He Ain’t Here, But He Sure Went By
Yelp recommended Fontano’s Subs near DePaul University, so I suggested to Liz C. and Stephanie J. that we meet there for lunch on Sunday. But Yelp did not tell us that Fontano’s, like a lot of downtown eateries, is closed on Sundays. I waited for the ladies to arrive so we could make new plans.
“We have our choice of Chicago chain eateries,” I offered. “Potbellies around the corner there, or Jimmy John’s the opposite way.”
“I’ve been wanting to try Jimmy John’s,” Steph insisted. “I’ve never heard of this place,” Liz said.
“They advertise it all over!” I replied. “I’ve been in town two days and I know about it.”
“I dunno …”
“You’re right, it’s a ruse. I called Steph this morning and said, ‘Now play along – this is going to be hysterical …’ ”
Jimmy John’s was open and vacant on Sunday. They prepare sandwiches with lightning speed; I had just finished paying for my roast beef when it was waiting for me at the other end of the counter. The ladies got Italian cold cuts.
I Have Always Depended On The Kindness of Transients
Steph wanted a futon or an air mattress to put up some visiting family. I had taken an unintended tour of the South Side of Chicago on Saturday, by simply walking west from Grant Park*. I vaguely remembered passing a Target … or was it a Best Buy? Giant CVS, maybe?
The three of us stood in front of a You Are Here map on the side of a bus depot, puzzling it out. I texted Google for directions. While I had my phone up, a portly man in a stained sweatshirt, ill-fitting corduroy and a Discman lumbered up next to us. “Who you callin’?” he asked.
Even if I’d really been calling a human, was this guy likely to know him? The sheer oddness of the question stymied me until Liz interjected. “We’re trying to find a Target,” she explained.
“Oh, there one on South Clark,” he said. “You just take the Red Line to Roosevelt, walk two blocks.” He trundled off.
Which was right where I’d suspected it was. “Thanks!”
We combed every inch of the Target, but could only find a sectional sofa whose arms and back folded down. It looked neat, but it was a bit more than Steph wanted to pay. The trip paid for itself, though, when we got to see the cart escalator. It’s a conveyor belt that runs parallel to the escalator that snugly grips the wheels of your shopping cart and guides it down gently. We stared like the slack-jawed tourists that only one of us were.
We found an air mattress at the Bed, Bath and What-not a block away.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Since MT was getting in on a late flight from Florida, I had a half-time dinner before meeting her later. Mother Hubbard’s seemed far enough off the beaten path that I wouldn’t have to deal with too many tourists. Plus they advertised genuine Chicago-style hot dogs, which I had been exhorted to try.
“Where you from?” the bartender asked after taking my order. Apparently I looked like that much of a tourist, though I’m sure asking what time the liquor stores close didn’t help. Talking about Boston sparked a conversation with the guy sitting two stools down – a New Jersey expatriate who’d lived in Colorado for a decade, then moved to Chicago to continue working for Hyatt Hotels. I chatted with him until the food arrived.
Against every instinct in my body, I let the ketchup lie, instead loading the dog with onions, sweet relish and mustard. And it was so good.
Not So Fast, Shredder
After several scheduling complications, MT, her boy Adam and I settled on Heaven on Seven on North Michigan. Having already eaten, I tucked into a turtle soup, though MT insisted I try the pulled pork she ordered. All very good. I walked in with low expectations of what Chicago could manage for Cajun cuisine, but the freshness of the meat definitely helped.
MT doesn’t use Facebook, so I got her up to speed on gossip among our old friends. She was delighted at weddings, astounded at pregnancies and happy that folks had jobs and apartments.
President Gas is President Gas Again
I took the Red Line to the Blue Line, then to the temporary Blue Line shuttle, to get to the Green Eye Lounge. The bartender never charged me for my Bell’s Amber. When I waved a five at him, he blinked. “Don’t worry about it,” he said, “but thanks for being honest.”
So Hawver and I retreated to a corner, took turns ordering rounds of domestic beer, and did what we always do in bars: debate the future of energy policy.
“Everything in this country depends on petroleum,” he said. “And when the existing reserves get too expensive for Venezuela or Mexico to export, what is the U.S. going to do?”
“Pay more,” I replied. “Or invade.”
“No, but these countries need oil too! Do you think that these South and Central American governments are going to keep selling to the U.S. while their own citizens starve?”
“Oh, God! I’d hate to live in a world where that happened!”
We ended the discussion at the same stalemate we always have: Hawver insisting that the collapse of oil would lead to a new Dark Age, whereas I insisted it would be a mere global depression that ended U.S. hegemony.
Hot Dog, Part II: The Wrath of Foie
Hawver and I planned better for our trip to Hot Doug’s on Monday morning, getting there at 10:30 on the dot. We had to wait through the line of people similarly desperate for hot dogs, but this took no more than 20 minutes. Afterward the line vanished. Hawver’s suggestion is probably best: show up at ten minutes before 11:00, so you miss the desperate people but beat the lunch rush.
Hot Doug’s only serves duck-fat fries on Fridays and Saturdays, so I missed out. But I got the sauternes duck sausage topped with foie gras and aioli – the legendary foie gras dog. It was sweet and hearty and tender, everything you’d expect. But some fries would have complemented it very well.
* Okay, the nicest possible part of the South Side.