Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Ben Hecht: Lake Thoughts
Ben Hecht: Lake Thoughts

Ben Hecht: Lake Thoughts

In 1921, the Chicago Daily News began running a column by Ben Hecht entitled “One Thousand and One Afternoons.” Ruminating on life in general and on Chicago more particularly, Hecht considered the role of Lake Michigan in a Chicagoan's psyche:

During the summer day the beaches are lively and the vari-colored bathing suits and parasols offer little carnival panels at the ends of the east running streets. As you pass them on the north side bus or on the south side I.C., the sun, the swarm of bathers smeared like bits of brightly colored paint across the yellow sand and the obliterating sweep of water remind you of the modernist artists whose pictures are usually lithographic blurs.

Yet winter and summer, even when the thousands upon thousands of bathers cover the sand like a shower of confetti and when there are shouts and circus excitements along the beach, people who look at the lake seem always to become sad. One wonders why.

It is when one leaves the city and goes to visit or to live in another place where there is no lake that the lake grows alive in one's mind. One becomes thirsty for it and dreams of it. One remembers it then as something that was almost an essential part of life, like a third dimension. In some way one associates one's day dreams with the lake and falls into thinking that there is something unfinished, sterile about living with no lake at one's elbow.

Hecht, Ben. 1001 Afternoons in Chicago. 1922; 1992, 231–234.