Thursday, September 5, 2019

Bee careful

     Nick and Nora Charles don't carry the cultural heft they did when I was growing up, and the "Thin Man" series of 1930s black-and-white detective movies were a staple of UHF television.
     As played by William Powell and Myrna Loy, they seemed the ideal married couple, for their swank deco apartment, their frequent martinis, and exuberant wordplay.
     I never had a swank deco apartment. The frequent martinis proved troublesome, and were long ago set aside. But my wife and I do manage a bit of wordplay, now then.
     Particularly in the Chicago Botanic Garden, where we like to spend hours walking and talking. It's like being in heaven, and you don't have to die. We went twice over Labor Day weekend.
     A favorite spot is the circular Rose Garden. Maybe because I had skipped my standard rose garden joke. "I didn't make any binding commitment to come here," (think about it) I felt poised, when my wife offered me the perfect slow pitch.
     "Be careful for bees," she said, smelling a rose.  "They're out in force."
     She could picture her husband swooping in to smell a perfect rose and ending up with a nostril full of bee. Sometimes my whole life seems like that.
     "That's why they call them 'bees,'" I replied. "Because you have to 'bee careful.'"
     Some might have groaned. You might be groaning now. But my wife thought that is funny, or has been conditioned to think that funny. She laughed, and then realized she was laughing.
     "That's why you love me, because I'm easy to please," she said.
    "No," I corrected her. "That's why you love me."
     She laughed even more.
     Okay, not Nick and Nora Charles. But we enjoyed it. And "I didn't make any binding commitment to come here" translates into "I never promised you a rose garden." A reference to the country song. Maybe it gets funnier after you've heard it 50 times. Maybe not.
     Labor Day happened to be our 29th anniversary. The garden was mobbed, the line of cars backed onto Lake Cook Road, the parking lot jammed. Once inside,  we joined the wonderfully diverse crowd the Botanic Garden draws: black and white, Hispanic and asian, wedding parties and orchid societies, brides and quinceaƱera teens posing for photographs. 
    Usually, the throngs taper off quickly as soon as you get away from the front entrance. But not Monday. Even in the far reaches, the winding paths and well-wrought bridges were bristling with strollers: young couples, old couples, parents and young kids in strollers, large, extended families. Sometimes that's annoying. ("Hell," I like to say, quoting Sartre, "is other people.") But the weather was so perfect, I didn't object to sharing the Botanic Garden with the big crowds.
     "I don't mind the other people," I informed Edie, as we walked.
     "What other people?" she replied.


  1. Monday was an idyllic weather day. We went to the Lakefront near the Planetarium. A nice treat to see the skyline and museum and not something done often enough.

  2. I think Myrna Loy would have been proud of that rejoinder.


  3. Do they still have fine-art exhibitions at the Botanic Garden, like they did back in the Eighties? My first wife had a couple of her works displayed there.

    But my best memory of that place was a winter day in '87. Not-yet married, we were walking past a snow-covered fountain that was shut down for the winter. I marveled at the way the sun was shining through a tiny piece of ice on the sidewalk. "That's not ice--that looks like a zirconium!" she exclaimed.

    I picked it up and took it to a jeweler the next day. Turned out she was wrong. The "ice" had fallen out of a diamond earring, and was appraised at a couple of grand. The jeweler fashioned it into an engagement ring, which I presented to her over dinner at the Berghoff.

    The marriage didn't last. I hope she got some decent money for the ring.


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