Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sweet Home Chicago

01 May 2005

Time is sure flying by so quickly. I can't hardly believe how much fun I'm having being home again. Yes, it's expensive...not so much so as London, but I'm having a great time at home. I ran a very relaxing four miles for the first time in a long time on Friday morning. I can't tell you how great it is for me. Just as I get out of the subdivision, I make a left and only two blocks later, I'm out in the middle of the corn fields of DeKalb County. Miles of rolling hills. No snipers, no mortars, no rockets whizzing overhead, no worries. Just the smell of rich black dirt and liquified cow manure! Mmmm, mmm. Can life get any better than this?

One of the things that I've found myself missing has been fresh cut flowers and live plants. Friday when I took Phil to Oak Park for his prolo treatments to his shoulders, I'd run across a florist just down the block in downtown Oak Park by the name of Kabloom. They had this beautiful dozen yellow roses in a vase with burgundy ribbon and accent flowers. Well, I couldn't resist and had a half-dozen yellow roses arranged. The thing about yellow roses is that they were always Mom's favorite color roses.

It's not the first time I've bought fresh flowers since my return and it won't be the last. I especially miss working in my plant beds here. It is still early spring and so few plants have started to bloom. I get to miss another summer season, so bringing in the cut flowers at least gives me a dose of what I'll soon be missing.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've realized a few other foods that I've missed dearly. Cottage cheese, my sugar-free yogurt, good ice cream (any brand of Dulce de Leche!), IBC Root Beer, Black Cherry and Cream Soda, a nice glass of Ruffino Reserva Ducale Chianti Classico, sugar tea ring cookies and ALMONDS! Is there any wonder here why my dog is so food-motivated. Takes after her owner.

Saturday, my buddy and his family stopped by for a visit. The nursery came and delivered and planted the eight white pines for the back yard. In ten years, we will have a virtual forrest. Then we had a dinner appointment for Saturday evening.

Phil's parents took us and his sister and brother-in-law out to a great restaurant. The name was Sal & Carvao. There are three of these Brazilian beef restaurants in the Chicago area; one downtown in Chicago, one in Schaumburg and the one we went to in Downers Grove (kiddy corner from Jimmy Buffett's Cheeseburger in Paradise). The unique thing about this place is that they have gaucho's walking around with differents meats on skewers.

You start off at the salad bar which has anything from veggies to smoked salmon to asparagus to you-name-it. Your server brings you a small plate of fresh mashed garlic potatoes and then to get meat, you have this coaster that is red on one side and green on the other. If you have the green side up, you want the meat they are bringing around. If you've had enough and need a break, you put the red side up. For as much meat as I shoved down my gullet last night, my poor stomach is going to be processing it for five days!

The key lime pie and cheese cakes are well worth saving room for. When it was all said and done, it probably ran about $60 a person with tip, but worth every cent. The service was perfect, the food was beyond comparison (except maybe a close second to Morton's Steak House).

Today, I finally caught up with an old MCI friend of mine who lives no-s0-far from me here in unincorporated Hampshire. We stopped by his house on the way home from shopping so that I could at least get his phone number. This new house of his is beautiful. It is a ranch house that sits up on top of a rolling hilly area. We have to get together for drinks after I get back from Phoenix.

Which brings me to my next adventure. Leaving for Phoenix tomorrow for a few days. Getting ready to see my little sister and Gram. She will be turning 90 this September and I need to go to see her again. While I'm there, I will make my daily visits to my parent's grave sites in Mesa, too. Graveyards are for the living and I will always find some solice in visiting them.

I still have to visit my Great Grandparent's gravesite at Bohemian National at Foster and Pulaski (formerly Crawford for you old, old Chicagoans) before I leave. G-Gram and Gramp Hadac would always take us to the cemetary every summer to pay respects, show us where our relatives are buried and tend to the sites. They would pick weeds, plant annuals and as necessary, repaint the letters on the big granite stone that marked Great Gramps parents and brother who died in the 1920's. It is nice to know where you're from; to know your history. It has always given me a sense of belonging, a sense of home here in Chicago. How can you be a fourth-generation Chicagoan and ever think about turning your back on your home?

Great Gramp told us all the stories of our history. He even told us stories from our Dad's side of the family. Like the ship the Eastland that rolled over in the Chicago River drowning over 900 people in 1915. It was a Western Electric sponsored picnic headed across Lake Michigan over to the Michigan beaches, but a failing balast system and an overloaded passenger deck allowed her to roll over on her side. Great Gram Stamm, one of her daughters (Cora) and Cora's two young children drown on the Eastland that day. They are buried at Forest Home on Des Plaines. So many of the dead from the Eastland were buried there and at Bohemian National.

Gram also told us about how Great-great Gram Ryba (nie Cessek) ran into the Chicago River during the Chicago Fire with only an apple in her hand in her efforts to escape the heat and fire. She was also the same Great Gram to die of infection in the 19-00's when she slipped on ice and injured her knee spreading coal ash on the icy sidewalk. That left Great Gram to be raised by a "wicked stepmother."

I still remember Great Gramp telling us about the tunnels under the river and the old downtown buildings used for delivering coal and stock before the "Great Chicago Flood" in 1992 when the tunnel was punctured by a company sinking new pylons in the river at Kinzie. Knowing that Great Gram should have been at the performance at the Iroquois Theater back when she was six in 1902 or 03, but fell ill the day of the ill fated theater fire when the curtains caught fire and so many women and children were trampled to death trying to get out. All because the doors opened in. Or the story of how Great Gramp met Great Gram at Bohemian school in Chicago after dipping her braided pig-tails in the ink well. Then them growing up, falling in love and being married for over 60 years.

"John, you're boring the kids. They've heard that story a million times now," Great Gram Hadac would scold Great Gramp when he would go on his journey down memory lane with Dee and me squeezed into the recliner chair next to him and on his lap. I'd pay any amount to turn back the clock and have that all back again; just for one hour with Gramp and Gram again. This is why Chicago is and always will be home.

Don't worry Mr. Lumly, I'll be back to Victory on time. Now that I've returned from out of the "way-back machine." I still have a job to do. I'll always carry Chicago in my heart, although it doesn't mean that I will always stay put here. You never hold anything as dear as when you have had the opportunity to miss it from the bottom of your heart.
Give me a call when you get a chance. Maybe we can hook up since your back stateside.

Email me and I'll send you my phone number

Cary P
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