Friday, February 20, 2009

Come Sail Away... to Chicago

So a year ago, my blog friend Carolyn attended an evening out that sounded too odd and too good to be true. In a fit of jealousy, I told her, "What are the dates for next year? I'll bet it would be fun to go and pick out the drunk gay Catholics. I could fly in."

From their website:
Street Scenes is Carmel Catholic High School’s largest annual fundraiser. For one weekend a year, the entire school is transformed into a themed party with live bands, a casino, food and drink from popular area restaurants, comedy clubs and the famous Student Show in the Carmel Catholic auditorium. The student show is professionally produced and choreographed, presenting four shows per night.
Oh that doesn't even BEGIN to do it justice!

I guess I need to back it up just a bit, I flew in on Thursday night and Carolyn picked me up at the airport. I told her I would know how to find her because I was certain she would be wearing her tiara. I had secretly brought MY tiara to surprise her thinking wouldn't that be funny, the two of us standing in the airport baggage claim with our crowns all a glitter. I got off my plane, walked briskly to the escalator down, carefully unzipped my bag and placed my tiara on my perfectly coiffed hair. The older ladies on the escalator down next to me, leaned over and said, "Honey, it suits you!" I replied that I was using it to my advantage to find a friend I was meeting in the baggage claim area. She looked forward at a handsome young man holding a large bouquet of red roses and said, "I hope that's him!" She must have been so disappointed when I breezed past him and found a woman to grab a hold of.

So there is Carolyn, sitting, waiting for me... WITHOUT HER TIARA! Don't worry I got even with her, I gave her a great big hug (and she is not big on hugs, large or otherwise). Flush with the excitement of meeting someone you have corresponded with over two years back and forth, we blabbed and blabbed and stole glances at each other to see if the other person was what we were expecting.

My luggage arrived and we headed for the parking lot. Here is your first notice that you have landed in Chicago, all the parking levels at the airport are named after sporting teams from the Chicago area. Carolyn told me she almost didn't park where she did because she hated that team.

We drove in to The City, went to my hotel (did her husband know she was checking into a hotel in the city with a stranger she had never met before, "Oh yeah, Tony says Hi.") and I invited Carolyn up to my room to watch me unpack. Apparently she found that quite a show as she later kept telling people, "He put stuff in the closet, ON HANGARS!"

And then like old sorority sisters we flopped on the bed on our stomachs and tried to decide where to go get a meal while we talked about just about every topic imaginable.

Via we decided on a restaurant called Avec. "Avec's attitude is communal and lighthearted, and the exuberant party crowd." Translation: you will be seated at a dining table for six with 8 people and have zero privacy to discuss all things personal that you had planned on speaking about (like my two children that I gave up for adoption and are now state senators who pay me to keep quiet [how else could I do all this travel?], you know that kind of stuff).

We confessed to our waiter that we were virgins (in this restaurant) and he guided us to some signature dishes:
  • Chorizo-stuffed madjool dates with smoked bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce
  • Shaved brussel sprouts with fennel, dill, Parmesan, red onion and brown butter vinaigrette
  • Bucatini pasta with housemade Italian sausage, neck sauce, tomato, fresh herbs and reggiano
TASTY! I am not a huge fan of Brussel Spouts. But we had been having a discussion on brussel sprout salads for a few weeks around the house and I decided to try it based on Carolyn saying she really liked brussel sprouts. All the food is served family style and I had two helpings of the salad. The stuffed dates wrapped in bacon.... oh my god, I'm going back for those. I wish Lyle had been with me so he could have dissected the dish and recreated it at home. Yep, that good. The Bucatini pasta looked exactly like spaghetti, until you bit into it and discovered it was hollow. We skipped out on dessert and went back to my hotel to yack it up some more.

A really fun thing to do in a metropolitan area at night is to turn off all the lights in your hotel room and stare at the people in the neighboring buildings to see who is doing what. I guarantee that if you look long enough you will find some other pervert doing the same thing back at you. God knows we did.

On Friday evening I got myself all gussied up to head out for the main event, Carmel Catholic High School Street Scenes. Carolyn had guided me away from my super preppy outfit of embroidered wool pants with a patterned shirt and tie to a very sleek dark blue shirt with dark blue tuxedo pants and black patent leather shoes. I will tell you in advance, I was already over-dressed. Our plan was for me to take the train to Palatine, be picked up by Carolyn and go meet a friend for a smart cocktail pre-Street Scene.

I was quite the metropolitan, hotel to cab, gave cab exact instructions word for word that I had been told, cab drop off at train station, tell ticket agent word for word where I was headed. $4.50, so cheap! I even got a schedule so I would know when the last train headed back to the city (12:30 am). Then I texted Carolyn and told her when to expect me. Look at me! I'm a fully functioning adult on a train. I'm a big boy!

