#350: Pilsen at Night

July 23rd, 2014

The children played in the stream of a cracked-open fire hydrant.

They rushed up to fill plastic bowls and extra-large McDonald’s beverage cups. Sometimes they rushed the water back to an inflatable kiddie pool a few blocks down. Sometimes they took long gulps of crystalline water that may or may not have been treated for disease.

Pilsen was hot.

All of Chicago was hot, of course. Derechos, fronts and vortices have made this summer a schizoid mess of cool and swelter, shorts and sweaters.

The meter on Tuesday just swung to swelter.

In some places, people clung to air conditioning. The denizens of towers and office blocks and skyscraper condos no doubt pressed themselves against the Freon as closely as could.

But in Pilsen, the children played in the stream of a cracked-open fire hydrant.

They laughed and ran, as children do. They joked and pushed, as children do.

The group of soaking-wet kids, bright clothing plastered to them, shrieked as joyful on their hot concrete sidewalk as I once did running through a lawn sprinkler decades ago.

I had come in a car-sharing car to pick up some packages. As I waited, the magic flickering “I can park anywhere I want as long as these are on” blinkers clicked on off on off as Bruce Springsteen wailed over the radio about how terrible New Jersey is.

The AC was on. I was pressed against Freon like the rest.

Then I saw the children play.

I felt myself flip off the AC, turn down the radio, open the window into the slick-hot damp swelter outside. I saw my hand turn off the ignition until there were only the happy laughters of children and the click off on of blinkers as soundtrack.

The laughter of children was the soundtrack on a hot Pilsen night.

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