Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Family Road Trip

Thanksgiving Family Road Trip

I should have heeded the warning.  Tuesday night at ten thirty I took the dog for a walk, the last walk before she headed to the pet place while we flew off to Florida for Thanksgiving.  The minute we stepped outside into the light fog, I should have known.  I hope this doesn't get worse and clears up in the morning before our flight.

When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was look outside.  The fog was everywhere.  I could barely see the house across the street.  According to the morning new on WGN, no flights had been cancelled or delayed yet, but by the time we got to the airport, our flight was delayed two hours, then three hours, then about 9:45 they cancelled it.  I got in line at the ticket counter while dialing Southwest on my phone.  Finally, I got through on the phone.  We tried to get a flight to anywhere near Florida but there was nothing available that would get us there until late Thursday night.

Bethany and the kids were sitting on the floor nowhere near our gate.  When I got back there and told them we weren't going to Florida, Nate showed his pouty face and Abby started crying.  "Mimi," she said over and over again, in reference to her beloved Grandmother we were going to stay with in Florida.  A voice in my head said "Why don't you just drive?" 

"How about a road trip?" I asked everyone.  After a brief discussion, we decided to go for it.  I felt like I was back in college, where we would just get into a car and go, without any planning, without over thinking it.  I've done tons of road trips before.  I've driven to Colorado by myself twice without stopping.  Heck, we took the kids to Colorado two years ago (that one was rough, Abby was still pretty young).  This was going to be an adventure.

We picked up our luggage at baggage claim, Nate and I walked to the remote lot to pick up the car and we were on our.  The disappointing thing was walking outside of the terminal and seeing the sun as the skies had cleared up.  Unfortunately, they still weren't letting planes land at Midway, so it didn't matter.

We headed out, the first big chuck of miles on  I-65 rolling through Hobart and Merriville.  The navigation on Bethany's iPhone said four hundred twenty six more miles on I-65 before our next turn.  The kids both fell asleep in the back seat (they were up really early in the morning so that is not surprising).  This might end up being a totally disaster, but at the same point, we will always be able to tell the story about how after our flight got cancelled and Abby and Nate were crying for their Mimi (well, Abby was.  Nate is a bit more rational now and understands that these things happen)  so we drove there instead.  So we've got that going for us.

Much of this was written while we were driving, so forgive the occasional typo.  It was hard to type while the car was moving.  No, no I wasn't driving and typing, we took turns.

We stopped outside Lexington, Kentucky for dinner.  We figured the kids would like having breakfast for dinner.  We said, "Hey, how about some Mickey Mouse pancakes for dinner?"  They both liked the idea, so we stopped at a Waffle House.  Now, I've eaten at quite a few Waffle Houses in my time.  Just ask my co-workers who I made eat there with me four straight days when we were in Atlanta (yes, that means you Andy and Craig).  I love me the hash browns at the Waffle House especially scattered and smother.  And hey, who has four eyes and three teeth?  The night staff at the Waffle House (there are a lot of Waffle House jokes out there).  But do you know what the Waffle House doesn't have? Mickey Mouse pancakes or any other pancakes for that matter.  Stupid 'Truth in advertising.'  The kids survived on chocolate chip and strawberry waffles and we survived the Waffle House.  Now I know not to go there for pancakes.  Fortunately, the kids got over it quickly once we reminded them we were going to see Mimi.

By this time, my father-in-law had figured out we were on our way.  Bethany had talked to her mother a little earlier and told her we were headed to my sister's house for the night since the dog was at the kennel.  Big Sven didn't buy that story at all.  He send us an email with directions and a guess of where we were (he was within about 50 miles).  He gave us a couple of warnings about the mountains near Chattanooga, and where to watch for deer at night.  We told him to keep the secret and he said he would.  For those of you who don't know, my wife's family is generally pretty terrible at keeping secrets.  We were a little nervous he'd spill the beans.

Okay the road trip continues.  Right now we are about 9 miles from the Kentucky/Tennessee border going about five miles an hour.  It appears there was an accident and all lanes are blocked.  We are moving but slowly.  While we are stuck here we are going to play the license plate game.

