Monday, April 25, 2011

Getting Back To Where I Once Belonged

Like fabulous bookends, Easter and ANZAC Day gave me an extra long weekend in Chicago - a wonderful chance to revisit my old sweet home and catch up with good friends.

I was up early on Friday and at JFK airport just as the cafes were warming up their coffee machines. Delta Airlines still didn't have its shit together though, and so I was delayed for about an hour for reasons altogether unclear. Why can't people teach airport staff how to speak properly into a microphone? A little diction is all I ask, really. But my fear of being tackled by the Air Marshall kept me quiet and after a late but uneventful flight I somehow made it to Chicago O'Hare, hitting the tarmac in pelting rain. Tremendous. Fortunately the Blue Line train to the city starts right inside the airport terminal, so I didn't get rained on until I got Downtown and was walking to my hotel. It's a horrible feeling when the bottom two inches of your denim jeans are soaking wet. Worse still when you realise that you don't have a dry pair to put on instead.

Collecting myself at my hotel, I called LH and arranged to meet up with her for lunch next door to her office. Poor Americans and their lack of public holidays. Lack of annual leave in general really. But it was great that she could at least abscond for an hour or so and honestly our food court lunch was really good. Then again, I've never met a burrito I didn't like.

Later that afternoon, I paid a small fortune to have my eyebrows torn out with hot wax at the Nordstrom Spa, and praised all the deities I knew that the lady didn't send me blind when she dyed my eyelashes a gorgeous shade of blue-black. By this time I was wearing a new pair of (dry) denim jeans - not boot cut ones unfortunately, these ones are straight-legged. Admittedly I was - and remain - a bit concerned that someone with my lower body shape should probably steer clear from straight-legged jeans but they were the only ones on the shelf in my size, so what was I going to do? Desperate times, desperate measures and all that.

I took my new eyelashes and absent eyebrows into Sephora and flattered the makeup man into slapping some products onto my face in time for my dinner engagement with LH and the boys. Visiting LH's new studio apartment for a quick cuddle with her puppy Preston, we drove down to my old neighbourhood for dinner at Mia Francesca. I had a sausage pasta and only remembered later about it being Good Friday. The pasta was good, but the guilt was still there. Two glasses of wine helped ease it, but not eliminate it. Then the boys applied the pressure to visit Sidetracks and enjoy a couple of slushies ("you only need two - the first one, and the last one," they said). So of course I went. And in typical fashion, LH and I were the only girls in the place but we were totally in our element. The music was fun, the slushies were delicious and we got right into the Easter fundraiser and L&D won so many raffle prizes it was quite ridiculous towards the end. A little before midnight and before the slushies could catapult me into oblivion, I took my leave and LH & B drove me back Downtown to my hotel. One episode of "Criminal Minds" and I was ready for bed.

The next morning I was up early and visited the good people at the adjacent Lavazza coffee shop for a large and very strong latte, and a breakfast sandwich. Watching the clock rather carefully I took a taxi to Union Station and bought my Metra train ticket to get out to Naperville, a beautiful suburb about an hour west of Chicago.

I was heading out to the burbs because my old friend Bork was getting married at the Cress Creek Country Club, not far from her childhood home. In the four years that I lived in Chi-town I never visited Naperville and I now know that was a big oversight. The train trip itself was a beautiful journey through some really lovely storybook towns and a very easy commute from Chicago. Bork had secured a block of hotel rooms at the nearby Courtyard Marriott and so I settled in early, watched an in-room movie ("The Rite") and took a nana nap.

At 5.15pm, I took the hotel shuttle bus to the Country Club for the wedding. It's really hard going to a wedding on your own, even if you know there' s a chance you're going to know people there. The other travellers on the shuttle bus were all gorgeous and skinny young things, dressed impeccably in the latest fashions. All of a sudden the control-top pantyhose and grandma heels that had seemed so practical when I packed now seemed a bit silly. I tried to make small talk on the shuttle, telling people how I fit in to the guest list but it was obvious that as the much older and only single one on the bus, I did not really fit it all.

The wedding ceremony was absolutely beautiful. Bork and her groom looked gorgeous and the setting for the ceremony out on the country club verandah made maximum use of the amenities and the lovely late-afternoon sunshine. What a difference 24 hours makes to the weather! Bork could not have asked for a more beautiful day for her wedding.

The reception was a lot of fun - delicious food, great company and free-flowing drinks. I had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner but then restricted myself to cranberry juice & soda, a new favourite. Sensible shoes called for sensible drinks. Before I knew it, the shuttle bus had returned to take me back to the hotel. I got a chance to say my goodbyes to the bride & groom, and the bride's family who were very kind to welcome me to the party. By the time I got back to the hotel, I didn't have any strength to watch even a single episode of "Criminal Minds". I just dove into my pyjamas and under the feathery quilt for a stone-dead sleep.

Easter Sunday morning was another early start, mindful as I was of the Metra train times for the day. I needed to be back in Chicago for Easter lunch at noon with Courts & CS. By sheer brilliance, I got coffee and a taxi in plenty of time to be at Naperville train station for the 10.30am train back to the city. Complete with Cubs fans already tucking into barely-concealed cans of beer. Yikes.

Courts picked me up at the train station and we headed back to her house a delicious home-made lunch of lamb & leeks, roast potatoes and a very yummy faro & barley salad. Dessert was a very sweet but creamy Indian-inspired pistachio & almond ice cream with rose syrup on top. Accompanied by a glass of very cold Tokaji and I was in heaven. Delicious!

Like all good things, the visit with Courts & CS came to end quickly and before I knew it, we were back on the road and bound for O'Hare. For the most part the journey was very slow going but we ultimately made it there. Checking in, I was not at all surprised to learn that my Delta flight was again delayed so I settled in to read my new book (that I cannot put down). Time passed quickly and I was back on the plane and landing at La Guardia in no time. In pelting rain. Tremendous.

Fortunately it didn't really matter that the bottom two inches of my jeans got drenched because I knew that at home, I had a fabulous - and dry - pair of pyjama pants just waiting to be put on. There is something so comforting about sleeping in your own bed again, even after just a short trip away. Today is my Easter Monday/ANZAC Day public holiday and I have absolutely no plans to be anywhere, other than a work event later tonight. So I have taken the day slowly, enjoying a sleep-in and multiple cups of Nespresso, ignoring all the piles of laundry that I am expertly stepping over. Blissful, don't you think?

1 comment:

coco cooks said...

It was great seeing you. I have a feeling we be seeing each other again soon!