"There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere . . . "
- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Lest you think from my prior post that my birthday was all bad, worry not. While the actual day was crap, the weekend leading up to it was quite lovely.
Ben surprised me with dinner at Milos, a wonderful Greek restaurant in our neighborhood. I've wanted to go there for ages!
We began with a delightful bottle of Greek white wine. I made sure to take a picture so we can remember to get this one again. It was crispy with a sweet finish and went so very well with all of the fish (oddly, it did not mingle so well with the vegetables).
Then, we launched into the special Sunday menu. I began with octopus salad (perfectly cooked, so tender!)
Ben had crabcake and shrimp, also a lovely choice (but I liked mine better).
For our second course, we both devoured tomato salads.
For my main course...
...er, not quite...here we go...
Succulent, melt in your mouth Mediterranean white fish (loux-something-or-other). So good! I ordered right.
Ben had the salmon, also good but somehow less exotic.
(I stole some of his chard.)
Somehow, I forgot to take a picture of dessert - walnut cake with lavender-honey ice cream, and fruit! Oh, what a dinner!
Also in celebration, Amy and Matthew took me to lunch at Mary's Fish Camp. Again, I neglected to photograph my fried oysters and LOBSTER ROLL! WHAT was I thinking?! If you are interested in the ongoing OSOH Lobster Roll ranking, I deemed this lobster roll the second-best in New York (behind Pearl Oyster Bar).
I did get pictures when we went for drinks after.
Yummy, yummy margarita!
So really, it wasn't such a bad birthday week after all.
Really, it was one of the strangest birthdays ever.
4am: alarm goes off. I have a 6am flight to catch. Ben hits the snooze.
4:09am: alarm goes off again. The puppy whimpers. I tumble out of bed to find a tummy-up barely-awake puppy sprawled beside the bed gazing grumpily at me. After petting that shaggy little tummy for a while, I dress and clean up then roll out of the apartment, leaving Boy and Pup to fend for themselves.
4:40am: I get into a Bad Cab. The driver take the long way, with the most expensive end total price for the ride (since I know there is a free and faster bridge that is available at that time of them morning, I take it out of their tip when they do that)
5am: cabbie can’t find the Marine Air Terminal.
5:15am: I arrive at the terminal. Luckily, there is no security line at the Marine Air Terminal, so I stagger right on inside and flop into a chair by Gate 1.
5:40am: I board in zone 3 and easily stick my bag in the overhead. I’m in a window seat with a very tall guy in the aisle seat next to me.
6:15am: As the plane sits on the runway, I fall asleep. 6:23am: The tall guy sleeping in the aisle seat next to me topples over on top of me. I shove him over and knit for a while…then doze.
6:45am: I slept through takeoff AND through in flight bagel distribution. No breakfast for me.
7/6am: We hit the Central Time Zone.
7:25am: Welcome to Chicago.
7:40am: I stop at an airport deli for an egg sandwich…but they are out of egg. I keep walking.
8:05am: Will the Hertz Shuttle NEVER arrive...
8:25am: I tuck myself into the crappiest rental car I’ve had to date. It’s a Nisson something-outdated with 125,000+ miles on it and strange noises trapped in the engine. There’s no acceleration and it smells funny. I’m pissed and decide to take the backroads to the office.
9:15am: The backroads were faster than I expected. I stop at a grocery store to grab a banana and a Diet Pepsi.
9:25am: Someone pooped by my car door. This isn’t some puppy mess either, it’s human. This is big and stinky and RIGHT where I need to be to climb back into my car. And someone has stepped into it and spread it all around (luckily not me – I double check my shoes to be sure). I awkwardly vault my bag and my body over the mess and into my car again.
9:35am: the security guard stops me at the game and makes me produce my visitor badge. They haven’t done this for the last two weeks, but of course, today they will. I dig.
9:40am: There are no visitor’s parking spots left. I park in a reserved spot and cross my fingers that the security guys don’t give me a hard time.
9:45am: No one is at the front office door, so I can’t get through security. I wait.
10am: That’s 10am CENTRAL TIME, so I have been awake for seven hours by the time I finally make it to the office.
10:10am: I eat a banana. Then a handful of roasted almonds. Not much for a birthday breakfast. Time to work on that excel spreadsheet.
12pm: We have a lunch meeting in the cafeteria. Salmon, steamed broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes.
12:30pm: Time to work on that PowerPoint presentation.
5pm: I want to leave but everyone is heads-down. Time to do that research.
7:00pm: I leave the office. Freaking finally. I try to call Ben but he doesn’t answer.
