#30: In Praise of Gloom

July 6th, 2012

Lovely weather makes you move. Or, to be more accurate, it makes you feel you should be moving and should have already been moving for the last several hours.

“Walk in me,” the lovely day says. “Ride a bike, eat food from a cart, make love in a questionable locale. Do it. Now. I said now. Is that a dollar store? They have kites at dollar stores. What’s her name? Will she be your friend? When was the last time you skydived?”

In short, a lovely day can be a pain in the ass. Lucky thing I live in Chicago.

Chicago in March is a wonderland for the mild-mannered depressive. The Tribune has pictures of concept cars from Switzerland and there are lovely windows to look out of.

It’s a heart-swelling gray outside, a reverse chalkboard of slate branches snaking into a Dover sky. Wet lumps of snow glob on the sloppy mud. No guilt here, no voice nagging you to make life an adventure. If you tried to seize this day, you would wipe off your hand afterward. Today, making a cup of coffee and running a load of work shirts through the laundry is both pleasure and pastime.

The only sounds right now are the typewriter, the dryer and Cambodian pop music from the 1960s and early 70s. All the musicians on the CD were presumed killed by the Khmer Rouge.

I opened my door a few hours ago, headed outside on a pajama-pants errand to deposit our recycling in the trash of neighbors who, unlike us, weren’t too cheap to pay extra for a blue bin. When I opened the door, I was facing two of the neighbors in the Section 8 housing a few doors over. They were dressed all scary-scary in the hip-hop “Don’t mess with me” look and were very obviously just walking up and down the block smoking the lousiest weed I’ve ever laid nostrils on. A little girl peeked out of the AME church after they walked by. She was awed and terrified. The dead Cambodian pop singers would have laughed in their faces.

My pajama pants are striped and kelly green.

I finished my illicit errant, taking a side route down an alley because the two men were walking so damn slow. The hip-hop gallants had reached the end of the block when I returned. They looked around, uncertain where to go. They turned around slowly to shuffle back down where they came, to scare more churchgirls and to smoke more awful weed.

I’ll still call the cops on the jerks next time they’re raising Cain in the middle of the street at 2 a.m., but at that moment, I loved those men.

A gloomy day is one where you don’t have to pretend the world is good. You don’t have to construct elaborate fantasies where the Cambodian singer with the gossamer voice is anywhere but a mass grave. You don’t have to pretend great futures are waiting for the pot-drenched wanderers or that they’ll ever leave the block. You can enjoy that the men have each other, an oasis of friendship on a lonely, gloomy day.

Written in March 2009

Talk about this story

Read about another lovely, dreary day

What's this?

You are currently reading #30: In Praise of Gloom by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • -30-