Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On This Date in 1999

I have a little bit of time before I have to drive Eddie to his Cub Scout meeting. Yesterday, on a beautiful spring evening, he had his first soccer practice, and I taxied him there and back since JoAnna had a meeting after work and didn’t get home until 7:00. Andy’s team practiced on Tuesday at a park in the Town of Middleton, about five miles west of here. JoAnna drove him there and then dropped off Eddie at the library since I had to work until 6:45, when it was time to attend a parent meeting and pick up Andy. The parent meeting was over by the time I got there since one of the coaches had given JoAnna (and others) the wrong time.

As you can deduct from the first paragraph of this letter, it didn’t take long – a day, actually -- to get back into our busy schedule.

JoAnna returned home from Pennsylvania on Monday morning about 10:00. She was beat but went to work anyway, until she couldn’t keep her head up and eyes opened. She was home at 3:00 and immediately changed into her pajamas and crawled into bed. That evening -- after getting dressed again, of course -- she spent a couple hours at the AFSME headquarters doing phone-banking for Shirley Abrahamson.

I spent Monday doing wash and getting the house back in order. I also did some grocery shopping since the milk smelled as though it was close to go sour and the bread had an about-to-mold aura about it. The boys played roller-hockey in the driveway, watched TV, and generally ignored their dad except when they were hungry. Even though I had taken the entire day off, I debated about going into work to check my mail and catch up on my email, but I saved that stuff for first thing Tuesday morning.

Today started out beautifully, but clouds began moving in during the midafternoon and now it is raining, with some muffled thunder occasionally thrown in. Looks like we’ll be getting quite a bit of precipitation this week, which will be good for the grass and the perennials that are already a couple steps beyond peeking through the ground. Our daffodils and crocuses have just started to bloom. I noticed that a cluster of crocuses I planted in a section of the front yard last fall have become bunny food. They just can’t stay away from those new plants. After the first season, I guess they’re just not tender enough.

The boys are already looking forward to their next Chicago trip. We talked about taking a day trip to Wrigley Field some weekend this summer. If Sammy Sosa is going to have another fence-busting season, we better order our tickets now. The problem is, we haven’t finalized our summer schedule yet. Considering what we already have on our calendar – the Nelson family reunion in the Twin Cities, our Bastille Day party, the Richard family reunion in Louisiana, and two or three baseball tournaments, I don’t think we’re going to have many weekends left. Maybe a night game during the week is a better idea.

Were you able to read about the first part of our Chicago adventure? I should have enclosed a magnifier. I always write so small when I use blank greeting cards as stationary. Am I trying to get my money’s worth or ruin people’s eyesight?

You might be interested to know that we were eyewitnesses to history at the Bulls game. We were there to see most of the biggest loss in the team’s 33-year history. How the mighty have fallen, as they say. Andy was ready to leave before the end of the third quarter, which gives you a clear indication of just how bad the game was, but I insisted we stay until Orlando scored 100 points, which occurred very early in the fourth quarter. As a result of our early departure from the United Center, we didn’t have to fight the crowds and quickly hailed a cab back to the motel. 

By the way, Toni Kukoc did play, Barb. He must have made a quick recovery from whatever injury he had. He was the Bulls’ leading scorer with 13 points.

I guess I was somewhat surprised that the game was sold out – the Bulls’ 558th sellout in a row. An article in the March 25th New York Times offers a reason for the team’s continued popularity.

During their reign, the Bulls had become the darlings of celebrities and business tycoons, a favored night-on-the-town entertainment for people from the woodsy, wealthy North Shore. But now it is possible for a man like Rick Peterson, who works for an auto parts business in the working-class south suburbs, to take his 15-year-old son to the game, without forking over the equivalent of a house payment.

Our seats, one row below the very outer ring of seats on the top tier were $22 apiece. They probably could have been scalped for five times that amount last year.

We started out Saturday at Lou Mitchell’s, a loop restaurant known far and wide for its breakfast menu. I had eaten here three times previously, twice with JoAnna, during the mid-80s. I chowed down on a huge omelet (turkey, swiss, tomato, and mushroom) and a side of hash browns, while Andy settled for a bagel and Eddie picked at a Belgian waffle. From here, we walked to the Sears Tower a few blocks away and snaked our way, along with hundreds of other sightseers, to the bank of elevators that took us to the Skydeck. Before taking the 70-second trip to the top, we saw a 15-minute film entitled “Above Chicago”, which, of course, featured only the attractive portions of the city.

Our bird’s eye view was limited due to the day’s hazy conditions. We couldn’t see much beyond a one-mile radius of the loop. Back at ground level, the boys uttered cries of “I’m hungry” so I bought them slices of pizza at a conveniently located Sbarro’s.

From here we drove a few miles north to Lincoln Park. At first I thought we weren’t going to find a place to park. Lots of other people had the same idea we did, but having a basic familiarity with the city, my nose led us to a parking lot located on the Lake Michigan side of the park just west of Lake Shore Drive. The boys rollerbladed for a while but changed back into their shoes when we learned that rollerblades were not allowed in the zoo.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is a very compact facility. We were able to make a leisurely stroll around the grounds and through the various animal houses in less than two hours. Then it was back to the motel to relax for awhile. We were denied the amenity of a swimming pool since it was undergoing a renovation. As a consolation, the boys were able to play Nintendo in our room.

We ate supper at a nearby restaurant and then took a cab to the United Center. Our driver got us there in record time, shaving $2.50 off the average fare we paid on Friday. I handed him a $10 bill for the $5.40 fare and told him to keep the change. “You are the champion,” I added. The boys seemed impressed with my generous mood, figuring that Dad will buy me that jersey (Andy) and cap (Eddie) tonight. They were right. Dad broke out the plastic. The hockey game wasn’t anywhere near a sellout. The arena seats around 21,000 and at least a quarter of the seats must have been empty. We saw a great game, a much better contest than the previous evening, the Black Hawks pulling out a 2-1 victory in the last minute of the game. Where Eddie had been lethargic through most of the basketball game, except for the halftime break, he was into this game from start to finish. Our seats, though located in the third tier, put us right on center ice, providing a panoramic view of the action. At the Bulls’ game, one of the backboards partially obscured our view since we were located in the “end zone”.

Sunday morning, after checking out of our motel, we walked around the area looking for a restaurant where we could eat breakfast. Everything didn’t open until after 11:00, it seemed. We saw some activity in front of a place we had checked out the previous evening, the Rainforest CafĂ©, when there was a 45-minute wait for a table, and of course that didn’t fit into our schedule. Here’s a description of the restaurant from its promotional brochure. 

You’ll be immersed in a tropical wonderland with dazzling special effects: cool mists that permeate through cascading waterfalls; gentle tropical rainstorms (off to the sides; the customers don’t get wet), thunder and lightning; huge mushroom canopies, animation featuring Tracy the Talking Tree, butterflies, crocodiles, snakes and frogs, trumpeting elephants and other wildlife, all moving within the surroundings of larger than life banyan trees, with the sounds and aromas of a tropical rain forest. 

The boys loved this place. Our service was very leisurely, purposely, I think, since a store is attached to the restaurant, so we ended up spending nearly two hours here. The place is designed to provide a shopping experience as much as a dining experience. Fortunately, I only had to pay for the latter. The boys didn’t even ask to buy anything. I think they already appreciated how generous Dad had been during the past week. As a result of our visit, Eddie has decided that he wants to be a city planner and live in Chicago. I wish I could pinpoint the time that he made this career choice during the weekend. Maybe he picked up on some offhanded remark I made while we looking at this scale model of the loop area while waiting for our turn to go up to the Skydeck.

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