Thursday, July 30, 2009

Visiting Season

Today is Friday Eve. Streeterville Bay is pretty bare. Navy Pier is not. It is currently 76 degrees under mostly cloudy skies at the Mini. Just another mild summer day in the continual stream that is the summer of 2009 in Chicago. Everyone breathe a satisfied "Ahhhh." Didn't that feel good?

August is almost upon us, and that reminds me that I owe my sister-in-law a birthday card. News cycles this time of year are generally slow. Not much of great import happening. Most of Paris goes on vacation for the month of August. Truly not a bad tradition.

I just returned from visiting with friends and relatives of the in-law variety in Minneapolis and Northern Iowa. This afternoon I am awaiting the arrival of visitors of the in-law variety for a few days. While it is not the Parisian custom of taking an entire month and retiring to the country or to the beach, it is a very local custom that Babs and I have developed in this part of summer. It's visiting season.

A great many Americans do not get to experience the pleasantry of visiting season. They work too much. Babs and I have been able to carve out our own little corner of the summer because A) I am a teacher and I often take the summer off, and B) Babs is self-employed and gets to make her own schedule to a certain extent. Summers are meant to be slow and relaxing. Parisians know this. Babs and I have managed to grasp this. Meanwhile, most Americans are busy taking a weekend here, a week off there. Some may take two weeks and spend the entire time madly dashing around trying to compile a list of memorable vacation moments. They arrive back at work just as harried as they were when they left.

America has long prided itself on being the most productive country on the planet. The trade off is that Americans work more hours than do their Parisian counterparts. They get less vacation. They are more likely to die from a stress-related heart condition. I ask you, do you honestly know anyone who has ever taken an entire month off and just relaxed? (Hey! Quit checking that e-mail and texting people at work. You're on vacation Bubba.) Hell no. You're an American. Americans don't do that.

There was a time when Babs and I attempted vacations of 3 weeks at a pop. Off to Australia and New Zealand. Spend 90% of the 3 weeks madly driving about the countryside trying to see everything we could see, and the non-driving time doing every single thing anyone who ever went there ever thought was cool. Saw a lot of cool stuff. Had to sleep for a week after getting home to recuperate. Oh, and there was the drive from Chicago to Montreal to Front Royal Virginia and Washington D.C. and back across the country to Chicago. Man was that relaxing. NOT!

What Babs and I discovered was that, like other Americans, we are not socialized in a manner that allows us to vacation for a month at a time. Vacationing is work. Vacationing is stressful. We are Americans on vacation. We just don't know how to go someplace pleasant and chill for a month at a time. Rumor has it that there are certain members of the wealthier class who are capable of going to Martha's Vineyard or some such place for a month. Some rich New Yorkers may send the family out to the Hamptons for the summer and come on the weekends. This is in direct opposition to the other end of the spectrum who spend a month preparing for a drive to Disney World so they can stand in long, hot lines for an hour at a time and go home to pay off the credit card debt over the next 6 months.

Well, Babs and I still like a good trip overseas every now and again, but we don't do it as much as we once did. It's tiresome and frankly we've already been most of the interesting places on the planet. We know we can't just take a 3 or 4 week trip somewhere, but we live on Lake Michigan in the summertime and it's a very pleasant experience if you let the work slow down for the summer. Its' visiting season. Go away and visit for a few days. Have visitors come to Chicago for a few days. Work a little more. Enjoy the lake front. Go away to Wisconsin or Michigan for a few days of biking and wine tours. Then come home and enjoy some more work heavily mixed with relaxation at home. Come September, one's batteries are recharged. One is ready to take on the world once again.

If, by chance, you should decide to take advantage of visiting season in Chicago, hurry and call in your reservation, the one extra bedroom at the R & B B & B books up quickly, and hey Babs and I may be in Traverse City. You never know. Visiting season, it isn't the City of Paris emtying out for the Cote d'Azur, but it's certainly a healthy American alternative.

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