Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 15, 2010

Hawks, Stephen Hawking and the Downtown Blues

Boys of Winter Brighten Up Our Summer

Big weekend for Chicago, and for the Nielsens. On Friday, Graham and I went on G’s birthday-present jaunt with my sister and most of his cousins to look in on the Blackhawks’ victory parade (crowded, but cool), then on to the Adler Planetarium, and finally for a swim at Montrose St. Beach. Cousin Cole, who got a free red Blackhawks “terrible towel”, said it was the best weekend ever… and then I reminded him it was only Friday night!

Next door at Grant Park, city workers were setting up for the big Blues Festival, which started Friday night. I wanted to be two people: one who would stay downtown till 2am goofing off like a bachelor, the other who would revel in the company of his sweet family and still get the kids in bed by 9pm (oh, okay… make it ten, it’s the weekend).

Later, after riding the el north to pick up my car, Graham and I finished off the night going to our friend Rachel Shelly’s high school graduation party.

Graham liked the planetarium best, as usual, especially the “in-flight movie”. We saw a film on the dome about the birth of stars, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. When they showed stars forming from gases in a nebula, my son clapped. Actually clapped. When it comes to appreciating the wonders of Creation, he really gets it.

Not like that atheistic, coldhearted astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who despite having all the answers scientifically strikes me as a miserable, one-dimensional person who has let science and his disability pummel his spirit down to the size of a pea. Not that I don’t stand behind most of his scientific work. I just think of him like I think of New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez: a godless, joyless mercenary who’s great at his job, but I wouldn’t want him on my team for any amount of money. Unless he learns to surrender to the Mystery, …in which case, I’ll let Stephen pitch. If Einstein believed in God, who are you to argue, Steve?!?

The other three cousins liked the great new Boeing-sponsored Planet Explorers kids’ play area/exhibit best. The opportunity to crawl around in tunnels under the moon’s surface, then stick their heads up thru a crater into a clear Lucite dome like prairie dogs, proved hard to resist. (Though I did resist… probably wouldn’t have fit under there anyway.) Anyone up for a game of interstellar Whack-A-Mole!?!

For a bit of earth science fun at Montrose Harbor, Mark the Nerder-Birder told his sister Laura all about the “Magic Hedge”: a large wooded area just south of Montrose Beach where many species of migrating birds rest after a long flight across Lake Michigan. She wasn’t exactly rapt with attention, but she had the sense to remember a bit about the Audubon Society, at which point I made up some semi-intelligent stuff about the difference between ornitholigists and birders (BTW, calling us “bird-watchers” is like calling a Trekker a Trekkie — feh!)

The kids loved the beach. No duh.

Saturday was all about Graham’s “official” birthday party/magic show with his friends, and Sunday featured a date with Sue to hear Fr. Richard Rohr speak and sign advance copies of his new book, On the Threshold of Transformation. But those need to be stories for another day.


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