I forget that one whole side of Illinois is bordered by the banks of the Mississippi River. That's no doubt because I'm in Chicago and we have a hard time admitting that there's anything else in Illinois but us. Plus, we've got our own big damn body of water on this side of the state, so we're always looking the other way.
Without putting too fine a point on it, the lake has thousands of miles of beautiful sandy beaches and dunes, instead of hanging trees, old refrigerators and rusty barrels, which, I admit, I have only seen in pictures, scattered along the banks of the Mississippi.
When you walk into the lake, your feet sink into a soft sandy bottom. Someone tell me that the Mississippi doesn't make your feet squish into a muddy crawfish bottom. We both have catfish. But over here they aren't big enough to eat small children.
For Chicagoans, the Mississippi side of Illinois might as well be on the other side of the world. Sure, I could drive over to Big Muddy in a couple of hours, but I've only been on that side of the state on my way to another state. Although I have been impressed by the river's size returning from LA at 30,000 feet. When you're up that high you can actually see how the river defines the shape of the state. You can also see how huge and wide it is, something that no map can ever capture.
Once in awhile you'll hear a commercial for overnight boat rides on the river and they sound like a lot of fun. Not now, of course, when all the morning shows are standing on sandbags showing where the water has breeched the levees.
Ironically, while they're having massive floods along the borders of Iowa and Illinois, we've been having some of the nicest weather of the spring over here. Blue skies, low humidity, seventy degrees. A few weeks ago, there was some flooding over here, too, but our little rivers on this side of the state haven't got the heft to swamp an entire city.
Even when we have a seiche, which is the lake version of a tidal wave, it only knocks off people fishing on the piers. It doesn't rise ten or twelve feet and stay there for days or weeks. So, as big as it is, the lake can't touch the river when it comes to causing disasters.
In fact, if the lake were an animal it would probably be a slow-moving slug. The river, on the other hand, acts like a poisonous snake.
So I'm grateful not to have Al Roker or Sam Champion broadcasting over here from the bow of an emergency relief boat anytime soon.
But when the waters subside, I think I'll drive over and pay my respects.