I woke up to more stormy weather this morning, storminess that mirrored the mess inside my head. I wouldn’t say I lost sleep over anything, I just kind of woke up feeling full of regrets or something. It was somewhat disorienting, really. I don’t remember dreaming much. The only one I remember at all was about my audition a week ago for “The Music Man”. The dream included loud, disembodied voices shouting at me as I was trying to sing my audition song, “Extraordinary” from “Pippin”.
The voices were shaking the room as the boom box started playing the first notes of my karaoke track, almost derailing me from hitting the first word of the song (“Patchin'” if you’re curious as to what that first word is.”). “You should have filled in the part you wanted on the proscribed line on the audition form,” boomed one voice. “You probably shouldn’t be singing an audition song about compost,” roared another.
I have no idea why I’d be having a dream about this last night as opposed to, say, last week right before or after the actual audition. Maybe I’m subconsciously worrying that being away for the callbacks will hurt my chances of getting a part in the show or maybe I’m just nervously awaiting the announcements of roles on Monday. In the end, I just want the show to be successful and if the best role for me to help the show toward that end is for me to be well-hidden back stage or in Wisconsin, then that’s the part for me!
But I’m on vacation, so I don’t have time for regrets. Worrying is one thing – worrying is what I do best! But regrets? I’ve got no time for them.
Today’s big vacation agenda item is a trip into Chicago, the Windy City, where we have tickets to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. As big baseball fans, Wrigley Field is one of those places you’re supposed to go, one of those shrines in baseball that no self-respecting fan of the game could miss going to when only 75 miles away. So, since we were coming all the way out here, I picked up some over-priced tickets from Stubhub and got everyone excited to see some exciting baseball between two teams we couldn’t care less about: the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it was stormy when I woke up. Rain, thunder, lightning and wind were pounding against or rattling or brightening our Villa. I wandered into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, to help fight off the dreary morning and my increasing fear that the game would be cancelled. As I set foot into the kitchen, my bare feet discovered some cold squishiness. I looked down and found water bubbling up through the tiles in the floor. It wasn’t a lot of water, but there was enough to darken the morning just a little bit more. I watched the weather on four different local stations and the Weather Channel. It was all about the rain and the flooding throughout the Chicago area. Apparently, this storm was pretty bad and had caused a bit of trouble. Good thing we were planning on using mass transit all along, since there is, apparently, no parking anywhere near Wrigley Field.
As unusual as it may be, the various weather reports all agreed that the storm was bad. More unusual was the fact that they all agreed there’d be a break in the weather from about noon until about 4:00. The game was scheduled to start at 12:05, so we decided to risk it and go. The kids wanted an exciting trip and so far we’d seen downed traffic lights, powerless stores and water coming through the floor. It could only get more exciting travelling to the big city!
The first leg of our trek to Chicago was a 47 minute drive through the muck, puddles and corn fields to the city of Aurora, Illinois. Those of you who are like my wife and have too many spare brain cells available for pop-cultural trivia, will recognize Aurora as the home town of Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World”. “Wayne’s World” is one of those movies that I, apparently, don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand. This movie is so deeply layered and so rich in metaphors and symbolism that someone of my low mental capacity simply cannot comprehend its deeper meanings and biting, satirical, anti-establishment political message.
Or, as my wife would say, I’m just a stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddy who’s too stoic to see the humor.
We found our way to the Aurora train station and parked. I allowed my wife to figure out how to pay for the parking and I dragged the kids inside to get the train tickets to Chicago. This was the source of my next lesson of the day: I’m too honest.
Apparently, Rosa could have travelled for free. But, being honest, perhaps to a fault, I told the ticket agent that I needed three full fares and one child fare. This is because kids 12 and over pay full fare unless they have a valid student ID which will give them a discounted fare. Of course, Rosa didn’t bring her student ID with her for some reason, even though she should have known she’d need it to get a reduced-price train fare or a beer at the ballgame. But no, she didn’t bring it. Anyway, the ticket agent thought Rosa was only 10 or 11 years old and would have given her a free pass. She even said I was too honest! She gave us the student rate, though, even without the required student ID. I hope the nice agent doesn’t get fired for such brazen rule breaking.
