Last night I went drinking in Joliet. I hate Joliet. I don't know why exactly I just do. I have some really good friends that live there. I work there. I just hate the place. I think it is because no matter how happy the people around me are, it just seems like such a dismal place. The kind of place that you would think everybody would want to get out of but very few actually do. They grew up there, they live there, they have no problem dying there.
I grew up in Chicago. To me that is what a city is. But what it is is a big city. I grew up believing that all cities were big. Anything smaller was a town. Or a suburb. I always felt that anything less than a million people wasn't a city. One of the times I said this out loud and someone smarter and wiser than me said that that means there are only eight cities in the U.S. I replied that there are more than that. Turns out there are nine. Nine cities with more than a million people. Maybe bigger isn't always better. I have been to Honolulu. I like it. It has a downtown. A small one but there are enough tall buildings there to make me happy. And there are nice restaurants. I mean NICE restaurants. Not oh, that restaurant was nice. But get dressed up fancy, have people call you sir, sigh or even moan every time you take a bite because you can't believe it tastes so good nice. It is close the beach. It is practically surrounded by beach. They bars, big open places with people you would be afraid to talk to. Maybe even people you would want to talk to. It is diverse. It has culture. I could live there. I could even live in the some of the communities and small towns outside of Honolulu.
Honolulu has 375,000 people. Joliet has 145,000. Almost half the population. But to me Honolulu is a city and Joliet is just a big town. I will give it credit for being somewhat diverse. White 69% African American 18% Native American 0% Asian 1% Hawaiian 0% Other/Mixed 12%
Chicago: White 42% African American 37% Native American 0% Asian 4% Hawaiian 0%
I don't know how Native Americans, Asians and Hawaiians get there own categories but the Hispanics are other/mixed. Seems odd to me. I remember when filling out forms for various things, usually college registration having to check the box marked white/non-Hispanic. I wonder if they still have that box in this politically correct world. One thing that Joliet does have in common is that it is as segregated as Chicago. I grew not knowing how segregated Chicago was. We were poor enough that we mainly lived in neighborhoods that were equal parts black, Hispanic, and white. I still try to live in those neighborhoods but my taste for good food and variety of bars and restaurants have me living on the outskirts of those neighborhoods, but the encroachment of the rich white into my neighborhood have me longing to move back into Humboldt park. But of course I want to move into one of the newly built luxury condos in Humboldt park. I am against gentrification, but I want to be one of the last white people let in before they stop letting them in.
I couldn't live in joliet. I might save money if I did. The cost of living is less. I probably wouldn't go out as much. Who am I kidding? I would be dragged out just like I was last night. I wasn't so much dragged as convinced. And I kind of helped convince myself. Megs was working last night. My favorite bartender in one of my least favorite bars. She is more than a bartender, she is my friend outside the bar. I attended her wedding. I work with her best friend who is now technically her sister in law. She is one of those people that everyone would describe as good people. There is a difference I think between being a good person and being good people. I don't know why exactly, and wouldn't be able to explain it. There just is.
I was very happy to see her, and her me. She came out from behind the bar to give me a hug which made my trip worthwhile. I sat and talked with her for a while then said I better go say hi to the kids, but I'll be back to talk. She said ok. There were 4 other people in the bar other than me, matador, aborama, and special k. I figured Megs would have plenty of time to talk. So I sat with the kids. Abs almost immediately dragged me to the bar for a shot. I really don't want a shot. You don't want a shot? No, I don't. So if I said Irish Car Bombs you say no? I hung my head in shame. Don't you hate when your friends know your weaknesses. That is why your best friends are always your worst enemies. So we compromise and do Southern Bitches, which is only the greatest shot ever invented. The Irish Car Bomb being a close second. But you really should have a semi-decent buzz going before you imbibe a car bomb. And/or be prepared to ride the rails off the crazy train.
I sit back down at our table and Special K soon leaves, just as the bar is going from dead empty to crazy packed. On a Sunday. At midnight. I think how do they get busy on a Sunday. Then I remember that I am in Joliet, and that most of the bars in Joliet close at midnight on a Sunday. Except this one. Lucky us. There goes any chance of any real conversation with Megs. In addition to the dregs of Joliet, in enters Sarah and BS. BS is her name and what she spouts all day long. I've frequently say that if I lost my hands I wouldn't be able to talk. And I'm not even Italian. If BS lost the power of speech I don't think she'd be able to move her hands. Or anything else for that matter. I don't think I have ever seen her go more than five minutes without speaking. It is now 11:57 and I notice that Matador has a fair bit of his beer left to finish, and I say you better hurry you only have 3 minutes left. I know that he is getting his wisdom teeth pulled in the morning. He says I have and hour and three minutes, I only have to be NPO (nothing by mouth) for 8 hours. I say then we should get a pizza. He was just munching down a bag of chips to get some food in him prior to the fast. The four of us agree on one cheese and one sausage. They don't have just cheese. I get a No Worries from Matador and the order is placed. I get another drink and the empty stomach and the recockulously large pours are apparently getting to me because I am in old stories from the ER mode because I spend the next 15-20 minutes telling crazy stories. Then... Mmmmm the pizza smells goood. Everyone else sniffs the air apparently the scent hasn't wafted over to them. And I say...It smells like toast. I does says Sarah. The other 3 give us weird looks. No, it really smells like toast. And I am transported back to my childhood on a Saturday morning. Don't you smell it I say it smells like Saturday morning. Scrambled eggs, bacon, hash brown potatoes in my Mom's kitchen. And toast. The toast ties it all together. Because it is the last thing made and that smell means time to eat. Everything is ready, let's say grace. I get even weirder looks and I turn to look to see if the pizza is ready and Megs is standing there with a pizza in front of her on the bar with her hands on either side of the pizza. And as I walk up I see her face. It is one of the saddest faces I have ever seen. It is face that says I just broke mom's favorite vase, or I lost your favorite book, or I killed your dog in the driveway, or...
Or I burnt your pizza. She was all I'm so sorry. It is on me. And I look at this pizza and think what are you talking about. Yes, the edge of the crust is black, yes the cheese is a fairly dark brown possible a little black at the edge of one side. But it is also the I just had 3 drinks and a shot, no food in 6 hours, it's midnight pizza. And it smells like, well it smells like toast and that for some reason at that moment makes me happiest of all. I told her to charge me for it. She doesn't. And the next pizza was perfection. Minus the smell of course.
We talk some more, we drink some more, we are still there at closing. We leave. We go back to the humble abode of Abs and the Matador. To the happy greetings of the craziest and ugliest dogs I know. (one is crazy the other is ugly) And I am wide awake. Matador makes a beeline for his room. Abs and I decide to watch the first season of Lost. She barely makes it past the first 10 minutes. I make it through four episodes.
I wonder why I am tired the next day.