Monday, September 27, 2004
Today's on-campus t-shirt sighting
"I am the man from Nantucket."
We had an interesting experience in the depths of the North Shore last night. As guests of my friend Betsy, who is a staff person at the Lake Forest Open Lands Association, Mark and I got to attend the highly-coveted Bonfire and Bagpipes event at the Elawa Farm restoration in western Lake Forest. Just driving up there was an adventure in covetousness; we passed by house after house big enough to fit *our* house in the foyer. The event site was surrounded by the mansions of lucky folks who managed to snag building lots adjacent to land that likely will never be built up; imagine having a clear savanna and wetland vista to the western horizon, in one of the most rapidly-growing counties in the state.
The event itself was pretty cool, although we couldn't help but feel out of place at times. Our jeans and t-shirts put us in the bottom 5% on the dressiness scale, and we were seriously deficient in angelic blond children. We witnessed some fine examples of parenting, though, including the mom and dad who were entirely incapable of getting their little blonde daughters to stop yanking the plastic cordon into people's (read: OUR) legs, and the general blase attitude towards piles of romping children only a few yards from a pond in the pitch dark. We were amused by the dad who very knowledgeably informed his son that the hot air balloons were full of helium, and a woman who was explaining to her friend that the plan was for her to get pregnant in March so that her other activities would fit properly around the pregnancy. Nothing like spontaneity, you know? We also overhead an older woman sourly telling her husband that she can't believe people would even dare ride in the hot air balloons - I mean, they have open flame in those things! I don't know why they don't just burn up!
We ate much food (all free), drank bottles of water from the open bar, and watched frisbee dogs and Highland athletes. We had nicknames and backstories for many of the Highland athletes, including Mr. Green Jeans and Fingers (as in "I hurt my...!). The caber toss scoring was mystifying to us. We also met several birds of prey, including a teeny little owl that may or may not have been like Pigwidgeon, one of my favorite Harry Potter characters, and a barred owl that was old and bitter and secretly plotting our untimely demises. The barred owl handler said that Spring Brook nature center does raptor workshops, which we might look into. That would be so much fun, handling raptors and getting to know them. I wish the city were more conducive to owls and hawks.
Then, the piper band marched in and performed in full kiltie regalia. A lone piper perched atop the brushpile for Amazing Grace, and as the sun set over the Middlefork Savanna (and let me mention here that the place is absolutely breathtaking), two folks dressed as Indians ran from the prairie with torches and some accompanying children lit the brushpile (after the lone piper climbed down, I hope). The Indian thing was vaguely offensive and is strongly opposed by many in LFOLA, but tradition trumps correctness on the North Shore. The brushpile burned with the heat of a thousand suns, and looked gorgeous from a distance with the rising full moon behind it. Overall, a very fun evening, and we had to grudgingly admit that all that money flowing around has really gone to a worthy cause. It's just hard to see such an insular, white, rich community that has *all* the advantages of life, including these amazing open lands, and not be resentful. It's not really jealousy, though. I envy them some things, but I wouldn't want to live among them. I've grown accustomed to variability in the people and places around me, and Lake Forest seems too surreal, like something out of a movie.