Anyway, the required restroom inspection was next and was successful. We rushed to get on the train that was about to leave, making it just before they closed the doors. The kids wanted to ride on the upper level of the double-decker car, so we sat in the sideways-facing row of seats. When the ticket taker came by, he wouldn’t accept Rosa’s ticket… because she was too young to need one. Sigh…
An hour later we arrived at Union Station in Chicago. In an effort to make sure my kids had their requested excitement, the Chicago Transit Authority helpfully removed all of the directional signs and maps and essentially anything that might have been deemed useful to an out-of-towner. I couldn’t really see any CTA officials who were helping foreigners like us to find our way, so we were kind of stuck trying to figure out how to catch the subway or a bus.
So, being the world traveller that I am, I did what anyone else would do: I said, “What would Dirk Gently do?” I’m sure you’ve all read the Dirk Gently books, right? “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and “The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul” are two fantastic books by Douglas Adams. You should read them. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve read them, you’ll know what I did, but I’m going to tell you anyway: I did what Dirk Gently would do. That’s right, I found someone who looked like they knew where they were going and I followed them.
This strategy worked well, despite the dirty looks from the wife and kids who wanted me to ask for directions. But I’m a real man – there’s no way I’m asking for directions! If I were going to ask for directions, I might as well just tattoo the word “Tourist” on each of our foreheads in bright, flashing neon colors, perhaps mixing in the words “Gullible”, “Loser” and “Pathetic” just to keep things fresh and exciting.
But as I said, my strategy of following someone who looked like they knew where they were going was working well. They led us out of the train station and onto the streets of Chicago. I don’t know which compass direction we were going, so don’t ask. My sense of direction is fantastic – just ask my wife. While she might deny a lot of things I proclaim to be true, she will not deny my sense of direction. But it was failing me today for some reason. My sense of direction relies on a complex algorithm that takes into account the angle of the sun in relation to the direction and speed of the wind, coupled with the length of the left whiskers on the nearest small, furry rodent. here in the Windy City, it was very windy (duh), but the wind was swirling and all I could find were some small birds. I was not lost, but I could not tell what direction we were headed.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blew a paper from the hand of the guy I was following. It was as we were crossing a river or canal or something, so I dove after the paper to catch it before it went into the water. Handing it to the guy, he thanked me… and asked if I knew how to get to Wrigley Field.
Apparently, he was following the guy in front of him. Apparently the folks behind me were following me…
Now this is what exciting means! I promised the kids a new and exciting vacation and I was delivering! Yay me!
So, as a larger group now, we followed some other folks in Cubs shirts who, it turned out, were following someone in Cardinals shirts. Eventually, we got to the subway. Once again, there were no signs telling us where to go. Thankfully, a security guard was more than happy to tell us where to go and she helped us get tickets. She insisted that Rosa was young enough to ride free, but wouldn’t tell me the age limit. This must be a Chicago thing…
Anyway, the subway became crowded at the next stop. I mean, crammed in with little room to breathe. Luckily, we got seats because we got on one stop earlier than the crowd. The ride was an interminable 30 minutes but we finally got there.
Wrigley Field was a short block away from the station. We went through the bag check line so they could inspect our ponchos and then we wondered to our seats. We had really good seats, Section 208, Row 5. The section above us shaded us from any sun we might have had as well as from mist or rain, yet we could still see just about everything except the left field corner of the field.
Seats found, it was time for food. We wandered a bit and found a place selling veggie burgers. So, we happily ordered four veggie burgers as any good, card carrying vegetarian should do. A few moments later, the lady behind the counter came back and said “Sorry, we’re all out of veggie burgers.”
