(continued… 3rd and final part)
We had a little bit of time before the game and headed down Clark Street to Goose Island. Wrigleyville has a special place in my heart not because of the famed Wrigley confines, but because I spent a number of years living in the area from just a block away in Wrigleyville and down Addison into Roscoe Village. Clark Street was not just Cub’s country, it was home. Of course, as life goes, the place has even changed a bit since I lived there a short 8 years ago.
We entered Goose Island and there was definitely an energy in the air. We headed toward the bar at which point we began the time honored tradition of taking turns buying rounds of beer. This was also the location of my first drink of the day which tasted a little too good on my empty stomach. As I mentioned, Pete brews and kegs his own beer thus the golden beverage has a special place in his heart. He also happens to love Goose Island. Thus, it was a no-brainer that I would buy a round of Goose Island’s special reserve beer, Matilda. All you need to know about Matilda is the Goose tap is golden, the beer is served in oversized wine glasses and the final product is priced accordingly. I must say it was one of the most interesting beers I’ve ever tasted and after the unexpected first sip, I truly enjoyed and could appreciate its uniqueness.
Upon polishing off the last gulp of reserve it was time to head back up Clark Street to Wrigley Field for the very reason we had ventured into the city. There was definitely an energy in the air as fans anxiously awaited the changing traffic lights and final go-ahead blessing from the mounted Chicago police to let them cross over Addison to the promised land… well, at least for Cubs fans. We packed ourselves into the crush of humanity clamouring to have our ticket bar code scanned so we could make our way across this historic thresold of America’s great pastime. Interestingly, the Cubs and White Sox fans were co-mingling quite nicely. Of course, these games are about pride and I imagine the atmosphere might be somewhat different if these two teams are coming together once again during the Fall timeframe.
We carefully read our tickets in comparison to the Section boards overhead. While waiting for Kevin to take care of business again, we got in line for our first traditional draft Old Style beer. Tom, our White Sox fan, purchased the round and made fast friends with the concession staff as they exchanged smiling jabs about the foreign jersey he was wearing. Once re-united, we began to head up the ramps… up…. up…. climbing higher… up… higher… until we finally reached the 500 section. The good news was we were in the 9th row, the bad news, as we quickly discovered, was the 9th row is the final row of the highest point you can sit in Wrigley. We arrived to find a mix of Cubs and White Sox fans. The only thing seperating us from Wrigley Field and the Chicago skyline was a chain-link fence. It was almost spiritual… of course, not as “spiritual” as what was about to happen.
For anyone who has been to Wrigley, you know there isn’t a bad seat in the house and the seats were just fine for us. We nervously drank our Old Style and began munching on some pistachios while Tom sat a few seats away nibbling on peanuts to create some distance between Cubs and Sox. No distance could save him from the spirited verbal jabs we threw back and forth talking “smack” as the game started.
The game began, and early on the White Sox posted some runs on the iconic manual scoreboard at Wrigley. Of course, as if some vision had come to us, we showed no fear or concern and instead continued to give Tom a hard time boasting about what we had hoped was about to happen. He defended himself by lobbing the periodic peanut shell at us. Our vision for the Cubs rally turned to reality in the now-epic 9 run inning which pretty much closed the White Sox down early. The fever ran high in that inning, homerun after homerun, run after run. It was like Christmas morning with one euphoric gift after another. Soon, the entire section was united in sharing euphoric high fives. The White Sox fans grew quiet, especially Tom who was suddenly at a loss for good-spirited comebacks.
The sixth inning rolled around and Tom decided to call it a day as he announced he was going back to Goose Island. Of course, we had no intention of going anywhere given the way things were shaping up. The sun was shining, the sky full of large marshmallow-like clouds. The only drawback we learned the hard way was the beer guy kept running out of beer by the time he finally made it all the way up to the top. We thought of sending a strong passenger pigeon to retrieve a couple of cold brews for us, but by the look in the birds eye we didn’t think we could trust the creature with our money.
The seventh inning brought us emo teen icon and newlywed Simpson family member Pete Wentz of Chicagoland’s Fallout Boy who sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. They seemed to be having a good time. With the game in hand, the beer running dry and just a bit of concern over the White Sox member of our expedition, Pete decided to head out to Goose Island in search of Tom. As for Kevin and myself, we weren’t going anywhere until the final chorus of “Go Cubs Go” ended at the conclusion of the game. We did just that and enjoyed having the opportunity to catch up without the smack-talking banter going back-and-forth between Pete and Tom.
