I was down by Lake Michigan yesterday, thinking about some things. The sun was setting, yet there wasn't much activity along the lake, as the sun set at 4:34 PM because it's that weird time right after Daylight Saving Time ends so most people were still at their jobs which is good because people have stuff to do. It was just so dark so early, just so early to be so dark.
That's how many people feel in the city this week. By the way, this city is Chicago. That is where I live. Other people live in different cities, but not me. I live in Chicago. You can tell because that's what all the proper documentation says, 'CHICAGO,' or 'This is Chicago (in case you weren't sure).' Go see for yourself--there's signs all over the city that say that, or at least that's what their subtext says. Anyway, lots of people here in Chicago are down this week. So, I was thinking about that, among other things, right alongside Lake Michigan. Also by the way, that sure does confuse if this is Chicago or not. You see, Chicago is in Illinois. Michigan is not Illinois, so therefore Chicago is not in Michigan. However, Lake Michigan touches Chicago, so sometimes I will think to myself, wait, is this Chicago, or Michigan? Luckily they have those signs all over the city, so whenever I get confused by this, I just look at one of those signs. And that's why they call them the Great Lakes.
As I sat there, thinking about all kinds of crazy and great stuff--stuff that if I told people about they'd say, "Woh, what are you talking about? You can't think that. I've never thought that or even thought about that. How did you think of that? You probably should think about something else, because that is not what most people would think about. At least I wouldn't think about it, and I hope I'm like most people. Wait, should I think about that? Crap, you just blew my mind." People talk about things 'blowing their minds' way too much nowadays. It's not that hard or surprising to have wild, unique thoughts. After all, the human brain is one of the most incredible things in existence. Let's give ourselves some credit here, people. We are the ones who were wise enough to name such an excellent set of big old lakes the Great Lakes, after all--I felt small. I don't mean that I was shrinking or anything, just that I felt small, like, you know, as a person in this big world. A world so big it's even bigger than any two of the Great Lakes combined. That's pretty big, and if I were shrinking, my shoes would have fallen off. I felt small because no matter what happens, especially after the election that just happened, so many people are so unhappy. Some people are happy, some people are unhappy, and either way, people are out there doin' stuff, like riding scooters or not riding scooters. Unless you are a cup of hot chocolate with tons of whipped cream on top of it, you just can't make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try or how much whipped cream you put on your head like a big, fluffy hat. That's why the Queen wears big, fluffy hats: to try and make everyone happy.
Like the Queen, I'm just so confused about how to make everyone happy. I know it's not my job, but I mean in general. It's what I was thinking about, amongst all kinds of other incredible, surprising, and often hilarious things. I think that it would be nice to make everyone happy, because when people are happy, that's good, and good is better than bad. I mean, sometimes it's pretty fun to be bad, like the kind of bad where you say, "Oh, I'm bad!" as you let your hand fall limp like the lid falling shut on a cookie jar, like the kind of "Oh, I'm bad!" you are when you wake up and just eat a cookie. Waking up and eating a cookie right away is not how you usually start the day and objectively it's a bad way to start the day, but still, it feels good to eat cookies, so that's how it feels good to be bad. Still, overall it's better to be good than bad, because outside of the cookie breakfast example, most of the rest of the time bad is bad. I think it would be nice if everyone were happy, but to be fair, I'm not wearing a big, fluffy hat. I sure would like one, though!
"You can't make everyone happy," says every Dad ever as he struggles to work the new television remote. Yet sometimes it seems like Dads are the unhappiest people of all, at least until they for once win the battle with that Goddamn new remote, the evil enemy of Daddom known as "The Clicker," forever hiding in one of the couches, forever is this out of batteries or where do I point this Goddamn thing?
It's undoubtedly naively over-idyllic to want to make everyone happy, but still, it's so hard to know what to want. There are many things. How do these things get grouped together? What is the best way to group stuff? Is the best combination of things and stuff a smoothie? Is it a sandwich or maybe a stew? Perhaps a crockpot or a casserole? Is it a buffet? Is it family-style? Is it a goulash? Do you have any idea how many different tries it took to spell goulash? Or maybe it's one thing where everything is the same thing, like a donut?
"Do you want a Hertz Donut?" said a voice behind me.
"I would love a Hertz Donut," I said, still facing the lake but not as if the lake was speaking to me. I just happened to still be facing the lake when the voice that was clearly behind me spoke to me, asking me if I wanted a Hertz Donut. Cut me some slack, I was deep in miraculous though.
Just like that, I got hit super, super hard, right in the shoulder. Like, I might go so far as to say I got the shit hit out of me. I probably would go so far as to say I got the shit hit out of me. Actually, you know what, I will go so far as to say I got the shit hit out of me: I got the shit hit out of me. Right in the shoulder, right as I was facing the lake. I mean, I didn't literally get the shit hit out of me. I did not poop in my pants. However, it did hurt really hard when I got hit super, super hard, right in the shoulder. As hard as it can hurt without making you poop your pants.
