Inhuman Swill : Race

Infidel dog

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Infidel dog
This morning,
with a high of seventy degrees in the forecast,
amazing for a November in Chicago,
I drove the dog to Warren Park.
That's where we go for a special treat
instead of our usual neighborhood walk,
because the squirrel chasing is most excellent,
and there are never any cops there to harass you,
a scofflaw walking his dog off its leash.

We like to run up the steps of the sledding hill,
which a parks department sign actually proclaims "Sledding Hill,"
and then charge down the slope,
after which we make our way around the skirt of the hill
where the squirrels rummage through the leaves
like so many bargain hunters.
We crunch crunch crunch across the orange carpet,
and if we're lucky we spot a squirrel far enough out
in the open that Ella can chase it full-bore
back to its tree.
She has never once caught one.
Or at any rate never killed one.

Next we like to follow the cinder jogging path
all the way around the little nine-hole golf course embedded
like an off-center yolk
in the albumen of the park,
and that's exactly what we did this morning.
I walked in the leaves at the side of the path,
trying to encourage Ella to do the same,
but unless she has a rodent, lagomorph or marsupial in her sights
she prefers to walk on pavement. Go figure.

We were on the south side of the golf course,
the tall chain-link fence meant to protect us from flying balls
off to our left,
when I saw two men coming our way along the path,
youngish men—younger than I, at any rate—
neatly bearded men dressed in long robes the color of wet sand.
It was already warm enough out that I was regretting
the heavy coat I wore over my hooded sweatshirt.
I snapped my fingers imperiously,
calling for Ella to return to my side,
to leave the path and get out of the way
of the two youngish men engaged in animated talk.

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Amazing race

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Annotated Urban Dare clue sheet
Laura and I had a ton of fun yesterday running Chicago's 2009 Urban Dare race. Urban Dare is a scavenger hunt that takes you all over your city to solve trivia puzzles, collect photographs, and complete a few dares. You're only allowed to travel by foot or on public transportation. You need a phone, a digital camera, and a PDA with internet access—preferably all in one.

We started at noon in Oz Park. A trivia question got things underway. Every two-person team was directed to stand in a certain group depending on their answer to a multiple-choice question: In what year did Chicago's Playboy magazine publish its first issue? Since I, ahem, knew the answer was 1953 (come on, Marilyn Monroe was Miss December), Laura and I were in the first group to get our clue sheets and get started on the race.

We took our clue sheet to a nearby Orange Julius/Dairy Queen combo to have some ice cream and decipher our clues. We had to hit 11 stations throughout the city. For each clue we had to figure out where we were supposed to go, and what the best order would be for hitting them all. Once we had the locations plotted, we decided to tackle them from north to south.

It probably would have been smartest to just hope we would be able to pick up #7 (photo of a Cubs and Twins fan together) somewhere along the way, but we decided to ride up toward Wrigley Field first of all. As it turned out, we found our victims the moment we stepped onto the train. That let us head back to our next challenge without traveling all the way to Wrigley.

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Voting with the gut

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NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered have begun a fascinating joint series that convenes a panel of voters from York, Pennsylvania, for a roundtable discussion of race and how it affects the 2008 election. (Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.)

Sadly, some of the conclusions drawn seem to bear out what I was saying yesterday about voting with the gut. One white woman, after swearing that she was raised in a home utterly without prejudice, proceeded to accuse Obama of lying about not being a Muslim:

Leah Moreland, the woman who said she grew up sheltered from prejudice, plans to vote for McCain. Party loyalty is also part of her decision. But her cultural compass also comes into play. She says her gut tells her not to trust Obama.

"I look at Obama, and I have a question in my mind," she says. "Years ago, was he taken into the Muslim faith? And my concern is the only way you are no longer a Muslim is if you are dead, killed. So in my mind, he's still alive."

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The Rorschach test

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Seven years on, what does September 11th mean? Nothing.

Perhaps it would be less confrontational to say it means everything, or anything.

I had a terrible argument with a relative of mine during those bleak last months of 2001. I said something to the effect that a person's experience of September 11th was more valid if he or she was there, or at least that's how, in my clumsy way of speaking, my words came across. My relative took great offense at the idea that he wasn't as affected in Utah as I was in New York City. "You're telling me," he said, "that you wouldn't feel bad if someone blew up the Church Office Building in Salt Lake?"

"Of course I'd feel bad," I said. "But I wouldn't feel the same way as a person in Salt Lake. It would be more abstract for me."

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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