Date the Hoofbeat: Ikenna Elue
By Alex Orlowski
“I only went on this date so you could feed me,” Ikenna Elue, Adv. 909 said as we entered the train car of the Brown line. Elue is known for his keen sense of humor around the Northside community, and I was confident this was a joke. It was Dec. 20., the eve of the winter solstice, and coincidentally the premiere of this year’s traditional Hoofbeat segment known as “Date the Hoofbeat.” The air was crisp with an overcast cloudy-sky -- not the ideal conditions for a Lincoln Park Zoo rendezvous but we were going to make it work.
In an effort to get to know each other better -- and in consequence of depleted Ventra card funds -- we opted to walk down the bustling Chicago streets towards our destination. Much like a tree blocking our path, a pervasive feeling of hunger consumed us. Ikenna had his mind set on 5 Guys, the ubiquitous fast-food chain that has garnered a cult-like following in the Chicagoland area. After some intense deliberation he decided to order a classic American staple: a burger and fries. Admittedly, Elue must have been set on breaking the bank (let's just say I’m glad this was reimbursed, because my pockets are not deep enough to pay 15 dollars for a combo meal). Thankfully, the Holiday Spirit was in full swing and by its virtue, the meal was purchased and we were on our way.
Our destination was none other than ZooLights, the annual holiday lights show housed at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Upon arrival, we quickly questioned the animals’ whereabouts, given that they were nowhere to be seen. While the wildlife was a component of the zoo Elue and I were looking forward to seeing, we decided to empathize with their circadian rhythms and enjoy the other enticing aspects of ZooLights. The atmosphere created by the 2.5 million multicolored lights was inexplicable and the grandeur of it all was overwhelming. Elue expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “The lights are an experience rather than a place.” The light show kept extending onwards through the weaving paths of the zoo, enveloping every tree and piece of shrubbery in sparkling brilliance. Smaller attractions such as a Ferris wheel and a haystack maze were dispersed throughout, complementing the captivating scenery.
The ambiance of ZooLights warrants conversation, and thus we conversed. We talked about our goals and aspirations, and Elue recounted his experience interning for the CTA over the summer. In our time spent at ZooLights, I learned a lot about Elue. For example, I found out he had never even seen Forrest Gump. “For me personally, the movie is too long,” said Elue. “Almost 2 hours and 30 minutes? You gotta be kidding me.” After all, Elue adheres to a busy schedule and I admire his ability to balance coursework alongside his leadership position in Northside’s Black Student Union. Elue holds an immense passion for the organization and will be performing in the BSU showcase towards the latter half of February. It was my utmost pleasure to accompany Elue on this date and I encourage anyone holding dating aspirations of their own to check out ZooLights.