“Weed!” giggles an eighteen year old wearing nothing but a bandana to cover her chest. She does a little flutter kick in the air before pirouetting. Spinning without much control, she stops herself upon hitting another person. She plants a wet kiss on this strangers face, blushes, then runs away. A group of three fifty-year-old women headed from the bar tent walk past me while laughing to one another. “This is the time we would run into our kids, while we’re each double fisting!” One of the mothers snorts, sloshing the foam of her Hoegaarden onto the grounds of Grant Park.
I’m standing next to Turtle Boy, one of four bronze statues forming a rectangle around Buckingham Fountain in the center of the park. His companions, Dove Girl, Fischer Boy, and Crane Girl are out of sight. The statue sits in a small pond surrounded by a ring of roses. 16 jets of water spit water at the boy who is stands with his foot perched on the back of a turtle. Turtle Boy they call him, not Boy Dominion, not Turtle With The World On His Back.
From my position next to Turtle Boy, I can see across the long stretch of of the park. It’s beaux arts and art deco statues, landscaping, and lines all the way down. Elm trees in allées offer shade and tranquility, But the park is overrun today. Throngs of people a smashing about, careening into one another trying to get from point A to B, most with little understanding of what A and B are. Sound punctuates the air bending the trees, redirecting the wind, recreating the space. The park is a fair ground.
Before the city of Chicago was incorporated, the lakefront property where Grant Park sits was was designated public grounds. No buildings were to be erected there. As the city of Chicago was built the land erosion caused the lakefront to fill with water, turn to muck, and generally be swampy. After the Chicago fire in 1871, the wreckage of the city was pushed into the lake creating the lakefill where Grant Park sits today. On ashes, trees grow. On ashes, we romp. It’s turtles all the way down.