|Cubs victory parade (photo by Dav Ero)|
"But you love parades!" my mother said over the phone, as I drove to Palos Heights Friday morning.
It's true. I always troop to see the local Northbrook parades, July 4 and Memorial Day. I love to stand and clap when the vets march past, appreciate the marching bands, thrill to the fire engines.
But it isn't like I'm rushing downtown to watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade. I see them if they're convenient.
Which is odd, because I used to hate to miss parades. I have this memory, from being about 4, visiting my grandmother in the Bronx. I was just old enough to know there was a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And that we weren't going — my parents didn't even go into Manhattan when they visited my grandmother— why bother? What was there? I kind of pressed myself against window, straining to look down the streets and, perhaps, catch a glimpse of the parade I didn't know was miles away.
"I have a job to do, mom," I said. It was true. An interview set up before the Cubs won the series, on the campus of Trinity Christian College. They were nice enough to gather together students for me to talk with. I wasn't about to cancel so I could go see a parade. Duty first.
The students were polite, thoughtful. I wandered the campus, located on a ... no, save it for Monday. Let's just say I was glad I went. Other reporters covered the parade.
I heard the hoopla on the radio as I drove back. And I have to admit, listening to Theo Epstein laud Tom Ricketts, made me glad I wasn't there. I'm not a fan. I went to one game this year. This was for fans.
My wife sent me updates, from the kids drinking wine on the 7:36 Metra Milwaukee North train, to the happy high-fives in coffee shops. I gritted my teeth, and almost said, "You can stop doing that any time you like." But I held back. Why spoil her fun? She didn't mean to taunt me. I wanted to know what happened. A big day for Chicago.
People crushed into the city, from everywhere, just to see the players passing by. I get that. A communal celebration. A manifestation of how important it is to them. And I would never say a word against it. Many of societal ills come from a lack of exactly that: cohesion, unanimity, shared experience. Everybody there, everybody under a blue hat was a Cubs fan. No papers, no religious test. We need more of that, not less.
What does not taking part mean? St. Augustine defined "city" as a group of people united by the love of the same object. So not to love that object, and not to partake in the festival. It was like pressing my palm against the cold stone wall, separating me from everybody else.
Also a necessary function. There needs to be outsiders, observers, the guy who doesn't go, or who stands there, scratching his chin, apart from it all, watching. That guy has always been me. It started growing up in Berea, the only Jew in Fairwood Elementary School, watching the heads swivel in my direction as the one droning Hanukkah carol is rolled out for my benefit. Hating that, at first, wanting to vanish. But growing to like the difference. "What did you expect, horns?" I'd taunt people who said I don't look Jewish (improbably, because I look like the cover of Der Stermer. They must have never seen a Jew, and expected a skullcap and black coat).
I don't want to hide behind the faith. Plenty of Jewish Cub fans, no doubt, such as my pal Rich Cohen, who wrote a lovely piece in the New York Times about his lifelong Cubs fandom. I'm just not a crowds guy. They puzzle me. When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, I was downtown at the paper, so wandered a few blocks south to see the double decker buses blow past. Shrugged, then went back to the office. Of course I could come upon the entire Blackhawks team playing a pickup game on the ice rink behind my house in Northbrook and I wouldn't recognize it was them or care particularly if I did.
At a certain age, you accept yourself, while being open to what changes and revelations come. And though I didn't go to the parade, I did notice something surprising. Before the series began, people asked me, growing up in Cleveland, which team I was rooting for, and I'd shrug and say, "Doesn't matter. I win either way."
But in the 8th inning of the seventh game, when the Indians scored, I did not cheer, but groaned and covered my face. And in the 10th I was on my feet, shouting for my wife, who couldn't bear to watch and had walked out of the room, to come back in, and we watched the next few minutes shouting and hugging. Not so impartial anymore.
|Michigan Avenue, Nov. 4, 2016|
Photos courtesy of and copyright by Dav Ero. You can see more of his work at his website.