Friday, September 21, 2007

"Hey Chicago, What do you Say?

The Cubs are gonna win to-day!"

We had a really fun time in Chicago. It's Dean's favorite town, having grown up visiting it frequently and I've thoroughly enjoyed it both times I've gone. The first time we went was six and a half years ago, we had been together a little over a year and it was our first trip together. I remember it being a magical time for us. This time, things were a little different since we didn't go alone. But it was still a blast.

Dean's best friend, "Skinny" and his wife went along with her two brothers. Skinny's brothers-in-law know Dean well. They all hung out some in college and since Dean was the best man at Skinny's wedding, there was much male-type bonding during the bachelor party which consisted of a weekend long trip to Kansas City.

Looking back it seems obvious that when you travel with your spouse AND other people, it can get strange. I'm used to traveling with my labmates and I'm used to traveling with Dean. Of course Dean and I have a certain way of doing things but traveling with others requires you to be flexible or be miserable. I think there were definitely some things Dean and I would have done differently but the trade off for not doing those things was basically being at a four day long party. Dean and I are all about eating when we travel. As my mother-in-law aptly pointed out, we like to take in the local cuisine, try the nice restaurants, and discover the hidden hole-in-the-wall joints. Unfortunately our traveling companions had more of a utilitarian style of eating, so were confined to whatever was close, cheap and convenient. Of course saving money on food meant more cash for beer. There was certainly plenty of that.

One place we did end up eating was the original Billy Goat Tavern. You may guess by the name that it was somehow involved in the curse of the billy goat. It was the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern that cursed the Cubs after his goat was turned away for game four of the 1945 World Series. The Cubs lost the series (despite their 2-1 series lead over the Tigers) and haven't been back to the World Series since. Interestingly, the restaurant has another place in history: it was the basis of the Saturday Night Live "Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! No Pepsi, Coke!" skits. Yes, they really do talk that way even though I'm sure it was a put on. It was a convincing one though. It was very entertaining, the burgers were amazing (the double really is the best!) and still very inexpensive. I would recommend even non-sports fans visiting if you get the chance for both the food and the atmosphere.

We also had cocktails at the top of the John Hancock building, 96 floors up. The view of the city was stunning. From where we sat we could see Navy Pier and Soldier Field lit up. It was late when we pulled ourselves away from the view and wandered over to Pizzeria Due (sister to Pizzeria Uno, the original "Uno Chicago Grill").

Wrigley Field left me in awe. I have always felt like kind of an unworthy baseball fan since I prefer watching Twins games on TV rather than at the Metrodome. Now I know that it's just because the Metrodome is a steaming pile of shit, and baseball games should be watched in places like Wrigley field. Places like that are where tradition and pride is born. The Cubs haven't won a championship in 99 years, but the place is always packed because it is truly a great place to go and watch a game. Dean had been to Wrigley several times, but this was the first time I ever went. For my first Wrigley experience, we were in the bleachers- which turns out to be nearly equal in roughness to the south side of Chicago. There were fights, profanity, beer all over everything, not to mention constant harassment of the visiting team, and even harassment of Carlos Zambrano who looked less than stellar Tuesday night. Both nights, we stood in line to get seats in left field. During batting practice, Dean and both discovered that we are much too cowardly to actually try to catch the ball and much prefer scavenging, though even that tactic didn't get us anywhere. At Monday night's game we drank an obscene amount of beer. I tried a Chicago-style hot dog which nearly burned a hole through my intestines. We also discovered that in complete contrast to our original impressions, Alfonso Soriano is an awesome guy. He was always interacting with the fans, getting us riled up, throwing balls in the stands to whoever screamed loudest (or had the cutest kid which is understandable). Monday night was awesome because the Cubs had a dramatic bottom of the ninth win. The crowd was out of control, screaming, singing, chanting out onto the streets. We hit the bars around the stadium (notably the famous Cubby Bear, and Sluggers which combined a bar and batting cages- a brilliant money-making venture). The was even more drinking, and celebrating into the wee hours of the morning.

Needless to say, Tuesday we were moving a little slow. We got up and out late and spent the afternoon wandering around Boystown. We were curious to see Chicago's gay area mostly because Tampa doesn't have one and we didn't actually know what might be in a gay neighborhood. We window shopped a little (the bars weren't open), admired the rainbow flags hanging from every street light and even saw a Green Machine, which means that Dean will probably never drive ours again lest his sexuality be brought into question.

