Blog Submitted by: Deb Pahl Photo Credit: Chad Ulam (chadulam.com)
The saying goes, “You can’t go home again.”
If there’s a beach involved, trust me, you can go home again. You see, I’m am what my family now lovingly refers to as a, ‘FIP.’ And for the Northwest Indiana-uneducated audience out there, that would be a, ‘F*cking Illinois Person.’ Pest? Parasite? Pain-in-the…? I think you get the gist.
And I get why you hate us. I was you. Still am you. As a born and raised Michigan City native, I also once harbored ill will against every one of those Illinois plates that descended upon our sweet little city each and every summer. Backing up traffic on Franklin Street. Filling up the Washington Park lot. Claiming every precious spot of sand with their fancy chairs and wagons and coolers while we looked on longingly with our threadbare sheet, warm bologna sandwiches and part of a pail. I wanted them – us – gone just as much, if not more. But now, I am one of those FIPs making the trek to the Indiana shores with my fancy chair and cooler, this time filled with a pitcher of margaritas. Why? To quote another saying, “There’s no place like home.”
That is, when home involves a Northwest Indiana beach.
After moving to Chicago more than twenty years ago (which, by local definition, now allows me to call myself a ‘Chicagoan’) I couldn’t wait to haul my tush to the beach and see what life on the other side of the lake was like. It was, in a word, ‘meh.’
The sand, although still blazingly hot, wasn’t as soft or as smooth. The water, a bit murkier and a lot colder. And the view, well, somewhat lacking. Don’t get me wrong, there is something pretty cool about catching rays with the Chicago skyline in plain sight. But a shoreline filled with nothing but dunes, a classic red-roofed lighthouse and water as far as the eye can see, is one that cannot be beat for summertime relaxation. You just close your eyes, listen to the waves lap up on the sand and you’re transported – instead of wondering if that tire screech you just heard was an accident on Lake Shore Drive.
Living on the lake is something that I always took for granted, even for as much as I depended on it. It was there for night swimming with friends at Stop 39. It was there for walks on the pier to watch the sunset. It was there for runs up and tumbles down Mount Baldy (you know, before nature turned it into a child-eating horror out of a fairytale book). But, it was just there, you know? I thought every kid in America had a lake to call their own. It wasn’t until I went to Ball State and saw these poor landlocked, Central Indiana kids reduced to swimming in something they called, ‘a quarry’, that I realized how special our lakefront is. When I brought a college friend up for a visit, she took one look and went, “Whoa! You can’t see the other side!”
Other side? It’s a friggin’ great lake! Of course you can’t see the other side! Lake Michigan had spoiled me. Swimming in a pit lined with kitty litter was beneath me. I needed to feel sand and the occasional strand of seaweed under my toes. I needed to be able to mold a sandcastle or sea turtle. I needed to see a boat float by or hear the horn of the lighthouse. And even now, I know I’ll never be able to live outside spitting distance of a body of water. Mountains? You can have ’em. Give me Lake Michigan any day.
So the next time you see an Illinois plate pass you by – probably speeding, most likely cutting you off (it’s not you – it’s a city habit) – cut us a little slack. We may have our own Land of Lincoln beaches, but they’ll never truly be home.
About the author: Deb Pahl (@debbles773) is considered creative at Chicago ad agencies and has a passion for shoes, wine and Christopher Meloni. Get in her head at her blog www.surlygirl-deb.blogspot.com
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