duck-shaped pain

30 August 2001
What I Did On My Summer Vacation, By Me, Age 6

Things I Ate In Or On The Way To Chicago, Plus Assorted Commentary:

(Part One)

1. Apple cinnamon PowerBar and bottle of water, somewhere on eastbound I-70, Colorado.

Tasted like apple cinnamon plywood: very grainy and unpleasant. Since I swiped it from the cabinet o' food at work, perhaps it served me right.

This was on Wednesday, the day I actually left, even though my flight didn't leave until Thursday afternoon. I had nothing to do at work that day [1], so I hung around for a few hours and then headed off for Denver.

Yes, there is an airport where I live. But there was a vast price difference between flying from there to Chicago versus flying from Denver -- $600 and $180, respectively. Which is a large amount of money. If the difference is anything less than $80 or so, I'll go from here, but I figured $600 was a ridiculous price (besides, the $180 fare is easily the cheapest thing I've seen out of Denver in a long, long, long time).

The drive was uneventful. It rained a lot, which made people drive stupid, but then it stopped.

2. Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and fried okra, Black-Eyed Pea, Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Acceptable. The fried okra was sort of springy to the touch and fought back. But I was very hungry and it was very late and we were in the Land of Chain Restaurants, so it's not like there was a better choice handy.

My mom was moving this weekend, from the very north of the Denver metro area to the very south. More convenient for her, but still a long way from the middle, which is where all the good stuff is. She drove me to see her new place, which is very nice, but the inside of her building's elevator is bright burnt yellow. Circa-1977 burnt yellow. Very attractive. After that, we drove around searching for food. And then there was okra.

3. Coffee.

Strong, black.

After rinsing my eyes thoroughly with water to get the image of that shade of yellow out, I met S. down at the coffee shop. I gave him a copy of the CD I had made that morning, but only hinting at the pleasures that were to be discovered by playing it. We soon got tired of coffee (or they closed -- I can't remember which came first) so we headed out to see if someone we knew was working at a bar in a different part of town.

He wasn't, which was sort of disappointing. He's moving to California at the end of the month, and this was my big chance to see him. Of all the nights to go home early・lt;/P>

With no bar stint in sight, S. and I walked down the street to another coffee place, one which neither of us had been to in quite a while. It's too loud, too teen-angsty, and continually smells like clove cigarettes for one thing, and the real draw of the place -- the great view of downtown Denver -- was eliminated when some evil pseudo-loft housing development was built across the street. The entire street felt weird with that building there -- like it was causing a massive chi blockage or some other major feng shui error.

We left and walked along the river for awhile, assessing the major changes that had happened to the once-empty field that lay between downtown and the banks of the Platte. Where there was once scrub and homeless men, there is now expensive housing developments in progress, grass, freshly planted trees and homeless men.

We stopped and watched some welding going on under the bridge -- welders in full-body welding suits, looking back at us. Then there were a lot of abandoned street and detour signs in a pile in the dirt -- a tempting souvenir. And examinations of bad public art.

4. Chicken curry bowl, shrimp and rice noodle roll, and green tea, Kokoro, Arvada, Colorado.

Excellent, cheap, and fast.

I got back to my mom's apartment at 2 a.m., where I proceeded to not fall asleep because I was worrying about getting to the airport on time (for a flight that left at 1:30 in the afternoon). Anyway, I still managed to get sleep, get up, have food, and get to the airport. At 11: 30. I am nothing if not prompt when it comes to going to the airport. I don't mind if I have to sit around reading bad magazines for two hours -- I will be there in plenty of time.

5. Muenster cheese, 3 tiny grapes, some turkey and salsa wrap thing, on a tray in front of an uncomfortable seat, somewhere over Indiana.

Acceptable. Which was surprising.

Plane rides were uneventful, despite being seated next to children. Guy next to me on one leg of the journey was from my town -- I kept my mouth shut to avoid the whole "Hey, do you know so and so" thing.

I did not know that the Cincinnati airport was actually in Kentucky. I had to try not to snortle when the phrase "Northern Kentucky International Airport" was used. Looking out the plane window, I was pleased to see that the landscape was lush green: always glad to see something completely different from where I live while on vacation.

Both legs of the flight were like the flight to Calcutta, though: lots of people carrying random unbagged items on board (set of wine glasses, boat sail, big chocolate bunny) and just stashing them wherever.

