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Friday, October 30, 2009

A Chicken in the Car...

Chicago Day 3
Part I: Wandering Around Like an Idiot

The weather Saturday wasn't quite pissy when I woke up and went up to the yacht club for my morning ablutions. I inquired of some people preparing their boats for winter storage if they'd seen a forecast and was told I would not be the acme of foolishness if I left my umbrella at home.

'But,' a guy said. 'You're in Chicago, so rain is never out of the question, and I wouldn't bet folding money against snow.'

Such confidence.

I missed the 78 bus again. I kept doing this: it's about a ten minute walk from the boat to the first CTA stop, and the 78 sits there for a bit. I'd be crossing the bridge under Lakeshore and it'd pull away. It did it to me Friday, it did it to me Saturday, and if I'd pulled the hat trick on Sunday, I was going to buy a lottery ticket.

But Saturday I decided to walk rather than stand around for fifteen minutes waiting for another bus. It's not a lot of time unless you're standing around in chilly weather with nothing to do, and then it's an eternity.

I wandered through an area I thought might be a bit dodgy at night, based on the number of unaccountable types hanging around with not only nothing to do but nothing to lose. I noticed on a later passing that the Wilson Men's Hotel accounted for this. I also later got to wait for a bus at this corner at night on the way to the Green Mill, and it wasn't that bad. It's right where you catch the Red Line, and there's actually quite a few cops in the area, no doubt because they are needed, but still.

Wandered through some nice residential areas, townhouses and apartments mostly. Stumbled on Byron's, a hot dog joint of some fame I'm told. Had a salad on a bun contaminated by a Vienna Beef frank.

Seriously, there was more junk on this hot dog than at Sanford and Sons. A kosher spear, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, a couple kinds of peppers, onion, I don't know what-all.

I remember hearing when I was growing up about my Grandpa's hot dog stand when he was out in California. First customer asked for a dog with everything, and he made it, and after the guy left he realized he hadn't put the frankfurter on, just the toppings. The same guy came back awhile later and said it was the best hot dog he ever had and ordered another just the same.

Byron's dogs would not suffer if the omitted the wiener. I'm sure my vegetarian friends think that's obvious, but with most hot dogs it's not true.

Wandered around a bit more, ran in to Harry Carey. I was trying to take my picture with him and a woman walking by asked me if she could take a picture for me. She was walking with friends, all of them twenty-somethings still bearing the marks of whatever Greek affiliations they made in college.

She took my picture, handed the camera back, and almost kept herself from laughing as she said, 'Welcome to Chicago.' It's the kind of thing that would have pissed me off when I was her age, but I think if I'd gotten any other reaction from her I'd wonder if I was doing something wrong.

Part II: Don't Forget to Write

Then I caught the Brown Line down to the monstrous library on the Loop and wrote postcards. I've rarely sent postcards from a vacation, but it seemed the thing to do. I didn't have addresses for most of my friends, so when the idea occurred to me (as I bought copious postcards in the Field Museum gift shops Friday) I texted everyone in my cell phone contact list and asked them to text me their mailing addresses.

Well, one address I came up with by cheating: I don't have a cell number to text to, but I know where this friend works, looked up that address in the out of town phone books (they still have those, surprising but true).

Talk about cashing in: Obama's Hair Design. Glad that hope and change stuff is working for someone, I guess.

Part III: Little Whitey One-Bites

For dinner, I had a real treat. Something I've loved for 25 years and missed for the past fifteen or so. White Castle.

I know you can get microwavable Castles, but they don't taste the same, don't smell the same, don't slide the same. I was personally responsible for ten sliders Saturday night. I don't know why I love them so much, they're about as industrial and mass produced as things get, and that's normally not my thing.

In addition to the classic sliders, I did try their jalapeno burger and their bacon cheeseburger. Don't go there, both are appalling. Stick with the classic, or get it with cheese if you like. It's worked since 1929 and requires no further refinement than plenty of ketchup for dipping.

