For those of you just joining: We’re driving to Chicago for my cousin’s wedding. No, my other cousin. Also, there will be no weather in this narrative. The weather was fine, with only a few embarrassed clouds. For the purposes of our driving descriptions, you should feel free to fill in whatever weather you prefer. I’ll try to remind you where to fill it in, for those of you who require a little climate control in your narrative. We resume our story just after breakfast as we leave Columbus, OH.
I mentioned that driving cross country introduces the kids to part of our American heritage, and that’s true, except for Zanesville, OH. There are no redeeming qualities to Zanesville, OH. It’s like Binghamton, NY, except in the Midwest and without the college. I just wanted to make sure that was recorded somewhere, for posterity.
All the exits in Indiana seem to be labeled “Exit Now, Turn Left.” This struck me as odd, since the state has been as red as the Hoosier’s jerseys for 40 some years – although Indiana did vote for Obama in 2008, so perhaps that explains it.
One of the best parts of a long drive is playing and singing along with music. One of the advantages of today’s cross country trips is the techie infrastructure behind the old-fashioned sing-along: SOBUMD can dial up YouTube on her iThingy and play Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night through the iThingy’s FM transmitter to the car radio, and out the car speakers. There may or may not have been a cloud in the sky – your choice, after all – but SOBUMD can DJ all day from “the cloud” as we roll up the road.
Indiana bills itself as the Crossroads of America. The Human Tape Recorder wished to re-dub it the Cornfields of America, until we noticed that corn isn’t the only crop down on the farm these days.
The oddest part of seeing all the wind power fields and massive turbines was hearing Rocinante whinnying in the back of my mind, along with the rattle of the Golden Helmet of Mambrino as it clacked against my lance in the back seat.
We got to Chicago in time to run out of gas, which was neatly averted by SOBUMD pointing this out to me before we rolled to a complete stop on the side of the highway. Refilling and pressing on, we met the Very Clever Grandparents at our hotel and all jumped into the pool, washing away the road weariness and grime of a thousand miles. Well, 387 miles, but you get the idea.
In Chicago, we had a guided tour of the old stomping grounds of the Very Clever Grandparents, which I think was as cool for them as it was for us – the kids got to see the streets and houses where Grandma and Grandpa grew up, and my folks got to see which things have stood the test of time, and which haven’t. The trees are tremendous, for example. Afterward, we hit Al’s Beef for a hot dog and a dipped Italian beef sandwich that couldn’t be beat, after smacking Number One Son upside the head – in a nice way! – with a trip to the Rock and Roll McDonalds. He had talked about it for a while, and was thrilled to go there – none of the rest of us got food, we just gawked. It’s huge, it’s shiny, if you like MacDaddy’s it is the place to be! Plus, since it’s a total Rock and Roll place, they were playing Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night.
The next day dawned bright and clear, and after a quick hotel breakfast we put wheels up for The Destination. Yeah, sure, there’s a wedding and stuff, but the real reason we drove 800 miles to Chicago this weekend was to hit Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs on a Friday, when they drop the duck fat fries. Now, a hot dog is a thing of beauty, and a hot dog that’s been fried and then grilled is veritable epiphany – but when they’re served next to a basket of hot French fries cooked in rendered duck fat – this is living, my friends. This is what it’s all about. As a fellow Doug, I can state with complete authority that Hot Doug’s is upholding the honor and grand tradition that is Dougdom with his food. He spends the extra 45 seconds talking to you while taking your order that make you feel like you’re his favorite customer – and you are, for those 45 seconds, which makes standing in line down the block for nearly an hour worth it. This is living, my friends. SOBUMD awarded them extra bonus points for having Cel-Ray soda, and the kids were thrilled because they played Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night on the radio.
From there, with breakfast having been followed by hot dogs and fries, we headed into the city proper to see Millennium Park – the Bean, the faces that spit water at you, the flowers. A mere $25 dollars will park your car for enough time to soak 4 out of 5 people in front of said faces; there is a certain je ne se qua to the Chicago art scene that you don’t find in many cities. As a matter of public policy, there are giant face fountains that drip and then spit water at you when needed in the hot summer months. I respect that.
Once dried off and cleaned up, we headed to the evening’s prenuptial festivities, which entailed the coolest rehearsal dinner ever. Held at the house of the parents of the bride, there were people, pizza, packages, bridesmaids, beverages, and burnings – the bonfire in the backyard was tremendous. Watching the flames sparking skyward, I turned to the bride, my about-to-be-new-cousin, and told her the fire represented the symbolic burning of her virginity, going up in flames. Without missing a beat, she put her hand on her hip and said, “Well, FINALLY!”
Oh yeah, we’re totally keeping her. My cousin chose wisely.
The rest of the rehearsal dinner last Friday night was a blur – we had a great time, in fact, perhaps too great. We danced on tabletops, drank too many shots, went streaking in the park, maxed out our credit cards, got kicked out of bars, ripped my favorite party dress, went skinny dipping in the dark, and had a ménage à trois. Some laws we broke, others we merely fractured. I woke up to find glitter all over the room, the chandelier on the floor, pink flamingos in the pool, Barbies on the barbeque, and warrants out for my arrest. It’s a blacked out blur, but I’m pretty sure it ruled.
Coming up: Nuptial Magic!