Jelly, jelly so fine

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Chi-Town, Part One

Once upon a time, in another dimension that we will call the late seventies, in a faraway land called Cardiff, there lived three young men. 

Their real names are unimportant but we shall call them Dave, Jeff and Robbie for the purposes of this short tale.

Now these three young men were assuredly not of the normal variety. 

While other lads of their day studiously hit the books and dreamed of one day inheriting their father's widget factory or engaging in some similar constructive endeavor, these three seemed to have only one thing in mind, courting beautiful lasses and continuously pushing the fun meter button up to levels that it had previously never been pressed or that practically anybody else even knew existed, frankly.

Their home, their parties, their hijinx and gross debauchery, were all things of wide renown, albeit in their somewhat limited circles. 

The famous sage and scribe Rick Griffin once anointed them the "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" after a legendary barbecue and psychedelic hoedown. Rick was the odd man out and he got a pile of bones that night but that is a story for another place and time.

The nitrous tanks in the living room were industrially sized and the herbal consumption simply ridiculous.

They toured the globe, following their musical heroes and cut a mighty swath through lawful propriety and normal standards of decorum.

Robbie and Jeff went to play school while Dave went to a proper university.  They had a little deal. Robbie, a fabulous writer, would write an occasional term paper for his roommate and Dave would wash Robbie's BMW. 

As usually happens everything went along quite hunky dory until it finally didn't and the young lads eventually went their separate ways. 

Dave and Jeff got wise, grew up and went straight, got married, had children, slayed dragons, got serious positions and titles at major tech companies, Robbie toiled away at menial jobs in obscurity, in a far off podunk land called Fallbrook. Had a disastrous starter marriage but then finally found the purple haired girl of his dreams. Life, in all its erratic web and flow, moved on.


Fast forward forty five or so years, the three young men, a touch beyond middle aged, two with grown children that have now left the nest, decided to reconnoiter in Chicago for a rehash of the glory days in a geographical middle ground.

I think it was my idea but it might have been Dave's initially. I had not been to the windy city since 1995 and did not know it very well at that, having been there for a short time on business. Honestly looked down on it a little bit with my native New York snobbery. Boy was I wrong! What a city!

Dave grew up there and Jeff worked there for 12 years. They knew the city very well and we took a trip back down their memory lane.

I picked the hotel, the Pendry, a relatively new hotel in the classic Carbon and Carbide building. 

Used to be the Hard Rock. 

Classic moderne styling which later became known to the world as "art deco."

I wanted to stay in a beautiful building and it certainly was. 

Originally built in 1929, it was designed by the Burnham Brothers to resemble the shape of a champagne bottle with its beautiful gold foiled top.

Really a beautiful hotel, my cohorts I think grudgingly accepted it, although I believe they honestly would have preferred a newer boutique box with more modern conveniences.

I personally found nothing lacking but admit I am a bit of a rube.

Was definitely a step up for me, in any case and not cheap. 

But hey, we do something like this every fifty years, right?

We're putting the band back together, as they said in the Blues Brothers.

I mostly just shot pics with my weak cell phone but I hope you get the general idea.

Very pretty, in a classic and civilized sense.

Jeff flew in first and I followed.  Took the blueline train downtown, lost power on the tracks for about ten minutes. Saw some colorful people in colorful t-shirts, throughout the trip.


I had scored a cheap nonstop from John Wayne airport. Dave was not due in until midnight or later.

Jeff and I met up at a mostly forgettable Italian restaurant near the Goodman Theater. Hadn't spent much time together in the last forty years, maybe one other short visit in San Francisco.

Was one of the few regular sit down meals on the trip, Dave being super covid cautious and wanting to avoid interior dining where possible.

I had the Lake Superior whitefish, quite good, a Chicago staple but something rarely found out here in California.

We threw in an overpriced crabcake. I should mention that one of the purposes of the trip, for me anyway after the camaraderie and all that, was to try all the Chicago food I had heard so much about for these many years. I read reviews and queried friends, made lists and did my homework. But there is no way to do an exhaustive gustatory study in a week without constant motion, not to mention serious heartburn so lets just say that we got a good introductory taste.

Geno's, Lou Mitchells, Portillos (twice), Al's, Wrigley, I sucked up more nitrates than blows out of an industrial smokestack in Erie in a week.

Probably could have stuck with the dogs and char dogs and forgot the polish and grilled sausage. I was certainly testing my intestinal limits and fortitude (fartitude?) But we bravely marshaled on. My stalwart companions and I were on a mission from god. 

There would be no chop house, G & G's or Gibsons on this trip. We were strictly down and dirty, with one salad tossed in at the end to appease the vegan gods. Did not try the plant based dog at Portillos, I am so sad to report. Loved Portillos, Genos okay, nothing special, wasn't crazy about Al's, decent, the guys went across the street and raved about the Italian ices at Mario's. Would not go back to Greek Isles...

My first human interest story was meeting Doug here at Lou Mitchells.

Doug stands on the street for five hours a day near Lou Mitchell's selling Streetwise Magazine.

Streetwise empowers people who are having a hard time, many of them homeless.

I didn't ask Doug if he had a home but he was clean and well dressed, did not appear to suffer from any of the common addictions.

He worked servicing copiers for forty years and found out that his retirement and social security couldn't cover his expenses. An honest man making a go of it.

Great guy, could be any of us in a heartbeat. I really liked him and I bought a magazine.


The piece de resistance or culinary (coronary?) for me food wise was certainly Manny's, a deli that matches any deli anywhere east or west, if not surpassing them.

I had the kugel and the pastrami, corned beef combo. Everything I ever wanted and more. Good thing I don't live in Chicago, I would live there...

to be continued...


RoxAnn said...

OMG! That sandwich is making me drool. Looks better than Katz’s in NYC and Kenny and Zuke’s in Portland.

Ken Seals said...

Glad you are having an awesome trip! The story telling photos are very enjoyable to see.

Valerie Tate said...

I absolutely love Chicago, but haven't been there in many, many, many years! You probably did not have a chance to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright home there, but the photos of the amazing hotel were fabulous! And the sandwich sure makes me crave a good deli meal, hard to find unless you go to L.A. or the San Fernando Valley!!! D.Z. Aiken in San Diego had pretty good food as I recall, but it's been awhile since I have been there. Might have to take a field trip...

Anonymous said...

Love Chicago / great museums, architecture, music & food! Sounds just awesome!

Anonymous said...

I am glad you guys made to Manny's, I love that place. I remember those giant dentist office size N2O tanks at the Cardiff house, they were still going at sunrise. Cardiff in the 70's, what a great time we had!

Anonymous said...

My office for 20 years was steps from your hotel. Loved seeing your photos. Hope you got milk duds at Lou Mitchell's!

Anonymous said...

Lake Superior whitefish is one of the reasons I moved back to Marquette.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great trip! Glad you had a good time. I always like that town except in the winter!