7:30pm: I go to Potbelly subs and grab a chicken & cheddar sandwich to go (typically I enjoy eating out alone but eating alone on a restaurant on my birthday just sounds too pathetic).
All that and a bag of chips...
7:40pm: I stand in ridiculously long line to check into the hotel.
8:10pm: The hotel clerk confirms that I will attain “GOLD” status during my stay this week, but he won’t go ahead and upgrade me. I tell him it’s my birthday. He is unmoved.
8:15pm: I arrive at my hotel room: number 666. No, I’m not kidding.
8:16pm: The hotel neglected to leave me my arrival snack.
8:35pm: I eat my pitiful little birthday dinner and enter my dinner calories into my phone app. With a sandwich and chips, guess how many? Yes, 666.
8:40pm: I contemplate the possibility that I have morphed into the Spawn of Satan. Might be a better gig than this client assignment…I would be a very dedicated demon…
8:50pm: Cake arrives.
The hotel clerk took pity on me I guess. How thoughtful! (But it’s not very good cake…)
9pm: I ignore my exercise tape and climb into bed. I finally get to chat with Ben, my mom and my best friend.
Sometime around 9:30pm: I fall asleep with all the lights and the TV turned on.
2am: I wake up and turn off some of the lights. I leave the television on, though, for company. Work travel is a very lonely state of being.
… …during which I saw the Harry Potter finale not once but twice… …(and cried my little heart out)….
...and enjoyed brunch with Ben and Doolin at Route 66 restaurant over in Hell's Kitchen (I had an Egg White Frittata with Grilled Chicken, Feta and Spinach, with Fries and coffee...and a side of bacon for the DooDog under foot)...
…now I'm back in the North Chicago area again.
It’s nice here, I guess...
...(except for the taint in my mind, knowing of the existence of that used-pizza thief...and the nasty locker room conference room where I work).
It’s hot here….but I like hot. And it’s humid, but I’m okay with that too. Bring on the summer swelter!
I got a new pizza to make up for that sad disappearing pizza experience last week.
This one has garlic and tomatoes and I will guard it with my very life. I have pointy knitting needles and I know how to use them, you thieving Chicago rascals.
On my pizza quest, I ran across a Michael’s store and raided the shelves for some pretty, cheap wool.
I see a baby jacket materializing there in the future.
Speaking of babies, I’m working away on that blue blanket I mentioned yesterday.
This one stays with my cotton trend, but worked up in a worsted weight. The pattern is really just improvised basketweave. I love the classic look and the fact that it is completely reversible. “Wrong sides” bother me on baby blankets and scarves, so I try to work these out to minimize the “wrongness.” I’m planning to add a darker blue border in garter stitch at the end.
Easy, easy airplane knitting, all of it. Assuming I can ever stay awake for those two hour flights. With wheels up at 6am, I tend to drift back off into sleepy land as soon as the pilot turns on those noisy pressure fans.
Honestly, this commuting thing is getting old quickly. Sure, I’m racking up the miles and the Marriott points (next week I turn "Gold Elite" at the hotel, woo).
But when you travel alone, it can be very, very lonely.
here I sit, alone in my hotel...blogging at you...
There’s no one there to share the adventure. No one can reminisce with me about that time my flight canceled in Minnesota and I had to drive all night from Baltimore. No one even knows about that time I got lost looking for the hotel and wound up one the expressway to nowhere.
I find that I use twitter more when I travel, but really to share the most mundane things. I think I jump on just so I can feel like someone is out there.
Speaking of my hotel, though, my room is fine at least. Not too different from those in Atlanta and Wisconsin, really.
Those ends...they bogged me down and hid the loveliness of this blanket under a tangle of string. But the call of a friend's upcoming girl baby (due in early October) compelled the colorful puddle of almost-a-blanket back into my arms.
One more done and none too soon, since I need to cast on for yet another baby blanket project (with lots of blue this time around) due any old day now.
My overstock of Elann.com cotton is down to the very dregs and those dregs are unforgivingly pink. I'm switching over to a different cotton for a while, and at a larger gauge! Oh my!
I tried to knit some in the park with Doolin, but he's far too compelling to watch as he wiggles into his sunbeam.
My new project site is located about 45 minutes outside of Chicago. Since I've never visited Chicago, I was thrilled when my laptop pooped out on me and I had to go to the central downtown office for a little bit of IT computer hospital action.
The view from the office itself was spectacular.
I could barely wait for my poor apparatus to emerge from recovery.
