Editor’s Note: For Episode I of Sweet Home Chicago, scroll down a few tics. Episode II will make a bit more sense then. I swear. Honest. I swear on Lindsay Lohan’s former pounds.
Before we begin, here’s a few other tidbits that came to mind:
X – Pink Floyd will reunite for a benefit concert for Africa later on this summer in London. There’s not much to comment on here, but I thought it deserved mentioning.
Y – Michael Jackson? Who knows and who cares? Brian Williams of NBC News put it pretty damn well on Monday’s broadcast when he ran down all of the things that have happened in the world since MJ was first arrested on these charges: things like how many people have died overseas in Iraq, the election of a president, the tsunami, etc. It shouldn’t still amaze me how much celebrity trials dominate news, but it does. Here is a guy who hasn’t been musically relevant in a decade but is still news because he’s strange and was successful at one point. The helicopter following his motorcade from the Neverland Ranch to the Santa Maria courtroom was one of those ‘what have we fallen to’ moments we can never get back.
Z – Batman Begins, well, begins this week. I can’t wait, despite having to see Katie Holmes and That Random Guy She’s Dating on every channel about twice a minute. Well, Katie’s not that bad to look at but you get the idea.
And now, Episode II of Sweet Home Chicago brought to you by Working Mondays After A Vacation: For When You Really Want To Punish Yourself.
Saturday AM: Despite not drinking a lot, waking up anytime early was a struggle. We had to get up at some reasonable hour in order to buy tix for the Saturday game, possibly harder considering there were probably plenty of other fans doing the same. After stopping for ATM trip no. 2 of 5 (ugh…this is after one day, mind you), we headed into the city after a quick stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts down the street. As I mentioned to McKenna, I always say there’s nothing quite like visiting another city and trying new stuff. Then, we went to the same Yak-zies place as the day before. We were like the anti-tourists or something.
Side note: One item that I failed to mention yesterday was McKenna randomly disappearing for about 45 minutes during Friday’s pre-game lunch. Ak revealed that he had two extra tickets for Friday’s game and dollar signs immediately flashed in all our heads. If the rumours of $1000-$2000 tickets were true, wouldn’t these seats go for pretty good money? McKenna, ever the eager solider, stepped up in an attempt to sell the pair of tickets for about $200 total – a good markup over the face value. He took off for what was supposed to be a few minutes. Lunch came. No McKenna. More beers. No McKenna. Clyde and I began to pick at his fries like vultures in the desert. Clyde took a walk to look. Nothing. I then took a walk, searching up and down the streets for any bald head in sight. After flagging down some white supremacists and a random midget, I decided to head back in the bar and wait for his arrival. I then referred back to my own knowledge of scalping laws, which got partially clogged up by all the Miller Lite, and feared the worst. 2 hours and one arrest? (What are the ‘guy laws’ in this case, by the way? Would it have been ok for us to head inside? Is this a ‘He would have wanted us to go’ situation? Could Clyde and I have gone in? What’s the ruling here?)
Finally, he returned with about $40 total, far less than what he expected. Apparently, his lack of knowing the layout of the field (claiming he had bleacher seats when we really had high grandstands) hurt a bit. After finding no luck, a random kid bought them for the low rate. No big deal, but it was funny to find someone completely different in the seats later on. We asked them how they got the tickets and they said, “We bought them off some kid for $100.” Windy City economics, indeed…
Back to current day (not really, but whatever), Ak decided to ditch us and take a free ticket from Pete Ryan’s brother so McKenna, Clyde and I hit the mean streets in search of bargains. We searched about and found a going rate of about $150 per ticket, pushed in different directions by people telling us ‘I’m not supposed to be doing this, but…) and thought we’d have to wait it out until the 1st inning. We were then directed to a t-shirt stand where we were offered three tix for a total of $300. McKenna – our chief negotiator – countered with $250 to which the seller claimed that he was already taking a big hit.
Apparently, this should have struck a heartstring in our soul, but that wasn’t happening. I guess the market for heartless bastards was better. He replied, “$270” but McKenna stood firm and 30 seconds later, we got our tickets for about $83 each. We got another lecture about how Yanks/Cubs tickets were harder to get or something which again fell on deaf ears. That effectively cleaned out the ol’ wallet again (scalpers just don’t take credit cards, I guess) but we headed into Wrigley, hopeful to see a better showing by the red and gray. After getting out to a 4-0 lead, things looked pretty damn good. The Nation was roaring in the stands and the hometowners were getting a bit frustrated with the visiting cousins. The summary: we made it just in time for the first inning, had fantastic seats, were surrounded by Sox fans, saw plenty of hot girls again and the Sox lost again in much better fashion. Despite the outcome, I don’t think a better afternoon could have been had unless a) a porn star convention was in town or b) we had free tickets to said porn star convention.
We got out, subsequently lost Akerley to the lure of downtown Chi-Town, went on a massive search for a certain t-shirt and headed back for another cleanup effort. The next mission was selected: deep dish pizza followed by a night of drunken debauchery. Ak came back and we headed out on what would become a large walking tour of the city. Geno’s Famous Pizzeria was the place to go and definitely fit the bill:. a soupy-style dish that takes about 45 minutes to cook, deep dish is the sh*t. So is having a great table that allows you to see everyone that comes in…in case you can’t tell, I loved the sights.
