Sunday, January 31, 2010

The face of Chicago

As you all know, once in awhile I veer off the real-estate path with this blog. This somewhat fits into my website for people looking to move to Chicago from out of town --Calling Me Home so I will post the story here.

Tonight I was out and like so many nights in what sometimes seems like another lifetime, I found myself at the Green Mill with a friend in the Uptown neighborhood. The Green Mill is one of the oldest clubs in town and features good jazz, drinks and doors that are open until 4 a.m. We decided to go there because my friend had never been, which was good enough for me!

Being a Saturday night, it was crowded and as soon as we paid our cover I realized it was standing-room-only. Luckily, as we got a few steps in a group of four or five people who were seated in a booth began putting on their coats. I immediately sat next to one of the persons, who responded with a smile (knowing how hard it can be to get a seat there) and said "it's your lucky day!"

My friend, not really aware what a score a seat was, smiled and probably wondered why I was so relieved. I knew it would be a million times nicer having a waitress serve us while we relaxed rather than standing shoulder-to-shoulder and having to push our way to the bar for a drink if you were lucky enough to get the bartender's attention.

Anyway, we took our seats and a few minutes later the group, which was on a break when we walked in, started playing again. Now keep in mind that the booth we had was shaped like a big C and could fit probably 5-6 people. I knew others would try to share it and it wasn't more than ten minutes when a middle-aged guy asked me "do you mind some of us sit here?"

I looked at him and said "sure, as long if there aren't fifty of you."

Not hearing me correctly, he said "I'll give you fifty for the whole booth."

I laughed and said "thanks, but you can sit down with us. I'm not selling it but don't want to vacate."

Having six people in his party, they couldn't all fit with us so they stood for awhile and listened to the music. The man thanked me and asked if we were locals and if we frequented the place. I confirmed that yes, we were from Chicago and that no, I did not go to the Green Mill nearly as much as I once had.

He said his group and himself were from a small town in Ohio and that they heard a lot about the place and wanted to check it out, which I thought was cool. I told him that it is a cool place and that it was once a speakeasy with connections to Al Capone. Then I said to have a good time and let him know that anyone from his group was welcome to sit when they got tired of standing.

A few minutes later our cocktail waitress took my order and we settled in to watch (or listen, since we couldn't see them as the people standing blocked our view) the music. As the group was playing I kept an eye open for anyone getting up from the barstools, just steps away from our booth. I figured if we could move to sit down at the bar, I'd happily give up our oversized booth. Well, that wasn't going to happen on a Saturday night!

After awhile I had finished my drink and wanted another and of course our waitress had turned into a ghost (one drawback of getting a booth at the Green Mill). I proceeded to walk to the bar and ordered another round, and got to talk to my new Ohio friend before going back to the booth. He told me his name was John and that he was with his wife and two other couples, whom he introduced, and that they were staying at the Intercontinental downtown. I asked him if he took a cab up to the bar and he said yes. I then told him to make sure when he left not to walk around, as Uptown still is shady and thought to myself that three well-dressed couples in their late 50s were a total mark to be mugged. I also thought of the street urchin who tried talking shit to me as we walked from my car to the bar just a half-hour before. He thanked me and noted that there were more people in the bar than in the town were they were from in Ohio, which as its claim to fame is home to Dum Dum Lollipops! (I later looked it up online to discover it is Bryan, Ohio)

I told him that my kids love those, but refrained from telling him I did also. As we were talking, the wife of one of his friends overheard me and said "wow, you are from Chicago," noting my accent. I smiled and tried not to roll my eyes. I then reminded them to feel free to sit down whenever they wanted and returned to my seat.

After a few more minutes, one of the Ohio women did sit down, thanked us and said her feet were killing her. I was happy and hoping that John would join us but it was not to be. They decided to leave but said goodbye and thanked us again.

Not even a couple minutes passed when I thought to myself that John and his group seemed like they really enjoyed meeting us, even if only for a brief moment. I'm sure it made his night and that when he thinks of the Green Mill and of Chicago he'll remember the guy who allowed them to share a booth. It seems like common courtesy to me but I also honestly doubt most people would care enough to offer or wouldn't have taken his offer of fifty bucks!

How different do you think his opinion of Chicago might have been if I was a jerk and told him "this booth is taken" and turned my head?

I've always loved talking to out-of-towners who are visiting, whether it's just a hello, help with directions, or showing them around. I've met a lot of people from all over and do believe that my opinions of the cities they are from are often based on my opinions of those people. I also know that there is good and bad people everywhere, but it's feels good to make someone feel good.

So, as I told my friend, I was the face of Chicago to John from Ohio, at least for a few moments on Saturday, just as he was the face of Bryan, Ohio to me. I have to say I like Bryan Ohio and will think of him whenever I have a Dum Dum Lollipop from now on!

Bookmark and Share

No comments: