Moran: Air & Water Show entertains despite depressing weather

Despite living in Chicago for twenty-some years and then living around it for twenty-something more, I had never attended Chicago’s Air & Water Show prior to last weekend.

It was high time to do something about that, so down to the mighty lakefront I went on Sunday, Aug. 17.

As you might have heard, I still have not seen an Air & Water Show, because Chicago decided to do its best imitation of London.

Yes, low-hanging clouds and/or fog fell upon the Lake Michigan shore from morning through afternoon, obscuring not only the top half of buildings but the window of opportunity for acrobatic aircraft.

Whatever this is that we’re living through in the summer of 2014, it is nothing like the summers of my Chicago youth, or near-Chicago everything else. Mid-August in this end of the world was always hot, humid and largely cloudless — the infamous Dog Days. Sunday was another ungainly marriage of cool and humid.

And so the backup plan was to run up and down the lakefront trail at a leisurely pace, taking in the sights and sounds of diverse and disappointed people. A world-class city on a weekend afternoon provides so many accents, so many languages, so many scents of food coming from grills that were dragged east of Lake Shore Drive.

I hit North Avenue Beach around the time word spread that the show would not go on. Families poured for the pedestrian underpasses, with grim-faced dads pulling wheeled coolers that had been heaped with chairs and children.

Two girls walked along trying to unload “hot dogs for a dollar!” A grandfather told one of his grandsons that “if you’re going to stage a protest, I’m gonna have a filibuster on your butt.” All I could do was weave through the traffic.

Much has been written or said about the uneasy relationship between weekend warriors and folks who merely want to walk on the 18-mile lakefront trail. I’ve biked or run on the trail a handful of times over the years, and I don’t really have a problem with too many people using the people’s lakefront.

If anything, I looked at the groups strolling four-wide on Sunday as steeplechase obstacles. I stayed away from confrontations like the one I saw between a vendor truck and a bicyclist who appeared to have been imbibing.

So even if booming jets were grounded, Chicago in late summer provided me with a show after all. There’s always next year for the Air & Water thing, assuming this summer is not the New Normal.

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