Songwriters: Eugene Kelly, Frances McKee
Original Release: Incesticide
Definitive Version: None
This, like most of the stuff on Incesticide, makes me think of doing my laundry at Debbie’s apartment in the fall of 1994 as I’ve recounted, but it more recently became a song about the circular nature of things.
When Debbie and I took our first real trip together to Chicago over Labor Day weekend of 1994, we flew, because plane tickets back then were only about $90 each roundtrip (and no insidious fees). The big expense would be the hotel—Debbie wanted to stay downtown.
I always had been intrigued by the Allerton, which, of course, is this huge old hotel just off Michigan Avenue near to the Hancock Tower, and when I found it was only $99 a night, I booked it. The Allerton is notable for a few things—the gigantic fire escape that snakes the entire back expanse of the brick building and a huge sign at the top of the building that touts the Tip-Top Tap.
What it doesn’t tout is the size of its rooms. They’re nice, but my closet isn’t much smaller than what we had. There was enough room for a double-size bed and a walkway around it, and that’s it. Still, it suited our needs, because we were going to be out most of the time.
I had to show Debbie all of my favorite haunts, which, of course, were all of Jin’s haunts—places that she had introduced me to. I noted this constantly, to the point where Debbie later said it was like being on a date between me and my sister. Real nice. Well, one thing Jin and I never did was go to The Berghoff, where Debbie and I had lunch the day we flew home. The Berghoff was a legendary nearly century-old restaurant downtown that was the Chicago version of Schmidt’s—German all the way.
I definitely was listening to this song a lot during that time, and then a decade later, I had it running through my head again even though I hadn’t really listened to it in a while.
You see, I had begun to date Laurie, and I would see her once a month, maybe twice depending on how the weekends stacked up. The lyrics seemed perfectly appropriate in capturing the joy of being together and how it sucked when we were apart. As you might know, they repeat over and over, like a circle, and the lyrics spun through my head in a neverending earworm.
As it happened, when Debbie and I went to The Berghoff, that was the only time I made it there, because the owners closed the storied 100-year-old institution to the public shortly after I moved to Chicago. Laurie and I had tried to go after the announcement was made, but the wait was astronomical. It was good, but it wasn’t that good—and it certainly was no Schmidt’s—so we passed.
Will the circle not be unbroken? It turns out The Berghoff—after very publicly closing to become a catering location—reopened a year later. This was so quiet that I didn’t even know about it until I researched the closing date just to see if my memory synched up with reality.