Some things instantly remind me of summer. In the dead of winter here in Chicago, if I hear even a sound effect on television that sounds like a lawn sprinkler (chk-chk-chk-chk-chk-whir-r-r-r-r-r…), or a commercial featuring the sound of steaks sizzling on any kind of grill, my mind immediately springs forward to the warmer months we Midwesterners live for. This is not only because we get to be outdoors more often and experience certain things and places we wouldn’t otherwise in the cold-weather months. In summer, there are the outdoor, face-to-face reunions with people that also make it special. It’s true that winter also fosters a sense of community as soon as we have few other choices on weekends but to stay indoors with each other, play cards and watch movies, but there are so many more options for activities and gathering places from May through September.
Summer also brings me back home, for a time, to Flint, Michigan – the place I was born, raised, and return to every August (among other times throughout the year) for the annual Back To The Bricks car festival. Many friends and loved ones who, like me, had moved away at some point seem to come home around that time of summer, and those who still live in Flint and continue to make it a better place join up with all of us for some of the best times I usually get to have all year. To be clear, though, I have no illusions. There still remain serious struggles in Flint, including the tragic, toxic water situation that continues to afflict a substantial number of residents.
Nonetheless, Flint continues to improve and add new jobs, housing, cultural experiences, educational opportunities, and other worthwhile and essential things. For the first I can remember in my adult life, Flint has made U.S. News & World Report’s survey of the top 125 cities in which to live this year, in 2019! We placed only at 115, but the point is that we made it onto a good survey this time, and so many of us rejoiced, as we love our city and how far it has come since its nadir only two or three decades ago. Among Flint’s good qualities cited in this recognition were its good value proposition, good (and strengthening) job market, and an achievable, good quality of life.
This featured beautiful, white ’71 Chevelle next to the running sprinklers on the lawn of the apartment building next to it in my Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater immediately reminded me of something I would have seen when I was elementary-school aged. Save for its wheels, which were decidedly modern (but inoffensive to my eyes), when I squinted, I saw a scene from my old Flint neighborhood of East Village when I was still young enough to get away with tearing up the sidewalks on my trusty, treasured, blue Schwinn bicycle.
Sometimes, after I’ve committed in advance to some kind of social activity with others, and while I truly desire their company, I can start to feel a bit of anxiety creep in. (It’s nothing truly crippling, but it’s there.) Mere minutes before I photographed our subject car (almost exactly eight years ago, to the day), I had been riding the southbound Red Line train into downtown to get to the Humboldt Park neighborhood in the western part of the city to visit friends I usually don’t get to see but maybe once or twice a year. As soon as I saw this Chevelle from the train, I knew I immediately had to deboard and take some pictures of it.
It was reassuring how the sight of a once-familiar car from the city and time of my upbringing seemed to put me more at ease almost immediately, as if I was being told that no matter where I am in life, I’m never too far away from Flint, from Chevrolet, from loved ones, from memories of Dad barbecuing on the hibachi in our backyard, and from the little guy I used to be who grew up in that factory town and wanted to work in the auto industry one day. One could say I partially, tangentially succeeded in that mission. I now insure, among other things, classic cars.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, July 16, 2011.