States we have seen: Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Washington, Indiana, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, California, Florida.

The good thing is no matter what happens, we will be able to tell the story about our road trip to Florida in twenty years and we will all laugh our asses off.  My favorite part so far has Abby just randomly shouting "Mommy" every twenty minutes or so.  She shouts it again until Bethany responds to her.  I think its part "Get me out of this car" and part "Mommy pay attention to me."  Usually if Bethany replies with an "Abby," that's all that is necessary.  It's pretty dang entertaining.

Hopefully the kids will fall asleep soon, this accident will clear up and we will get on our way and at least make it for Thanksgiving dinner.     The worst part of the accident was being behind this black car from Ohio that had the brightest brake lights I have ever seen.  There were two circles of dots with an extra semi-circle on the outside and every time the driver had his foot on the brakes it burned that circle pattern in my eyes.  Every time I blinked all I could see was two circles of dots on the back of my eye lids.  The other good thing is the road is very windy here so every time we get around one corner and think we can see the end of the back, the road bends the other way and we see tail lights going on over the horizon.  Awesome!

So the accident finally cleared up and we got to see at least part of the grizzly remains.  There was a full size van that looked like it had been rolled over, smashed and burned.  From the skid marks it looks like it had to slam on the brakes in the left lane then ran across the middle of the road into oncoming traffic.  Traffic was closed across all lanes of the highway in both directions.  It took us about an hour and thirty minutes to get through it.  It was scary.

I took a turn and drove from about 10:30 until 2 am, then we switched.  Bethany took over from there about 50 miles outside of Atlanta, Georgia and took us all the way through to the tip of Florida where we switched again at six a.m., got the kids up for a potty break and got some drinks.  Coincidentally, we hear the sound of a rooster when we got out of the car in the McDonald's parking lot.  I told Nate that meant it was morning.  It turns out the rooster was in the back of a pick up truck, a farmer's truck, Nate told me.  He later told me that the farmer probably had a cow in the truck, too.

We also saw a Hostess truck.  Part of me wanted to force it off the road to see what was in the back of the truck if anything at all.  If you haven't been following the story, Hostess Brands Inc. is going out of business and people are buying up snack cakes everywhere.  Don't fret, someone will but up the Twinkie and Hostess Cup Cake brands and recipes and they will be made again.  Right now, however, you can't find Twinkies or their incredible chocolate Cup Cakes with the white swirls of frosting anywhere.  I looked at every gas station we stopped at and didn't see a single one.  No way am I slumming it and eating a zinger.  If the truck was full, it could have been worth millions.  Alas, our goal was to get to Florida so we moved on.

Finally twenty five hours later, after driving through six states, completely trashing the inside of the van, after only sleeping a few hours totally, we arrived in Florida.  The kids were so excited as we got close, both of them grinning from ear to ear.  Bethany's brother was waiting for us on the driveway and we parked the car out of site of the front windows.   Abby all but ran for the door once she was out of her car seat.  We sent to the kids to the door with her brother. 
"Look who I found wandering outside," he said as he brought them in the house.  She was very surprised and excited to see them.

So we did it.  We survived driving to Florida in one shot, without even planning to do it.  I did buy a road Atlas on the way, but for the most part we used the navigation on our phones and the directions Bethany's father had sent us.  The kids were fantastic and although Nate has often told me we should only every fly to Florida, now we know we could drive there.

Now you are probably wondering how we are getting back to Chicago.  We need to be back Sunday night since Nate has school Monday and I have work.  To drive back we'd have to leave Saturday night.  Fortunately, we don't have to.  Big Sven, my father-in-law, is going to drive our car back for us and we are going to take our regularly scheduled flight Sunday afternoon.  He'll leave Saturday and make it up to Nashville, then go the rest of the way Sunday and pick us up at the airport.  So we get an extra day in Florida and we don't have to drive back.  Woo hoo.

