"Shhhhhh," I hissed loud enough to get my son's attention.
We were trekking east on 18th St. on Saturday evening, making our way to the city's annual "Venetian Night" celebration. The chatter from our group, which included four excited children, was a bit over my comfort level. Funny thing is, I doubt I would have felt the same way had we been walking in the area surrounding Washington Park.
"Venetian Night" wasn't on my summer-to-do list.
On a simmering evening, I usually head for a festival in Washington Park on the South Side. But I decided to join my son and his family at the downtown event touted as having fireworks that are better than the display the city puts on for the 4th of July.
Earlier in the day, it seemed like a good idea to take the small barbecue grill, some burgers and hot dogs for the kids, and set up a picnic in an area where we could view the parade of boats. But as the time got late, I started fretting over the barbecue grill.
I know the protocol at Washington Park. Heck, you can bring the barbecue grill, tent, boom box, and dining room table if you want to, and nobody bats an eye. But is that the way they do it at Grant Park?
Even though my son assured me that it was perfectly O.K. to bring a barbecue grill, I wasn't convinced. It didn't help that we were sweating down 18th Street dragging a huge cooler, chairs, charcoal, blankets, picnic baskets and the mini-Weber.
By the time we got to row of expensive Dearborn Park townhouses, I was feeling ghetto.
Hence, the "Shhhhhh."
That was all my son needed to break into his best Dave Chappell imitation of "Negroes" trying not to offend "White folks," as he tipped down the sidewalk pulling the cooler.
My: "what will white folks think?" is a habit I learned from my father. He always worried about how his children were perceived, and he especially didn't tolerate our talking loud or acting a fool in front of white people.
Of course, no one was paying us any attention. The few whites we ran into smiled politely and went about their dog-walking business, and the lone black woman we encountered stopped only long enough to ask what was going on.
And you know what?
The first thing we saw when we got to the park behind the Shedd Aquarium was a white man happily barbecuing.