Saturday, February 1, 2014

No. 124 – Hypnotized

Performer: Fleetwood Mac
Songwriter: Bob Welch
Original Release: Mystery to Me
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: None.

When I awoke on the Sunday of my first visit of Laurie in Chicago in November 2004, I felt so much better than the day before. For one, I didn’t have a hangover. For another, I hadn’t gotten sick.

What a roller coaster the previous day had been! But being by myself in Laurie’s apartment got me out of my own head, which apparently was all I needed. OK, so back to our fun weekend, already in progress.

Laurie had a matinee performance of her play that day, so I would be able to see it after all. We drove to Piven Theater close to my old stomping grounds in Evanston, and I was left to my own devices on food. I hadn’t had a Vienna Beef hot dog in ages, so lunch was an easy call.

I still felt a bit rocky, however. I’d fixed myself some toast in the morning, but at this point, I’d eaten a single steakburger, two chocolate chip pancakes and three pieces of rye toast in the previous 48 hours. I couldn’t finish my hot dog, but my body’s reaction was night and day from my experience at Walker Bros.: I felt OK. (By the way, it was on that drive to Walker Bros. that I heard Hypnotized, maybe for the first time. As bad as I felt, I knew a great song when I heard one.)

Inside, I chose a seat toward the back, as per instructions, but also in a spot where, if I needed to, I could slip out the door undetected for the bathroom. I never needed that escape route.

The play was Our Country’s Good. Laurie played Dabby. It was entertaining, but the most interesting thing about it now is I’ve come to know so many of the cast members—many of whom I met that day. I’d love to see it again knowing everyone now as well as I do.

After the play, Laurie took me to Tommy Nevin’s, one of about a thousand Irish pubs in Chicagoland, for a celebratory beverage. I remained a little skittish about my stomach, but perhaps some alcohol would dull the senses. I put down most of my pint as we deconstructed the play. Laurie seemed a little on edge, but that’s because the events of the previous 24 hours had unsettled her a bit, too.

But the hard part was over, and the weekend got better with each passing activity. For dinner, we went to the now late, great Penny’s Noodles under the L tracks near Wrigley Field and a nearby bar, Sheffield’s, which I knew from watching the White Sox clinch the division in 1993. We played pool, which I knew Laurie liked, and pinball, which I didn’t, and even though I didn’t finish my pad se eu at Penny’s, I felt normal for the first time in two days.

We finished up the night at yet another haunt, which thankfully exists: The Green Mill. Jin introduced me to The Green Mill, which was—and still is—home to the Poetry Slam. This time, Laurie and I were there to hear jazz, which The Green Mill is most known for.

Our performer, as it was for many years on Sunday night at The Green Mill, was Kimberly Gordon—a chanteuse who sang from behind the bar. Laurie was disappointed. “She’s so over it,” she said. At least the Green Mill Songbird, as she was known, wore a torch singer evening gown that night. Years later we saw her again, and she was dressed like a Swiss milkmaid. Talk about being over it.

The next day was better. In fact, I felt fine the entire day for the first time in what seemed like weeks. We started with breakfast at another of my old haunts, Ann Sather’s, and I polished off my Swedish breakfast of lingonberry pancakes and potato sausage like there was no tomorrow. Then we went to the Art Institute.

As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions, the Art Institute is one of my favorite places, and I’ve had quite a history with it. It felt great to be back and even better that I was there with Laurie, not unlike a certain day 16 years before when I was there with another new paramour. By now, it seemed that Saturday was just a bad dream. In fact, Laurie even said that Monday and being at the Art Institute was when things seemed back to normal and she could see that I was a fun guy and not just some schlub (as far as she knew).

Now the ball was back in her court. She took me to one of her favorite bars by the Art Institute, Miller’s Pub. I loved it. It’s as old school as you would expect any 70-year-old (now almost 80) downtown Chicago bar would be. I took particular note of the Chicago sports corner, which consists of dozens of photos of old White Sox players, including one of Bill Veeck at his usual perch at Miller’s.

We had the fried calamari appetizer, which was excellent but a tactical mistake, because for dinner, Laurie chose a restaurant in Indian Village. I’d only recently jumped on the Indian-food bandwagon, so that was fine with me. At Tiffin, under Laurie’s direction, we each got the thali, which included a little of everything.

Now where the mistake of getting the calamari came into play was that I wiped my plate clean at Tiffin. The food went down so easily that I didn’t realize the error of my ways until I was finished. I felt like I was about to burst. I’ve been back to Tiffin many times since, but I’ve never finished another thali—never even tried.

We walked around Indian Village for a while after dinner until we started to feel a little less bloated. Then Laurie took me to her favorite bar of all (another Irish pub)—The Grafton—close to her neighborhood. It was fine, but I struggled to stay awake. I must have been successful, because Laurie didn’t even know I was nodding off until after the fact. I now couldn’t tell you what we talked about.

That was a mere blip to what otherwise had been a flawless day, and at the end of it, Laurie said she wanted to see me again, although she said she wanted to sit with it for a bit first before she committed to when. Fair enough.

The next day was drizzily, which reflected my mood. It had been a great weekend, and I didn’t want to leave, but it was time. I walked Laurie to her car, parked on one side of the train tracks, in the morning before she went to work. We kissed goodbye, and I went to my car on the other side. As soon as I got in my car, my gloom lifted.

It was time to get back to my life at Torch Lake, which I was loving. Besides, I had a special gal waiting for me to pick her up at the vet’s kennel.

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