"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


The All-American Boy Series - Part XIII: "The Weekend"

Author's Note: back in my myspace blog days, I had a long running series called the All-American Boy. Basically just funny anecdotes from my life. Everything from a passed field-sobriety test at Damen and Harrison at 4am to my mom's surprise birthday last year. I'll post the previous ones here retroactively soon, but here is a new installment.

A few years ago, I got a call from my brother, telling me he was coming down to visit.

His favorite band of all time, Anthrax, was playing at the House of Blues and he'd just purchased to tickets to the show and airfare to come stay in Chicago for the weekend. He'd be here on a Friday night, the show was on Saturday, and he would stay through Monday. It was to be a weekend I'd never forget, that started innocently enough and became one for the ages.

It started serendipitously enough. I had just started my training to become a Certified Personal Trainer and had also been dating a woman for a few months. The night my brother arrived I'd been out in the far south side, at an airport Hilton by Midway, attending a two-day conference sponsored by NASM as part of my training. The timing couldn't have been more perfect as I left the train to walk to my apartment and my brother called, saying his bus was just about the arrive at the stop I'd given him.

We literally met outside as we both walked up to the iron gate of my building, and hugged, and gave each other all sorts of brotherly greetings. He looked good. He'd always been a big guy since high school. Seeing him there in my living room, tall and broad, grinning above his scraggly long goatee, gave me a warm feeling. The knowledge that we were in for a magical weekend, no matter what happened.

We opened a bottle of wine, cooked a couple of steaks and some veggies, and visited and drank into the night.

I overslept my alarm for the next day's training by Midway - the trip was Red Line to Orange, and then the Hotel Shuttle from Midway. Although since I was late, I grabbed a taxi. During the first break I called Kat, my girlfriend, to let her know the plan for the evening. I was going to be done and back downtown around 6, and I was meeting Duff at the House of Blues for dinner and the show. The weekend had come on so suddenly I wasn't able to give Duff much idea for spending the day in town other than the Museum Campus. But Kat had offered to spend the day with him, so after talking with her, she called him, apparently.

Once I was back downtown and changed, I met them at the HOB restaurant for dinner. Duff had jumped on the Damen bus at Foster and Ashland and met Kat in Roscoe Village at Kitsch-in, a funky little cafe at the corner of Damen and Roscoe. From there they went to the Museum Campus - Duffy was a fish collector at the time and wanted to see the Aquarium - but the line was too long at the Shedd, so I they walked around for bit, hit the Field Museum instead and explored Grant Park.

It was very nice of her, and Duff had a great time. Kat seemed to enjoy his company. He's pretty much a large teddy bear with limited-listening skills, so if I like hanging out with a talker with very good manners open to all options and no where to go, my brother is your date.

After dinner it was time for the show, and Kat agreed to met us later. The crowd there to see Anthrax and Dio was definitely the bands' hardcore fan base. There's a Seinfeldian theory: your manner of dress is from the best year of your life. Once you hit that year, your style - clothes, hair - stayed that way. Apparently 90% of this audience hit that year around 1985. The only thing that changed about their clothes was that they had gotten bigger. These people were so morbidly obese the same audience back when Anthrax was a major act would've been twice as big. Center parts, bleached blonds, and acid washed jean jackets. It was all there.

Three were some hits I remembered. "Spreading the Disease." "I Am The Man." "Antisocial." But there rest was warm-over Nu-Metal that apparently Anthrax wasn't even above copping in order to keep today's generation of lower-IQ music fans at attention. The crowd was wired though, and it helped Anthrax was filming a video. The audience hammed it up with tongues and metal hand-signs.

Dio was about to start, and we weren't about to hang around for that. I'd had enough of the 80's arrested development. I called Kat, let her know we were on our way out and she met us up at a bar I'd worked at a year ago in Lincoln Park, Lilly's Tavern. A dirty, cramped little place, my friends of the band Penthouse Sweets were playing. I'd bartended there a few months there a year ago. It's a rat-infested hole that serves primarily under-age Depaul students $2Bud Light drafts and provides a place to get high upstairs.

Always on the edge of running out of beer because she never paid her suppliers on time, the bar's signature drink was an $8 Long Island Ice Tea that was built like an outhouse. She premixed pitchers of Rum, Vodka, Tequila, Gin, and Triple Sec, and left one on the bar. You simply poured it over a pint glass filled with ice, and topped with lemonade and Coke. She even advertised it in the window as the best deal in Lincoln Park: "8 shots!" It was routine to serve someone three and then have to throw them out. Occasionally someone would think the pitcher was filled with water. The resultant look on their face was worth the wasted liquor.

We stayed for a while, greeting more friends, and watching Lou and Loren play. Duff had settled into a good night of Chicago drinking. He knew everyone's name and appeared to be a Chicagoan through and through. Although, to anyone who would listen, he'd talk non-stop about Alaska We soon decided to move it on up to my neighborhood, and saved the best part of the night for Simon's in Andersonville.