The game Tuesday wasn't quite as good even though the side show entertainment was still impressive. Most notably being reprimanded by the Chicago PD for public drinking while waiting in line to get in (oops) and the shirtless, chest painted C-U-B-S guys who violently threw back onto the field even the batting practice home runs they caught from the Reds. They even had the Reds outfielders laughing at their colorful insults making me feel relieved that no one brought their kids into the bleacher seats. The Cubbies lost though and the mood wasn't quite as electric as the night before. And to address lefty's comments, we did see some hating on the Cardinals (mostly her beloved "El Hombre"), but not nearly as much as on the White Sox. I really don't understand that rivalry though. The Cubs and Cardinals have routinely played each other since the early days of the National League, whereas until interleague play, the Cubs and White Sox hadn't played an official game since the 1906 World Series. Maybe a Chicagoan can explain it to me.

So there you have it. Four days of beer and baseball and good company with old friends. I couldn't have asked for a much better time.


Minnesotablue said...

Sounds as though you had a great time. I remember my first Wriggley game like it was yesterday. When I had my first look at the field itself I was stopped dead in my tracks!! I remember while living there that the cubbies were considered the team of the "yuppies" and the the sox were considered the team of the working guys. Don't know if this is true but it might explain some of the hostilities. Any way, glad you had a good time

Jeni said...

I love baseball -mainly because I pretty well understand the majority of the game (unlike football and heaven forbid, basketball)but I don't really like to watch baseball on tv - in person is the ONLY way to watch a baseball game is my theory. However, I haven't been to a baseball game - major league variety that is - since the Senators (now the Rangers) were in Washington. Tells you how many years ago that was, doesn't it. But your description of seeing the Cubbies sounded like it had to be a whole hell of a lot of fun! I'm very envious of your trip right now, hope you know that! But glad you had a good time. And, by the way, last time I was in Chicago -actually just through it - was 25 years ago this past August! Story maybe to come at a later date and time -lol.

dr sardonicus said...

This Cubs-White Sox thing may have something to do with the Sox winning the Series a couple of years back. I haven't been to Chicago since the early 90's - at that time quite a few people there seemed unaware that Chicago had two major league teams.

lefty_grrrl said...

The Cubs-Sox thing is class warfare, pure and simple. Historically, allegiance to one team or the other indicates that you (or your parents, or your grandparents) were from a particular part of Chicago, indicating class and ethicity.

As far as hating on el Hombre, I'd hate it if one the Cards divisional rivals had him, too. He's f*$#ing incredible. The Cubs don't have anyone that I hate. They're still the Cubs.

Oh, and you just now figured out that Metrodome sucks? No athlete likes playing there, though I can see an obvious advantage during the playoffs: the noise, the opposition's unfamiliarity with the field.

One last thing: I've heard that Wrigley is cool, but that unless you're right on the field or in the bleachers, it's not a great place to watch a game, something to do with obstructed views. I don't know.

Beth said...

I've never been a baseball fan, but it sounds like you had a great time. My husband and I usually use one night on vacation for a great dinner. All the rest are cheap and clean.

Hot4Teacha said...

What a great trip to have taken! I'm so glad you gys had a blast. I fondly remember parts of Chicago through a green-beer haze of St. Patty's Day...the only time I'd ever been to the Windy City, and oh, what a time it was!

magnetbabe said...

Yes, I am aware that the team you root for in Chicago is a reflection of your social standing. It's the point of it that eludes me. If you are gong to hate a team, hate them because they kick your ass every time they play you or because the owners use the entire major league as their own personal farm team (Steinbrenner!). Hate a team because their manager is an offensive, hotheaded jerk and their players "accidentally" injure yours whenever they meet, which can be up to 20 TIMES A YEAR (ChiSox!). Don't hate a team that your team hasn't played in 90+ years just because they're from the good/bad end of town. Taking out social aggression on fellow baseball fans is pointless, and a waste of energy IMHO.

The fans seemed to dislike the Sox and the Sox fans, but all of the businesses (fans shops, sports bars, etc) in Wrigleyville where we stayed seemed completely oblivious to the White Sox's existence.

I do have to correct you on one thing though, lefty. The Twins have historically loved playing in the Metrodome because of the obscene home field advantage it gave them. It's the fans that hate it and ultimately spoke up enough to put pressure on the state legislature to fund a new stadium. I've always known the 'Dome sucks, but when the only other major league parks I'd seen games in were Tropicana field (another dome) and Dolphin Stadium (an outdoor steaming pile of shit) I was beginning to think that I just didn't like live baseball unless it was spring training. Oh, I've also been to Miller park but it was for a day game at it was 150 degrees out. This was just PERFECT.

lefty_grrrl said...

In St. Louis, people ask each other what high school they went to for the same stupid social reasons. It's messed up.

As far as the Metrodome goes, I just read recently somewhere (I'll have to find it) that many players don't like playing there because of how easy it is to get injured there. Apparently, the turf quality is poor and leads to leg/foot injuries. I cannot for the life of me remember where I read this at... I think it was a book. I'll try to remember which one and find the reference.

But I agree that there are obvious advantages for the Twins. They're in trouble if they don't resign Hunter, though. The outfield there is treacherous to play.