take me out to the ballgame

Volare, the tried and true first vehicle I owned, happens to be the first restaurant name we’ve attached to our two day Chicago layover. Deep dish pizza be darned. On the night before we fly to Rome, we’re ordering tortellini stuffed with lobster, veal limone, linguine alfredo, and four cheese pizza–gorgonzola, manchego, asiago and mozzarella. Gelato and cappuccino to complete the repast. And a California Chardonnay that makes butter seem brackish and bitter. This was all practice for the authentic Italian food we are about to meet.

Zach didn’t finish as well as he finished his chocolate gelato. Standing on the corner of East Grand, he didn’t like to hear that the taxi would take awhile. It needs to come now, now, now! A wee bit embarrassing for the hubby (an understatement if you know him). The doorman played along…No taxi for you…where do you come from that your demands are so quickly satisfied?

Canada, where we are known for our rudeness, I joked.

Well, then I will come next summer and have drinks with you and chat. He high fived Zach before five of us piled in the back of the Toyota –an experience we’ve only known in Kenya.

We have learned a thing, or few, about travelling with children: one is, don’t move too fast, or try to cover too much ground. You’ll overwhelm their senses, then they will overwhelm yours. Not worth the struggle.

Nonetheless, the entire day was new to all our senses. Though this is still North America, I found it amusing that Hannah’s previous impression of America was that it was dirty. Hmm, hadn’t thought that represented it in a sweeping statement. Can’t say North Vancouver, or Inuvik, or parts of Montreal looked all that Martha Stewart clean. But the kiddos sure did ask about graffiti…who was doing it and why. Bored and artistic, was all I had to offer…perhaps they’re trying to put a mark on the world.

Our naturally extroverted-in-public family clamped right up when we spent a solid five minutes on the El. Quickly, I am aware why we are not big city folk. I managed to feel big city angst when five minutes apart two fellows on the El got everyone’s attention and revealed that each were no longer incarcerated, trying to get a job and if we could give them any money, they would be most thankful. I felt like I had a shot of epinephrine; with yesterday’s events in a Kenyan shopping mall swirling in my thoughts…I’d shopped at the American-like mall in Nairobi last June. At the El, I quickly flashed to being robbed of our passports and wallets, or worse, offering everything for the life of my child. Big city life is great for a blog, but not my cup of cappuccino.

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Despite the drama, this was Christmas in September for my husband. The Blue Line $30 fare was worth the effort when seated at Wrigley Field. Quaint. Can’t says I would expect to describe a baseball field as quaint, but it is the oldest in the States. Surprised that our $80 baseball meal was soggy hot dogs, Bratwurst, two bottles of water, a salted pretzel, bag of salted peanuts and popcorn. Classic baseball fare, but I’ve not eaten a fruit all day, and one serving of broccoli does not cover the nutrition rainbow.

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Though still enamoured by the atmosphere…it satisfies that Sleepless in Seattle film memory….it took me till the end of the second inning to ask, So Jim, who are the Cubs playing? And he wasn’t perturbed, because we’ve been married fourteen years and he knows that all sport descriptions fly through my mind like the 747 from Vancouver to Calgary. The Cubs didn’t win. They’ve been on a losing streak. But he sat like a boy watching his first game in the stands, recording RBIs, innings, the strikes and runs and fouls and whatchamacallits and whozits and whatzits on his record sheet.

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I cradled the kids from the whipping Windy City and ate my share of preservatives…I stood respectfully as America the Beautiful and the National Anthem were sung…and no, Hannah, that wasn’t God Save the Queen, and no Rachel, they won’t amuse us and sing O Canada…but still we shimmied to YMCA and sang our hearts out to Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

After the game, our four joined another 96 kids and ran the bases; my camera running out of film as they rounded second. A lovely end to the day as cappuccino to my meal, as roasted peanuts to our ball game.

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