Summer of the Gator: Remembering the Alligator in the Humboldt Park Lagoon

Stephanie Weber
7 min readDec 23, 2019

Summer 2019 would become characterized by a rogue alligator found in Chicago’s Humboldt Park lagoon in early July. When the gator was discovered, the city erupted with joyous enthusiasm over the creature who did not belong on this side of the Mason Dixon. It didn’t belong, but we welcomed it with our big, jibarito-fed hearts. We welcomed it because we the people of Chicago needed it.

I needed it.

Summer 2019 wasn’t easy. And if it was easy for you, go fuck yourself. This piece is not for you. This piece is for the rest of us who were wrecked the second the sun got a wee bit hotter. Politically, culturally, climate-ly — we, the American people, have felt fucked over on an almost basis. So much so that the alligator in a Midwestern city lagoon was actually welcome. As a distraction and as a celebration.

Summer came late this year and because of that July felt like a series of explosions. We were held so long in the bottle of winter that when it was uncorked we sprang forward like psychotic confetti reigning chaos wherever we landed. For me, personally, the start of summer was like tumbling down a mountain and thinking, ‘well, I can only go up from here!’ But then whoops! I fell into a cave and maybe some quicksand and, excuse me, but am I in the first layer of hell now? Is there an elevator out of this mess ’cause I think I broke my leg on the fall down.

My summer began as they all do: with a breakup with a live-in boyfriend. Been there, done that, right? The breakup began in the spring, but we didn’t fully face the music until July. I had an explosive, final phone call with him during a Fourth of July barbecue. I excused myself from the backyard and sat on my friend’s front porch in Logan Square as fireworks went off around me and the two of us faced the actual end of our relationship on the Day of Independence. The symbolism was so thick you could free the colonies with it.

I had read a horoscope for myself on a Twitter account called AstroPoets — yes, I know, that’s where I was in my life— I read this only days before we blew up in a red, white, and blue blaze and it said this: “You have to suffer so much. What about the time you could have carried it all to completion. Don’t be sorry, don’t be…

Stephanie Weber

Stephanie is a writer and comedian whose work has been featured on Reductress, Slate, The Weekly Humorist, The AV Club, Mental Floss, Atlas Obscura and more.