When it did, off we went into the the sweltering heart of the city. I parked my rental car somewhere very expensive, wriggled out of my work-appropriate pantyhose right there in the driver's seat and slipped on more comfortable heels for walking about. Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to apply sunscreen other than my basic morning spf makeup layer. I'm typing with pink skin tonight and drinking lots of water in the random hope that hydration will prevent the sun wrinkles and cancer from attacking my poor pale body.
As this excursion was unplanned, I just wandered outside and called Ben for some navigation tips. He was a little over-excited for me at first, so I aimlessly crossed streets in the middle of traffic while he sent me in 12 directions at once and I basically acted like some hick tourist turned loose in the city.
Then I found the Water Tower.
It didn't seem to be open and all I could tell about it was what Ben remembered from a past trip to the city - it was the lone surviving structure from a city fire. Anyone have any other information about this? (I guess I could google it...)
Mere feet away, I discovered something even more interesting to this hungry little chocolate lover.
This masterpiece was a selection from their new dark chocolate sundae selection.
My work here is done...
Dangling signs proclaimed this the "Cathedral District," so I poked into one.
It was pretty-ish, but not particularly compelling. With the clock ticking down my time in the city, I scooted out pretty quickly.
I ducked into some sort of stinky pedestrian walkway and emerged to find...
Chicago has a beach?
I waded in Lake Michigan.
How strange. I can't imagine just wandering out into the Hudson or the East River in NYC, or running my toes through hot sand.
I could not remain long on that bright and sunny beach without crisping my poor pale skin, so soon I slipped off to Rush Street and a quiet, breezy outdoor bar.
I think this little bar might be affiliated with locations in NYC, actually.
I basked in the aggressive wind and delightful view.
However, for future reference, the margarita was pathetic and the chips and salsa? Not edible.
Unwilling to spoil my evening with the sub-par fare, I retraced my steps back up the ste et.
Meet my new guilty pleasure.
As I waited for my deep-dish stuffed pizza-like-casserole-creation to arrive, I inspected some Chicago brews.
Meet the locals.
312: a light, sweet summer wheat beer.
And Matilda: an unfiltered Trappist Ale.
I recommend both and would gladly indulge again. Next time, though, I will try the Honker.
But the highlight. The real star.
I refuse to consider this to be actual pizza...but is is an amazingly devine pizza-type casserole!
So there you have it - what one can accomplish when released into Chicago for four hours with limited funds, a dead phone, no sunscreen and minor jetlag.
As a sad foot note: I only ate about 25% of that pizza that evening and very lovingly carried that precious leftover pizza to my hotel, then to my office fridge. When I went to heat up a slice for a lunch indulgence...it was gone. All of it. Without a trace or a crumb, nary a string of cheese, a smidge of garlic or a guilty note.
Someone stole my freaking used pizza, within mere hours of placing in in a kitchen fridge. Feel free to image the intensity of my anger. Then triple it. I'm still not over it.
Especially since earlier that day I contributed my hard-to-get parking space AND $5 of prepaid parking to stranger. So much for karma.
I'm not proud of it. But I'm being honest with you...I liked it.
I grew up eating Captain D's fried fish (fried was the only way I remember having fish when I was younger, actually). This chain has a special place in my heart, and I guess I'm lucky that it doesn't have a place anywhere in NYC.
Even in a different city, a different state, nothing has changed from what I remember.
I'd planned a slightly more sophisticated evening ~ a visit to a yarn shop, followed by a sit-down dinner somewhere. But as I drove out toward the suburbs, I decided I really didn't have it in me. I wanted easy, quick and comforting.
All I really wanted to do was dig into fish and fries...
...and maybe a hushpuppy or two.
Okay, and a half-order of fried shrimp. All of which was totally detrimental to my diet, but sometimes I just can't care.
I didn't come close to finishing all of that luscious fried food, and of that I am proud. I felt gross and guilty on the drive back to the hotel afterwards. But sometimes that's okay I guess.
It sounds depressing, but it's actually a very, very good thing.
I'm between work projects, but already booked for my next assignment. This week is an unofficial "down week" to decompress between clients. I'm wrapping up details from the Atlanta/Wisconsin deal and prepping on info for the upcoming Chicago fun and games..
But in the meantime, I'm playing while I can. Playing...and knitting
Sorry for the blur, but you know what these are.
The more portable version of my Miter Crosses blanket is really coming along now. I'd guess I'm about 25% of the way to a baby blanket already (and when you consider all of the other stuff I'm working on, that's not shabby).
Now, if you don't mind, I will excuse myself to take my puppy for a long walk in the park where we can soak up some lovely heat and dodge the sunshine.
I do have a few posts for you yet to come about the last of the food adventures from my recent travels...and I plan to pack in all kinds of excitement this week as well!