Hopefully, there will be no delays on Sunday.  Please.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  If you are wondering what I am thankful for, let's just say I am thankful that we made it down here and got to spend Thanksgiving with Bethany's family.  We all ate too much and, not surprisingly everyone was asleep early.  I'm sure this will be a Thanksgiving we will never forget.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spinning at the Pumpkin Farm

Last week the family piled into the Minivan and headed out to the pumpkin farm.  It's not exactly just a pumpkin patch.  It has a hay ride, a corn maze, pig races, goats and alpacas you can feed, all sorts of weird Halloween animatronics, and some rides, including a train, flying frogs and the Honey Pots (spinning cups).  The main goal was to pick pumpkins for our pumpkin carving, but we were going to do all of the fun things, too.  Okay, the REAL reason we went was so my wife could have funnel cake.  It took our family all of ninety seconds to scarf down the warm, fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The first thing my son wanted to do was ride the train.  The next thing he wanted to ride was the Honey Pots.  You know, the little spinney rides, like the Tea Cups at Walt Disney World.  But these were even smaller, and without the cost of having to travel to Orlando. It was just a nice easy amusement ride for kids. 

The climb to the top was longer than the ride down
Now, I love roller coasters.  For years I had a season pass for Six Flags Great American in Gurnee.  I started with the Whizzer, an easy starter coaster with no loops.  Then I graduated to the Demon, with two loops and two corkscrews.   I've ridden the American Eagle backwards.  I remember Z-force.  I rode the Tidal Wave, which catapulted you forward through a loop, then back up, before stopping and sending you through the loop backwards, through the station backwards and up another incline backwards before rolling forward again.  When the Batman ride opened in 1993 and we were there for physics day, I rode it twice the first hour the park was open.  I even survived riding Space Mountain in the dark with my mother, her mouth agape, but unable to scream.  At my peak, I could do all the big rides in one day, survive the spins while trying to fall asleep that night then head back up I-94 to do it all over again the next day.  But I've never been a fan of the spinning rides.  I like deep fast drops, going upside down, the bumps of a wooden coaster.  I love that brief second at the top of the climb before the first steep drop on a coaster, when the cars are no longer being pulled up the hill and there is a brief quiet, a pause, before the speeding descent. 
One of my proudest moments was riding the Shock wave with the President of DePaul University in 1996 when I was a mentor in the new student orientation program.  Father Minogue was a big coaster fan and every year he brought the mentor staff to Great America.

Mmm, Honey Pots
Sadly, that was the last time I rode any of the rides at Great America.  And maybe that's the problem.
Flash forward to last week and the Honey Pots.  My son wanted to go on the Honey Pots so we did.  First of all, the Honey Pots are not made for adult sized people.  My knees were pressed into the circular seat across from me almost squishing my son.  And like all spinning rides, there is a metal wheel in the middle of the seats that you can turn to make the individual car spin.

My son wanted to spin.

I started slowly at first, more for him than for me.  "Faster, Daddy," he said.  So I spun it a little faster.  "Faster, Daddy."  A little bit faster.  He was smiling and giggling.  I was focusing on his face and not the rest of the world that was spinning around me.  Then I started to feel queasy.  I slowed the spinning down and started spinning the other way, hoping that going in the opposite direction would make me feel better, or at least keep me from vomiting.  The ride lasted all of ninety seconds. When it finally stopped, I was still spinning.  My son was fine and he hopped out of the Honey Pot with a smile on his face.  I held on to door as I slowly slid out.  I tried to focus on something close to me, right in front of me, but everything in the distance kept spinning.  My son scooted through the exit and I tried to keep up with him. Finally I slumped down on a bench, trying to keep my world from spinning and the contents of my stomach from rumbling out.  My son wanted to go on the cars again.  I told him his mother had to go with him next time.

If you were in high school or college in 1992 you owned this album
I should have known better.  In 2004 at the Minnesota State Fair, the fun ended after I couldn't recover from another spinning ride.  This one at least went up and down as well as around and around, but I was so sick the rest of the day I had to pass on all the different meats on a stick a state fair has to offer.  I couldn't even make it to see the Spin Doctors headline the main stage that night.  Don't you see how ironic that is?  There was a band, guys who could "Doctor the Spin," who could have made me feel better, and I was still too sick to see them.  Am I the only one who finds this funny?

