If your inner weekend warrior is suffering a major case of whiplash, you are not alone. Just last week Chicago was on major lockdown, a dowager protecting her jewels from invading hordes of cat burglars. Plywood over the public art! Police flanking the Art Institute! Walking to brunch I passed an alley back of the Bloomingdale’s on Michigan Avenue. It was transformed into a staging area for local and national security forces, who were idling the summery morning away like a fleet of nervous and high-priced models, waiting for their moment on the runway.
By contrast, this Memorial Day weekend everything's opening up! Cyclists are welcome on Lake Shore Drive, fresh produce will arrive at more farmers' markets, and many folks will hit up the beaches. Even the long-standing swim bans are gone – you are now officially free to swim the waters of Lake Michigan, high E. coli counts or not.
Still, it won’t be all that easy to evade the politics and history undergirding so many of our city experiences. Memorial Day, officially known as Decoration Day, was founded by General John A. Logan, who fought in the Union Army and served in the United States Senate. The memorial in his namesake neighborhood Logan Square commemorates Illinois’ centennial, and is both a landmark and a rallying point for community gatherings of all kinds, from impromptu skateboarding sessions to political protests.
Many people will visit and adorn the graves of soldiers killed in conflict. And for some that moment may well be overlain with images from last weekend, when more than 40 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan threw their “global war on terrorism” service medals in the general direction of McCormick Place.
Our neighborhoods also contain memorials to the fallen, from children caught in gun violence to cyclists killed in traffic. And just last weekend organizers behind the so-called “speculative” Chicago Torture Justice Memorial wrapped up their call for proposals.
A coalition of activists, academics, artists and human rights experts are behind the project. The plan is to exhibit some of the 70-plus proposals received (which range from traditional memorials to poems to blueprints for psychological centers), and offer them as a series of public reckonings with Chicago’s legacy of police torture under Area 2 Commander Jon Burge. Some projects may be realized, though which ones and how many are still to be determined.
Other unanswered questions: when exactly former Mayor Richard M. Daley will be deposed, in a lawsuit related to the torture allegations. And what's to become of the men who remain behind bars, and claim to be there because of forced confessions. Contending with the past can be difficult enough. But how to comprehend a traumatic event that is still unfolding? One way is to attend My Kind of Town, the play penned by John Conroy, who started reporting the allegations of torture at Area 2 in 1990.
TimeLine Theatre has again done a remarkable job of wrestling a set of real-life events into a coherent narrative, without completely sacrificing the complexity and messiness they involve. And that complexity is us: Conroy has said he wants to "indict the whole city" with his play. Opening night, he was in the audience, making notes. Clearly, despite all his years of reporting and now this play, this history is not finished for Conroy. Nor is it for Chicago.
A long weekend offers some extra hours for reflection, so maybe this play’s just the thing. The rest of Weekender’s picks are below - enjoy!
Friday 6 p.m.
Sex Legends of Rock will include raunchy readings from Sally Timms, Jim Elkington and more!
1354 W. Wabansia Ave.
Friday - Sunday
The largest sanctioned BBQ competition in Illinois - bring a big ol' bib!
700 Blackhawk Dr. Westmont, IL
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