Friday, April 17, 2009
But his hospitalization isn't the topic of today's post. Let's get back to that ambulance ride.
Because we were heading downtown right smack dab in the middle of rush hour, the ambulance driver opted for city streets. What should have taken 40 minutes took us an hour and a half. Not fun even under the best of circumstances. Had it been a real emergency and not merely a transport, the sirens and lights would have helped us get through much more quickly, of course. Instead, I got a tour of some of the less, uh, . . . palatable? scenic? pleasant? . . . parts of Chicago.
Chicago, as well as other large cities, has flashing blue lights that indicate the presence of police surveillance cameras. Most people (likely with due cause) associate the lights with being in a dangerous area. If it weren't dangerous, why would the cameras need to be there, right? Perhaps the police are trying to deter criminals or assure residents and those passing through that they're watching and that, in fact, this particular block might be safer than the one two streets down that doesn't have a flashing blue light.
One of the flashing lights we passed on our lovely drive was right outside a McDonald's. McDonald's! A symbol of American wealth and poverty all at once. Wealth: We're too busy with our busy busy lives and busy busy jobs to buy "real" food. We need it now and we need it fast. Poverty: You're not likely to see women in Prada or men in Brooks Brothers stopping by for a Filet-O-Fish. At least I've never seen either.
The idea of a restaurant I only go to when my kids are with me being marked as a dangerous area disturbed me, made me a little sad, a little angry.
Even sadder, though, was a sign on one of the stores on this same block: "Beauty Supplies: Cigarettes and Wigs."
And by sad, I mean funny in a very sad way. Cigarettes and wigs are considered beauty supplies? In that order? Note the sign wasn't for "Beauty Supplies, Cigarettes, and Wigs." Nope, the cigarettes and wigs were a subset of the beauty supplies. Is life so hard in this neighborhood that cigarettes make the women more beautiful? The wigs, I understand. That shop was one of four on the block selling them. But cigarettes? Really? I've seen plenty of people smoking, and in my experience, they don't make someone more attractive. Not by a long shot. Unless you're talking James Dean, of course.
That hour and a half ambulance ride is the first time I've felt like I was in a foreign country since leaving the Middle East last May. I was reminded of a quote a friend of mine shared with me a few weeks ago from "My Dinner with Andre":
"Tell me, why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? I mean... I mean, is Mount Everest more 'real' than New York? I mean, isn't New York 'real'? I mean, you see, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean... I mean, isn't there just as much 'reality' to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest?"
Just a few blocks past this neighborhood, we entered what was obviously a well-to-do area with remodeled brownstones and nicely manicured grass along the curbs and trees in bloom and women in blond bobs and business suits. Maybe the bobs were wigs. Maybe they'd just finished smoking a cigarette in their Mercedes before getting out. Maybe they even had a crumpled-up wrapper from a Big Mac on the floorboard. But I doubt it.