Monday, 9 November 2009
My son, the Croup-ier
As I walked back to the apartment last night returning from a last minute dash to the local corner drug store (think pharmacy with food and toys and pushchairs and coffee and and and) taking in the balmy air, more late summer than early autumn, the sound of a solo saxophonist playing to a small but attentive crowd outside our block serenaded me on my way. Something about the musician's admirers summed up the feeling of the Chicagoans. They have soul. Not a rampaging, get-outta-my-way kind of soul but a very attractive warmth. When people say have a nice day here you tend to feel they mean it. Its not saccharin. Just sweet. I am loaded with Nature's anti viral bits and pieces when I get in, (my aunt in Sardinia phoned through a cinnamon garlic remedy) I think I have succeeded in running my travelling family into the ground dragging them around the city in a flurry of tourist excitement. Last night, Cory, Sammy and I visited the ER, not really what I had intended when I joked about meeting Clooney on the streets (careful what you wish for I guess). After our feverish tyke fell to sleep and I had sat him upright with a mountain of pillows about him to help the airways, he began to breathe a bit like a 90 year old after a 5k dash. A worried mum and dad skyped cousins (doctors) in Washington state for a second opinion. Half an hour later we were in Chicago's north western hospital with a chatty if somewhat delirious almost 3 year old charming the nurses and doctors with his usual patter of surreal observations of his and our world. I thought we had taken a step too far when dad insisted we take a snap on the iphone of us waiting with our anti swine masks on. This was our main concern you see, what with all the pigs in the Potter stories someone has been obsessively learning by heart over the past few days. I feared the woman who was in some serious pain across from us might swipe us one. We left several hours later, somewhat more relaxed with a hyper steroid-fed croup diagnosed lad skipping down the street stopping every now and then to cough like a dog who has been barking for two days straight. Suffice it to say we finally had a good night's sleep. No wonder the boy are coughing and such we have been zipping about this city and it's "burbs" putting our immune systems under pressure. I have a sneaky suspicion that the less than glorious reviews of the show have not helped. Turns out Chicago audiences have the steely quality of the New Yorkers, and the show was not received well there when it played Broadway to say the least. Cory came back from the show with long faces for the first three days. I think I did not play the supportive role too well when he ran new ad libs by me. After the first 10 suggestions they all sounded funny to me you see. Took four nights and now the smiley chappy I used to live with is back. No one likes to live with an unhappy funny man. Chicago is the kind of place you want to be out in. All the time. Luckily for me, our little fella decided to sleep through dinner the other evening and woke up raring to go around 8.30ish. Never one to miss an opportunity I got ourselves dressed up and he and I took to the night streets of the windy city. Greeting our friendly troupe with a surprise (late) visit as they all came dashing off from their curtain call, Sammy relishing the chance to catch up with all his adoring fans. I also took the chance to don my new bargain find (TK MAXX here too!) to pretend like we had plans for evening parties, thankful for our new found energy despite having spent the day with our relatives, eating and visiting. A very tired husband (two shows + virus) agreed to a quick midnight snack at Petterino's an upmarket Italian joint with black wooden venetians, dim lights, red velvet upholstery and good martinis and calamari and interesting array of moreishly warmed bread. From the way I tucked in you would never have guessed I had already enjoyed a fish dinner at Vincetore's out in the suburbs but a few hours before. The owner there came to greet my relatives and I with the kind of husky bellowy voice of a true made man. A packed restaurant full of happy customers and their babies kept a lilt in his step. A man sang Sinatra favourites by the bar. Sam slept by us, parked out (there is a fantastic playground next to the family's home) and sound asleep whilst we slurpt chianti and polished off the meal. I sat next to great grandma Ellie whom we had picked up earlier from her nursing home. We had tip toed through to her room, past a church service going on in the main open area, occupied wheelchairs around the priest performing communion to the recorded music on the CD player next to him. A quick stop to check Sam's temperature (vigilant nurses enjoying their new young friend) before we headed on through past a group