"Ow!" I yelled, which is so dumb but for some reason that's what people usually say when they get hurt, even though it's completely and totally illogical.
"Hurts, don' it!" said the voice.
It was at this moment that I turned around, because I was tricked into thinking the voice (not the NBC show, although you can see the similarity with me hearing someone without seeing them) had asked me for a donut by a company called Hertz, when actually it was a cruel play on words intended to fool me. Which it totally did! I was fooled. Like a fool!
"Hey, what was that for--"
There, standing formerly behind and currently in front of me, stood a huge, strange man. He was the tallest man I had ever seen. He had long, skinny legs, like a stork. His torso was plump and peppery-white, like a stork. His face had beady eyes and a long nose, like a stork, while his arms were wide with long, feathery fingers, also like a stork. This man was like a stork.
"You, sir, are a stork," I said. Between when I observed him and when I spoke to him, I went ahead and connected the dots, turning 'like a stork' to 'are a stork.' "And you, stork-man, have deceived me, much like how a shiny new remote deceives any and every Dad in the whole wide world."
"If I am a stork, then why immediately switch from 'stork' to 'stork-man,' you know what I mean?" he said. "Like, if at first you thought I was going to be some guy, but then you decided I am a stork, just call me 'stork.' Don't combine the two. That only backs off your claim and lessens your perceived confidence."
"That's a great point. That's a really great point," I said. "Stork," I also said in a kind of half-connected, half-unconnected tone, making it unclear if 'stork' was connected to my last sentence or not. I pretty much just threw 'stork' out there.
"I am not a stork," he said.
"Then why did you give me a Hurts-Don'-It?" I asked.
"What does that have to do with my identity?" he asked.
"Another great point," I said. 'Wow, this guy makes a ton of great points,' I thought, not said. I didn't say that second part that I thought because, I mean, he was a stranger. I couldn't say just anything complimentary all willy-nilly to him if I didn't know him! That's something you tell a friend.
"Thank you." He said, "Although I may look like a stork, I am not a stork--"
"Look, buddy, I feel like you've done nothing but demonstrate your power over me this whole time and honestly, can you please just get to the part where you tell me who or what you actually are?" I said.
"Dude, that was the next thing I was just about to say before you cut me off," said whatever the hell he is, I didn't know yet.
"Strike three," I muttered.
"Nothing. Never mind. Go on," I said.
"I am actually a crane," said the crane. In case you missed it, he's a crane, not a stork. Did you ever read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes? I didn't.
"A crane? You mean to tell me that you're not just a man covered in feathers standing on stilts?" I said.
"No. But you could be, friend," said the crane. Fricken' sweet, I made myself a new friend, just like that. Yipee!
"Hey, now that we're friends, I want to tell you that you make a lot of great points. I didn't tell you that before, but I thought it after you said identity has nothing to do with Hurts-Don'-Its--"
As I spoke, my new friend ate a fish real quick. That's what cranes do. They eat fish and they love it! "In Finding Nemo, the sharks say, 'Fish are friends, not food.' Finding Nemo is not a movie admired by cranes."
He clearly didn't hear any of my compliment. "Pretty interesting," I said. It wasn't like really interesting, but it was interesting enough.
"Anyway, my friend, what would you say if I told you you could be a man covered in feathers standing on stilts?"
"I'd tell you that you make a lot of great points, now that we're friends. Just like I said after you said that last time."
Again, as I spoke, my crane friend ate another fish, real quick. I could tell that it was going to be hard to give him compliments on the count of he's always eating fish real quick-like. Everyone has their flaws, and so maybe everyone can be your friend, if you have enough fish.
"Yes, I am certifiably a crane," he said as he lifted his arm and revealed a shiny, golden badge that read 'CRANE.' "And although you are not, you could be certified as such. Certified as a crane."
"I do like fish," I said. Which is true. I do like fish.
"My friend, you are so very small."
"Holy cows, you can tell that I was sitting here feeling small?"
"No, I mean you're short."
"I'm not short," I said.
"How tall are you?"
"A pinch over five foot ten and a half. Close to five foot eleven."
"You trying so hard to stretch that makes me think you're probably closer to just over five foot ten," said crane. Crane said. Crane. He's a crane.
He tilted his bird head a bit. "Come on."
"OK. You're right. That's fair," I said. I haven't been measured for a long time and I've been working on my posture a lot, so I do think I'm close to 5'11". But I didn't say that to the crane, because even though we are friends, I don't have to say everything to him.
"Plus you look super young, so that makes you seem short, for some reason."
"Yeah, I think we can move past this part," I said.
"My friend, we must all be as big as we can be. We can always go up from where we are."
"But, I can't fly," I said.
"Not yet. Or ever, actually, just to be clear before you get too overly excited. My friend, look at that skyline."