And despite how my marriage turned out, I still get a happy feeling remembering when me and the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster were first hanging out and a 3:00 a.m. (or later) sack of Little Whitey One-Bites was how a great night out was capped.

I think another reason I like White Castle is their fountain drinks are Coke products, not Pepsi. Pepsi bought the majority of the fast food industry because they knew their product was so wretched (with the exception of Diet Dew, which you can't get at most of their fast food chains), the only way to sell any was to shove it down people's throats.

'Is Pepsi okay?,' or worse, 'Is Diet Pepsi okay?' NO! What kind of question is that? You trying to poison me?

Anyway, as I gorged myself on these mushy comestibles, I realized the wallpaper wasn't really wallpaper, it was those little cards you buy with a donation. Sometimes a die cut shape for a holiday, such as shamrocks or Valentine hearts, but these were rectangular, postcard things.

For Autism Speaks. I asked an employee how long it had taken them to cover the walls, and she said they'd been doing the fundraiser for about a month. I got a little choked up at that, because they were literally almost out of room for more cards.

Part IV: Amy Turns Me Down, Too

I can't quit proposing to smokin' hot chicks who sing and play bass. I'm chronic.

Amy LaVere, who I restrained myself from proposing to back in August when I caught her in KC was playing The Bottom Lounge, a pricey joint with lots of Beautiful People patronizing it.

I will say one thing for this bar: I had a Three Floyds Alpha King, one of my all time favorite beers and not available where I live. It's the Alpha of Beers, or as I sometimes think of it: Bigfoot Lite, scratches the same itch but packs less of a punch so you can drink twice as much of it before you lose consciousness.

Amy was actually middle of a three part bill, with Cedric Burnside & Lightning Malcolm opening up, and closing with Lucero, the supposed headliner.

I was skeptical when Cedric & Lightning came out. A black guy on drums, singing, a white frat-boy-ish guy on a Telecaster. I wasn't paying much attention, or expect much, and all of a sudden I'd swear John Lee Hooker's ghost was in the room.

These two were four fried chickens and a Coke. Pardon the Blues Bros. reference, but they were the real thing. And I'm thinking, this is the opening act?

And then, too, I realized, No, they don't have a bassist, that's all the guitar guy.

They claim their brand of blues is North Mississippi Hill Blues, not Delta Blues, and I could kind of account for the distinction, but whatever hairs you want to split, they got their chocolate in each other's peanut butter and it was great.

So anyway, Amy played and she was great, of course. You know the 'sireens' in O Brother Where Art Thou? She has that sort of effect on me.

So yeah, I proposed to her. I asked her to marry me and she laughed and said, 'I'm kinda busy.'

So I settled for another autograph and picture. Damn, when she was on stage, I thought we really had chemistry.

Hell, if she won't marry me, maybe I can at least get Amy to take me and leave me...

Lucero, the supposed headliner of this show, I wasn't so impressed with. I'm glad they were there: members of Lucero sat in with the two other acts and added dimension (a bari sax on one of Cedric & Lightning's tunes, pedal steel on one of Amy's) that wouldn't have been there otherwise. But Lucero struck me as Bruce Springsteen: Memphis Edition.

And not being a big Bruce Springsteen fan, after four or five songs, I was like, 'This isn't doing it for me.' My Lovely Hostess laughed and said, 'Me either,' so we we vamoosed after loving on Amy.

Back aboard the Busted Flush (I'm such a dork, it's actually the Zarathustra, but I'm such a huge fan of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels), I noticed a car parked by the yacht club. There was a guy dressed like the Gordman' Fisherman with a black ski mask on, standing by the car, which kinda gave me the willies. I decided he looked more like security than someone casing for boats to burglarize or steal, and that turned out to be exactly the case.

Of course, Travis McGee would have figured out a way to circle around and come up behind the guy to find out what was up, I just buttoned up the boat and inquired the next morning.

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