The cloudy world got just a little darker and grayer at that moment. No veggie burgers? How was that possible? The game hadn’t even started yet and they were already out? In that brief second I considered a lawsuit. I considered jumping over the counter and knocking things over. Then, I ordered four cheese pizzas.
The game was great. I was surprised at how many Cardinals fans were there. I’d say the stadium was more than half filled with Cardinals fans. But the Cubs fans were definitely louder, probably because we were screaming for the Cubs (since we didn’t care who won, we decided to root for the home team). It was a lot of fun to watch as the game went back and forth early on.
Midway through the game, we went looking for ice cream. We stood in line for a while and bought Cubs helmets filled with a swirl of chocolate and vanilla soft serve. The lady handed us the ice creams and what we found was a brownish-colored, soupy, semi-solid liquid. It was spilling out and making a mess all over the place. I never thought ice cream could be unsatisfying, but this was totally unsatisfying.
We finished our cold dairy soup in a few minutes, then the boy needed to inspect the men’s room. The girls went back to the seats where they found some idiots sitting in our seats. They gave her a hard time as she chased them away, but they left. Sitting down, she discovered they had decided our drinks were tasty. Now, granted, we probably shouldn’t have left them there… but seriously? Who sits in someone else’s seats and drinks their drinks?
Anyway, the Cubbies one the game and there was much ribbing of Cardinals fans to follow. It wasn’t like in Philadelphia where you’d get beat up fro being a rival fan; it was all in good fun. We visited another restroom on the way out and this visit took a long time because it was really jam-packed. It was so hot and humid in that room, my glassed fogged up! And no, I don’t want to think about what the vapor in the air actually was, thank you.
We had thought about wandering around Chicago for a few hours, but we were all too tired so we headed back to the trains with 13,000 or so other people. We pushed our way to the platform and waited. First train arrived and we simply couldn’t squeeze on. Another train was waiting to pull up just a short bit away so we stopped trying to squeeze in. The first train started to pull away and then suddenly stopped. It was five or ten minutes before it moved again. The second train pulled up and we got on quickly so that the kids and Ginny could get seats. I stood in the back. The train moved slowly due to the one right in front of it, then stopped. We waited and eventually they came on the intercom to tell us we would be passing the train ahead of us due to an illness on that train. I don’t know what the trouble was, but paramedics were on the way. I guess Fate was on our side today, what with preventing us from getting on the first train.
Next we did our long walk from the subway back toward the train station. This time we didn’t need to follow anyone, partly because we had already walked this path and partly because I saw a squirrel, so I could now correctly calculate the exact direction we needed to go. But they sure do mean it when they say Chicago is the Windy City! Rosa’s hat blew off her head at one point, flying right into the busy street. A car rode over it, but the Hand of Fate stepped in one again and made the wind blow at exactly the right speed and angle such that the hat skittered between the tires. I ran into the street and rescued the hat, for my second big save of the day.
We found our train and got onto it despite the fact that more than half of the cars were locked. As it began to pull away, the power went out inside the train. Apparently, this is because they always cut the power when they’re leaving, to “reboot” the system or something. Whatever. The train moved and this was a happy thing.
Midway through the ride my phone rang. Well, to be truthful, it vibrated, but I suppose that’s the same thing. Anyway, it was a text message from the guy I’ve affectionately dubbed “Dude Who Spams Me”. This guy texts me every few weeks with random invitations or questions. Today’s message was: “What r u up 2 2nite? I’m in OC with Nolan”.
I must admit that I was relieved to know this. I mean, I was worried that Nolan might be lonely or something. I never want anyone to be lonely. Before you ask: yes, I have replied to this guy and told him he as the wrong digits. But he keeps texting me. Maybe he’s lonely. Perhaps it’s my purpose in life to be a somewhat willing recipient of misdirected text messages. Now I can smile – I finally have a purpose!
The rest of the trip back from Chicago was uneventful. We got to our villa, made some dinner and watched “Monsters Versus Aliens”. All in all, a good day!