He pointed to the skyline. If you want to see the skyline that he pointed at, look at the picture at the top. I'll put a bold asterisk below this sentence so you can scroll up then come back down and easily find your place.
"By the way, there are no fish in that fountain. Trust me. I've checked," he said, rolling his beady little crane eyes. It was hard to tell if he actually did roll them or not because his eyes were so small and so beady, but I like to think he did. "That doesn't mean there won't be fish in at at some point, though," he said, clearly more to assure his own optimism than mine.
"It's a beautiful fountain and a beautiful skyline."
"My friend, what is the tallest building you see?" asked crane.
"The Sears Tower. It's actually the Willis Tower but to all of us Chicagoans"--I pointed at one of the many 'This is Chicago (in case you weren't sure)' signs surrounding the fountain, which even though you might have a hard time seeing in that picture are totally there--"it'll always be the Sears Tower," I said and I'm right because it's true.
"Correcto-mundo my man!" said crane. We high-fived. His filthy bird fingers reeked of fish. "Do you know how the Sears Tower got so tall?"
"It flew up there?" I replied. Pretty dumb guess, but I don't know.
"Say whaaaaaaaaat!?" said crane, crossing his wing arms in front of him while wearing flashy sunglasses and suddenly he was wearing a red hat and it turned sideways all on its own is not what crane said or did but holy shit that would be funny if he did. "No, it was built up so tall."
"But how?" I asked. I guess I ask a lot of questions, now that I think about it. To be fair, I'm just so curious about the world around me and also the abundant questions seem like a fine way to further this story.
"Not 'but how.' The question is: by who?"
"People," I said.
"Incorrect. Look." He pointed one of his long, disgusting, stinky fish fingers at another tall building.
There, perched on top of the tall building, was a strange man. He had long, metallic, pole-like legs, like a crane. He had a square operating cab for a head, like a crane. He had a long, strong, metal arm and a long, retractable cable for a hand, both like a crane. Do you see where this shit is going? This man wasn't even a living thing. But he was still a crane! PS there aren't a lot of appropriate crane adjectives besides 'long.'
"Ay, caramba!" I said, trying out a cool new catch phrase for me.
"It does not suit you well," said bird-crane.
"I agree," said building crane not really but that would have been great timing and simply delightful.
"Yes, we cranes built this world tall."
"No. Not everything," I said.
"Yes, everything," crane said.
"Statue of Liberty?"
"The Egyptian pyramids!?" I asked.
"Aliens. But everything else by cranes."
"Wow. It really makes you think," I said. Does it make you think? Either way, you have no way of telling me. And if somehow you find me and try to tell me, I'm just going to eat a fish all quick-like.
"So, do you see what my point is, friend?" asked crane.
"No. But even if I did, please articulate it."
"We can't all make everyone happy. No one can. Except cranes. We can do anything. Except tolerate that horrible propaganda film, Finding Nemo. Outside of that, we cranes can do anything, because we cranes can make anything as big as can be. We cranes can be as big as can be. We cranes are as big as can be. That's all we can do. I mean, it's pretty fricken' amazing, to be so big, but still, that's all we can do."
"I understand now," I said. I don't actually know if I understood or not, but it seemed like he was about to give me something cool, so I wanted to get to that part.
"Here, take this," said crane. He handed me some stilts, a handsome feather suit, and a really big carrot.
"Is my nose really going to be a carrot?" I asked.
As I asked, that son of a bitch ate another fish real quick-like. Me and crane are great friends so obviously I use son of a bitch as a term of endearment, but still, it's frustrating that he doesn't catch everything I say. I put on the costume, carrot and all. I could tell that I looked incredible.
"You're one of us now," said crane. Then crane flew south for the winter. Bird crane, that is. Construction crane had to stay on top of the building because like I said at the very beginning, people have stuff to do.
I still live in Michigan--no, wait, it's Chicago. I just checked one of those signs. However, ever since that day, I'm a bigger person. I still think about all kinds of dazzling, original stuff, but now I'm taller than I've ever been before in my entire life on account of the stilts I got from that crane with the repulsive fishy mitts. I write crane often, but I doubt any of my letters ever reach him, because my handwriting is completely illegible now so the Postal workers probably throw them away. You see, my handwriting is so bad--and unfortunately not morning cookie bad--because I too have filthy bird fingers. They suck at writing but holy shit, are they good at catching fish. Most people don't know this, but the long beak is just a diversion we cranes use to actually snatch fish with our bird wing hands.
There are many things and much stuff, but still, no fish in the Buckingham Fountain. There may not ever be any fish in that fountain. There may have never been any fish in that fountain. Legend has it that long ago, back before people when only cranes roamed the Bloop Planet, the Buckingham Fountain was full of fish. But that's just a legend and let's be honest, no legend is accountable, just like political statisticians and pollsters. No matter what, we must keep checking it for fish, because that's what hoping for a better tomorrow is all about: fish. Just fish everywhere.
This is the way of the crane. I can not speak for storks.