“Meet you back here in 15,” my wife says pointing at the Findlay Market entrance. A big crowd and bright sun is out this lively July Fourth weekend. She’s headed for the produce and farmer’s market. I’m going for the grill. The ribs, fresh sausage and burgers are flying off the counters today. Aren’t we the town of flying pigs? I plunge into the river of shoppers and make my way to the meat counter line, content to people watch and take in the sights and sounds. Lots of Chicago T-shirts and hats are in town for the Reds-Cubs game. They can have their deep dish pizza. Hot brown mustard, fresh metts and sauerkraut is how we roll around here. Slabs of fresh ribs stack up on the scale, get the customer nod and then mummy wraps of brilliant white paper for the shopping bag and car ride home. “Do you have anything vegetarian?” a young lady asks the meat counter guy. (This is roughly equivalent to the time my wife ordered a white wine spritzer at a restaurant in Tuscany’s red wine region. ) The clerk fields the question with the equanimity of an easy grounder and points to containers of kraut. He hands one over no charge.
On this first Independence Day weekend after the pandemic, the blessings of liberty are in the air. People go to the market, that’s what humans do, an ancient ritual really. Open-air marketplaces across the globe have long been places for humanity in all its variety to stroll, look, consume, shop, displaying an endless variety of faces, none exactly the same. “How come the peaches are so scrawny this year?” an old fella loudly chirps to a clerk who obviously knows the guy as a regular and chirps back: “How come you’re so ugly?” Both laugh and others join.
Independence. Freedom. What do these words mean really? Abstract ideas, yes. But they reside also in the every-day and the particular. Without the particularity of moment, time, people and context, liberty is abstract. And without the organizing , regular remembrance of a big ideal, liberty can get lost in the particulars. So the blessings of liberty are kept in mind, even in the ribs line. This day, liberty feels like walking around Findlay Market in the sunshine, vaccinated thanks to the wonders of American science, with a fresh squeezed lemonade and grill fixins for the Fourth. Fifteen minutes …time to get back to that rendez-vous.