Thursday, July 07, 2005
Good Night Chicago: Day 1
My Lady and Craig visit JJ in Chicago. Ahem… is this thing on? Okay then.
Oh, Chi-town, how you made my weekend grand. Well, from what I can gather from shards of memory, hazed-up by consecutive hang overs.
I wasn’t really expecting too much from Chicago when we went. Sure, I’ve always been curious about the windy city. What with all the R Kelly urination films and such. Post-Air-Jordan. Ferris Bueller, Weird Science and some cow that kicked over a lamp which turned the entire metropolis into a blazing garbage fire. With history like that, who wouldn’t aim low?
How wrong I was to make such rude assumptions about such a wonderful city. If you have the means to go there, I recommend it. It is so choice.
My Lady and I arrived on Thursday afternoon. Planes and trains. We took the El and met up with JJ along the way to his crib. That was my brief moment of sobriety while there. Yep, just the trip in from the airport. That's about it.
A brief word on the preferred traveling style of Craig. As previous stories may have hinted, I tend to drink a-lot when on vacation (as I assume most people do). For whatever reason, my favorite way to see a new country/city/street is to show up, and then:
1) Wait until dark, and then commence to drinking anything remotely alcoholic (or wet) with the natives until I cannot tie my shoes or speak in complete thoughts.
2) Make a complete ass of myself in a very public place. Typically involving yelling insults at strangers, inappropriate urination, or trying to jump over things which are obviously too high for a man of my height to clear. Like a dumpster, minivan, or mausoleum.
3) Pass out face-first in a most uncomfortable position, as if I were thrown from a moving vehicle, on someone else’s bed/sleep-spot/front lawn.
4) Wake up with a devastating hang over that causes me to question my sanity.
5) Wander aimlessly around amongst the daytime population, staring awkwardly at everyone through sunglasses, pretending to pay attention to all things touristy.
6) Pack my intestinal tract with five times the recommended grease and fat intake of a full-grown walrus.
7) Evacuate a small bronzed puma, eight ounces of gravel, and six live chipmunks from my colon. Burn an entire book of matches afterward, so that the odors combine to smell like someone burned a box of horsehair.
8) Nap like a slobish coma-victim until darkness returns. Pass LOTS of gas.
And repeat that process daily until I am forced to leave. The longer the visit, the more of a flammable zombie I usually become. Empirically, my entire body tends to shut down after the fifth day. But that’s just an empirical watermark. I have no idea what my max is.
This fashion of travel does not sit well with everyone, and I am aware of this, but it does not curb my tendencies to do it anyway. My Lady, not being as much of a booze enthusiast as myself, is not a huge fan. Maybe a night or two of slurred words and embarrassing dancing, but she prefers to temper those nights with lots of “down time” and standard sight-seeing. I am slowly coming around to her more mature style of tourism. It really is the more intelligent and healthy way to travel. It’s just that, I can travel like that when I’m sixty (you never know!). But there’s no way I could travel at that age, the way I do now. So I can see where she’s coming from, but I’m just not there yet. Call me collegiate, immature, or juvenile. I have all the rest of my life to grow up, so why rush it?
Besides, JJ and I typically agree on the subject of active alcoholism, so it’s not like I was alone in my quest. Plus, I honestly believe he was expecting to spend every night of our visit dancing with liver failure, just as I intended. So we were the majority.
Got to JJ’s and dropped our bags off. The weather was absolutely splendid, as it waffled between mid-seventies and mid-eighties with true blue skies for the majority of our stay. The first thing we did was survey his neighborhood, Lincoln Park, which is known as a fraternity haven of sorts. Having known this beforehand, I was mentally prepared for a Caucasian invasion. But to my surprise, it was pleasantly mixed along ethnic lines. So, I’m not sure where the frat-like reputation comes from. Whatever. That's a pointless tangent, but I'm leaving it in there for flavor.
Time to eat.