I can still do roller coasters.  My son and I rode Big Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World last year.  I didn't feel sick at all and he loved it.  But kids love spinning.  My daughter will spin around in place in our kitchen, laughing her head off until she falls.  Kids love rolling down hills all the way to the bottom.  They can't stand up for a few brief seconds but then they run up the hill and do it again.  There must be an age when your ability to spin goes away.  For me it was somewhere between 21 and 28.

It's not all bad news.  This year the pumpkin patch added a giant slide and a playground.  Those things I can handle.  This year, my daughter and I did the slide twice in a row and not once did I feel nauseous.  

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I'm Going out For Cigarettes

"I'm going out for cigarettes."  

Does anyone actually know anyone who had a family member tell them they were going out for cigarettes and then not return?  Is it only a cliché for movies, novels and television shows?  Does it happen in real life, besides at The Onion?

I was out walking the dog the other night before bed and I started to wonder: with the good folks at Gallup finding smoking rates at an all-time low , is smoking even prevalent enough for this phrase to work when people leave and never come back?

This is what a REAL Marlboro man smokes.
I've never said "I'm going out for cigarettes" to anyone in my life.  You see, I don't smoke.  I did have a nasty habit of buying a hard pack of Marlboro Menthols when drinking in college, smoking two cigarettes then throwing them out the next morning.  I had a girlfriend who was a smoker and on occasion I'd pick them up for her  Don't worry, I gave her a hard time every time she asked me to buy them for her. I explained how much money she was burning up, literally, smoking and, flexing the knowledge of my math major, I calculated how many cigarettes she smoked in a year (it was around 5000 -these days I need a calculator to do math). I can't figure out why that relationship didn't last. 

Now don't worry.  I'm not planning on leaving my family. It seems silly that someone would use that line now, and maybe it has never actually happened, but been more of a TV and movie thing.   Around here, cigarettes are almost nine bucks a pack so if someone you love leaves without at least a ten spot you know they are not going for cigarettes.

If I was writing a movie, or an episode of a TV show, or a blog and I wanted one of my characters to just walk off into the darkness not to return until the movie, TV Show or blog needs a turning point or the show runs out of ideas, what would they say?  "I'm going out for ice cream?"  That wouldn't work.  If there were kids present, the kids would instantly shout that they wanted to go, too.  "I'm going out for coffee."  More plausible.  Even late at night, you can find a coffee shop just about anywhere for those of us addicted to hot caffeine.  These were both pretty boring phrases, though.  I racked my brain to come up with other lines to say, but nothing seemed relevant enough to be something real to do but common enough to avoid suspicion.  

Instead, I came up with a completely new, totally original phrase that has no other meaning whatsoever, but makes sense to use in this case.  I worked on a short story with this as the first line and I said it over and over out loud to ensure it sounds good, and it would if I were not the one speaking it. I mean, have you ever heard my voice?  I will assume the phrase sounds great when anyone else saying it.  Are you ready?  Here it is.  Hold on to your seats and clutch your hats.  This is going to blow your mind and forever change how we talk just like the George Foreman grill forever changed the way we cooked hamburgers.

"I've got to see a man about a dog."

How about that?

Lots of people have dogs.  In fact, there are more people with dogs these days than there are smokers.  I totally made this up but if you have watched any of the presidential debates over the last few weeks you've noticed that factual information is no longer required for any debate or discussion.


What do you mean it already means something?


Well, what would you say?  I'm open to suggestions.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blog Lanuti on Expose Lanuti - Expose The Broadcast Basement

Alright everyone, things have kicked into high gear over at the Broadcast Basement and our fearless leader Chris Lanuti has launched the "Expose Lanuti - Expose the Broadcast Basement" contest with fabulous prizes.  Fortunately, we will keep our clothes on.  Simply, we are looking for you to like the Broadcast Basement Facebook page and to follow  @ChrisLanuti on Twitter.  If  you do that, you are eligible for some pretty cool prizes (my favorite is obviously Will Bill and me recording a personalized song for you).

