Monday, September 03, 2007


Smiling in Chicago


On our way home, we spend the night in Chicago, our one luxury of the trip. We're staying in a nice hotel downtown with a decent view of the lake. The kids get drunk on the sheer altitude of it all.


The Brownie LOVES hotels, mostly for the fact that you get tiny soaps and you can jump from bed to bed and towel off with the bathrobe that comes with the room (the same reason we all love hotels, I guess). This time, she discovers the wonder of room service, so much so that I almost regret showing her the in-room menu.


We don't spend all our time in the hotel, of course. We wander the streets, catch up on our window shopping, and bore the kids senseless with tales of the adventures of Mommy and Daddy when they were not yet married and living in Chicago.

Our last day of the trip, we go to the Field Museum, then down to the lake to walk around.


While Her Lovely Self nurses the Éclair on a quiet bench, I get the kids some Chicago-style hot dogs, celery salt and poppy-seed buns and all. Standing near the bike path, munching on my hot dog and drinking in the city, I am filled with a powerful urge to stay. I always forget how much I enjoyed my time here. I was in my early 20s, a bumpkin from the sticks, making his way in a big city where he knew no one. My time here, my struggles, my acts both stupid and brave, made me the man I am today. I have no doubt that if I hadn't come out here, separating myself from every safety net and support I had, forcing myself to get along (and, it must be said, reaching some measure of success in the doing of it), well, I'd probably be back in New Hampshire in not much different circumstances than my brother. Little wonder then that being in Chicago always makes me feel 35 percent more capable and confident (not to mention handsome and dashing and likable) than I actually am.

As if in proof of this, at that moment, two gorgeous young women in their early 20s--all legs and sports bras--come cycling around the back of the Shedd Aquarium. I'm the first thing they see, just off the path, standing there like God's own gift. The wind off the lake blows through my hair and I give them a winning grin. They smile right back--real wide smiles, like we're in on the same joke--and flash by in a whir of giggles.

Did I say 35 percent? Try 80.

Just then the Brownie walks up. "Dad?" she asks. "What the heck is in your teeth?"

I don't even need a mirror. In a flash it comes to me: the hot dog bun. The poppy seeds. When I smiled at those girls I must have looked like I had dental lice.

I sag, a lumpy guy in his late 30s with a bad back and three kids and memories of his youth in Chicago, and let my wise daughter lead me back to the car.

And on to home.


Oh no...

Well, you know what really matters. :) (though it doesn't keep a moment like that from stinging...)
ah ignorance is bliss....
"Dental lice." You've just put me into a fit of coughing/laughing.

(As I run my tongue through my teeth cracks and find a day's worth of dental lice.)
They still thought you were HOT..........and old...........and had teeth lice......

Just think of it as a Clark Kent moment.

They don't know you're a Superhero.
Loved that! As much as I love Chicago. I'm going the last weekend in October with my own Brownie-aged daughter. My friend runs a children's film festival there, THE children's film festival, if you ask me, and we're finally going to attend! There are seats for everyone; check out (Is it wrong to plug it if it's really wonderful?)
Wow, I haven't been to Chicago since I was a kid. I have family up there...I really ought to visit. I remember my first time amid all the skyscrapers, staring up and getting all vertigo-ed, and all the locals kept looking at us and looking up and wondering what the hell we were staring at. What can I say, the biggest city I'd ever seen before that was Lexington, Kentucky, which, like Augusta, Georgia, has one (count 'em one) "skyscraper" to its name.

My mom lived in Chicago when she was in nursing school. Me, I've only ever visited big cities...

Anyway, that view from your hotel looks awesome, and I'm sure despite the dental lice you had a great mini-vacation. :)
My first professional gig away from home I moved from New Mexico to New Hampshire. I had a few people tell me they didn't think they could have done that, themselves, but after living in Okinwawa for two years when I was in the military, it didn't seem like that big a deal to me. Always good to make it on your own, though.
Happy to hear you smiling, teeth lice or not : )
In our household, thats affectionatly known as "Trailer Tooth."

I like chicago. I've got extended family there, and spent many a summer there as a kid, and could lead tour groups through the field museum, I've been there so many times.

anytime I get particularly forlorn for the city, I visit in the middle of july where its so goddamn hot you plan your outings based on where there is good AC.
THEN I don't miss it quite so much.
Well, from a lumpy BALD guy who just turned 50 and only has about 40% of his initial allotment of teeth, I say you've got it pretty good :-)
Dude you have GOT to be kidding me.

I was in Chicago from Thursday-Monday, and Saturday I was at the Shedd Aquarium.

If you saw a dude with a Red Sox hat and glasses, it mighta been me.
yheheh! Classic!
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