In fact, there was not a topic for which the man was not a self-proclaim expert. At the end of the evening, Churchill said to him: “We make a great team. Together we know everything. Actually, you know everything except that you are a bore and I know that”.
Getting back to my view over the city of Chicago, I’d probably chuckle with the thought of the look on Mayor Daley’s face as he presented a Veteran’s Day speech in the 1960s. The speech had been written for him by his speechwriter. Actually, all of his speeches were written for him and Mayor Daley was a busy man. Seldom ever did he look at a speech before he delivered it. He had the reputation for sight-reading. Give him a script and he’d wade through it for the first time as he delivered the presentation.
Earlier his speechwriter had asked for a raise. Mayor Daley was offended. He arrogantly told the guy, “I’m not giving you a raise. It should be enough for you that you get to work for me, a great American hero.” Can you imagine anyone having that kind of ego?
The speechwriter waited until the following November to give his resignation. He did so by making it a one-week’s notice. Sometimes it takes more than working for a great American hero to pay the rent and the light bill. Besides that, when one’s employer doesn’t respect and value the support from “the little guy” that helps craft his image, it is a disheartening place to work. Life is too short to work under those conditions.
Mayor Daley was scheduled to present a Veteran’s Day speech in Chicago to hundreds of people. Daley made it clear that the speechwriter could not leave before that speech was written. As it played itself out, the speechwriter cleverly got in the last word and it was a life lesson he didn’t have to write down.
As was Mayor Daley’s style, he’d take the prepared script and add his own personality and persona in delivering the message. He didn’t strictly follow the script. If you want to win the hearts of the voting public, Daley knew it was important to support veteran’s causes. Mayor Daley played the script for all it was worth. He touted something along the order of, “I’m not like other people who forget and fail to support our veterans. But I haven’t forgotten about you. In fact, today I’m proposing a 17-point program at the federal, state and local level, for us to care for our veterans.”
I can almost image that Mayor Daley’s heart skipped a beat. Amid nationwide press coverage and hundreds of people in attendance, an elaborate plan to support veteran’s causes would be well received. The announcement of the plan garnered everyone’s attention including the mayor’s. Turning the page, Mayor Daley discovered the 17-points weren’t highlighted in detail. Instead the script simply read: “You’re on your own now, you great American hero”.
The environment of Chicago and the view from my apartment located on the 40th floor would be ideal for writing. For tomorrow, I’ve already gotten a few thoughts in mind. Wow! I can hardly wait.
All My Best!