I was told which station to depart the train and that we would meet at the Starbucks. A very obvious Starbucks. You can't miss it, Starbucks. It's big. Its Green. It's STARBUCKS. Famous last words.

Let's go to our map below:
The long blue mark down the middle of the map is the train I was on. We exited the train into the middle island, away from the actual station.
A. I got off and stared at a vacant street. Cold slight wind blowing. Hmmmmm...
B. People were dispersing. I saw nothing one direction, so I walked the other way (follow red dots). Saw nothing and felt a twinge of "Oh shit, wrong stop?" Then saw people massing back up near where I started, obviously waiting for train to move so they could cross tracks. "A Ha! Station is 'over there'!"(follow orange dots)
-No it was a parking structure. I moved through parking structure and began looking for Starbucks. (follow yellow dots) Ironically, I am about as far away as I could get from it by now. Also though I have been sending out text messages, my cell phone is no longer finding a signal.
C. I wander, wander, wander, then think I see the green glow of Starbucks and I begin a near sprint towards it when I hear, "JIM!!!!" and there is a crazy lady in a full length fur coat running after me. Carolyn! (she had been looking for crazy me in my silver puffy coat that I was NOT wearing) (now follow green dots to...)
D. The actual Starbucks location
E. Our car.
Success! The happy couple reunited!

Carolyn had a full evening planned, first her husband also met us at the train station (he has a blog I enjoy as well!) and her oldest daughter came along (to see the crazy man from California who would fly to Chicago in February to go to a school fundraiser) as well.

We paired off leaving Carolyn's husband and daughter at Starbucks and we drove across kingdom come to meet a friend of Carolyn's at work.
Best cleavage contest?
Best tan contest?
Damn that Laura is a true competitor!

And then we visited at the restaurant bar until Nancy arrived fresh from a revitalizing wake.

At last I win the tanning competition!

We leave the restaurant and stop off at Carolyn's house (breaking the first rule Lyle had given me, but by now I knew I wouldn't be murdered by an axe wielding maniac, if anything it would be more likely a hostage situation from that movie "Misery"). This way Nancy got to change into jeans (hey, I wore D&G tuxedo pants!) and I also had an opportunity to meet Carolyn's youngest daughter, cat and two beagles. That house must be a hopping place, there's even a Barbie townhouse to play with!

At last we were headed to the justification of the entire crazed plan. Street Scenes at Carmel Catholic High. Doors open at 6:30 and only the earliest get prime parking in the lot. The rest of the schmoes park somewhere off site and have to be bussed in. Due to my late train arrival (I was obsessed with my hair and ironing my shirt) and Nancy's wake (seriously, can't you grieve just as much tomorrow?) we were well behind schedule.

We pulled up and surprise, they were letting cars into the lot! No surprise, there were NO SPACES available. By now it was SNOWING and I was delighted. I love to visit weather I would never live in, like snow. It's gorgeous, especially when you know you fly out in two days. But we didn't care, we circled the lot looking for any early departures (so far NOT ONE) and sang along to Britney Spears Womanizer, "You say I'm crazy? I got your crazy... You're nothing but a, Womanizer!" And then by the power of Britney, someone pulled out of a spot and we were parked in the main lot!

When I left the hotel, I opted to not bring my fabulous new Gucci scarf. The blue one went better I told myself and besides, what if it disappeared at the coat check. Imagine my look of horror as Carolyn coat checked her full length fox! We got our tickets, met up with MORE friends and we were out of the shoot, off and almost literally running.

Now something to take note of in the following photos. This is a high school. They shut down classes a week before to transform the hallways and classrooms into something other than a high school. All the lockers are covered over. Classrooms are cleared and facades are placed. It's crazy!
Our first clever decor of locker disguise.

Our first dirty pose of the evening.

Not our last dirty pose of the evening.
(Nancy took direction very well as I posed her to accentuate her "ample assets")

I am just disgusting. Aren't I?

And then we found our favorite place. I lost my map so I can't tell what it was even called. But their T-shirts had a drawing of a martini on the front with the words "I like it DIRTY" so I felt very much at home. They had an amazing piano man and the room was poppin'! They were also serving Chocolate Martinis. If I were the type of person to sit when I go out, I would have made myself a very nice nest in this "Biology room".

Piano man, meet Nancy and Carolyn.
Nancy and Carolyn, meet Piano man.

I have to give a BIG SHOUT OUT to Bev and Crystal. Crystal was the person who dragged Carolyn to this event last year and introduced us all through that experience. Bev has children who ACTUALLY attend the school, so she had a vested interest in the success of the evening. I promise I bought A LOT of drink tickets. Oh, I guess they could be used for food as well....
Bev and Crystal say, "Hello Kitty, meow!"

No Kitty, that's a bad drunk Kitty!

