President Obama’s July 4th

Last time I saw old President Obama? It was right around the fourth of July. I don’t remember the year. Get to be my age and, well I’m not sure if its that I don’t remember things like what year it was, or if I just don’t care. But I do remember it was hot. Baking hot summer. Now this was a long, long time after his years running things had passed. And no one could understand why he’d spend so much time in Chicago. Gets hot here. And it also gets pretty cold.

If I had me a house in Hawaii like he does? Not sure if I’d spend all my days here.

Aw who am I kiddin. Yes I would. Home is home.

For me? It’s the Lathrop Homes. Right here on the river. Right where I am telling you this story this very second.

Now I am old enough to remember when the river was a sewer. Old Man Emanuel. He’s been the Mayor now long as I can remember. He changed that. Now we got two places to go. We got the Lake, of course. And we got the river. And if you would have told me back then that kids would be swimming in the river, that there’d be fish you could eat from that river, that there’d be boats come slicing through that water like some sort of July 4th parade, if you would have told me that years ago? I would have called you crazy.

But here I am. Right out back of my place in Lathrop. Now Lathrop, that I knew about. That was not a surprise. Kind of a secret everybody knew. Place was called a housing project. Back when Riverview, the big amusement park used to be cooking and crawling with lights and crowds and a tunnel of love and a parachute drop and a million people every summer, back then, people mostly shied away from Lathrop, which was right next door to Riverview.

Lot of people didn’t know that the very same men who designed all the fancy places on Lake Shore Drive, designed Lathrop. That Jens Jensen, best damn landscape architect that ever lived, that he made sure anybody who lived here had a garden, had trees. Fact is that 18% of the land here is open space. So Lathrop was like a piece of gold that nobody polished for a long, long time.

But that changed. Now I live here and I love it.

Old President Obama, he looked like he loved coming through here too. Course he was surrounded by about a million grandkids. All of them helping with the wheel chair. Helping him roll in through the grass where I was sitting. Where we were all sitting. My neighbors. Me. Lovin the summer.

So the little Obama parade got him on that boat. I read that he really loved that boat. Nothing made him smile like being out on that boat going up and down the river.

I wasn’t always smiling during those eight years he was in charge. Didn’t like a whole lotta things he did. Didn’t like the company he kept. Didn’t like it when it seemed he’d never fight back.

I wasn’t workin then. After 20 years working, I could not get a job to save my life. Everybody I knew—it was the same for lots of us. And the folks who had jobs? Most times they were just whatever they could get. I think that’s why it took so long for things to get better. All these people doing things they just weren’t very good at. That’ll get to you after awhile.

But it changed. Eventually it changed. And things got better. Round that time I started to write. And I never stopped. Then finally after doing that for about 10,000 hours, someone started paying me for it.

And I been fine ever since.

Old Mr. Obama? I guess what he did, well, I guess what happened cause of him is that people started thinking differently about things.

People started thinking that the way to make things better for everybody wasn’t just to make some folks richer.

People started thinking that everybody really did have a right to be healthy.

That when some folks went hungry, we all went hungry.

That anybody should be able to marry anybody they wanted. That one sounds like the easiest. Most obvious. Not sure if I remember this right, but I think it even took Mr. Obama a while to figure that one out.

All in all though, he did good.

So I got to say it’s kind of an honor to sit here in my chair on the banks of this green and growing river and watch this parade.

Right now. As I write this. His family all around him, they are helping him on the boat. 3 or 4 of them going with. Just to make sure he’s OK as he goes floating down the river. I see he’s got a book in his hands. He’s still doing about 4 things at the same time. Reading, listening, talking, watching.

And they’re turning on some music for him to take down that river. Joe Williams. I’ll be damned. Looks like he remembered Joe Williams. Man does have taste. Nobody sang a song like Joe Williams. I read where “Here’s to Life” is one of ole President Obama’s favorites. Mine too.

I wish everybody could hear Joe Williams sing that song.

We’ll be hearing it right here on the banks of the Chicago River as the boat gets ready to sail. But it sure would be good if everybody could hear it.

Maybe if I write about it, everybody will.

Boats getting ready. Everybody’s waving. Lots a smiling. Lots of laughing. Happy 4th a July they’re singing out. Waving some more and look! Look at that!

Old President Obama. He looked right up here where I am sitting and he waved and he smiled right at me!

How about that!

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