Last month, Graham asked me if I would be able to take vacation on some upcoming Monday. I said sure and then asked why he wanted to know. He said that because we’d never been able to go on vacation together and couldn’t really because our schedules are still so disparate, he wanted to trade one of his shifts to someone else and go out of town for a couple of days.
“Okay,” I said. “Where did you have in mind?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“I see. You know, the way planning works is that you get the idea to go out of town and then you follow it up with something legitimate.”
Our options were limited to places within a 5-hour drive, so pretty much Chicago, Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, and Kansas City. I think Kansas City is kind of gross (plus their alcohol laws are weird), I have no desire to hang out in Arkansas, and while I do enjoy Memphis and would probably like Nashville, as well, I have friends in Chicago and thought this would be an excellent way to see them. So we booked a hotel, sent some e-mails, and waited.
One friend would be out of town for work.
The other friend could see us initially, but it turned out that once we arrived in Chicago, she had about 3 million other things to do across three suburbs and might be able to see us but would likely go insane in the process.
Oh. Well. That is just great.
Kidding! I was bummed that neither friend was available for our visit, but thanks to some recommendations and the fact that we are extremely savvy and charming and Chicago apparently loves us, this may have been my best time there ever. Which leads me to ask the question:
Hey, St. Louis, where’s my free shit?
Subtracting the few years I spent moving around the coasts, I’ve lived in St. Louis for a total of 25 years. Not once during that entire time have I been given free stuff by kindly strangers for no apparent reason whatsoever for two days in a row. Strangers who weren’t drug smugglers or domestic terrorists, by the way, because there’s a difference.
First, it would help to say that we found an amazing deal on a hotel in Wrigleyville. It’s a classy little 3-story job on a residential block that no one we spoke to even knew was there, but it’s actually very easy to find with Google Maps. Seriously. I don’t even have an iPhone and the directions worked. (I only recommend it because they deserve the business, though I will be extremely pissed if the rates have gone up or it’s completely booked the next time I need it. It’s the Majestic Hotel, 528 W Brompton. DIBS, motherfuckers. I mean it.)
Second, while I’m aware that most bars in Wrigleyville cater to the Cubs fan-gay boy-loud douche trifecta, my friend Justin can be trusted with my tastes and recommended The Ginger Man. I am usually loathe to pay $6 a pint, but I was on vacation and I was drinking Two Hearted and the bartender, for some reason, took a shine to us and started pouring us free whiskey. Free good whiskey, I should mention, and without being visibly drunk himself. This was before we’d eaten anything, by the way, which meant the next place had to have food.
(It should also be noted that I don’t drink whiskey. Like, ever. So, yeah…I was drunk by 7pm and passed out by one. Deal with it.)
We probably wouldn’t have entered the next place of our own volition, but it also came recommended and being two of only four customers, I suppose the bartender was grateful for the business and started hooking us up with free beer samples and very generous pours of bourbon. Also the sandwiches were half price on Sunday and contained pork and there was a breathalyzer machine on the premises. Obviously someone knew the way to mine and my boyfriend’s hearts.
The third place was for coffee, and although there were sad-looking vegan cakes slouching on the countertop (Attention all places everywhere, please stop carrying vegan cakes. They look like Slim-Fast bars you smooshed together and frosted with pretension. That is all.), the staff was pretty nice and the espresso was decent, and I needed caffeine or else I was going to pass out on the street. Notice the unsober tilt on the cup I’m trying to cool off:
The fourth place was some bar Graham had been in years before. Again, super nice bartender and very good draught selection. If Matilda is on tap right down the street from the brewery that makes it, you drink it, goddammit.
The fifth place was a liquor store, where I grabbed a bottle of champagne and Graham bought a 40 of Mickey’s and a Four Loko.
Maybe it had something to do with the champagne, but I was up at 4:45 the next morning without a hangover. I caught a few small naps after that, but basically, I was 100% awake by 7:30 with no obvious side effects of the night before. Graham, however, complained of someone stabbing him in the temples, so I found a place for breakfast.
It was another location of the breakfast place I’d been to the last time I was in Chicago. This location was closer to the hotel, less crowded, and the guy with the coffee is a fucking boss with that thing. Also they had a smoked salmon eggs benedict, and I’ve been craving smoked salmon for only the last four months. Yes, Graham and the Rest Of The Universe, I am aware that hollandaise is basically sneeze in liquid form. I know all about the germs and the bacteria and the cholesterol. I get it, okay? But I was on vacation and poached eggs make me feel fancy, and fuck all of you because it was delicious.
Ann Sather’s cinnamon rolls are famous in Chicago, although I think they’re just okay and Graham doesn’t usually eat large breakfasts. However, just like the previous night’s bartenders, this server thought we were terrific for some fucking reason, and made us take some home for free. Really. After we paid and everything. And as far as we could tell, they were not old or exposed to disease.
So, St. Louis, this is where you are going to have to step up your game. I’m sick of going into bars with snotty service personnel and being treated as though I’m some rube who doesn’t know how to drink around here. I’m not demanding anything for free (it would be nice, but I understand the concept of commerce), but Chicago is wiping the floor with you and it would be nice if we weren’t behind in absolutely everything.
I’m willing to meet you halfway. See? I took an asshole photo at Wrigley Field and everything, AND I was being stared at by some fat guy horking wine out of a paper bag at 11am on a Monday.