of ladies colouring in pictures of turkeys (its Thanksgiving soon). One looked up at me as we passed like she knew me but didn't remember my name. Her and her friend's demeanor not dissimilar to the border line confusion I read in some of Sammy's contemporaries. I admit I struggled not to succumb to tears at this point, and when Sammy greeted his great grandma and quickly offered to help her up from bed. Later, when we were making our way out, he held on tight to her walker and insisted on steering. Then I struggled to not panic, picturing him pulling her off balance. Once again, Great grandma proved the perfect companion to our son and the two of them put the world to rights in the back of the car on our way to her daughter's house. Cory was pleased to hear updates of our day until I told him his son was glued to the last 20 minutes of Yentil, whilst his aunt and I drank pumpkin spice coffee and scoffed buttery popcorn, Streisand bellowing across the water and such seemed to fill him with dread for some reason. I figured another dose of musical theatre couldn't harm? It seems to be there are a few double standards going on I proffer. After all, he was the one who ushered him into a 4 year olds dance class this morning. We saw the kids going in and thought we were late. Turns out it was the earlier class. A quick "This is Sammy" and the door was shut with us left outside squinting through it's small window, alternately reaching over one another and getting to know two of the mums whose children attend the British school in the city, proudly telling us about the large ex-pat community here. We catch the tyke twisting and turning and running about the place smile permanently stretching from ear to ear. It was in this same joyful state of mind that we descended on Petrillo's later on for lunch (you picking up a theme here?!). A noisy joint run by 50 or more kitchen staff clanging and banging and announcing orders over different mics to more kitchen staff. Think old school McDonalds with a ton more character and people and you're sort of there. One line, to order, one line to pick up, one long line of different types of hot dogs to choose from. I went Polish (roots run deep), Sammy went Yankee, family somewhere in between. Distracted for a moment. Husband watching that wrestling thing. You know the ones with the wannabe actors with triceps doing their pretend fighting thing to screaming crowds (Who said Vaudeville was dead?). Oh no, channel hopping now, antiques road show has caught his imagination. Whilst I am on the strain of food (seems my record is permanently broken) it gives me great pleasure to announce that I have made friends with our new coffee machine and found our local coffee roasters. It has a slightly disappointing name "Intelligentsia" which makes me feel slightly embarrassed about walking in. I don't like to wear my coffee snobbery on my arm, its reserved for people who know me well and, hopefully, won't judge me too badly on it. Also, I don't condone the assumption that someone who knows good coffee is necessarily cleverer. I can be as immodest as the next person but that would be taking it a step too far even for me. Still, embarrassment is fleeting when there is good coffee about. The staff are the usual skinny, thick rimmed Hoxton set, all assymetrical hair and that slightly translucent I-have-been-talking-about-Nietzche-all-night skin. Still, I recognise skilled coffee making set when I see them. Blessed be the patience of the skinniest staff member painstakingly pouring almost boiling water in slow motion from a metal tea pot over a never ending line of drip filter coffees. I wonder if he has extra medical insurance to cover elbow tendonitis? (I will have more views to share on the medical bills no doubt when we receive ours for Sam's visit last night). We are now coming to the end of our two day hibernating recovery and I notice a lack of restlessness on my part (chicken soup nursing does that to me it would seem) which is not a feeling I knew in New York, the only other big city I have stayed in for some time in the states. It strikes me that this is the major difference between the two places and one that makes me daydream about considering living here. When I stay in for an entire day in New York I had that insidious feeling the city sneered at me, jeering that I was missing out on something special. There is something about the saturated excitement and frenetic energy of that city does that to me. Here, the water, the abundance of good theatre (jobs?), music, impro groups, good food, good folk, an elevated train like the ones in the black and white movies all make it, on paper, the sort of place I could get on well with. I think I am still in the romantic love stage of my relationship with the place, granted, but for now, that's a great place to be. Croup or no croup.