Tapas and a pitcher of sangria for dinner. If you’ve never had tapas, that’s okay by me. Most fine dining is wasted on me anyway. To me, tapas are like high-class finger foods, which are delicious, but nothing to write your moms about. But if you’ve never had sangria, then you better ask somebody. Whoa. Cheap wine and rotting fruit, while pretty nasty by themselves, make a wonder-twin combination of fantasticalness that can only be properly described by someone who is already plastered on the stuff.
“Wha? Eez sankgria fuggin’ good? Fug yeah! I mean… I’d core an apple with my Johnson for another pidger of that shit,” [burps and passes out in your lap].
And that dinner was the beginning of Craig’s 2005 Chicago Bender, courtesy of JJ, and allowed by My Lady. Now, I’m sure that there is an art to a executing a proper bender. But I have no idea what that art would entail. I just string nights of drinking together with the same care I put into aiming while pushing personal Pine Sol into a truck stop urinal. Take that however you choose. [I’ve been known to piss into the floor drain, sink, trashcan, or cobwebbed corner in those places. Ever seen what five pounds of random human feces looks like after it has been marinating in a broken toilet for a week in the August heat? No? Well then. Feel free to run that experiment at your own place and then talk to me about whether or not you considered where your piss ended up. The flies…. My word.]
So, the tapas dinner ended, and I stumbled out of the place. Just a slight wobble. Like my right ankle was made of jello. Nothing I couldn’t handle. I was still able to have intelligent conversations and obey traffic laws.
We wandered a few streets over, threatened to go into a few other bars, but decided to catch a cab to a place called Carol’s. JJ wanted us to hear some live music, and Carol’s is supposed to be a good venue. Plus, it was dive bar, and that’s always a plus in my book. We hopped out of the cab and entered the joint. Instead of live music, it was karaoke night. Everyone in there was absolutely obliterated. Staggering, blank staring, chorus ruining druuuuuunk. We entered through the corner entrance which put us right at the bar, with the “dance floor” and “stage” on the other side, facing the entrance. The two bartenders looked like a married couple, in their 50’s I would estimate. Got our booze and got a stage-front table. Order after order of beer, we three sat right up front and watched as song after song was brutally butchered. We sang along (for the songs we knew, as many of them were whitey-classics, and I am not familiar with the entire Fog Hat or Lynrd Skynrd catalogs, so we couldn’t sing along to them all), we danced, and drank. And drank. And drank.
It really was a fantastic experience, just to be in there amongst all of those regulars. They were like family, supporting each other even when their performances were frighteningly bad. In all fairness, most of the performers really were good. This one guy did “Baby Got Back” and he did not need the prompter. The song is meant to be silly, and he was a hipster kid who was trying to be ironic, but the crowd went ape-shit, and fun was had by all.
But not everyone was so talented or charismatic.
There was one chap who would not stop staring at me when we first entered. He was sitting right by the door, next to where we bellied up to put in our first order. Mid 40s, thick glasses, greasy comb-over of dirty blond hair, white kicks, a dark Members Only Jacket with a tucked-in Cubs t-shirt, and jeans with no belt.
That whole tucked with no-belt shit KILLS me. It's a pet peeve of mine, big time. The way it accentuates the paunch, making pleats up and over… Fuck. Just un-tuck that shit you toolbox.
Initially I figured he was just curious as to who the new entrants were. But then it descended into crazy creepiness. I looked at him, nodded hello, and figured that would be it.
Dude just kept on staring. What the fuck? So I locked him up in a returned stare. I was focused, trying look jailhouse crazy. Dude paid no mind and just kept at it. Like it was a contest. Seconds of locked gaze, until he started to crack a grin.
A fucking grin.
Hm. Whatever he was thinking right then, I knew it wasn’t to my favor. So I quickly disengaged and focused on the location of my beer.
It ain’t my town, cowboy. So you can have that match.
Two hours or so later, that same guy, still drinking, shuffled up to the stage to sing his request. Holy shit was he drunk. Pickled. Bamboozled. Shnookered. The guy was fucked up as all hell. Like, Thunderbird fucked him up in a Vegas vacant lot. His tee was half un-tucked, and his hair had gone from comb-over to flip-over. Like an opened tin-can. He was sweating, trying to sing an Eagles song or something similar, and was just shitting all over it. Getting the words wrong, even though they are scrolling across a teleprompter, two feet from his nose. Pausing during the chorus to stare at the wall. I think he even threw in some spoken word about how drunk he was. Damn. I almost saw my own future self in that piece of human aftermath. Scary.
