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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

Max and Jason: Day 5

Onalaska, WI to Chicago, IL

EDITOR’S NOTE: After staying up until 3:30AM writing this blog two nights ago, I told Max he had to write today’s post. Amazingly, he agreed to do just that. Following is Mr. Max’s summation of Day 5:

As of now, I sit typing this in a cozy, modestly adorned urban apartment-style hotel room, with only the sounds of nocturnal Chicago to keep me company. However, all in this day has not been so fair. The day began with a much unwelcome and unpleasant awakening at approximately 6:30AM, after only getting 4-5 hours of sleep the night previous (my dad got only about 3-4 due to his blog antics). This was only immediately made somewhat bearable by breakfast at Panera. Good lord they make them some delicious little breakfast cakes. Luckily, my dad also agreed to take the first driving shift. Our objective: Chicago – only “a few hundred miles away”, and about a 5-hour drive altogether.

Upon embarking on our trip, I promptly passed out. I was only awakened about an hour and a half later, when I was informed it was “my turn to drive for a few hours”. Halle-frickin-lujah. The hours passed with little to comment upon, because whoever wasn’t driving was unconscious. As the hours wore on and we started nearing our final destination, however, we soon realized it was a two-man navigation job. We were both thoroughly grumpy and exhausted by this point, so the remaining time spent trying to navigate the congested highways and toll-roads was punctuated by constant outbursts of egregious profanity and exclamations of frustration such as: “I can’t even read maps! How do I know where we are!?”

We finally figured out how to actually enter the maze of intersecting labyrinthine pathways of madness known as Chicago proper. At this time, I decided it was time for the all-too-appropriate song: When the Levee Breaks. So we sped into Chicago singing along to Led Zeppelin- “Goin’ to Chicago… Going to Chicago… Sorry but I can’t take you…” which is probably like some life goal of mine that I hadn’t realized before. As soon as we got into the city, though, I realized something. I hadn’t eaten in like, 6 or 7 hours. Plus, it was hotter than frigging Satan’s sauna.

So, we found a place to park, and began searching the area for any type of sustenance. After going in a few circles, I finally convinced my dad to eat at the pizza place that we had passed about 3 times. As soon as we entered, a strange kind of giddy excitement welled up inside of me; much the same as a small child would feel, gazing upon the magnificent entrance to Disneyland for the first time. It had finally struck me that we were actually in Chicago. We made it. And now, we were in an authentic Chicago pizza place (Lou Malnati’s), complete with Bears memorabilia strewn about every available surface on the walls, including a commemorative plaque for the Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew’s One and only hit- The Super Bowl Shuffle. Of course, authentic “Chicago-Style” pizza takes around a half hour to prepare, so we quietly starved and gazed at the dust-covered collectibles while we waited for our food to arrive. Eventually it did, and it was totally excellent. Maybe that was just because I was starving my face off. Anyway, the pizza itself is actually a somewhat inverted version of pizza we are used to in the Northwest. Instead of being thin and large, it is compact and deep, with the sauce on top, and a layer of cheese just underneath. I must admit, it was interesting, if nothing else.

We had an architectural boat tour booked for 4PM, so we ran in the direction of the Navy Pier, where the tour started. As we walked briskly down the streets of inner Chicago, we realized that is was MUCH farther than we had anticipated. My father, in his infinite wisdom, parked “just a few blocks away” from the Pier, not wanting to get entangled in what he knew would surely be a messy and overpriced parking situation. These “few blocks” ended up being more like 7 city blocks, due to a misreading of the map.

After much grumbling and under-the-breath “I-told-you-so”s, we reached the Navy Pier. I was expecting a run-down old pier with shabby tour boat docked on all available sides, with perhaps a sleazy hot dog vendor or two, strategically scattered across the walkway. Instead, what lay before me was a veritable carnival of corporate stranglehold, and ridiculously overpriced refreshment stands. We finally reached the tiny kiosk where we were to verify our reservations, where a somewhat portly man wearing a boonie hat wildly waved his arms and periodically bellowed advertisements for tours to the passing throng of tourists. Once we had our reservations settled, the lady inside the kiosk pointed us to the portly man and said “That man right there will show you to your tour.” We awkwardly flashed our tickets at the man and barely looking at them twice, wiped his sweat brow, and pointed a stubby finger across the pier. “You see those flags? Over there? Yeah. Just uh, go over near uh, those flags. You’ll see the tour. Can’t miss it” he said, wiping his brow a second time.

We reached the dock with little trouble, and after a short time, we were seated on the tour boat. The thing was surprisingly massive, with about twenty benches in rows across the deck all about the size of two park benches wide. After the vessel was fully seated, we were introduced to the crew: Captain Ken, the jolly and hirsute operator of the ship, Eric, the Bartending Pirate, and finally our tour guide himself, Kip.

Kip was a smallish man, slight of build, who looked like he might be your best friend’s dad – complete with khaki shorts, a well-used polo shirt, a straw sun hat, and some thick ray-bans from circa 1979. Before the tour started, I was having second thoughts. I was sure that I was in for a mind-numbing hour of dry commentary on architecture, perhaps with a few obligatory jokes thrown in that were either painfully predictable, or, worse yet – architecture puns. Within a few moments, I realized all my assumptions were wrong. Kip can only be described as someone, who, at one point in their career was an acerbic game show host, rejected for being “too… off the wall”. He was sly, slick, and knew what he was talking about. His jokes were never dry, and his commentary was enthralling and entertaining. He covered subjects from the progression of architecture to the reversal of the flow of the Chicago River.