Next came the most frustrating part of the trip – exactly where to go out. We had some advice from a frequent business visitor that doubles as our friend Tripod. He had mentioned Harry Carey’s as a fun place and also a certain area that was very similar to the Old Port in the amount and proximity of bars. Alas, five minutes after walking into Carey’s, we left before the stench of moth balls and Dentucreme from the locals could get on our clothes. In other words, a much older and low-key crowd than what we were looking for. The only problem was that it took a crazy amount of time to walk there, the deep dish was sending Clyde’s stomach to an early grave and we still had no idea where to go. After walking around for another few minutes, we jumped in a cab with instructions to head to some fun area with a lot of bars. We made it, getting a nice test of the cab’s sound system as we went along.
Tons of people were out, just boozing and having a great time. The first bar we went to – an outdoor one – was rocking out and despite having an immense amount of people, a waitress found us and asked if we needed beers. Now that’s service! We bailed and rode like a group of cowboys into the glowing region of alcohol known as Division Street. Most bars had lines out the door, so we headed into one that didn’t, a place that’s name was too good to be true – Shenanigans. With the nod to the comedy classic Super Troopers, we took the bait.
Upon entering, it was like we stumbled onto a buried treasure: a packed place, loud music and tons of bachelorette parties dancing on various stages. Hooray! Although we didn’t head out into the dance pit, (the only real interaction I had with a girl was accidentally elbowing over her drink while fake-following a conga line and subsequently having to buy her a $10 red bull and vodka…who says comedy isn’t expensive), it was a great place. After becoming indecisive about what to do next, we headed back toward the hotel in search of more bars and found a sh**ty one – a lackluster end to an otherwise great day.
Sunday: Ah, nothing like heading home. The Portland group was due to head out of the city at 1 pm, while my flight was leaving at 6 pm. While they thought I would be miserable, I decided to make the best of it with a fresh book – Stephen King’s On Writing – and my IPod. However, on a suggestion from Ak, I got on the standby list for a 1 pm flight, which would cost me about $65 in upgrade fees (apparently, I paid a cheaper ‘internet’ flight when I signed up, but when you’re tired and have spent that much cash, $65 is just another number). The flight was booked and thus, I began my book, powering through about 75 pages. A glance up at the clock showed just 1:58 pm. Yikes…this was going to take a while.
After lunch and more walking around, I was already getting restless. My bags were getting heavier and every time I would sit in a new gate area for some quiet, things would get noisy again. A vitamin bottle of gates saw my presence – B6, B1, B12 – with the same result. I finally found a quiet gate (B8 or was it A4?) and then was rudely interrupted by a guy getting upset about being told by a Southwest employee to carry his luggage with him instead of leaving it alone. Quite possibly the dumbest conversation I heard all day, it convinced me to retreat to a tabled area all the way back to where the guys boarded their plane to Portland. Away from any gates or walkways, it would be the perfect spot to kill four hours (gulp). I pulled King open to page 101, threw on some Coldplay and just relaxed…until a contigent of old non English-speaking women decided to enter the area and sit..right…beside me!!!! I mean, there are like 30 tables in this area and one next to me was the right one? Normally I might be flattered. However, I was just annoyed. I was sick of seeing people. I was sick of overpaying for airport food. I was sick of Chicago’s Midway Airport and wanted out.
At this point, I realized that there truly is no quiet place in an airport – none. Between the various boarding calls, pages, buzzers, kids, foreigners, Foreigner, beeps, people in general and ‘The Moving Walkway Is Ending’ chimes, I had enough. Along my Kung Fu-like search across the Midway desert, I found a 4:30 flight out to Manchester and was on standby again. It also answered the big question of how much is time really worth? In this case, about two hours was worth $65. My name was called and I thankfully handed over the AmEx. I jumped on, forgot about Celtics Girl (remember her?) and headed back east.
And thus, we’re done.
A few final notes if I could…and you really should since you’ve read this far:
–Is there really any reason for those ‘The Moving Walkway Is Ending” voices over the loudspeakers anyway? I’m picturing what must have happened before this voice was installed in airports: lemmings just PILING up at the end of these things or old people getting scared and hanging on for dear life. Yes folks…this is what happens when I spend too much time in airports.
–Finally, I have to give a shout-out to someone I’m proud to now call a good friend – Mckenna. He and I have known each other for a couple years, but really haven’t hung out that much to really know much else. Through this trip, I have become impressed with his sense of commitment to his family without any diminishing of his sense of adventure and fun as well. I learned that he and faithful blog reader Amy are training for the Chicago Marathon and have made a commitment to run at least one major marathon a year in preparation of one day hitting up the big one – the Boston Marathon. It takes a certain someone to negotiate ticket prices, be a big proponent for staying out late, manage to point out ‘high-rent districts’ and still have the time and desire to brag about how well his kid is doing in little league. Take it from me, Big Len is a hell of a guy.
And I will make his kid a multi-millionaire in Major League Baseball…right after I get Akerley’s contract done, that is.