Simon's was my favorite bar in Chicago for years. The clientèle was chill and relaxed, cool and funny. The jukebox had one of the best mixes in the city and there was always a seat. The light is low and it's always inviting, especially at Christmas when they have glog. Duff and I drank Jameson while othere drank cheap beer and we laughed and had a great time until closing. At some point before they chased us out I lost my brother. I assumed he'd cornered somebody to talk at about Alaska. I found him as they were throwing us out, near the front, talking to some long, dark-haired woman. I left him there as Kat and I were going across the street with Nadine so she could give me my birthday present - which had been the week before.

After opening it, I heard by brother's voice from across the street.

"Hey! Where's the Green Mill?"

Kat's face immediately lit up at the prospect of my brother going off with this chick, for him and the fact that we could have my apartment to ourselves for a bit. I told Duff it wasn't far, and even closer to my place. Kat and I went home, and Duff headed off with some pick-up for a classic 5am Chicago night at one of the most famous bars in the city.

Cut to the next morning, around nine. I'm in bed awake, Kat is next to me still asleep. I nudge her. "Did you hear Duff come in?" She just groaned. I got up, fully expecting him to be on the couch as I went to the toilet, but it was empty.

"He's not here yet," as I got back into bed. I wasn't worried, really but my unease grew as the hour went by and no Duff. He'd left his cell phone on my coffee table. I lay there unable to go back to sleep, waiting, until finally I heard the front door click open.

I got up and saw him come in. We stood in the hall, outside of my bedroom, and he told me that after the bar, she'd taken him back to her fathers Wrigleyville condo and they'd fooled around until just after 8, and then he took off. But he had no idea about the bus or train system. He still recognized Addison Street however, so he walked west from Halsted Street all the way to Damen, a mile and a half, to find the Damen bus. Once there he waited another 30 minutes until it arrived. He could've just jumped on the Clark Street bus and been home in 15 minutes.

"Well?" I asked. "Was it worth it?"

He nodded. I laughed, questioningly...

"She let me put it in her butt."

Once I picked myself up off the floor, I went back into the bedroom, and he took a shower. Kat was fully awake now, and her hands were up around her mouth while she giggled like a 10 year old. I knew she was something special when she saw the beauty of my brother getting laid on his trip down here, and even more so for the extra curricular stuff.

She spent the day at home, and Duff and I kicked it down at the Shedd. The line was long, it was worth it, so he could see it all again (we used to visit the Shedd when we were kids like it was going to Church - on family vacations to visit Grandma.) We got home in time to change, and then catch the Red Line down to State and Grand for dinner with the three of us at Shaw's Crabhouse on Hubbard St.

A lot of people like to bag on Shaw's. Sure, it's a Lettuce Entertain You place, essentially a chain. All of their joints are 40's type retro places. But Shaw's is special to me. It's menu is far beyond that of a typical themed restaurant, and really, it's not themed at all. It's a seafood place, with an inviting interior and a menu that changes daily. The waitstaff are incredibly knowledgeable, they know the specials backwards and forwards, and my dining experience there just two weeks prior for a work lunch meeting had me making reservations there again that night.

And miraculously we ended up with the same waiter I had at the working lunch. Who was a big part of the reason I came back. We met after having a cocktail in the bar, and Kat snapped this pic of my bro and I:

We sat down and Michael came over and gave us the spiel. We all ordered drinks, and then Kat ordered salmon, myself the halibut, and Duff, of course, got a 20 ribeye topped with $6 worth of blue cheese. It was a wonderful dinner. Expensive, but worth it to have Duffy there enjoying it with me and Kat. Michael was with us all night long, asking us about Alaska, and making jokes with us. He comped us dessert and a round of drinks, and we gave him nearly a 40% tip.

As we were leaving, Michael came out to thank us, and we told him no problem, it was the topper of a fantastic weekend. My brother clarified: Saw my favorite band, broke a 2 year dry spell...

"And she let me put it up her butt."

Once Michael got up off the floor, he said goodbye and we left.

I said goodnight to Kat and Duff and I went home. He was on a plane the next morning, and the weekend came to a close. But it lasted in my daydreams at work that whole week, and it's repercussions were even felt months later.


The following Valentine's Day. Kat and I are at Shaw's for dinner. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we realize to ask for Michael's section and he's working that night, so there they seat us. After walking with Kat back to our table, I excuse myself to run to the men's room. As I stroll back through the restaurant, I pass Michael, and we recognize each other instantly. After 5 months, he looks me in the eye and says, "Alaska." Upon returning to our table, Michael is sitting there, talking with Kat.

He then told us that he took our story to the entire kitchen, and my brother is probably now the most famous patron in the history of Shaw's Crabhouse.

Ah, the power of a great story.

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