Sunday, October 11, 2015
My Sunday Feeling
I had just gotten on the "El" from the stop located at Midway. I was trying to get to stop at Adams and Wabash to go spend the afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago before hooking up with my friends Don and Mark. Mark and Don went to Vanderbilt together whereas Don and I went to law school at Tulane together. Over the years we have all become friends.
Mark lives in the Lake Forest section of Chicago (I think) and graciously offered to put us up if we ever wanted to come up for a "guy's weekend." The stars aligned and off we all went a week or so ago, me from Little Rock and Don from San Francisco.
Now I have taken the El many times but always from Evanston or Willamette. I had never gone from Midway to the Loop. I was pretty sure I had figured it out but just to make sure I made discreet inquiry to a woman that was the only other person in the car.
She was a beautiful. Blond hair, black sweater and coat. Pearls. Grey pants.
"Excuse me ma'am," I said. "This goes straight to the Loop doesn't it? I'm trying to get to Adams/Wabash."
She smiled and nodded.
"Oh yah," She said. "Da Loop is da only place dis train goz. Adams/Wabash is da last stop before it turns around an goz beck to Midway."
Face like Catherine Deneuve. Mouth like Studs Terkel or Dennis Franz.
I was in Chicagah all right.
Chicago is a hell of a town. It has the harmonic convergence of sports, the arts and really cool bars that would give me plenty to do. Think of a more frigid version of New Orleans which is not a completely inapt analogy. They both are Catholic towns. Indeed, folks in both cities identify themselves by what parish they are situated in. They both are completely mobbed up. And the politics of both are riven with corruption.
I could deal with all that. What I couldn't deal with is the cost of living up there and the fact that Mother Nature tries to kill you 3 months out of the year. So my appearances in Cook County will be sporadic in nature and limited to early Fall and late Spring.
This trip was a quick one. Don's visa was of a limited duration and both he and Mark have to work for a living and all that. Besides both Don and I have been to Chicago a bunch of times. Neither of us needed to see the sights. So we basically hung out at the Art Institute and in a couple of bars in the Loop.
Chicago and New Orleans are both alike in that they are both tavern towns which is nothing you can say about Little Rock. The bartender that ministered to us at Miller's Pub on Wabash Avenue was 75 if he was a day. The lady that waited on us at Exchequer down the street on Saturday told us she had been working in bars for 15 years. A person can actually make a career working in joints like Miller's and Exchequer.
Both establishments have been around forever. Dark wood paneling. Pictures of various celebrities and sports figures up on the walls. Ball games on the monitors. And, as Don pointed out, pretty girls everywhere. I've had better steaks. I've had better pizza. But being with good friends in a couple of cool bars made the dining experience all the better.
Speaking of weather, I'm glad that I pretty much limited my sartorial selections to golf stuff. Saturday was pretty nasty. The high was 52 or so and the wind was howling across the lake at 30 mph. Walking from the Art Institute to Centennial Park was a trek under the circumstances. The breakers on Lake Michigan were up around 7 feet which I had actually seen before. Still an amazing sight.
Talk of the weather was not far from many casual conversations with folks in the restaurants and the guy in the liquor store. This was pretty cold for early October even for those folks. Does this mean we are in for another terrible winter?
Not for me. Oh, we will have our ice storms and day or two of three inch snows here in Little Rock. We will be inconvenienced for a couple of days. Mark has to shovel snow a couple of times a week every winter. And like the rest of us he isn't getting any younger. I can see why retirees leave there for warmer climes. I understand why folks with the means to do so winter in Florida. Like I said, Mother Nature tries to kill folks that live up there for about 3 months a year. And the older you get the tougher it is to put up with.
I love Chicago but I'm glad I don't live there. Better to hop on a plane and head back home reading the Chicago Tribune sports page where the bottom line is they hate Jay Cutler and love the Cubs. The Northwestern Wildcats, occasional doormat of the Big 17 or whatever they are calling it now, are 5-1. Things are good on the North Side.
But better to come home.