Thursday, January 1, 2009

You can't go home again...

Unless you're me.

Not far from my alma mater is a winery that I never ever would've stepped foot in until my best friend Choz dragged me in there one night. They have wine tastings, $5 for a sample of 7 different wines. Every month the flavors change. After that, I started planning a tasting once a month and invited my favorite co-workers and friends. Now that I've moved away, whenever I'm planning to visit again I email people and try to schedule a tasting. It's a great way to get to see a bunch of them in one place and then we go somewhere for dinner afterward.

This time, when we went the Friday after Thanksgiving, I was privileged to meet up not only with Trish, but also a friend of ours from high school, whom, up until that night, I hadn't seen since I was a Junior. Novotny was in Marching Band along with us. For some reason, the two of us called each other by our last names. I'm not sure either of us knows why. Some time ago I tracked down Novotny's email through our alumni directory and got in touch with her. My only regret as far as meeting at the winery was that I wanted to spend so much time catching up with Novotny and Trish, but there were so many people to talk to, it was tough. I hope to spend time with them both at length when I once again return to the Land of Flat. A good time at the winery appeared to be had by all.

Novotny, Moi, Trish

The Family


Brother, his woman and I took a day trip on Saturday downtown on the train. For around 5 bucks, you can ride all weekend round-trip should you choose. We thought Girlfriend (the Chetekian formerly known as Friendgirl) would enjoy a train ride (I'll just refer to her as "Anya"...I think that might have been a bachelorette bar name...) and I know I never mind eliminating driving to Chicago. If I go downtown these days, it's always on the train.


A few years ago, around Christmas, my brother and I thought it would be of benefit to my mother's mental health to steal her away from all the holiday stress that she seems so good at piling up on herself. We decided to hop on the Metra from Elgin and choo-choo our way down to Chicago. The intention was to spend the day at the Art Institute, which, for some reason I never get tired of going to. My favorite museum would be the Museum of Science & Industry, so I can't explain why I'm so entertained at the Art Institute. I don't feel any artistic leanings. How things work has always fascinated me so much more. The Art Institute is just plain good eye candy I guess. Not unlike the rippled six pack on Ryan Reynolds or Jason Statham or the newest James Bond, bless him. I can sum up the feeling I get being at the Art Institute in four words: Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The feeling I get looking at rippled six packs is better left unsaid.

Once we arrived in Union Station, we strolled down Adams to have lunch at the Berghoff, a Chicago landmark. History lesson: Herman Berghoff introduced his Dortmunder-style beer at the Chicago's World Fair in 1893 (coincidentally, the fair is the subject of a book I'm currently reading entitled The Devil in the White City). He prospered and opened the Berghoff Cafe in 1898, next door to the current location. Eventually he expanded into a restaurant and the Chicago haven for German food continues to this day.

We planned to eat and continue on to the Art Institute. The Berghoff, which is a block or two from Union Station, was the farthest we got. After two pitchers of Berghoff's Winter Hazelnut Ale and really good conversation (surprising, for us), we ran out of time. We stumbled back toward the train station (stopping at an English pub known as Elephant & Castle for one more pint) and headed home. Since that day, we try to keep up that tradition whenever the opportunity presents itself.


This time around, since we brought Anya from teeny-tiny Chetek (Brother and I like to tease her about Chetek, saying they've only just started the 80's decade, showing "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in the theater and stocking 'Roos on the shelves for the first time), we thought we'd do something touristy and (I thought) free.

While the Sears Tower is no longer the tallest building in the world, it does still have on display quite a view of the city. Up we went. But not before going through the security hassle similar to the airport (except I got to keep my shoes on), and forking over 13 bucks a piece. I don't remember the trip up to the observation deck costing anything, but then the last time I went up was in grade school and I wasn't paying then anyway. Needless to say, we stayed up there till it was worth the ticket. And it was. They actually have two observation decks, one on the 99th floor and another around 106, though the 99th floor looks like it has a dance floor in one corner...hmm. Methinks this floor is party-specific. Could you just picture shindiggin' 99 floors off the ground?

We arrived on 99 shortly before dark, so we got two views for the price of one: enough daylight to see way out, and then the opportunity to watch an entire city preparing for darkness. Tres cool.



The weather was uncannily cooperative for late November, so we took a few photo ops on our way to and from our next stop (the Berghoff) and the train station. Just goes to prove my theory that I look much better in the dark. :-)


Just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you a Happy New Year. That there are people out there actually enjoying my useless info (besides me, of course) is all the encouragement I need. Be good to each other.

Most love,


  1. le fun! Hope your year is fantastic!

    what is up with this new commenty-thingy-ma-bob?

  2. Why? Is it bad? I'm just messing around with settings in here. Want to look professional you know. /end sarcasm