When the air roared, people looked up.
I saw men moving furniture who looked up. I saw people in one of those creepy vans where you assume the only purpose could be odd look up. I saw kids and granddads and hot moms look up because the air roared in anticipation.
Because it’s the air show.
I had an editor once who would say that weather was the last shared communal experience we had. It’s a notion equally true and horseshit. It’s a true appraisal of a horseshit way of life.
Yes, the suburbanites who decided a safe castle was the same as joy share nothing more than the weather. But I left that job, that editor and that horseshit way of life a while back. I live in Chicago, where a sense of community just means looking out the window.
Or staying inside. Because the airshow roars for it all.
I did go down to the airshow with a friend where we discussed the sociological implications of the military-industrial complex between our random displays of “Did you see that? It went VROOOOOOOOM!”
But what I liked more was that morning and the day before, where I got to see the airshow’s response throughout this odd, odd city.
When I was in the uppity heights of Roscoe Village, the men moving couches looked up when the jet sound roared by.
When I was riding across the Damen bridge over the north branch, the dudes in the red windowless van watched the same Blue Angel-induced spiral over the sky.
That’s what I loved about it — not that the people down at the beach (who I did join on Sunday) found it fun, but that the too-cool-for-school types across the City that Works still caught themselves looking up at the jets roared by.
I once knew a girl who called city life claustrophobic.
And I once knew another who said an open window in Chicago means you can’t feel lonely.
I choose a more moderate view, in that it is impossible to feel anything but a sense of shared experience, a sense of community in this horrible town.
Our shared experience is one of force. We are forced to know certain neighborhoods are awful or OK. We are forced to know Back of the Yards is bad and Lincoln Square isn’t. We are forced to know that so-and-so is getting arrested by the fact he was screaming from the cop car.
I once had a Section 8 neighbor who introduced every birthday by a 6 a.m. “24! 24!” (or whatever his age was that year) “It’s my birthday! Let’s wake this block UP!” He did not get arrested for that.
It was my roommate who claimed the word first. She said the air show was about “community.” That was very similar to my conception of it. We bandied back and forth at the show, as hippies do. In my mind, the machines tearing across the sky were irreplaceable. In someone else’s mind they were just jets.
But in little moments across Chicago, no one was too cool. No one decided this dream with the spinning, corkscrew jet fighters wasn’t a real one.
My old boss had his horseshit expression. For him and the people we wrote about, nothing short of an act of God could create a sense of community. Nothing short of thunder, lightning, floods or earth-choking snow could make people share a sense of anything.
Here, all you need to do is look up.