miscellaneous commentary

Weekend in Chicago

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Last weekend I tagged along with Cory and Ben on a three-day visit to Chicago. We left late on Friday morning, taking Old Highway 30 into Illinois. We reached Downer’s Grove by 5pm, right as the antique car show began. Walked around with Don for a few hours, taking in the chrome and leather and met up with Doug, a fellow car aficionado.

Ben, Doug and Cory next to Doug’s 1960 Impala

Later in the evening we went to the White Sox game on the south side of Chicago – my first major league ball game. Don not only treated us to four free tickets but he also scored premiere parking literally a stone’s throw from the entry gate. Our seats were amazing — a few rows from the field, right along the first baseline. We arrived just in time for the first of three home runs hit by the Sox. Several foul balls flew right over our heads and landed either farther up in the stands or in the upper decks. Cory and Ben were undeterred by the price tag of $15 for a beer and a dog. Highway robbery in my opinion.

Can’t beat these seats!

We left during the seventh inning to grab a late dinner at Ricobene’s, a nearby Italian joint by the 90/94 overpass. In hindsight, we should have stayed at the game a bit longer, as Jordan Danks hit his first career home run at the bottom of the ninth, winning the game for the Sox 5-3 over the Oakland A’s. We picked up some drinks at the local 3 Floyds microbrewery and spent the evening at Don’s house in Dyer IN, just east of the state border.

Up with the sun the next morning for a tour of Allied Metal and Again Auto Parts, located in a rundown section of Chicago. We walked through the boneyard, the crushing machines and the warehouse filled with spare parts and complete engines, as well as a brief walk-through of the smelting plant. The five of us – Don’s neighbor Bill in tow – spent an hour or so wandering through the yard, picking off parts.

hot stuff

I was dropped off near Steph’s place around noontime. We lounged out back and snacked on a variety of beets, tomatoes, Baba ghanoush and flat bread. After JJ woke from his nap we departed for Birrieria Zaragoza for a late lunch consisting of goat meat, tortilla shells, lime wedges, onions and the spiciest little peppers my tongue has ever made the mistake of encountering. Back to Steph’s place to shanghai Matt into joining us for a walk up and down North Broadway. Cory called to inform me that my scheduled pickup was a no-go, but Steph & Matt,befitting their charitable character, offered to take me to my next destination.

scrumptious appetizers

The plan was to rejoin the guys at Kuma’s Corner, a hip burger place west of downtown. However, the place was packed, a line had formed out the front door, the wait list was an hour long and I was told I couldn’t put my name on the wait list until the others had arrived. So when they showed up, it was a no-brainer to go elsewhere for dinner. Don redirected us to the Fifty/50, a classy burger joint located in one of Chicago’s many hipster hives. I went light with the teriyaki boneless wings, probably a tenth of the caloric intake of Swestka’s behemoth beef/pulled pork/mac&cheese/waffle foodstuff.

Back to Don’s place by sundown. The rest of the evening was spent working on the brakes of his ’75 Eldorado. I’m rather useless when it comes to automotive repairs but I tried to lend a hand when and where I could, moving tools and holding a light into the wheel well for visibility. We labored until midnight, then retreated to the basement for sleazy late-night television programming. The OTC allergy meds I downed made me drowsy and I crashed around 1 on the sofa pillows in the back room.

I was the last one awake Sunday morning. After breakfast Don drove us east along OH30 to the Albanese candy store, the largest assortment of sugar, chocolate and gummy products I have ever seen in one place. Willy Wonka would have been impressed. They had everything – pop rocks, candy cigarettes, squirrel nut zippers and jawbreakers the size of a baseball. I bought some blue raspberry gummies and some dark chocolate peppermints.

We said goodbye to Don and headed back to Downer’s Grove. We picked up some local brew and then met Doug at his house, a midcentury modern design whose interior has been kept in fairly original condition. We toured the house and he showed us his vintage television collection (over 100 units) and amazed us with the Seeburg 1000. Afterwards we lounged in the front room with some Labatt Blue and swapped collecting stories.

60s mid-century modern

Back on the road after 3pm. We stopped at the Forest Inn in Morrison IL for some old-time supper-club dining. The rain began to fall as we crossed the Mississippi into Clinton IA and continued along 30 to Cedar Rapids. Back at Ben’s house by 9pm, the rain falling, our butts and backs aching. I went home, took a long hot shower, unpacked a bit and went to bed.

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