We wandered, we drank, we ate corned beef sandwiches, we wandered, we drank... They also have numerous shows in other rooms and auditoriums that we didn't stop and see. My theory was we'd have to sit and be quiet and wouldn't be able to visit during those shows and they probably didn't have bar service at them either. So we stayed out and kept our spirits high.

Carolyn was enjoying a pickle when she was accosted by a man who wanted a kiss. I thought, "She must know him." She thought "He must know someone." Turns out he is a random pickle kissing bandit. That sounds kinda gay to me.

I live in Los Angeles. I don't get out much. This was my first ever trip where I got out and met the spirit of the Midwest. Everyone was kind, generous and open. All the cliches you hear seem to come true. And just as those cliches rang true, so did a few fashion faux pas.

In the background, I swear the woman on the right is looking at the woman in the middle going, "A mullet? Seriously? With a perm?" Now I'm certain she is a lovely lady. But sometimes lovely people get caught in a rut and they don't know how to get out. Stacey? Clinton? Can you come back with me next year?

Probably around this time is when i stick my foot in my mouth. All the way up to my ankle. I am standing at the pastry counter. I am spending all my last tickets on pastry to go. Anything I can find. And somehow one of my friends (was it Crystal?) asked me if I was always so "on" and may have made a comment that I could run for office... And I said, "Well, I did come here tonight with an idea to PRESS THE FLESH..." (wink, wink, wink, wink...) very loudly.

At which point the little old lady turned to me, extended her hand and said, "Well I guess you can start with me. I'm Sister Mary Nancy."

Which of course brought on the quick flush of the face, a shake of her hand and a mumbled, "Oh, do you work here? How many of these events have you been to?" I could have sworn either her twin or her lesbian wife was right next to her wearing the same sweatshirt. You'd think that would teach me, but since we're all old friends, of course you know I just thought, Well that will be funny to tell later!

The evening is winding down and I have been informed that we no longer needed to worry about me catching the last train back to the city (oh yeah, it left at 12:35 am... about 7 minutes ago) because Nancy had GRACIOUSLY offered to remain sober and be the designated driver ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE CITY.
This is what sober looks like at 1:00 AM

This is not what sober looks like at 1:00 am

As the party winds down and the bars are packed away, there is a scent of something familiar in the air... PANCAKES!
We get in line with every other drunk who bought too many tickets and plan on buying pancakes. This takes about an hour. AN HOUR FOR PANCAKES. This school needs to hire the Kawanis! We took our pancakes and sat in the cafeteria which had the lights on. Strange, moments ago this was Mardi Gras Way with frozen daquiris and a mardi Gras parade complete with a guy in a Burger King costume head, atop a two story scaffolding on wheels, draped with fabric, throwing beads to the people below. None of the people I was with would flash their boobies to attract teh beads. Nancy said hers were big enough as is. As you can plainly see, she was right, check out her beads.
Everybody loves Pancakes!
(mullet woman is secretly stalking us in the background...)

This may have been what we said on our way out to the car...

When we emerge from the party five hours later, the parking lot of 250 cars is down to four. Ours being one of them. While Nancy starts to clean the windows I put on an impromptu fashion show in the snow. I mean come on, how often am I going to have access to a full length fox fur coat?

Then I finished sweeping snow off the car and offered numerous times to crash on someone's couch so they didn't have to drive me back into the city. And even after we were in the city I offered to let the ladies crash in my room so they wouldn't have to drive back in the snow, but they didn't take me up on it.

Carolyn is in charge of the guest list for next year. Friday or Saturday work better for you? I am seriously thinking of a return engagement and who knows, maybe I will convince Lyle to come along as well?

I promise, I'm telling EVERYONE I came.


Rachel said...

That sounds like it was an absolutely lovely time.

Carolyn said...

I don't even know what to say. I was there and it all seemed perfectly normal at the time. However, upon reading your blog I realize how bizarre it is. I totally forgot about the Burger King guy with the beads. I also didn't know you had video of the piano bar. You have to come back next year. I don't think we made to half the bars in there!
I'm so glad you came, my 15 year old Asian sorority sister! You were everything (and more!) I expected. YOU COMPLETE ME!!

Carolyn said...

Oh, and I am sorry I didn't have on my tiara at the airport. I did have it in my handbag... If I would've known you were going to wear yours I would have put it on. Also, did you notice that in that fabulous picture of the two of us, I am actually HUGGING you! Damn girl, I must have been drunk.

Lyle said...

sounds like fun. Party, party, party. People, people, people. No thanks :)

The T-Dude said...

Listen, I was okay with the random drunkeness from city to suburb. I was okay with the hotel room of a man she had never seen before. I was perfectly fine with the goody bags and oranges.

But now she's hugging people?

What have you done to me wife! ; )

"Just David!" said...

Sounds like a fun trip, I want to go next year!

Leigh said...

Wow, what a trip...I felt like I was there, yet sans tiara...