Monday, May 25, 2009

Laughter, Hilltops, and Utilitarian Signage

Last night, I had dinner with a very old friend. Well, she's not THAT old, but we've been friends for a very long time--25 years this August. We're both pretty strong-willed and we've hit some glitches over the years, but one thing that has never changed is the laughter. She's pretty funny--a former stand-up comedian, actually--so I have no idea whether this is a function of some chemistry between us or she makes everyone she comes in contact with laugh non-stop.

Well, that's not entirely true. I'm pretty sure we were only entertaining ourselves the day we returned to our college dorm and earnestly proclaimed our conversion to Hare Krishna ("I know it sounds crazy, but we really listened to these people, and what they're saying made a lot of sense...") or with the tea-time marble ritual. I suspect that it would have been the same last night, when we decided it was imperative that we use brightly colored post-it notes to improve the park district signage. I mean, what good is a map with no "You are here" icon?

But some things are universal. EVERYONE (yes, this means you) should go out at once, find a grassy hill, remove his or her shoes and roll down it as quickly as possible. I know you're skeptical, but I'm really sure on this. Seriously. Take your kids. Lie on your side, stretch your arms over your head, and just roll. Let the momentum build.

My friend was a little skeptical, too--especially about the part where she had to hang her purse in a tree and leave it unattended to climb the hill. But I think she's been converted now. Rolling down a hill barefoot in the cool grass has much more to offer than the Krishnas ever will (no offense to any followers who might happen to be reading this).

There was one somber moment, though...the moment when I noticed this sturdy and utilitarian sign marring the otherwise lovely landscape of the riverbank:


I feared I might be responsible.

In the summer of 1989, I walked that same path late at night with a young man. I don't want to name any names, since he's now a respectable professional with a wife and two kids, a member of my church and (most importantly) my friend on Facebook, where this blog feeds into my notes. But in those days he was best known as guitarist for the dive-bar band Big Daddy Pickle & the Sweet Midgets.

Long after dark, we encountered a yellow and orange sculpture that purely begged to be climbed. It was created in a sort of woven grid--it looked for all the world like a jungle gym. And at its foot was a quaint, hand-painted sign that said, "Please Keep Off the Sculptures". I remember the sign clearly (and not just because I still have it somewhere in my storage unit). It was wood, painted a lovely sea green with pale blue writing on it, and it scarcely disturbed the landscape. I was something of a legalist, though, and when Bruce..errr...the guy I was with...suggested that we climb the sculpture I pointed to the sign. "It says right there..."

Smile.

Shrug.

Snap.

He placed the sign neatly face down in the grass and gestured to the sculpture again. It was, indeed, meant for climbing. Since it was already broken, I took the sign home with me. My mother, never conventional, laughed and said, "That's almost worth getting some sculptures."

This new sign couldn't be removed by human hands. It's much smaller and much more modern, and I'm quite sure those signs would have been updated by now anyway...but I'm willing to give back the original, if they'd like to go back to those quant, hand-painted signs that sat so nicely among the flora.

1 comment:

Margo said...

Well said, my dear friend. Well said.