December 8, 2017
Chicago is a sports bar city. You really have to be careful here; that lethal combination of great bar food–wings and fries and nachos–paired with pitchers of beer paired with 6-7 month long winters, where you stay inside, either at the bar or on a couch, the pounds really start to add up.
Before Thanksgiving, I usually weigh in at about 215. Thanksgiving is the big kickoff event and the lbs keep piling on until May. There have been years when I step on the scale in May to see 240. That’s twenty-five pounds of Italian beefs, deep dish pizzas, buffalo wings and bleu cheese dipping sauce.
For my money, the best wings in the city are at Bird’s Nest on Southport. I was there with my buddies Friday night, we went after work and just stayed at the same table for hours. Another pitcher. Another round of wings. Another pitcher. They had the Bulls game on in the background, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t missing the Bulls at all.
But that’s not really true. It’s like having your ex-girlfriend’s phone number memorized, no matter how hard you try, you can’t shake those digits. You’ll always remember. I think it’s harder to forget a phone number than remember it. So, as much as I wished I didn’t care about the Bulls, and was actively avoiding their games, I still knew they were on a 10-game losing streak. I still knew the last time we won was against the Charlotte Bobcats. I still knew Kris Dunn had been playing well at the point.
That Chicago Bulls fan part of the brain that I was trying to let die, trying to let wither away, it wasn’t going down easy. It was like a plant not getting any water; in all-out survival mode. Catch the score on the bottom line on ESPN. Catch a headline in the Trib that someone was reading on the bus. See a highlight on someone’s phone on the El. That Bulls plant was getting just enough sunlight, just enough information to survive, to stay alive if I ever chose to come back.
The game went into overtime, the Bulls ended up winning 119-111.
My friends were jumping up and down, I was scrolling through my phone. I had been texting a little bit with this girl I met at a bar last weekend. Her name was Aliza. She said she didn’t know anything about sports. She was into movies and cinnamon rolls. She said she kept a Google Doc listing out all the cinnamon rolls she had tried in the city. She had one column for her quick review (out of five stars), then one column for the written review. She tried to get to a new place at least every other week. I asked if she liked the classic Pillsbury at-home kind, she said yes, but she always made her roommate open it because that “pop” freaked her out.
She also has a lifelong dream of building a giant aquarium in her house. Not just a big tank, an entire room dedicated to it. She pictures it being half library, half aquarium.
“I want to have like 20 baby turtles,” she said. “They’re so cute with their little shells and their little legs, I’d just sit there watching them swim around with a glass of wine in my hand.”
I thought maybe a good first date would be going to the Shedd. Or maybe I should just buy her a goldfish. I sent her another text.
Two of my buddies wanted to stay out, the other two wanted to call it a night. I was absolutely in the call it a night camp. I had spent the last hour yawning and craving a couple of Tums. I think I ended up at 24 buffalo wings. This might be an Alka Seltzer type of night.
I ordered a Crypto-cab, it’s like Uber but the only way to pay is with a new cryptocurrency called “Elbur.” It’s probably borderline illegal, I’m guessing Chicago will shut it down soon, but right now it’s hard to beat rides that cost right around 75 cents.
The white Lada Granta pulled up. That’s the other thing, I never recognize the brand of these Crypto-cabs. I got in the backseat, nodded at the driver, and then for the third time in the last two months, I fell asleep in a cab.
Normally, not a big deal. We pull up to my apartment, the driver says, “Excuse me, sir, here you are.” I wake up, laugh, hop out.
But this time I woke up and we were still driving. I checked the clock on the dashboard. It had been 45 minutes! I looked out the window, didn’t recognize anything. We definitely weren’t in the city anymore.
He took a left turn, we hit a big bump. We were going off road! I’m talking going through a field.
“What are you doing?!” I shouted.
“Everything is alright,” he said in a Russian accent. “You have to trust me.”
I reached for my phone. One percent battery. I went to click on the GPS app, but first I saw a new message from Aliza.
“I would LOVE to go to the Shedd!! When were you thinking??”
And then the screen went out. Battery dead.
I looked up ahead and there was a giant mansion behind a big iron gate and a driveway that had to be the length of a football field. At least.
We waited for a few seconds. The driver put the car in neutral. Took out a match, lit a cigarette. Cracked the window.
“Seriously, what’s going on?” I asked.
“Welcome, Mr. O’Bryan,” he said.
The gate began to open. He put the car back in drive and we started down the driveway. I looked again at the giant mansion.
Not a single light was on.