Read Chris's post on Blog Lanuti for the full contest deals.  Oh, and I get bonus beer at the next Broadcast Basement recording sessions for all of the likes and twitter followers I bring in (man, this is starting to seem like some elaborate Ponzi scheme).

So to recap:
1) Like the Broadcast Basement on Facebook
2) Follow @ChrisLanuti on Twitter
3) Listen to the Broadcast Basement
4) Win Prizes

Blog Lanuti on Expose Lanuti - Expose The Broadcast Basement

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Walking Twenty One: A Heroic Coming of Age Walking Journey Into Adulthood

About this time last year I was fortunate enough to be a featured reader at Essay Fiesta, the brilliant reading series hosted by Keith Ecker and Alyson Lyon. Hosted by the great people at The Book Cellar, Essay Fiesta meets every third Monday of the month and is closing in on their three year anniversary in November.  You should go check it out.

Below is a slightly condensed version of what I read that night.  For those of you who did not participate in my twenty first birthday celebration oh so many years ago, here is what you missed.  For those of you who did participate, please feel free to set the record straight.  My memory on the subject is a little hazy.  And for those of you who have read "Wild" by Chery Strayed, well, I wish this story was anything like that.

Walking Twenty One
A Heroic Coming of Age Walking Journey Into Adulthood

Man has always walked.  Putting one foot in front of the other has always been our primary means of transportation.  We celebrate and memorialize in video and pictures when our children take their first steps.  In ancient times, we had no choice.  There were no cars, no CTA, no bicycles, no scooters, none of those shoes with the wheels in the heels.  To get from one place to another, we walked.  To this day, we still walk, although most of us do it less than ever before.

I myself have been a walker.  My grade school was not far enough away for a bus, but too close for my mother to drive me.  My high school was the same story.  Often I would just go for walks because, hey, what else did I have to do.  When I moved into the city for college we walked everywhere all the time.  We’d walk the lakefront path because we were close.  We’d walk from Lincoln Park to downtown because we could.   We’d walk up to Wrigley field because we were cheap.  Every once in a while a walk could turn epic.  One lakefront walk on a warm February day produced the iconic picture from my time in college: six of us freshman staring through a six foot high melting pile of snow on the beach, wearing shorts and t-shirts.  Where we went we walked.

Speaking of college, I was one of the last among my college friends to turn twenty-one, and for months I masqueraded as Kyle S. Bright, using a terrible, expired fake ID that looked like me only in that we were both males.  It worked at only the lowliest of the Lincoln Park dives, places where the bouncers were our classmates, never mind that I could never remember Kyle’s social security number or address.  I wanted to use my own ID, my own face, my own name, to get into a bar.   I wanted to be Mike Smolarek: twenty one year old party guy.

Mmm, Baywatch
Finally, my twenty-first birthday arrived.  Sadly, so did the mid-term from my Multivariable Calculus class.  More sadly, it was a night class.  So, at midnight, the moment I turned twenty-one, I stopped studying, cracked open a can of Busch Light, better known as the “nectar of the Gods” among my roommates, and watched the Baywatch girls run in slow motion on the beach for an hour.  So far, this was no different than many other nights that year.  (By the way, did you ever realize that if they took all of the slow motion montage scenes from a Baywatch episode and played them at normal speed it would only be a half-hour show?).

My high school Calc book
The day dragged on and the Calculus test seemed to be the longest test we’d had all year.  By the time I’d finished, the Mike Smolarek twenty first birthday crowd had assembled and was waiting for me.  I put on my nice jeans, the pair without the holes in the knees and the one nice button-up shirt I had.  I also took all the money out of my wallet thinking it was my birthday and there was no way I was going to pay for anything.  Then I slipped a twenty dollar bill back in, just in case.