One of the more enjoyable points he covered was the great Chicago fire. According to him, the origin of the fire was never truly discovered, but local theories ranged from “UFO’s to meteorites to a peg-legged ne’er-do-well with a cigar”. Anyone who uses the term “ne’er-do-well” in common speech has my immediate respect. Kip was also a Chicago resident, so he had all kinds of “insider” stories – such as how new construction a few years back had caused a leak in a forgotten underground tunnel, which, by morning, had flooded the bottom floors of any buildings connected somehow to the tunnel network with thousands of gallons of river water. In Kip’s words: “people came to work, and fish were swimmin’ through the food courts! It was indeed a crazy day for Chicago.”

He shared the story of the Dave Matthews incident as well, where the Dave Matthews band tour bus dumped its sewage containers out onto an open-grated bridge above a boat tour, spraying the entire boat with a soulful blend of country, folk, rock, and shit. No better words can describe the incident other than: “It was indeed a dark day for Chicago boat tours…” I’m sure no pun was intended.

After the tour concluded, having our fill of Chicago, we immediately found a cab to take us back to our parking spot. Upon driving back, my dad remarked “Wow, we kind of walked a long way, huh?” This only elicited a snort of derision from myself. We eventually got back to the car, and navigated to our hotel. Immediately after entering the room, I was struck with a massive headache, and quietly passed out on my bed. I was awakened an hour later, to even more unbearable pain. It was decided that we had to eat before it got too late, so we went to… PANERA! AGAIN! I don’t care, Panera is frigging delectable at any time of day. After a nice cup ‘o soup, some freshly baked bread and a sandwich, we walked back to the hotel. Sadly, my friends, this is where this marvelous tale of intrepid adventures and ludicrous shenanigans comes to an end, as at that point in time, I began writing this blog.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Meanwhile, in the brave new land of Massachusetts, Robin has arrived, and has an update for us all:

Looks like the days of wine and roses are over for me. After cocktails, tears, and singing at the top of our lungs all the way to the airport, William and Kelli dropped me off at SeaTac. My plan was to sneak Quasar on the plane, concealed in a carry-on stowed beneath my feet. I got on the red-eye and had an exhausting flight, although Quasar was perfect, and he got under the radar on 2 different flights! Ha! Saved myself 50 bucks!

But they lost my luggage! All of my favorite, can’t live-with-out items that I whittled down to fit into 2 suitcases, both of which they lost! So I have nothing right now. Not even a purse! No underwear, no change of clothes, no dental floss, hell – no frigging hair-products! And then when I pulled into our new housing development, my heart sank! It is in the middle of nowhere and rather “low rent” on the outside. On the steps leading to my condo door was an empty beer can (Bud light) and a planter filled with sand and cigarette butts! Thankfully the place itself is just fine once inside. But then I didn’t have a thing to do, didn’t even know how to get to a grocery store, no luggage, my cell phone dead, and the cable guy didn’t leave me an ethernet cable so I couldn’t get on line. I don’t know a soul, am all alone, isolated out in bum-f**k Agawam, and Jason doesn’t arrive until Saturday! It all came crashing down on me. I cried my heart out, called Simone and Kelli, and cried harder. After a brief nap I finally got my bearings, got the internet hooked up, found the grocery store, and am now feeling more hopeful. Turns out 6 Flags Water Park is just down the road, which has, according to the maintenance man, the “world’s highest” roller-coaster. So now I know what I am doing when Max gets here. And there is a pool on the premises too, although I can’t go in it because my suit is in my luggage. Arggg… Ok, tomorrow I am off to buy a car!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason can’t stop himself from adding a few closing thoughts…

Many of you have written in expressing your support of our little blog effort, and even offering helpful suggestions. Rest assured that I have heard your requests. The people have spoken, and their demand is clear: MORE FART JOKES.

Unfortunately, I only have one to report, and it’s not even really a joke. This morning, Max blithely attempted to gloss over his intestinal difficulties with a phrase previously unknown to me:

“Man, I am fartin’ like a Spartan.”

Is this the way our children speak in these dark times? What has become of the charming colloquialisms of yesteryear, like “You’re the bee’s knees” or “Twenty-three skidoo”? I shake my head in dismay. Dismay, I tell you!

Anyway, the “Spartan” thing was doubly odd, because – less than a half-hour later – we passed a town in Wisconsin with the unlikely name of “Sparta”. According to Shelby and Barb, the Sparta Chamber of Commerce webmasters, Sparta is a town “where the people are friendly and good conversation is always welcome.” Sparta also claims to be the “Bicycling Capital of the United States”.

“How much you want to bet their high school football team is named the ‘Spartans’?” Max asked rhetorically. Living in a town named “Sparta,” you wouldn’t really have much choice, would you? And how irritating would that be? Every time they mentioned your team in the paper they would have to say “The Sparta Spartans” which would sound dumb.

The further we get from Sturgis, the fewer bikers we’re seeing. In fact, today we saw almost no bikers at all. In memory of our time among them, I’ll close with a joke Max read in the Rapid City newspaper:

* * * *

Harley Mechanic asks the BMW Mechanic: “Hey, can I borrow a wrench?”

BMW Mechanic: “Well… I guess. What type and what size?”

Harley Mechanic: “It doesn’t really matter. I’m gonna use it as a hammer.”

* * * *

One last neat thing we saw in Chicago: There was some sort of group art project going on, similar to that pig thing in Seattle. Several artists had been given large Earth globes, and asked to customize them. Some were fairly generic, but a few were impressive. I liked this one:

Tomorrow: Cleveland! Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Heat Stroke!

One Comment

  1. Jason … I want one of those hats …

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