In the morning, I ride my bike to WJOB and do a radio show.
The rest of the day, I try to build a TV network and an app.
In the evening, I have been partying like a rock star.
We drove to 22ndStreet, where we boarded the Red Line to Wrigley Field. The train was packed with people in Cubbie blue. At the Addison station, you had to wait a bit to walk the long stairway to street level. Everyone seemed happy. It was sunny and the Cubs were playing and there wasn’t any humidity. Life is good.
We had bleacher seats. We found some room about halfway up on the right field side. As soon as we secured seats, my daughter left. She came back 20 minutes later with the most perfect hot dog laid in a bun next to a full-length dill pickle. The whole thing was covered in ketchup. She also brought two beers – a 312 for her and a Bud Light for me. I drank mine in three gulps. She nursed her 312 as proper swill for a hot dog at a Cubs game.
I have not sat in the bleachers in many years. I did it a couple times as a trader at the Board of Trade. I specifically remember bringing a few of the younger traders to a game in maybe 2002 or so. We drank margaritas the whole game. We stumbled out on to Waveland and continued the revelry at Bernie’s. Life is good when you let it be. Life is a drunk-filled stupor when you need it to be. Trading really was a lot of stress. You need a release.
Billy Baker and I also used to sit in the bleachers, especially in our first summer after graduating from college. It was a recession. Not a national recession, just one around the steel mills. Once a generation, the rest of the country could be doing okay while our little area of northwest Indiana struggles. These are localized steel recessions. We were in one in the mid 1980s.
Since there were few jobs, Baker and I would drive to Wrigley Field in the middle of the week and sit in the bleachers for two dollars. We would be extra friendly with groups of businessmen and older women in hopes that they would buy us beers. Sometimes it worked. We could watch Ryne Sandburg, drink, meet some chicks sometimes and get a sunburn in the same American ritual. It was as beautiful as it was traditional.
It was also a bit of history yesterday. My daughter and I almost never do things together. We just don’t. She has a boyfriend and a mom and a sister and a bunch of cousins and aunts and uncles. We do things as a cluster, rarely as a duo.
It was perhaps the best day of the year to go to a Cubs game. I looked on my phone and it said 80, 80, 80, 80, 80, for four hours in the middle of the afternoon. There was just enough breeze in right field to make the day tolerable. Today, it’s supposed to be 95 in the right field bleachers. That sounds like a hot sweaty mess of fun, but it’s not. You endure a Cubs game when it’s 95. You enjoy one when it’s 80.
In the seventh inning, Jackie and I left Wrigley Field.
“Dad, I heard of this Thai place a couple blocks down Sheffield. You could probably get some gluten free stuff there.”
This is a challenge these days. After decades of suffering through a bloated stomach and general achiness, I stopped eating gluten. I am a new person. I have energy. My eyes aren’t blurry. When I was 15, a doctor at the Hammond Clinic did a bunch of tests on me.
“You’re allergic to yeast. That I know. But there’s something else going on. I can’t figure out what it is.”
Forty years later, the other daughter, Jeanie, suggested something.
“Dad, maybe you’re allergic to gluten. Quit eating gluten and see what happens.”
As soon as I did it, I felt better. And it’s held that way for a more than a year. It’s a bitch finding something to eat at a Cubs game – we had to leave to find me a meal – but it’s an amazing feeling to be sitting in the right field bleachers with your daughter and you don’t feel like shit. I spent 25 years feeling like shit a lot. After a while, I just accepted that that was how you were supposed to feel.
At the Thai place, Jackie got something called “glass noodles.” The guy at the table next to us suggested it.
“It’s my favorite. I get it every time,” he said.
When the guy left, we made up that he’s a med student and he just slipped away from studying to eat some Thai food and watch drunk people walk around. He was headed back to his apartment to study for a review on Monday.
I got cashew chicken with rice and vegetables. It was amazing. We watched the end of the game on the TV. The Cubs wound up winning 5-4 - barely. By the time we emerged from the restaurant, the game was over and there were drunk fans everywhere. Drunk in blue. Drunk in spirit.
The funny thing about a Cubs game
is everybody’s drunk.
If they’re not, they’re
either an alcoholic
or don’t have
for a beer.
It’s glee and harmony and
alacrity all wrapped
up into a Midwestern
respite from highways
When you live in the city,
going to a Cubs game
isn’t a big a deal.
But when you live in
Bourbonnais or Munster
or Westchester or
Long Grove, you think
you did something
really special when
you go to a Cubs game.
You get drunk, you
cheer, you put your
arm around someone
at some point in the
It’s just Clark and Addison.