6. Big plate of random assorted Ethiopian food, (plus ・Xingu!) Ethiopian Diamond [3], Chicago.

I ordered vegetarian: I got chickpeas and lentils and collards. H. ordered meat and got・eat, and I think S. ordered vegetarian as well, but what we got looked like a lot more meat than that. It was still all good. It still all got eaten.

I was nervous while landing and getting off the plane. I tried to turn my nervousness into something good, by writing a lot while we were circling and then landing. Reading over the results, though, it was a lot of gibberish -- something about rivers, a lot of crap about airports. But I was still nervous.

I hadn稚 seen either H. or S. in about two years: no matter how much you like people, there's always a moment of anxiety when seeing them after a long spell. Things could have changed. Will there be a third eye? A surprise baby ("Oh yeah, we were planning on telling you・quot;)? A mysterious religious conversion that will become the topic of all conversations, no matter what the original topic was? Really, none of these are even remotely likely, but still, the mind boggles.

But there they were when I came out of the plane, looking a lot like I expected. Greetings were cheery and I was very pleased to be there, even if I was in the airport.

Soon we found the car and headed・omewhere. I spent most of the trip not knowing where I was or in what direction we were going, and for the most part, I didn't care. Three days of not having to care about directions is quite a vacation for me, The One Who Always Knows Where We're Going.

We caught up a bit and commented on cars passing us by. H. properly shares my contempt for the new Beetles (yeah, they've been around for a few years, but I honestly have no idea what else to call them) -- any car with an ass or that makes you look like you're living in a cartoon is just plain wrong.

And then, there was food. I hadn't eaten Ethiopian food in a long time, and never in a restaurant (just off a plastic plate at some festival somewhere), so it was in some ways a new experience.

H. had cigarettes. She offered them to me. I knew it was a good idea to come.

The restaurant was pretty large. We were the only people sitting back in the smoking section -- just us and a large-screen TV that no one was watching. Until whatever channel had been selected started showing Blade. Then the crowds congregated.

We drank our share of thick black beer. S. also had a pot of thick Ethiopian coffee, served in a little pot. I thought momentarily about having some, but after sleeping very little the previous two nights (laid awake fretting and fretting and fretting about nothing in particular), I decided I valued any potential sleep that awaited me later.

Post-lentils, we drove around some more and went to this bar named Delilah's. It seemed like your average hipster, various brands of wacky beer bar, but with an important difference. In every place I've ever lived, it is the sort of place that would be packed to the gills with assholes, but here, everyone seemed fairly laid-back and non-attitudnal. Refreshing. I ordered some tarty wheaty Belgian beer, S. had a Duvel (I think) and H. a Newcastle. S. looked around and wrote things while H. and I talked and pointed out strange beers in the cooler, like Old Speckled Hen.

Even relaxed bars get loud and tiring after a while, so it was time to head over to the apartment. H. and S. have a very nice apartment. I don't know if it's just chance or something more common, but the two apartments I've been to in Chicago (occupied by very different sets of people, in different parts of the city, six years apart) have been nearly identical: long and skinny, with actual wood floors and nifty windows that open from the top. The privileges of living somewhere where there is actually old housing stock.

And then there were cats: W., the quiet one, and F., the silly insane one. Guess which one attacked my toes when I was trying to go to bed?

We stayed up for a while, dicking around on the Internet, laughing at pages of stupid baby names (Jeep, Chopra, Lyonnaise) and listening to the CD I made at work on Wednesday morning. Snortling occurred. Then it was bed time.

The air mattress that was my bed was comfortable, but had one terrible design flaw. It had a giant seam right down the middle which enabled it to be folded easily into the box. No matter where I started out sleeping, my back managed to find the seam. But with all the extra oxygen available to me in the air, I fell asleep quickly and had the most restful night I'd had in ages.

Next entry: dinosaurs, Canadian bacon, scary videos.


[1] Someone else forgot to do something that I needed in order to get this other thing done, and I had nothing else to do. I suppose I could have found something to do, but initiative is greatly frowned upon at The Employer, which led me to spend the entire morning downloading freaky music [2] from the net, converting it and burning it to CD. If there's anything I'm good at doing, it's amusing myself.

[2] "Up Came Oil"! "Giant Tickle Feather"!

[3] I apologize in advance for possibly getting any restaurant names incorrect: I was just sort of being pleasantly shuttled around, so at times, what the name of the place we were eating at was was the farthest thing from my mind.

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