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$7 and 7 Hours in Chicago

The best part of not having shoes is it keeps me out of the places I don’t want to go to anyway.
$7 and 7 hours in Chicago: The story of today

Money never really came up and I didn’t end up using the $7. Money is naturally becoming less and less a part of my day to day life. I walked and I walked, barefoot on concrete. It got a bit painful after a few miles but I elevated them to give them rest when needed. I was dropped off in a place I’d never spent time and was unfamiliar with but I knew I wanted to see Lake Michigan so I headed East. The sun was beating down hot and the skies were blue. I couldn’t ask for much more. I found a park where I lounged on a branch overhanging the trail. I pounded my chest like a monkey in a tree and watched people walk underneath me, sometimes oblivious to my presence and other times sending a big smile up at me. From the tree I watched turtles swimming in the pond and large fish stirring up the muck on the bottom of the pond to find food. 

I moved on and I was hungry. First I found a pear tree that was partially overhanging the sidewalk and enjoyed a few of the succulent fruits. I needed some substance and found that in some dumpster bagels. Later I passed a community garden and ate the tomatoes from the ground that had fallen off the plants. I wandered, not quite aimlessly, but it was certainly wandering. I had the lake in mind but the seven miles between where I was dropped off and the lake provided plenty of opportunities for distraction. Most of my days are filled by thoughts of the future and sometimes of the past. Today I lived in the moment. I perched in trees. I sat on curbs. I stood on corners. I walked, one step at a time. I talked, to anyone who would talk to me. I watched, anything I felt like watching.

The big blue lake finally opened up to me and I asked a man what time it was. 4:08. Six of my seven hours had already passed. I sat cross-legged by the bike path and watched about 100 different bike riders pass by me. I was pleased by the diversity I saw pedaling by. Skinny and fat, young and old, speaking a handful of languages. There was no way to stereotype or categorize the people I saw riding today. Anyone can ride a bicycle. I stood up, walked to big blue, and cleansed my mind, body, and spirit in the cool water of Lake Michigan. 

The neighborhoods I strolled through were quiet but the beach was as active as a freshly stirred up anthill. I observed my fellow humans. I am shy and I am timid. When the person I am observing looks my way I react by removing my eyes from them. Why not observe each other? We are a social creature. I am a social creature but much of my social life is on a computer screen. I need to work on spending more time with real people. And I need to work on embracing strangers on the street. It’s one thing to embrace someone at a gathering but to embrace a complete stranger on the street that comes from a different walk of life is a whole different feeling. It’s a freeing feeling.

I napped on the beach. When I woke up my seven hours were over and I still had the $7.  I watched a group of six guys play soccer. I listened to their conversations and laughed many times. I walked on and stopped to watch a game of basketball. A young girl asked me to dig a whole with her, so I did. She said we were digging to hide from the monsters so I dug faster. I climbed another tree and pretended to be a panther. I swung down and picked up trash and then I watched kids break open a piñata. 

I started to get lonely. I observed love and it made me smile. I started to wish I had a woman with me to hold hands with and kiss on the cheek. I was walking north now and I was wandering. I was taking the day minute by minute, step by step. I was free of my cell phone and laptop but they occasionally entered my mind, wondering who might be trying to contact me. It could wait though I was busy living, minute by minute. 

I got on a train north to head back to Skokie but after a few stops I saw a street festival. I got out to see what my fellow humans were up to on Glenwood Ave. I saw girl I liked but I didn’t talk to her. She saw me too. I bought 4 apples, an orange, and a nectarine for 71 cents. They were discounted because they were a bit old. I got back on the train but I never sat down. I stretched out as I had been doing all day. I hung and swung from the handholds like a baby chimpanzee. I think I made some people smile. When I got off the train it was very dark and I had another mile to walk. My feet were less sore than at the beginning of the day even though I had walked 10 miles. I feel cleansed.

Live simple and you will live free.

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Author: Rob Greenfield

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