But everyone clapped and cheered him on. It was amazing. I mean, he could have staggered up there, grabbed the mic, said “cock in your mouth”, turned around, pulled his pants down and squatted to take a crap on the stage while firing up two middle fingers. There would have been applause regardless. The guy was that bad, and the crowd was that supportive.
I loved it. Even if the dude creeped me the fuck out. It made me want to give it a go. Why not, right? Right.
But I just couldn’t figure out what the hell to sing. When you first walk in, they pass that binder with all the song codes to you like it’s a Baptist collection plate and shit, so you only get like five seconds to figure it out. Then, it gets shuffled off to someone equally clueless as to what they want to sing. By the time you get it back, you’re drinking-pints-with-cig-butts-in-them drunk and you’ve forgotten the brilliant ballad you planned to belt out to the Bud Lite crowd. So you thumb through it like it’s the yellow pages, searching for anything remotely cool to sing. But nothing jumps out at your drunk ass. You just stare at the pages until all the entries read “Billy Joel: Piano Man”, which you would rather mainline bleach than sing, so you give up and just sing along with the other alcoholics.
So, I didn’t get to sing anything. Which sucks, because singing in front of crowds is something of a phobia of mine (along with giving eulogies, standing in a criminal lineup, and sex with rabid wolverines), so I almost enjoy the mix of fear and drive to “just get the fuck over it already for chrissakes.” So I’ve only done it once in front of strangers, which is totally weak. Once? That's it? Little Japanese girls do this shit ALL the time without breaking a sweat? Seriously, what the fuck?
But I was drawing a complete blank while looking at that damn binder. Completely vacant, like it was penned in Dutch or something. My opportunity flowed away like so much beer-piss from a club commode. Damn.
The remainder of the night is not near as clear to me. I know it involved us leaving Carol’s and going to some late-night bar that had pool tables. I remember being REALLY adamant about playing. I get that way about all games associated with the consumption of liquor. Darts, fooze ball, cricket, Running Man, whatever. We played and drank until My Lady and JJ were too tired to carry on. It was somewhere after 3am, but I’m not completely sure of the exact time. I was too busy knocking over pints of other people's beer, telling some coked-up guy how much I love Philly (I’ve never been), shooting on the wrong balls in pool, trying to convince the bartender that I would not be driving anywhere later, and smoking ten cigarettes at a time (apparently).
We caught the El back to JJ’s from there. I vaguely remember walking up and down the platform, yelling at the neighboring flats (something about their patios I think, but it might have been a speech on the theories behind collapsing microtubules and consciousness) along with repeated threats to jump down onto and across the tracks. JJ had to tell me at least three times that there was indeed a third rail, and that only a dumbass would jump down there (which, predictably, only made me want to do it more). I’m pretty sure My Lady stopped listening to me around midnight, so she had nothing to add. I was just about to jump down and cross the tracks when I noticed that I could see through them, between the ties, down two stories to the street. Yes, Craig, it is the “El”, as in “El”evated. Fuck the third rail. The pavement would probably have been my most probable adversary. My drunken nemesis.
And I’m pretty sure I would have lost that battle. Miserably.
I remember NOTHING else about the trip back to JJ’s. I woke up diagonal across the bed, with a very miffed girlfriend who had apparently spent the majority of her slumber-time trying to convince me to straighten out. Apparently, I was pretty relentless. Call it a gift. In my defense, I only do this when innebriated while she does this pretty regularly. That's not an excuse, it's a defense. What do you mean "no Craig, that's dumbassery"? Tit-for-tat? Maybe? No? Oh well, I tried.
And I am going to claim my squaring off with the pavement below the El as a wash. You never know, I might have... bounced. Or something. Bygones.
Posted by Fist of Trueness at 7/07/2005 11:10:00 PM