#779: Bughouse

April 19th, 2017

It’s just a little park on the North Side. It’s about a city block in size and has a fountain in the middle. People scream for both dogs and children to get right back here this second.

Both the dogs and kids take their time doing it.

It’s got a history and a heritage, of course. It was Bughouse Square once, where Demostheni in hobo gear would spend afternoons from the 1910s to 1960s screaming from soapboxes on communism, homosexuality, free speech, the Second Coming and anything else that came to mind. It hosted Chicago’s first Pride march in 1970. Famous writers and poets did things there, which makes it all the more historic and meaningful somehow.

Nothing but love and respect for the men and women who marched there for equality. Nothing but love and respect for the madmen and messiahs who turned crates into rostra.

But a pox on them for a day. I want to write about Washington Square Park as a park.

A park, to me, is sacred. The city is drab stone, primary-blasting neon and those glass condos that manage to do neither. A park, particularly a small one like the Bughouse, is a drip of green on that canvas.

In that green dot, a world. Kids and dogs run and defy. Lovers coo, potential lovers flirt, old people heave themselves to a bench as their day’s activity and people who panhandle in the neon find a spot on the grass where, for moments of scattered, rousted sleep, they’re as innocent as Adam in the Garden.

They’re segments of society that self-segregate outside the green dot. The olds go home, the lovers head back to offices, the panhandlers continue their trudge to no place. The kids and dogs eventually return to the angry yellers, a scampish look on the face replacing all irritation with a wave of love.

They don’t touch in life, but they share the dot, the little sacred spatter on the canvas.

It’s just a park, and a little one too. There are better stories to be told, and bigger ones. But for this moment on this day, I just want you to think about sunning yourself on a spot of green.

Read about the park’s free-speech past

Learn some history

See a photo from 1909

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You are currently reading #779: Bughouse by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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