It lost a B before it could be found everywhere
The first place I wanted to go was  BW-3, a bar I would later live above, a bar that has since been renamed Buffalo Wild Wings, is now family friendly and ubiquitous.  Back then it was my favorite place and it was Wednesday, trivia night, dollar twenty-five twenty three ounce Rolling Rock night.  Sadly, it was also hockey playoff season and the Chicago Blackhawks were playing and there was a line outside the bar.  I have one rule when it comes to bars: no bar is worth waiting in line for.  We headed next door to the Gin Mill.   My friends let me lead the way, Dale, Pat, Marty, Kristin and her brother Ken, Christa and a few others.  I handed my ID to the bouncer.  He gave it the once over, then said “Happy Birthday.  Head to the bar for a shot.”
There were a few shots, a beer or two, normal stuff for someone turning twenty one.   After an hour, I wanted to smoke a cigar, something you could still do in a bar back them.  (You kids out there have no idea what you missed.  Coming home covered in smoke, the smell clinging to your clothes.  You could almost feel the smoke wash down your body in the shower the next morning.)  We crossed Lincoln and Halsted and went to The Everleigh Club.  A cheap cigar, a few more beers, a couple of shots and we moved on.  I was feeling good.  But this is where things start getting hazy.

Don't drink these.  Ever.  Really.
First of all, I was no longer in charge of this mess.   I would have said agreed to anything.  I was a certified yes man.  I was in it for the long haul.  Secondly, the two people who were most likely to make sure I got home, Kristen and Ken, sweet, rational, caring Kristen and Ken, had gone home.  Now Dale was calling the shots.  And when we got to the next bar, he called a lot of shots.  A whole tray of them, whiskey, I think. Our numbers had dwindled.   Who was going to drink all of these shots?  It turns out it was me.
That is the last thing I recall without straining my cerebral cortex.  It was around midnight, although I wasn’t wearing a watch so I couldn’t be sure.   We’d been out for just over three hours.  From this point on until much, much later in the evening, I mean, morning, I cannot accurately gauge the reality or timing of any events.   

During the rest of the night, the following ten things may or may not have happened.
1)      I attempted to kiss a girl in the bar.
2)      I told Christa something so un-polite she stopped speaking to me.  For a year.
3)      I played basketball in Oz Park.
4)      I ditched Marty, telling him over and over again I knew where I was going, “One Hundred Percent.”
5)      I was stopped by Chicago Police officers in a paddy wagon.
6)      I slept on a park bench
7)      I got rained on.
8)      I hooked up with a girl
9)      I yelled at a taxi driver while in the cab
10)   I threw up

Let’s address these one at a time.  The ones for which I have confirmation, I have listed the source.

1)      Kissing the girl at the bar- Yes, I did attempt this, although I have no recollection of this.  In fact, I was not told this happened by anyone until my twenty second birthday when Dale, again calling the shots,  told me he almost got into a fight with the guy who was with the girl while apologizing for me. 
2)      Christa -I must have said something terrible to Christa because she didn’t speak to me again until halfway into our senior year.  I have never asked her what I said and no one else has told me.  By now she must have forgiven me because she is my Facebook friend and people never lie on Facebook.
3)      Basketball in Oz Park.  I woke up with giants scrapes on my forehead and nose from my game of air basketball in the park.  Marty told me the next day about my full court run towards the basket, my magnificent leap towards the rim, and the ugly, face first landing as gravity took over from drunken weightlessness.  It took him a long time to tell me the story because he was laughing.  A lot.
4)      Ditching Marty – True.  After Oz Park I took off south down the red line tracks, insisting I knew where I was going.  Mary tried to keep up with me but couldn’t.  In his defense, he was drunk too, and well, I was sort of a drunk walking pro. 
5)      The Police -  While I cannot prove that I stopped and talked to a paddy wagon,  I recall a conversation with Chicago’s finest where I explained it was my 21st birthday (true), that my friends ditched me (false) and that I lived in that building right there (false).  They told me to get home safe, I walked to the building, opened the door to the lobby, pretended to open the inside door with my keys, then, after the paddy wagon pulled away,  ran as fast as I could the opposite direction.  Again, no actual proof of this exists and all requests for interviews with the Chicago Police Department were laughed at. 
6)      The Park Bench- I recall lying down on a park bench because I was so tired and my legs.  Not confirmed by an outside, sober source, but most likely true.
7)      The rain - I recall getting up from the park bench because I felt rain drops and I feared waking up in the park in the morning with both my wallet and my pants missing.  Not sure why I was so worried about someone stealing my pants.  It seemed rational at the time. this is confirmed because I woke up at home still wearing the wet clothes.
8)      Hooking up with a girl?  Not a chance. 
9)      The taxi cab –At some point, after sleeping, or not, on a park bench and after blocks of blocks of the addresses going up instead of down among streets names that did not look familiar, my brain cleared up enough to realize I needed a cab home.  A few minutes into the ride, I yelled at the cabbie because I thought he was going the wrong way.  He insisted he was taking me the fastest way.  But I was drunk, and clearly right, and so damn sure I was right, that I keep yelling at him.  Eventually, we got to Fullerton, he pointed at the street sign and I relented.  The cab fare ended up being about eleven dollars.  That’s 1996 dollars!  That’s like a hundred today.  I gave the cabby a twenty, asked for no change and hung my head in shame as I exited in front of my dorm.  It’s a good thing I put that twenty back in my wallet.
10)   Puking - I did not throw up that night.   Not that night.