Jackie went to DePaul so she knows the trains. We walked a few blocks and got on the brown line south. This train line does not go by Wrigley Field, so there were few people on it. The reason that this is important is that if you get on the red line after a Cubs game, you’re in for both a treat and a nightmare.
After the game, thousands of people swarm the Addison train station and wait on the platform for the next train. When the doors open, as many people as possible smash into this moveable tin can. Then the doors close. Most everyone is drunk or on their way there, so there’s a lot of funny things yelled out.
Sometimes, though, it’s tough to breathe. There is a mass of humanity pressed against your chest. If everyone inhales at the same time, the metal seams of the train car would burst. If everyone farted, it would explode.
So a little local knowledge helped. Jackie sat on the train with me for a few stops. We barreled through the north side of the city, apartments and parks, pizza places and futon stores.
“Now dad, take the brown line to Harold Washington library. Get off the train. Walk one block east – toward the Lake – and one block north… “
She spoke to me as if I was the child and she the adult.
“You’ll have to go under State Street at Jackson. You can pick up the red line there. Most of the people will be off by then.”
Basically, she had me take the brown line south then pick up the red line after downtown.
On her way out of the train, I became the worried parent once again.
“Jackie, do you have your phone? Do you need some more money? Do you have a jacket in case it gets cold?”
Yes dad. Yes dad. Yes dad. She’s 23. I’m 56. I worried like hell as she got off at Fullerton. She was meeting up with DePaul people. That made me worried. This feeling will never go away. Even though, right now, she’s sleeping in the room right next door, I am worried. I am a dad. I worry.
Finally, I made it to Cermak station. You might at this time wonder why I wouldn’t just drive all the way up to Wrigley Field. We live way on the south side of the metropolitan area of Chicago. We drive up the Dan Ryan to get to the city. Then you have to traverse the city and drive through the neighborhoods of the north side to get to Wrigley Field.
On normal days, you can do it, although it’s a hassle. But Lollapalooza is in town. This changes things. There’s people everywhere. That means cars everywhere. So Jackie and I did what smart Region Rats have been doing for generations. We drove to 22ndStreet/Cermak, parked our car, and took the red line to Wrigley Field. We talked in the train. We talked in the bleachers. We talked over Thai food. We rarely talk like that in our own home. I can communicate adequately enough with the three or four of you, but I don’t have the same level of aptitude when it comes to talking to my own children. My wife does most of that. That’s why it was so important to sit in the bleachers of Wrigley Field and drink a few beers with my daughter and just talk about things. Unhurried, no judging, no advising, no blaming, no pressure. Just drinking beers in the right field bleachers. It’s a memory I will pull up when I want my eyes to water.
At the platform at Cermak, two things happened. First, a guy in a wheelchair couldn’t make it across the crevice between the train and the platform. He was backing up out of the train and was ready to tip over. This black guy in a yellow hazard vest and I met eyes.
“You ready,” he said.
“Ready,” I said.
And we lifted up his back wheel and placed it on the platform. Then we pushed him across the crevice.
“Thank you so much,” he said. And then everyone went their way. This is a Chicago happening. Not New York, where people would rather wait for subway personnel than lend a helping hand.
Chicago = helping hand.
New York = you’re on your own.
On the stairs down to street level, I looked over. There was this 60-year-old guy with hair longer than it should be walking right next to me.
“Hey, dickfor,” I said.
“Oh my god. What are you doing here?”
It was Tom Keilman, the pride of Hessville. He has worked in community relations for BP for several decades. He was with his daughter. I talked to her about IU for the walk to the parking lot. Smart Region Rats know to park at Cermak and take the train.
“You sat in the bleachers. Did you wear the hat?” she asked.
Now this is something that I forgot to tell you about. The first 5,000 people in the bleachers got a Japanese-like Cubs hat. It has a suspension system that keeps the cloth off your hair. It’s like an umbrella on your head.
“Nah. Just gutted out the sun.”
“Oh,” she said. So I did the right thing. I reached into my daughter’s backpack and gave her one of the two hats.
After the parking lot cleared out, I placed Jackie’s backpack on the trunk and acted like I was rummaging through it while I quietly pissed on the back wheel. On the way home, the wife texted me –
“What do you want to eat?”
I got off at the Skyway and drove through north Hammond to El Taco Real. It was sunny at Wrigley, on the train, at the Thai place, at the Cermak parking lot. It was a sunny 80 degree day in Chicago. And it was a sunny 80 degrees in the parking lot at El Taco Real. I sat for a little and listened to the end of Dire Wolf by the Grateful Dead. Then I went in and talked with the waitresses in Spanish while waiting for the food.
Alexis and I ate dinner at the kitchen table watching CNN and talking. It was pretty cool. It was a pretty cool day.