Another hobby or fitness activity during these challenging times is getting on my hands and knees and start digging. It’s dirty and dusty work and can be rewarding at times and I'm assuming homeowners with more time home-bound will spend more time outside getting their yard spruced up. On every walk, I see the results of gardeners watering, weeding, and tending to its needs. It’s not always observed first hand, but a well-groomed garden takes a lot of work during sometime of day. A homeowner without a well-attended garden gets a glance and the opposite is rewarded with a long stare. Those well maintained front yards often provide a warm 'look-see' and perhaps a few photos to boot.
I give gardener folk credit, many brave the elements, especially within the Köppen climate classification. Chicago's classification is Dfa, hot, humid summers, dreary and cold winters with measurable snow. It not only sounds inconvenient, it actually is for a good portion of the year. Any experienced gardener in the Midwest braces for whatever Mother Nation has in store. I've seen snow flurries (if not snow) in all months besides the two hottest summer months. I've seen snow fly in June and then years later, did not even flinch seeing several inches of snow in May.
Those that love the creativity of gardening don’t fuss about a little dirt behind their fingernails. It might be a status symbol in today's world, who knows? One more thing, seeing a well-designed and executed garden inspires me to do a little more to make my front yard more presentable. What do walkers see when they pass by my house? If it’s a bit unruly or with too many weeds, I have some work to do. As we talk about suburbia and pay attention to what our neighbors are doing, in this context keeping up with the Jones isn’t correct, it’s keeping up with the Greens.
If you’re a newbie to landscaping and/or gardening you may think that gardening is can be artistic with very few variables or challenges. I have regularly seen those Home Depot commercials where the young kids play independently without parental supervision, neither the wife nor the husband needs to worry about hornets, wasps, and mosquitoes and they have the energy and creativity to get their front-yard landscaping done on a sunny afternoon. It that place exists, that’s where I want to garden. During too many summer days, I break a sweat just by looking at a shovel or inspecting my lawnmower. Sometimes you simply need to ‘grin and bear it’ to get the job done. Gardeners know it’s not ideal conditions to garden in the summer heat and stifling air but at the same time, it can be a safe and rewarding activity to view as a hobby instead of a chore.
Name Calling - Karen
One mid-afternoon in July, I spent some time walking through Butler Lake Park which is just north of Libertyville High School. I had an interesting encounter there, my recollection, “I walk down a wooden bridge over a small man-made waterfall and I surprisingly hear hollering and commotion which is quite unusual for this park and Libertyville overall but again, we're not in normal times. As I get closer, I see a group of teenage boys swimming and jumping in Butler Lake and I thought that looked like fun except for the fact it was not permitted in this lagoon type ecosystem. I had never seen anyone swim in Butler Lake and my thought was that these boys were just trying to have some fun while they created their own amusement.
As I got a little closer, I just smiled and reveled in the fact that these kids were found a way to have fun in a non-destructive manner. As I continued to walk by, separated by 60 feet of pond water, a few of them began to chant "Karen" in my direction. At first glance, I thought nothing of it and then briefly turned my head in several directions to scan the immediate area but no one else was to be found. After several moments, I finally realized they thought I was a "Nark" or a "Snitch," hence the ‘Karen’ reference. I’m thinking to myself, what would prompt those kids to refer to you know who? First of all, I wasn’t wearing those creepy sunglasses typically worn by the FBI. I wasn’t taking pictures, didn’t wear binoculars across my neck, or wasn’t on my phone to ring law enforcement. I was just walking through the park on a hot summer day.
If they are going to call me the "Karen" name, please use the correct gender. My first name is Kevin. As I continued to walk, and still a little surprised, I flashbacked to my youth, where on numerous occasions, I too jumped in various lakes and ponds with several signs clearly stated 'swimming was not permitted.' When you're that age, and especially during a once a century pandemic where local beaches and village pools are closed, what do you expect from very active teenage boys? I'll give them a mulligan as they are just kids but little did they know that old man walking by had a very active and adventuress childhood. Full disclosure: personal computers hadn’t been invented at that point so our creativity blossomed as were searched for ways to have fun.
