Sunday, January 23, 2011

Westward Ho, Day 1, Chicago

In the midst of working, and running, and rewriting, fighting off a whole lot of sick, and just generally trying to get by, I'm squeezing in a whole lot of travel.  For those who know me, being on the move like this is a catharsis like no other.  Here's what's going down.

My best friend, Duke, who blogs over at Curious Orthodoxy, graduated back in December from Michigan State University.  With no debt, and no obligations, and no real reason to stay in this slowly sinking state, he decided to answer the call to "Go West, young man," pack up his Conestoga wagon and hit the Oregon trail out to Portland to be with the rest of my close unit of friends (James and Zach).  To give a context how "close unit" I mean, I met Duke in first grade, James and Zach in second grade.  Duke's and my relationship is almost old enough to order its own drink at a bar.  So, of course when he said that he was moving out to Portland, and making the cross-country drive, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, packing tight into the passenger seat with James and him, a laptop, a digital camera, and all of his worldly possessions.  Over the next few days I'll be keeping a log on the road of our travels and travails as we cut a westward path.

Day 1 - Haslett to Chicago.
James and Duke went to church at Trinity up in Lansing.  We hit the road around 11:30 after fussing with trying to get James's and my duffel bags in the overhead carrier.  It took a lot of pushing and cursing, but eventually we got everything in, made a quick Starbucks run and hit the road.

The drive into the city was smooth.  Limited construction, and even the traffic from the Bears v Packers game wasn't too bad.  We went to Wrigleyville where we're staying with our friend Chelsea.

After unloading the bags we went to a boardgame bar, Guthrie's Tavern near Wrigley Stadium.  It was during the game, and of course we had a superfan who was pacing about like a caged tiger and shrieking as if maybe, just maybe screaming "FUCK!" and "BULLSHIT CALL" at the top of his lungs might stave of Da Bear's inevitable defeat at the hands of the Packers.  We ordered pizza from Giordano's and played Identity Crisis, and Scrabble (which James kicked our butts in).

Duke made plans ahead of time with another of his friends who is still living in the city to meet at a bar halfway between Wrigley and Wicker Park on Belmont called the Hungry Brain.  When we finally found it, all that was there was an abandoned storefront with graffiti and warning signs not to lock your bike to a nearby pole.

Regrouping we went the rest of the short distance to Wicker Park, and had drinks at Pint on Milwaukee, a place Duke and I went to before when I was still living in the city and he was coming to visit for a weekend of concerts.  They had Fat Tire, which for me was just shy of heaven.  A couple friends of Duke's and James's met us there and we watched the end of the Jets v Steelers game.  The manager who was scooting around on a Segway bought us a round of Jameson.  Then, per the request of one of Duke's friends, we retired to Violet Hour.

Violet Hour is swank, to say the least.  An unassuming storefront, that looks more like an abandoned and boarded up building just waiting to be condemned.  You step inside and it's a cavernous, high-ceilinged hallway.  There's a doorman waiting there who ID's the group.  He takes the number of the group, informs you of the rules (no cellphones, but texting is ok).  Then he disappears for like 5 minutes while they prepare a table.  He comes back, seats you.  They start you with water  (double filtered, like their ice?!) and brings menus full of drinks no one has ever heard of.  Drinks that have stuff like cardamom and egg, and other craziness.  Ordering drinks is like ordering an entree, and it takes about a half hour for them to come.  It's completely worth the wait.  The drinks are unlike anything you've ever had before.  Full of intricate flavors that emerge and disappear as you drink.  Swank is an understatement.

Now we're back at Chelsea's for cake, chamomile tea.  Ferris Bueller is on the TV.  Chelsea is blowing up the air mattress and we're all getting ready for bed.

Tomorrow we hit the road around seven, and are aiming (at best) to reach Wyoming.

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