07 April 2009

Chicago 2009

Several months back I got a call from my mother. She said for her birthday this year, she wanted myself and my brothers to trek to Chicago and we could all be together, "I'm paying" she said. Who can resist those words. As my closest friends knew, I viewed this trip with trepidation, thinking all the signs pointed to this being my mother's swan song: failing health, divorce unhappiness, money issues ... her plan was to get us all together and fall over dead.

Fortunately, I was wrong, mom look better than she has in years, and seemed genuinely happy.

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Mom looks great!

So I started out Friday morning on my trip. Merinda took me up to the airport to get a rental car, and I started on my way. I ended up with a Saturn Aura with XM/Sirius satellite radio. I had wanted to be on the road (i.e. out of Council Bluffs) by 7:30, but it was 9:25 before I left. Driving through Western Iowa is always better at night, sheesh how boring. The drive went very well until I got to Walcott, IA (The World's Largest Truck Stop) to fuel up. I pulled into the pumps, and then could not figure out how to open the gas tank cover. I looked all over the car for a lever or button, but nothing. Finally out of desperation, I pressed the fuel door ... yep, it's spring loaded.

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The rental, note the satellite radio, did I mention I liked it a lot? I didn't feel that way about fueling up.

The only other thing that went wrong on the trip in was I took a different exit off of I-90 than I usually do, and I ended up quite turned around and well, frankly, lost. I got myself to Union, IL, and found my way from there.

I got myself to mom's just before 1800, and met my newest relative, Daisy. She didn't quite know what to think about me. Which was only made worse when my brother's showed up, then she didn't know what to think about any of us.

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This is my mother's dog, Daisy. She is on the same generation as me, making her my dogther.

My brother Carl showed up shortly after my arrival with his girlfriend, Jessie, whom I had not met before. My brother David had a tougher road to hoe, having gotten on a train (unbeknownst to him) with no way to pay. A good Samaritan helped him in his plight, and he arrived around 2200. We hung around for a little while, ate some pizza and drank some beer. Mom predicted that Carl wouldn't drink my beer, Blue Moon ... please, mom knows nothing about beer.

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Carl and Jessie both got conned into playing with the iPhone.

Day two (Saturday) dawned early, um okay, late morning. Jessie works with vintage jewelery, and she took off to Volo and the antique markets there. David stayed home with Mom, and Carl and I went over to the local Borders, which was not where I remembered it. After that I got some pictures of the neighborhood, and family friend Jen showed up.

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Mom's house on Saturday, the tree in front so close to being in bloom.

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Carl and I improvised a game of chess on Dave's laptop ... some things never change, I got my butt handed to me.

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We taught Jessie how to play Georgia Dice (a variation of 10,000). She rudely beat me ... hmph.

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Later on we went out with mom when she played darts, we mostly just hung out and drank and visited with each other and mom's friends. We played pool too, after I won three games in a row, suddenly no one wanted to play.

Mom's friends were a hoot and very friendly, a little bit louder than my friends, but I can take it. It was good to see she was in such good hands. While we were at the local drinking establishment, it started to snow, hard. Consequentially, we left immediately after the dart league ended. On the way home, we were hungry, so we went to the grocery store. Yeah, so we spent $80 in booze and snacks without any effort what-so-effort. The weird part was the cashier, he had this strange moustache, the corners of which had about a quarter of inch waxed and turned up. Very odd. I got mom flowers. We came home and grazed on the food, talked, and played more games.

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Remember the picture of the tree from earlier in this article? Yeah, thanks for the seven inches of snow.

I woke up on Sunday morning, and seven inches of snow greeted me. I was forced to realize that snow like this just doesn't happen in Omaha. Omaha gets about the same amount of snow about as Chicago, but it's the dry fluffy blowing kind. This snow was wet, heavy, and melted off the streets in short order. It made for some really nice pictures, however.

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When I called my mom on the way in, she said "Surprise! Your aunt Sandy and uncle Fred are going to drive up from Toledo to see you. My brothers and Jessie had gone off to visit my father in a nearby town, so it was just my mother and I left at home. We were wondering if the trip from Toledo was really going to happen with all the snow and such, but we got a call in the early afternoon, it was my aunt Sandy "Surprise! We brought (their spouses) uncle Tom and aunt Fran." They were at the hotel in Crystal Lake, and going to drive up to McHenry, eta one hour.

We started cleaning up a bit, and I had just gone out to shovel the walk when there they were. Not much later, Dave, Carl, and Jessie came back and it was half of the family.

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We got some family photos.

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Evidently, Sandy had heard some tall tales before...

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...that's because Tom is a master storyteller.

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Sandy managed to figure out my iPhone long enough to look at my pictures...

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...she brought a more conventional photo album with her too.

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Fred used some of the famous Szabo powers to influence a game of dice and beat us all.

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Fran brought some wonderful Polish coffee cake for us to sample.

It was a great time reacquainting myself with people I hadn't seen in twenty plus years. David made red beans and rice for dinner. Some really nice pictures showed up on the camera.

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The panorama feature on my camera was discovered.

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Eventually, the evening wound down, Fred, Fran, Sandy, and Tom went back to their hotel, and we stayed up for a little while, and then headed to bed.

I woke up on Monday morning, the plan was to go meet the relatives for breakfast before they left back to Ohio, then I would get on a train to Chicago. My brothers had other plans. Frankly, I wasn't too enthused about going downtown, I didn't feel super, and I had a good plan B. We headed down to Crystal Lake for the breakfast and met up with the aunts & uncles.

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This Home Depot sits on the spot that used to be a par 3 golf course and fun center. I wasted plenty of my youth there, and have many fond memories over there in the lawn and garden section.

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Mom fairly famously does not like her picture taken ... I'm not fooled by the disguise.

At some point I guilted myself into making the trip downtown figuring that I came 475 miles, I might as well go downtown. I'm glad I did, the weather was fine downtown. Mostly I just did the touristy stuff, sight-seeing and taking pictures. I met up with Jen in the late afternoon when she could leave work. We went out to eat at Sayat Nova, I had lamb that was simple and amazing. After dinner we wandered around downtown just talking and enjoying the city. We ended up back at the train station, and I went back to McHenry. Here is what the city looked like through my eye.

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Finally it was time to go. My brothers and Jessie had planned on Tuesday being their trip downtown, so I said goodbye to them early, spent some time with Mom, and then hit the road going the slow way, well, I was meeting up with Michele at lunch.

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Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, IL. Yep, they did have high schools way back when I was a teenager.

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This is where I learned to drive and park. Clever readers (well, maybe not so clever ones too) will recognize it as where the movie "Groundhog Day" was filmed.

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Michele and I had a nice lunch. This picture is so we can both say "Hi Sheila!"

I then hit the road and was SO frustrated by detours I vowed I would never take I88-I39-I90 again. I am going straight on 88 until I hit Dekalb and I'm going up Illinois 23. I am half thinking it is going to be just as fast anyways, because it is a shorter drive.

And that's it, my Chicago vacation.

There are plenty more pictures here.


Melissa said...

Glad to hear you had a good trip to Chicago!

Matt Johnson said...

Looks like a fun trip. I'm glad you were able to get so many good photos. Wish I could see for myself where it was Bill Murray stepped (it's a doooooozy!)

Jems said...

Glad you had fun. If you ever want to come out to the east coast there'll be a spot.

beckstraordinary said...

You all have the same nose. I mean, obviously you don't...but you do. Even after the surgery.

Shera said...

Looks like your trip was really really a great one! Thanks for thinking of me! I am sure you and Michele had a great time catching up!