Going back nearly 50 years to my start of the teenage years, most people who were destined to live in the same household had the same conclusion: I had an incredible amount of energy and that may be selling it short some times. My dad was no dummy, he found projects for me around the house. in fact, he was probably like that himself (even though he never admitted it) so he could clearly identify my situation. If not, it was my late mom who had that spunk and energy. Projects my dad found for me: Sweeping the garage, mowing the lawn, edging the lawn, and mowing our elderly neighbors down the avenue. Sometimes, I’d also have to do dishes before I was no longer an indentured servant (at least for the rest of the day). When I was finished, I'd hang out with one or two other friends and engage in sometimes deviant or mischievous behavior. We climbed trees (even on neighbor trees even when the folks were home), playing with fire (not recommended for kids), and smashing old beer bottles with pebbles and stones, found along the shores of Lake Michigan. I'm not particularly proud of some of this behavior but wanted to add the necessary context to this story. If only those kids in the lagoon only knew half of what I did when I was their age. If I could add a little sarcasm to close this segment, who knows, maybe those kids who were teethed on a hand-held device are more engaged in technology so they have less time to light fires or smash windows?
Front Yard Signage is Unprecedented
It may just be me but during the last several months, I’ve noticed so much signage in front lawns in most neighborhoods in Libertyville. Some signs support teachers, other families congratulating students of all three levels of education and being publically graduating, and a few about social justice concerns. There are other signs supporting health care workers and essential workers for their dedication during this pandemic. I’m certain no sane and competent individual would find any controversy in supporting health care and essential workers. Other signs say ‘Peace’ or ‘Practice Kindness’ or ‘Hope’ to remind others that during these economic and health challenges, we need to work together to help our country heal.
Last week, I walked on Homewood Ave which is just west of Brainerd Field, and saw my first Biden 2020 sign. Indeed, I counted four Biden 2020 signs on that particular street. It’s still mid-summer so I’m a little surprised to see any signs but seeing so many signs on one street makes me think why so many? I have not seen any other Biden 2020 signs on dozens of other streets that I have traveled recently so are these signs associated with the local Democratic party? I’m assuming these four homeowners know each other and perhaps their early support for Biden is showing the community the critical nature of this year’s election on November 3.
Typically during a presidential election year, nominees of both parties pick and running mate (VP) and then the yard signs appear either late summer or in early autumn. Not the other way around. In today's world, I have no problem putting up with this type of sign-in July or even May or June? I would assume the electorate overall have more time to research candidates.
One more note, I’ve not seen any Trump 2020 signs so far anywhere in Libertyville even though Pence will be Trump’s running mate unless something extraordinary occurs. At this point in the campaign, does this fact mean it's too early to make any conjecture about the future results, some 100 days from now? I don't know. I will say that if there are very few Trump-Pence signs in the next two months, this could send an ominous sign for the Trump campaign.
Downtown Libertyville Restaurants Are Struggling
Challenging times require creative solutions, especially for bar and restaurant owners in downtown Libertyville. I’ve read there are about 75 restaurants in this area and it appears to me by the size of the crowds inside and out on "makeshift patios" are having a hard time financially. Because of indoor social distancing, many restaurants have gotten creative to ensure more people are served. This includes putting outdoor tables between buildings, behind, and some are using existing parking lots for outdoor dining. Logic would suggest that fewer parking lots are needed as the supply has exceeded the demand during this pandemic.
This current arrangement may help some restaurants stay afloat during the pleasant weather months but what happens when it’s 35 degrees and drizzle in November?
One more comment about downtown Libertyville which is independent of COVID-19 but may also apply to a lot of American cities. Why not eliminate street parking along a 4 block stretch of downtown Libertyville and use that extra parking on both sides of the street for walking and outdoor dining? There appears to be enough parking in several parking ramps that the city built several years ago – this change would mean some diners would need to walk a block or two. Dining tables would be placed closest to the restaurant for convenience purposes and in between there and the street would be sidewalk which includes benches too for those who just want to watch the world go by. I know, some diners are not going to be happy about so much noise and traffic through downtown but to mitigate this, strictly enforce a 25 mile per hour speed limit during shopping and dining hours. Also, have the city council install a noise ordinance for loud motorcycles and loud car mufflers. A radical idea but one I think could bring more people and dynamism to downtown Libertyville.
More walking stores will be continued next week...