"Smells like a movie," I say. "I miss movies. It's all dark and the movie just takes you in."
"Yes. It's not the same watching from bed. You fall asleep halfway through."
Halfway through is way too much credit. Alexis and I are movie people. It's something that a couple that's been together for 30 years can enjoy together. We drive to Showplace in Schererville, get in the shortened line for frequent customers, buy our tickets, wait in line for popcorn and a Diet coke, then watch a movie. This is almost always a good experience. At home in bed, it doesn't matter if it's the best movie in 30 years, I'm zonked out a half hour in.
It's Memorial Day weekend. We went on a day excursion yesterday. For about ten minutes everything felt normal. And then I got out of the water and 50 feet away two women stood talking in masks. One wore plastic gloves. It was awkward to greet old friends with a wave from 10 feet away. You tend to raise your voice.
"Why are you shouting?" Alexis asked on the way home.
"Am I shouting?"
If there's waves or an outboard motor in the distance, you have to bark your syllables to hold a conversation. Right now, in our backyard, Alexis and I are 18 inches from each other. It's been a long time since I have been this close to another human being.
Do you find yourself thinking of places?
I love going to Cubs games. There's an excitement waiting in the line at Addison and Sheffield to enter the gate along the right field line. Once inside, you have to go to the bathroom immediately. That's because you've been at the back bar at Bernie's on Clark across from Wrigley. It's a Wisconsin bar.
"Isn't it crazy about Bernie's," Alexis says. "We used to go there all the time and then our baby girl winds up going there."
The deluge of red and white and pictures of Barry Alvarez did the trick. Bernie's was, back in the day, a Board of Trade bar. You could go there on a Friday afternoon and do pretty much what you did all day at work, which was stand in a crowd and shout. Hundreds of people jammed into the various sections of Bernie's. There's also a side patio. Chicago people everywhere.
The time is gone and so is, for now, the place. When will we be able to crowd up to the back bar at Bernie's and order a beer over someone's shoulder? When will you next scope for someone leaving a table? If I got a stool at the back bar, I often didn't go in Wrigley for the game.
"Here, want a couple tickets with that Stella?" This is always a nice present for some unsuspecting mom and dad from Kenosha.
"Are you kidding?"
"Absolutely not. I'm right where I need to be."
I went to Bernie's before playoff games, after a bridal shower... I even went there once with Todd Rokita, the former congressman who is now running for Indiana attorney general. I got out of hand, which years later necessitated an apology whenever I interviewed him. He took it more than gracefully.
It goes without saying that I would very much like the opportunity to sit shoulder to shoulder in the back bar at Bernie's with the three or four of you. The last time Alexis and I were back there was with Diane and Matt Brozovic. I went to grade school with Broz at St. Thomas More and Alexis has known Diane for a long time. I can't remember if we went there with them or ran into them. I don't remember much at all about the day other than we laughed like hell.
It's the places you can't go that we miss. Alexis and I are listening to Pink Floyd while the neighbor fires up his weed whacker. I don't know the guy well, but my guess is that he was sitting in his living room missing Bernie's.
"I'm restless. I'm gonna weed whack," he tells his wife.
"The neighbors are sitting out listening to music."
"Too bad. I can't sit still any longer."
Neither can I. I want to go to my sister Jennifer's house and watch my brother-in-law Mark serve food that has barely been cooked.
"You can't possibly serve that London Broil to a human being," I would tell him, pointing to a quivering hunk of flesh on a plate.
"How would you know? You don't eat meat."
"It's bleeding. Anyone can see that."
This is the kind of banter that I miss on a Memorial Day weekend. And doesn't it sound like the kind of banter that you miss with your friends and family? Doesn't Bernie's sound so much more interesting than weed whacking?