The 606 is a biking/walking/jogging/strollering/cute puppying/sitting/reading/teen flirting/old couple laughing/sunset meandering path along a converted train line through Chicago’s Near West Side.
I had a book. And an empty spot of bench. And a summer night where the weather was so perfect air conditioning felt like sin.
So I combined the three.
I sat and read until the clouds went from orange to purple. I sat and read and watched the clouds and joggers until the words on the page got a bit hard to see and my eyelids drooped happily from a day well spent.
There were pretty ladies and muscled men, groups of kids on bikes calling to each other, older kids blasting rap from bikes, trying to look hard on Schwinns. There were old couples chattering in Spanish walking pups so tiny and preened you know the pet’s nickname is adorable and nauseating. All the stuff of every path, always.
That’s not the thought that kept me looking from my pages to the distant clouds. This is:
Everything you have ever seen, someone has devoted their lives to understanding.
Every species of tree, every blade of grass, the sun, the moon, the chemical composition of the hard plastic signs that give the price of gas — everything has had multiple someones fall so hard for the topic they’ve become the experts.
Someone studies the distant floofy clouds the sunset was turning a burnt orange. Someone else studies the refraction of the light and a third the chemicals in the air that give that orange its specific burn.
Doctors study the bodies and impacts of the joggers bounding down the path as chemists design their synthetic tights and designers wonder if their shoes are cushioned and fashionable enough to make a go as a product.
Someone designed the strollers and bicycles. Someone knows the lifespans and reproductive seasons of the trees along the path’s edge. Someone calculated the exact gas consumption rate of the engines zooming noisily in the distance.
Someone picked the font for the Dover Thrift book in my hand and said, “Yes, yes. This is the serif that says ‘Bitter Bierce.’”
It’s not a great thought, that every shoe has a designer and every shrub an authority. Nor should it imply that the person who divined the exact ratios and composition of the 606 concrete did so with enthusiasm that particular day.
Sometimes a job’s just a job. Sometimes the floofy clouds and chemical jog tights lose their luster.
But how can we be bored? How can we ever be bored when we’re dancing among others’ joys?
At every moment, we’re looking at something someone finds fascinating. If we’re not fascinated too, maybe that’s on us.