Saturday, June 28, 2014

Really Inara? Not even the Venus Flytraps are cool?

Jeez I’m not great at this blogging thing. I feel terrible about it, because I originally started doing this to write about my life in Strasbourg, and I got a certain amount of mileage out of “new baby” in Los Angeles, but at a certain point “new baby” took up all my mental energy and my distaste for Los Angeles left me uninspired for topics. Then my blogging muscles atrophied. Plus, I got more competent at travelling, thus losing the wellspring of my writing inspiration: travel mishaps.

All of which is a shame, because I now live in a new city that I love, and have a whole new genre of mishap about which to write, namely parenting-related ones. 

As I am still awaiting permission to work in this country, I am home most days with Inara while Sana and Amynah do their various things at the University (pre school and professoring, respectively). I get two days a week during which Inara is in a small local daycare, both so that she has kids her own age to hang out with, but also so that I get some mental health/writing days.

This week, I put Inara on her tricycle and we toddled off to the daycare, only to arrive at an empty house - they were closed for vacation. I’m sure, technically speaking, they had told me this, but since we ourselves were focussed on preparing for and then embarking upon our recent visit to Edmonton, this crucial fact appears to have slipped my memory.

So: a day with Inara, no plans, no routine to fall back on. On a whim, I decided to bike to the Garfield Park Conservatory, which the Internet tells me is one of the jewels of the Chicago Parks system (which is saying something).

Accordingly, I took a quick look at Google Maps, loaded Inara onto the bike, stopping for a brief chat with our mail carrier beforehand. She looked at me as if I were crazy. I'm not sure if it was in a "that's a lot of biking" way, or a "you're going to get yourself killed" way.

This is where “travel mishaps” and “parenting mishaps” converge. Only after the fact did I discover that Garfield Park is supposed to be in one of Chicago’s more dangerous neighbourhoods(See Footnote) - which might explain my perhaps paranoid sensation that, when I took a wrong turn en route, the young gentlemen who appeared to be conducting business on the street corners greeted the sight of a gray haired dude in cargo shorts on a bike with a Elsa Princess Doll in the basket and a chattering three-year-old in the rear seat with the gape-mouthed amazement they might greet the spectacle of a rampaging flock of ostriches.

It was, nonetheless, a pleasant enough ride and the Conservatory itself was wonderful - there were lots of pretty flowers for Inara to get mad that she couldn’t pick, noxious berries she couldn’t eat, and exotic trees for her to ignore, saving me from reading any of the helpful signs up (Jens Jenssen something something landscape artist something something?). She did love the koi pond, and expended a great deal of energy outside chasing a chimney swift. 

So, anyone considering visiting me in Chicago should know: if plants are your thing, we have them, apparently.

(*)  Given that someone in my neighborhood recently felt they had  good reason to put up a homemade poster on our street corner reminding passerby that dogfighting is both cruel and criminal, I really have no idea how to judge which neighborhoods are good or bad anymore.