Hometown Chicago – Boys of Summer

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Ack, ominous skies! And dark waters..usually a crazy beautiful green

Wait, what,  you say? You’re from Chicago? Well, no, I’m not. I was born in NYC and lived my charmed childhood in bucolic Westchester County NY and Fairfield County CT. But every summer growing up I went to Chicago (South Holland to be exact) to visit my grandmas, and my aunt and various other Dutch-descent folks. Southside Chicago was a bit different in those days–farms and Dutch Calvinists and really long freight trains so long, you might as well put it in park and go for a Cunis Candies peach ice cream. Yum. By the way, Cunis has been there since 1933 but recently my parents have refused to take me there because they don’t like going back to SH which has changed a lot. If you get to go, get the peach and blueberry ice creams. You will not regret it.

My parents left South Holland in the early 60s and never looked back–except for our wonderful summer weeks there. We visited “the city” (New Yorkers cringe when I do this because of course the city is NY) of Chicago to go to a Cubs game, to visit the Art Institute and the Field Museum and all the city stuff we did before heading back to quiet South Holland. Chicago looked a lot different as well back then – the wonderful lakefront was largely ignored, there was no large dinosaur named Sue and there was a small lakefront airport that Chicago’s mayor finally blew up to make a park (seriously, the man went nuttos and bulldozed a la rogue in the middle of the night). What has never changed: the friendly people, the beautiful lake water, the Greek Islands restaurant in Greektown (I think we’ve had the same waiters for 40 years but I’m a-gonna get into that a little later) and the feeling of home. This ain’t no second city–this is the best summer city in the whole world. Yep, I’m sticking to that story.

I could take days to write about Chicago and all the things to do in a summer. This year we had only four days, as we were wedged between visits to Michigan and the Adirondacks. I will not make that mistake again. My parents now live west of Chicago in a lovely little planned community that has a pool and pickleball for the afternoons when we are tired of being steam-heated then museum-cooled. And they are perfectly willing to squire us about everywhere. Love.

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Pooltime kids

So, on one of our days, I decided that I really needed to take one of my sons and my dad to a Cubs game. I would say that I grew up with the Cubs mostly because my dad was the only one to care about baseball (I think it was more about the sunshine, the scene and the beer) and he was a Cubs fan. My mom’s side of the family was White Sox, which was more common as southsiders.

If you have never been to Wrigley Field, get on over. It doesn’t really matter if you like baseball. It’s the second oldest park in the country (the Green Monster wins) and (shut your eyes, Bostonians, for a sentence or two) by far the prettiest. By. Far. Oh wait, I’ve never been to Camden Yards but well, send me a ticket if you want me to rate it. Green ivy covering brick walls, a scoreboard that is 100% manual still–you can see the guy watching the game from the open space where the next score will go up.

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Worker is looking out of holes in eighth and ninth innings

Now, if I haven’t made this clear before in my blog, I am extremely cheap. And the Cubs have gotten extremely expensive (darn you World Series champions! I wanted you to be lovable (cheap) losers forever!) I think a Cubs ticket is now the second-most expensive baseball ticket in the country (don’t quote me on that; I made it up). I really wanted to take Lalo and my dad (with whom I have seen every Cubs game that I’ve gone to, except one when I was with MBA friends). For $70/ticket, we were high up in the left field but with a nice covering over us so we did not fry in the sun. Yay, us.

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Things that amazed Lalo who was attending his second baseball game ever, the first being in the oldest park in the country three years ago:

  1. You could pass money down a row of people to pay for snacks and sodas and the change would come back and the food too. I had never really thought about that before.
  2. The old man that sang “Take me out to the ball game” during the seventh inning stretch was a hero of mine as a kid. None other than Rick Sutcliffe who was a pitcher-titan in the 1980s. I think Lalo either did not know baseball players could sing, or he had just now realized how old I am.
  3. There are no bad seats in Wrigley. Nope. It’s the fun of being with the crowd, watching people taking selfies, eating bad food.

I really hope he does not want to do it again: I shall be bankrupt.

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Rick Sutcliffe on the telly!! Oh okay, no one cares. Just me.

These are the moments, I know, that will last in memories forever. Dad, me, son. On a sunny day at the baseball stadium. Cubs won it, one of the craziest games on record with two beanings with baseballs and a baseball into the ivy.

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I have to give a quick shout-out to O’Shaughnessy’s Pub. When we got a little attitude from our originally booked dinner place (we were a half-hour early and would not be seated until our whole party arrived…and the place was empty. An unusual rudeness in Chicago, and therefore noted), we walked down the street to an Irish pub with an open outdoor seating area.

While waiting for everyone to show up, my dad and I ordered a flight of beer. Lalo asked for one too. And the waitress said “sure.” And here came his flight with root beer, apple juice, sprite and coke. Love you, Chicago, and your roll-with-it ways.

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