Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life...

Life, it would seem, is an endless cycle of routines. I get up every day at the same time, leave for work at the same time, engage in a similar set of work-related tasks for eight hours, and then, on the majority of days, I return home to a solitary evening of television and surfing the web. I have been keeping myself a bit busier of late; as it turns out, starting this blog has been a tremendous source of motivation to get out and do interesting things, so that I'll have something to write about. Generally speaking, however, my life is subject to the normal ebb and flow of daily life, and it is comfortable, if somewhat tedious.

That is why it is so important to look for joy in the small things, the innocuous events that provide a little relief from the typical routine. Last week, for instance, I was sitting on the bus, vacantly staring out the window, when a commotion caught my eye. A man was standing in the middle of the State Street Bridge in a bright yellow suit and turquoise shirt, waving his jacket in the air and twirling around. At first, I was dismissive. I thought, "Meh, just another crazy," but then, like a flash, I realized that I was in the presence of Suit Man, aka Riverace, aka Vincent Falk. If I had been wearing more comfortable shoes, I would have jumped off the bus at that very stop, backtracked, and taken a picture. I'm still kicking myself that I didn't do it anyway.

You see, Mr. Falk is a Chicago legend. There is even a documentary about him.

Okay, so I stole this one from Flickr. He's at least wearing the same outfit.

Blind from birth in one eye, and legally blind in the other, Mr. Falk has had a hard life. He was abandoned by his mother, raised in orphanages and foster homes, until he finally found a good foster family who adopted him. He was often picked on as a child for his disability, and pursued a line of work where he could spend a great deal of time alone: computer sciences. Despite his tragic origins, he chooses to spread joy to others. He has adopted a technicolor wardrobe of ostentatious suits, selected because the bright colors are easiest for him to see. He spends his free time, in the warmer months, as a one-man welcome wagon for the city of Chicago. Mr. Falk stands on the State Street and Michigan Avenue bridges in his flamboyant ensembles, using a monocle to scout out approaching cruise ships. As they near, Mr. Falk performs a whirling dance routine for the tourists.

Some speculate that he does his little dance to break down barriers. I like to think that he is claiming ownership of people's stares. If people are going to gawk at him, at least it's because he is performing for them, not because they are poking fun at his disability. It's on his own terms. Mr. Falk, however, claims that he just likes to cheer people up, and that he certainly does.

In all my years of life in the city, I had never seen him before. Ever since I first read about him in the
Chicago Tribune a couple years ago, I had been on the lookout. I was starting to wonder if he was real, or just another urban legend. Now I have seen him with my own eyes, albeit just a glimpse, but the experience made my entire day. His wacky ebullience is infectious. Not only is he a one man attraction for tourists, he also provides a moment of escape for the jaded locals who go about their days on autopilot, screening out the life of the city all around them. Seeing him, in his kaleidoscopic swirl, I was jarred into paying attention to my surroundings. For an instant, I was living in the moment, and outside of my routine. I think that would brighten anyone's day.

1 comment:

  1. I always say, show me a bored person, and I will show you a boring person.Everyday we get up is a gift, especially when we get older. Anything that we see or do after that, is a bonus. Your dad always looks on the bright side of things. He is the ultimate optimist. Iam privileged to have him as a friend. I could only imagine what it is like to have him as a dad. Count your blessings my dear!