There was a time many moons ago that I lived in Chicago for a short stint. Actually, I lived in Evanston. At twenty-two, I was but a mere pup, but still old enough to imbibe the nectar of the gods. I use the plural here as beer has many gods, after all.
These details bear mentioning, as Evanston was a dry town at that time. No doubt the city elders had attempted to maintain studious sobriety and character-building wholesomeness in the local university’s student body. In short: no beer. That brings me back to my age at the time: a salient point. I was newly christened to the world of legal consumption of the devil’s drink. —It’s odd how it easily transitions from the “nectar of the gods” (presumably of the benevolent sort) to the “devil’s drink” in just a few short sentences. That’s the power of beer, I suppose. Everyone loves it, no matter which side of the aisle you sit.
Again, I digress.
As I was now officially “of age” and recently moved into my new digs at 712 Seward Apt. 3A-a gratuitously spacious two-bedroom apartment replete with wood floors throughout and a dearth of anything resembling actual furniture—the beer was calling. That, coupled with my brother heading in for a visit from St. Louis along with a couple of my not-so-closest friends and my then girlfriend, Jack Daniels and wine coolers were singing my name…from across the city line, of course. I was new to the area, without transportation, and had no idea where anything was. But hey, at twenty-two one has an innate sense for geographical procurement options…a beer-dar, if you will. Again, it calls to you and it was yelling for me. Now, fall had descended upon our dry little town, as had the evening. But neither cold nor darkness, nor even the lack of transportation was serious impediment for an intrepid young man with fortitude and determination. So, I set off in a southerly direction towards Chicago proper where I knew the instruments of merriment and mirth—“Live. Laugh. Love.”, if you will—could be purchased in ample quantities. I should backtrack a tad. As I said, I had just moved in, and I was in short supply of personal items, such as clothes for the unexpected chill of Chicago in the fall. My brother was carting said items to me. So, I set off in the suit that I wore to work. I worked for a conservative firm, so I wore a dark suit, white shirt, red 80′s power tie, and brand new wingtips that had already broken skin at the back of my heels.
On foot, I traveled south on Custer towards Chicago, my beer-dar faithfully pinging away. At least, that’s the route I think I took. Again, the power of beer rears its ugly head: first it giveth, then it taketh away. Whatever the course, the unlit streets were already getting dark in the twilight. Some local teens playing basketball in a neighboring lot looked at me curiously as I passed, no doubt wondering where the clown ironically masked with a suit and tie was heading in the encroaching darkness. Proudly, I strode by emboldened by my professional visage and upright demeanor. Tight-assed and twenty-two, I headed down that lonely stretch of road, the grail of effervescent intoxicants consuming my thoughts. The trek was nearly a mile, but in unbent wingtips it might have been ten (years later, those punishing soles still sit in my closet). Still, I was undaunted. Neither distance nor pain of feet, nor woolen suit where jeans would due would impede my quest. Nothing fazed me. I was, after all, master of my universe and no one could tell me otherwise. And such was the case when I finally reached Howard. Now, Howard was that magical line of demarcation between good and evil. Suddenly, the glimmer of lights announced to me that I was exiting Evanston, and—the Moses of my time—I stood looking upon the Promised Land: Chicago. Enlightenment—or the antithesis thereof—was but a few steps away. So, into the establishment I walked, the store’s neon boldly contrasting the sober cry of Evanston with the gaiety of a capricious Chicago. My heart soared with delight as I passed through the door and saw a sea of glorious alcoholic delights before me.
I went straight for the coolers along the back wall of the store. For there I would procure the lowliest of lager in ample supply. Two cases, as it were, one sitting atop the other; the six packs strewn out in two’s nestled within two cardboard, open-top boxes. They would serve nicely as a base for the other items I had yet to procure. Moving on and checking the inventory of the refrigerated cases, I found my prey. This time I gathered up two four-packs of the ne’er-to-be long lived Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers…a female favorite of 80′s-era spirituous swag. And finally, I sought out and found Mr. Daniels, pregnant with spirits at 1.75 liters. I paid the newly forged American manning the counter and set out on my return journey to Evanston: Chicago’s wanting stepchild.
Carrying my bounty off into the darkness, I retraced my steps northward back to my deluxe apartment in the sky. So, picture the scene: an impeccably-dressed, recent college grad traveling a mile by foot through the sleepy neighborhoods of Evanston, all the while carrying @ 75lbs of distilled and fermented spirits. Looking for trouble, you ask? Perhaps, but it bears repeating: I was a twenty-two year-old, newly minted “professional,” immortal by self-assessment and recently discharged from a rather cautious college experience, and was expecting guests who did not share my staid educational background. What choice did I have? To make a short story just a bit longer, it suffices to say that I made the trip back without incident—it’s doubtful I’d be writing this today, otherwise. My brother, girlfriend, and not-so-close friends arrived shortly after I made it back. The rest of the evening was rather predictable and was capped with a trip on the “L” train into Chicago proper in search of merry establishments, which we, of course, found. A fortuitous encounter with a gentleman with blued rooster-like hair made the trip on the “L” memorable; an individual who, though minding his own business, inexplicably invited much commentary by my compatriots, much to his chagrin. But that’s a story for another time.