Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate Chicago

The decision to not go to work was an easy one.  I just took a left turn where I normally took a right.  I strode into Cleveland Hopkins Airport at 7am without any luggage or agenda.  One hour later I was on a plane to Chicago, sitting uncomfortably while someone’s travel alarm beeped away trapped in the overhead compartment.  I fell asleep at some point, and woke up rather confused on the runway at Midway. 

There is a feeling of liberation playing hooky from your life like this.  It’s Monday and you are surrounded by people scurrying to get to whatever important task they have been assigned.  You can feel like you are invisible.  No place special to be.  You don’t live here.  None of this concerns you.  People on the train stare blankly ahead, hoping not to make eye contact with anyone.  I’m looking at everyone, making up their biographies in my head.  My Monday is going to probably be better than theirs.  

I went to the Trump Hotel and had breakfast on the 16th Floor.  The entire far wall is thirty feet of glass overlooking the city, a truly impressive dining room.  I ate a very expensive egg white omelet and watched the wealthy clientele casually pick at their food.  If you are looking for very relaxed wealthy elderly Asian women that like to shop, this would be a good place for you to hang out.  They are there right now getting ready to buy things they don’t need on Michigan Ave while their husbands are conducting business in imposing conference rooms nearby. 

It seemed like a good idea to get a Bloody Mary at Gibson’s Steak House.  I used to go to Gibson’s when I was a little kid.  My grandfather was a big swinging dick insurance guy in town, and we would go to dinner “in the city” at Gibson’s.  I would get a gigantic steak I couldn’t hope to finish, and my grandfather would argue with the waiters as he became progressively drunker on martinis.  As we would gather our coats to inevitably leave in disgrace, I would look at the old pictures of personalities I couldn’t identify from decades ago crowded on the wall.  The pictures are still there.  My trip to Gibson’s was different than when I had been there with my Grandfather.  I didn’t argue with the waiter and I left without incident. 

I passed by a men’s clothing store that was having a going out of business sale.  The elderly clerk had worked there for 24 years.  He didn’t know what he was going to do after the store finally closed.  This had been the only work he had known.  I bought a suit that I otherwise couldn’t afford.  The clerk thanked me and started to tell me to stop in next time I was in town before catching himself.  There was an awkward moment as neither of us knew what to say, and I thanked him for his help and left.     

I went up to the top of the John Hancock building.  There is a restaurant on the 95th Floor crowded with tourists.  Although it was 1pm, it seemed like Happy Hour.  Pudgy girls with tired eyes hoisted heavy trays of drinks to overstimulated loud talking tables.  In one of my “Fun In…” photograph series, I had my photo taken as I tried to make my face completely blank.  People stared at me wondering what the hell was wrong with me.  I left immediately afterwards. 

The wind was especially cold and cut right through my cheap jacket.  I ducked into Ditka’s Steakhouse and ordered a Nickel and Nickel Cabernet.  A very old woman sat next to me at the bar eating a Cesar salad.  She reminded me of my Aunt Rose, a woman that had not finished a meal in her last 50 years of life due to her constant stream of consciousness conversational style.  This woman was very excited to have someone to talk to and rattled on about the merits of various restaurants and her experience in Ohio 65 years ago when she helped dig an outhouse pit among other things.  Did Cincinnati really still have outhouses in 1947?  She confirmed with me the continued existence of Hackney’s Restaurant, a place my mother believed to make the best burger in the world.  However, it was Hackney’s onion loaf, a brick of onion rings that serve an entire table that impressed my new dining companion the most.  I think she was gladhanding me when she told me the burgers were good.  I don't think she thought they were remarkable in any way.  As she waited for he crab bisque to arrive (in two containers so she could take half home), I said goodbye.  It may have been one of the only things I said in the past 30 minutes.  Nice lady who needs someone to talk to.  She might still be working on that half salad. 

I went into various shops and absentmindedly looked at the merchandise.  I didn’t need any of it.  Who buys all this stuff?  Two thousand dollar bright green blazers.  $800 dress shoes.  Watches that cost as much as a reliable automobile.  Clerks could tell with even a cursory glance that I was not a “serious” customer.  I felt guilty even walking into certain places.  I kept waiting for someone to say “Sir!  If you have to even look at the price, you probably do not belong in here!”.  I did see a beautiful necklace that would make a wonderful gift.  I decided that maybe I will swing by and get it later.  Or maybe I will get that green blazer instead.  I’ll just have to see how it plays out I guess.   

I settled in at Joe’s Steak for a feast.  Not to eat steak in a Chicago steakhouse seems wrong, but what the hell.  This was my day and I was calling the shots.  Chicken, brussel sprouts, and what were claimed to be the best mashed potatoes in the world.  (They weren’t.  I will take Blue Point’s lobster mashed any day, but these were still pretty damn good.)  The 2009 Shafer Merlot is drinking well.  The 2007 Ridge Cabernet even better.  There is certainly nothing wrong with the 1980 Warre’s Port.  I left the restaurant with a warm glow. 

I took the train back to Midway.  A different group of tired blank faces stared straight ahead.  It looked like these people could use an eleven hour trip away from their lives.  This had clearly been a good idea.  Well, a much better idea than going to work anyway.    



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