The red numbers of my alarm clock read 4:30 when I fell into bed without changing clothes.  I woke up at nine a.m., drank some water, puked, drank more water, changed into clean, not-wet, non-muddy, non-smoky clothes, then went back to sleep.  I woke up again at one p.m, puked, showered, and tried to eat.  Not only was my head pounding and my stomach churning but my legs ached.  I was sore like I had gone for a ten mile hike.  I felt unsteady in any position and couldn’t even focus on the TV, so I went back to sleep until five o’clock.  I finally listened to my messages.  Everyone called, wondering if I had made it home, the first message from Marty at 12:45 a.m.

As I replayed the night back in my head trying to figure out what happened in those four hours.  It turned out I did something that was habitual for me: I started walking. 

Post-drinking walking was not new to me.  Often when we took cabs or the L to a party, I would walk home instead.  Sometimes I didn’t want to spend the six or eight dollars on cab.  Sometimes I left when I was mad and used the time to cool off.  Sometimes I used it as a way to sober up a little before going home.  Most times I just walked because I liked to walk.

Only this time I was unable to chart a proper course.  I tried to trace my path but it was before GPS phones so it was impossible.  I could only remember certain things. I’m sure I followed the red line L track south starting at Webster, but who knows where I went next.  I remember hopping a fence to cross a busy street I now thing was Lake Shore Drive but even looking at a map, I can pick out the place.  The spot where I talked to the cops seemed nice and had some mid-rises: was that the near north side. I remember address in the 3100s right after I pulled myself up from the park bench.   I thought they were north, but, based on the cab ride they had to be west, making Humboldt Park the only park that would make sense.  With these few details, by my best calculations, I walked at least six miles that night.  But I don’t like to think of it as a drunken stumble.  I call it a heroic coming of age walking journey into adulthood.  I set out on my own, by ditching my friends.  I overcame adversity, being drunk, and I made it home alive with stories to tell, thanks to help from others, my cab driver.

Which brings me be back to the beginning.  Man was always walking.  At some point, homo-sapiens walked out of Africa, up through Europe, across Asia, into North America before settling here in Chicago.   Moses and his followers wandered the desert for forty years (clearly, men were in charge and were afraid to ask directions).  Were the drinking?  It seems likely.

And who’s to say that back in ancient Egypt, at the cradle of the Nile, after they learned fermented fruit made a good drink, one that made you smarter, better looking and more sure of yourself, there wasn’t a guy out there like me, celebrating his birthday, at whatever the drinking age was in ancient Egypt, who had one, or ten, too many, uch, ditched his friends and wandered through the desert for a few hours. 

I learned my lesson, though.   The next night, as my roommates laughed, my head still pounding, I insisted that I would never drink again.  And I kept that promise, for two whole days.

Thanks for reading.