The game ended, the Cub’s won and we were content to head back down the ramps, across the street and back down to Goose Island to meet up with Pete and Tom. Still, the crowd was very calm and in seemingly good spirits Cubs and White Sox fans alike. We worked our way down Clark Street and after a short wait in line headed back into Goose Island where we found Tom at the bar drinking off the pain of his fallen White Sox. The only violent moment of the day occurred as I videotaped Tom’s face with my camera phone as we approached him with smack-talk-a-blaring. He jokingly swatted his large hand and accidentally knocked the phone to the floor while the camera still rolled. In retrospect, I suppose I deserved it. Besides, it has made for a nice keepsake video in my phone’s archive.
After gathering some food and engaging in smalltalk at the bar, we were at the point that we had enough. I think the bartenders had had enough as well given the fact Tom kept tossing peanut shells at them and threatening to drink shots from 15 shot glassed lined up in front of us. We left Goose Island to make our way down Addison toward the Red Line Station with bucket drums rythmically pounding in the background.
Once on the train, Tom was the only one who seemed to have a White Sox jersey on and in full form proceeded to make some more friends as he entertained everyone. We know Tom well as a gentle giant but the other riders didn’t quite know what to make of him. Needless to say, plenty of laughter was to be had as the story of his recently fired co-worker and the “universal sign” found another new audience.
We hopped off the train at Jackson and headed toward Union Station for the 5:25…um… I mean 6:30 train. Our wives had expected us on the 5:25 pm train but it wasn’t in the cards for the day. Along the walk, Tom had the opporutnity to expand his pool of friends to a Chineese tourist who approached him asking where Union Station was. We were heading west toward Union Station, but in predictable form, Tom sent him back two blocks east just to see if the lost tourist would take the bait… fortunately, the tourist caught on to his obvious plot. With some time to kill, we stopped at the Giordano’s pizza off of Jackson. It’s amazing to me that any restaurant is open in the loop during the weekend. We settled at the bar on the other end of the restaurant and began trying to figure out when exactly the next train to Naperville ran.
As I was searching my phone for the metra website, a clean-cut unsuspecting kid walked up and sat down next to none other than Tom. I just shook my head slowly as I tried to anticipate in my mind what misadventure this unsuspecting kid had just stumbled into. As it turns out the kid was stationed at Great Lakes and was experiencing his first trip out of Texas. He asked us if the pizza was good… at Giordanos… in Chicago. For those of you familiar with the stuffed delight, the kid asked what size of pizza he should order. Before I could suggest the personal size based on my own experience, Tom jumped in quickly and said, “no, no… you definitely needed to the get the small… you look hungry.” Mind you there were plenty of empty seats along the bar but this kid chooses the spot next Tom’s one-man show.
A couple of minutes later, the kid asks us if there is a barber shop nearby. With it being the loop late on a Saturday afternoon, we all kind of looked at each other. Then we waited in anticipation of the enlightened advice Tom would dispense to the poor lad. Tom told him he had to go to “State Street Barbers” which, according to Tom, was two blocks east just around the corner on Jackson. Again, the kid wasn’t buying the advice or any belief in this mythical barbershop.
Eventually, Tom shifted his attention and one-man show to an older gentleman standing a few feet away dressed in a suit nursing a Heinikein. He mumbled to me that this guy owned the place. I politely acknowledged Tom’s misguided and seemingly baseless hypothesis, but it didn’t end there. Tom questioned our belief in the theory that the guy owned the place. I think we all know the collision course this one was on. The bet finally surfaced and was issued to Pete… a small sum of money that they guy was owner of this Giordanos. For those playing along at home, believe me, there was no way on earth this guy was the owner of this Giordanos hanging out at the bar of “his restaurant” dressed in a suit on a dead Saturday evening in the loop. Nonetheless, Pete smelled easy money in the air and gladly took the bet. Tom called the bartender over and in scraping together all the confident accumen of a TV private eye, pointed to the guy and asked who he was. The bartender, with a degree of confusion on her face, said she had no idea. In disbelief, Tom questioned “he’s not the owner or manager?”, the bartender responded that she had never seen this guy in her life and that the real manager was standing at the host stand at the other end of the restaurant. With a gloating “sucker” laugh, Pete gathered his winnings as Tom nursed the sting of his lost bet as he resumed his position at the bar sitting in a dejected slump.
After a plate of fried mushroom delight, it was time to head to Union Station to spend the next hour heading home toward Naperville on a train mixed full of families, their children and baked Cubs and Sox fans heading home, still talking smack. And Tom had one last chance to find a new audience for the now legendary story of his former co-worker and, yes, the “universal sign”.
The train came to a stop at the Downtown Naperville station, we exited and quietly got into the car. Responsibly, having only had a couple of beers hours before, I was happy to make sure our crew got back home safely. We turned the corner into the old neighborhood and then into my former cul-de-sac and Tom, Pete and Kevin exited the car quietly heading for their garage doors and slowly one-by-one vanished behind the dull hum of their doors slowly moving toward the driveway surface.