Friday, September 14, 2007

The Backside of Bakers at Midnight, Imagination, Chicago Magazine Digressions, and Other Distractions

Bakers Square ends service at midnight each evening. Tonight, I missed the 11 p.m. cut off for U unLucky Dawg U, so I headed north. I lacked the cholesterol raising craving required for"The Fish Keg" on Howard. This meant that I ended up in the friendly confines of Bakers Square. I swear, it's all a blur!

Our local Mexican Bistro near Ridge and Touhy closes shop earlier. Tonight I did not imbibe nachos and "La Fea Mas Bella" complete with Leticia Pedilla Solis and her Telemundo company. Bakers Square is standard fare after 11 p.m., when The Diner at Clark and Devon does not yield parking spaces and the fridge is nearly bare. Besides, the parking lot at The Diner is a bit seedy compared to Bakers, even if Bakers is a mainstay franchise relishing in Pop N Fresh Pie's Glory. P&S Cafe closes at 3pm, so where do I go? Any ideas? Cuchina di Donatella is closed, as well. Morseland is farther east; again, no parking, too loud, no time to unwind.

I arrived at Bakers to be immediately seated by the host, manager, and cashier. The crowd was down to earth and local. Two fifty something blue collar workers chatted about their experiences directly north. Another feature is a campy dressed red head with unique glasses, who I glance at a few times. She looks like a junior high classmate may have looked in her late twenties. Tonight, she will serve as my 'what Sara T. would look-like, if I saw her in her late twenties before she married a same sex partner, night.' Okay, I got overly creative and Sara rejected my shy seventh grade practice run. The red head amuses me for a moment.

The thoughts serve as more of a diversion to relieve my hunger and "distraction" over a curious internet search three months ago for former classmates. Congrats Sara! Now, maybe I understand.

I imagined a sudden, 'do I know you from somewhere' conversations. How does a guy approach a woman at Bakers Square without looking like he is asking for a date? Blog? Who wants to walk out in that parking lot at midnight at that point until much later. Meanwhile, a mother and daughter combo parks in the booth directly east of me. To view this character of an imaginary first impression, I have to carefully move my eyes east to northwest. Therefore, I have no other choice, but to lose interest in the redhead. Otherwise, I will look like a cradle-robber.

Ironically, I pull out a Chicago Magazine to be presented with another redhead complete with school books with headlines to perk my curiousity. Most of the evening is now spent reviewing this latest Chicago Magazine, which contrasts High Schools. Chicago Magazine can no longer ignore Northside College Prep, Payton and Young. It alludes to other CPS high schools with less applause and minimal recognition. The suburbs get the accolades, besides they buy most of the subscriptions.

My son is about to make that dive into the next level that follows Decatur Classical. That means that, I simultaneously gloat and glare at the stats for the selective enrollment high schools wondering what testing and grades will bring to this family's future educational plans, among other things. I also compare Jones College Prep, Lane Tech, and Lincoln Park, while wishing that they Sullivan found its place higher on the academic pecking order.

Chicago Magazine to me continues to become more of an expression of suburbia and its compulsions draw it into Chicago. There are the high end plastic surgeons, the upscale ambulance chaser ads, gaudy jewelry, and many of the things that none of us should go into debt over. The, 'I like to visit, shop, schmooze, but wouldn't want to live there mentality' looms large on the Northshore. Do they fear how their own pale complexion will fit in a Chicago neighborhood like Rogers Park? Do they think that the cars mow down kids any quicker in the low traffic areas? Does the FBI or media ever calculate the 'per capita crime beat in the suburbs?'

Perhaps, those in the suburbs fear riding their bicycles home on the lakefront at 11p.m. I repeatedly ride into downtown to work if I can time it out and am low on baggage. I have never been hit, grazed, or freaked out by cars; just careful. I admit streets and san need to make a few path lighbulb replacements on the trail by the Lake. Great ride, few cars, fewer bicycles, less pollution; all in one hour and nineteen minutes from 300 South to 7200 North via the Lakefront with three stops for over exposed photos and no hassles. I should bring my tennis racket and meet someone for a set on Recreation Drive en route. No news at ten!

Stay tuned. Okay, enough of my digressions and belly beating urban pride. We just fixed some things in the house and picked up a Museum of S&I Membership that we will actually use.

Back to the October edition and this month's chapter of Dennis Rodkin's "deal estate." I have overcome the educational blow by blow of High School Education. Now, I move to the aggravation, once again, over the Restaurant ratings. "Aruns" is given a recommendation but a bogus 3 stars, when compared the four given to "Tru." Trumonte and Montuano seem like Chicago magazines poster children to the average cuisine charlatan. I suppose to each their own; I suppose that all chefs have better nights than others.
"Avenues" is given four for providing "ecclectic" Altoids on Lamb. "Alinea" gets four catcalls for bacon glazed with butterscotch. What is next Mentos infused in Pepsi infused with flaming Pussers Rum? How do you spell indigestion? Maybe dessert will feature Tums soaked in Gaviscon? I'll take pad tai and curry with all of the art and circuses, when I can afford Sampanthavivat. I suppose that there is something on every menu to enjoy, when the chef is brilliant and on key for the evening.

By that time, I have gotten over my disappointments complete with the memories of Tru with its command to order from the left or the right side, only; its clear kitchy lollipops and that evenings questionable service supposedly unheard of at this Trumonte gem. It is at that moment that my Baker's lukewarm 65-70 degree heated chicken pot pie is served with semi stewed carrots and celery.
The proffered second glass of iced tea sans ice is not particularly refreshing; it is still pushing 85 degrees farenheit. My waitress is definitely paying attention to the subtle gestures, but the ice in the pitcher melted. This left the tea a bit too Lipton. At least, the rolls are piping hot! If you had to choose, don't you wish that the rolls are cold and the pot pie is piping above a hundred degrees! Well, I'll have to order the guacamole burger next week.
My waitress did well. My past experiences with Bakers service are sometimes service disappointments. The food is usually better; the pie is good. Today, Tsehayens earned her twenty percent just for being tremendously more attentive than the last fifteen servers. Believe it or not the thought-provoking redhead is still there reading her newspaper which is spread across the table and cascading to the floor, as well. The patroness reminds me of Sara, a junior high classmate who was a worthy conversationalist. Years later, Sara moved West and came out of the closet as they say. Good grief, Charlie Brown!

I now wait for the host to transform from manager into the cashier. The redhead continues to be absorbed in her newspaper and doesn't seem to notice me. The mother-daughter combo suddenly rises up for the sychronized swim to the cashier. Go figure. I wait briefly, pay, and leave glad that Bakers is open. It certainly puts McDonalds to shame even if it costs a little more. I take my blurred photo in the parking lot, look like a terrorist to the local Marathon gas station attendant, jump into the car, and drive off into the night. This lasts for about a block or so until I reach the computer. Everyone is asleep. It is now Saturday.

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