Austin bureau chief Caren Jeskey is not only interesting herself, but knows so many interesting people. Her report.
Sarah has flaxen hair and a ready smile that crinkles up the corners of her blue blue eyes. She’s a Minnesotan, and peppers her speech with “you betcha.” She has a quick wit, is full of puns, and keeps others laughing. Her Whippet’s name is Snippet. Sarah has completed several triathlons. She has great taste and introduced me to some of the best music I know—Yo La Tengo and Heartless Bastards to name a couple. She is bright and inquisitive, and sie spricht deutsch (she speaks German). If all of that that wasn’t impressive enough, she’s a great adventurer. She takes enviable journeys every chance she gets, which is often since she works as a private school counselor. If she’s not camping solo on an island that takes two ferries to get to, she’s exploring Machu Pichu or Timbuktu.
I’m grateful for the day in the mid 2000s when I was in the locker room changing clothes at the Galter Life Center, the gym connected to Swedish Covenant Hospital. On that particular day, as usual, I kept my eyes down and avoided looking around at others in various stages of undress. I was surprised to hear a voice gently say “Caren?” I looked up and it was Sarah, my old pal from graduate school. We’d lost touch when I left the program mid-stream for a one year hiatus about five years prior.
Not only was it good to see her, but she’s one of few people I’d want chatting me up while I had nothing but a towel on. We realized that we were neighbors, and a friendship ensued. We started running around town together, taking long walks in Lincoln Square or along the River in Albany Park, and going to concerts at the Harris Theater and Lincoln Hall. We snow-shoed to Over Easy on Damen for brunch the day after a blizzard once. Of course she had two pair of snow shoes.
We had some unusual experiences, such as seeing an adult skateboarder with a broken leg trying to propel himself, belly to board, to the hospital. Another time we were at an acquaintance’s home in Garfield Park and I was offered a caramel. I popped the whole thing in my mouth, chewed and swallowed—what can I say? I’m a chocolate lover. Unbeknownst to me it was a magic candy, aka full of THC and meant to be eaten (for those who eat weed) a nibble at a time. Sarah nursed me through hours of laughing and turned me over to another friend for the crying spell that ensued after the joy. Another time, a flasher got our attention right near a children’s playground—he actually laid in wait by a tree until we approached. Of course we called 911 and warned the parents in the playground. So many stories.
This past week Sarah texted me “hello from Japan!” with photos of cherry blossoms and white goats on the streets of Osaka. I was shocked. How could she be in Japan? Well, it IS Spring Break week and Sarah is known for jetting off to fabulous places. I thought “wow, I can’t believe she got on a plane,” but I knew she was vaccinated and I trust her judgment. I even got a little bit emotional. I texted her and said “thank you so much for sharing. I forgot there’s a whole big world out there!”
I realized how traumatized I’ve been. I also like to hop on a plane or a train to take a break from life, and it’s been stultifying not to be able to do so with this wretched virus. Sarah’s trip inspired me to get on the ball. I looked up flights to Maui for February 2022 and emailed my family “let’s plan a trip!” Sarah’s journey to Osaka opened up a longing in me and gave me the impetus to plan an epic journey of my own.
As I searched Kayak.com for air fare I noticed I’d missed a call from her so I called her right back. “Sarah?! How can you be using your phone in Japan??” “Caren. I need tell you that you’re right. There IS a big wide world out there, but at the moment I am at Six Corners, just leaving Pearle Vision in Chicago.” Oh. It was April 1 after all. She got me. I deserved it; Neil and I had gotten her earlier that day.
Sure, I did not have my thinking cap on when she fooled me. Of course she was not in Japan. We are not even allowed to travel there with COVID restrictions. But I wanted to believe. Call me naive but I’d prefer to say that hope springs eternal within me, even with all of the loss and chaos we’ve endured over the past year-plus. May you all have a Spring full of cherry blossoms, good udon, and sake or fine sanpin cha.