On my daily walk up and down Oak Park Avenue the other day, I ran into Doug Wyman, looking buoyant in his wide-brimmed, leather Australian bush hat, who had just gotten off the Green line following a meeting with someone in the Loop about business. “We’re going to help President Obama turn this economy around,” he said with no trace of irony.
Doug is one of those natural salesmen: Pleasant, omnipresent smile, mellifluous voice, and lots of positive mental attitude. Now in his late 70s, he shows no interest in retiring. “I’m having too much fun,” he says. Besides, his wife wouldn’t want him hanging around. I’ve noticed that men who refuse to retire always lay part of the blame on their long-suffering wives.
He also isn’t retiring from politics (he’s a dedicated veteran VMA organizer), which he blames on his grandfather, who sent him up and down stairwells in Detroit in 1936 to pass out brochures for Roosevelt. “‘You helped get him elected,’ he told me,” Doug recalled.
That was the height of the Depression, of course, and now, who knows, maybe another. Doug remembered that the local movie theater owner would let them in as long as they gave him a potato or tomato or some other food staple, which he could use to feed his kids. Doug’s parents had a backyard garden at that time. A lot of people did. The Obamas are reportedly starting one at the White House.
In uncertain times, it pays to pay attention to people who have been there before. People like Doug Wyman, who are still having fun in his 70s and never plans to retire.
Meanwhile, today is technically the first day of spring, which takes its time in arriving in these parts, but one thing you can count on: This time of year, the sun sets directly at the end of every street, due west. From there it heads north, toward summer. Happy Vernal Equinox.