So another summer’s pretty much passed faster than a meal from Taco Bell does. Turns out, it went quicker than Aaron Rodgers lasted as the New York Jets quarterback, too.
I marked the occasion with what pretty much was the busiest weekend of the season for me.
Friday, I went to Ravinia with Best Fest Buddy Tom’s brother Mark, to see a jazz concert. Well, actually just to hear the show. See, it was inside the Martin Theater, and we had general admission/lawn seats.
Yup. We sat outside in our lawn chairs and listened to the combo and their special guests over speakers set up throughout the park, while the show went on indoors.
If this had been earlier in the summer, it probably would have been more enjoyable. As it was dark by around 7 p.m., well, it felt like fall, sans any bonfires.
Having neglected to bring our own goodies, I paid $7 for a large soda, but refused to pay $15 for a small deli sandwich.
So we stopped at a Portillo’s on the way home for nourishment. I wound up paying $16 for an Italian beef and sausage combo, fries and an iced tea at the restaurant. I’m so frugal.
Delightfully dorky high school kids were hanging out at Portillo’s, wearing school colors, even – another sign of summer’s passing.
Keeping the good times rolling, on Saturday Tom and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Chicago Beer Society picnic in LaBagh Woods on Chicago’s northwest side. Hermit-me had only been to the city one other time this summer, to Navy Pier to see “The State of Sound: A World of Music from Illinois” .
Anyway, Tom and I both kilted up for the picnic. After all, they offered an Irish stout and a Scottish ale among the selections on tap. How could we not wear tartans for that?
Of all the brews, the one I liked best was called Limey Bastard. There was another that tasted a bit like how urinal cakes smell. Another was made with gummy candy. A rauchbier tasted a bit like the smoked salmon one of the picnickers made for guests.
So many beers, so little time. If only the upcoming further reboot/remake of Willy Wonka would use this as its premise, I thought.
Believe it or not, Mr. Ripley, I head to the picnic for the delicious dishes attendees bring.
We brought what Tom called Watership Down pate. He garnished the rabbit with Polish dill pickles and roasted red peppers marinated in olive oil and garlic cloves.
The eats included chili of all sorts, even a vegan one I enjoyed. There was Mexican, Korean and Indian cuisine to be had among the ribs, the whole roasted lamb, other dishes and desserts. Tom was partial to some lemon bars.
I thought you all would like to know that. He’s such an influencer. Right up there with the Kardashians and Mr. Beast.
We feasted like the High Kings of Ireland .Our fancy lawn chairs served as thrones for the afternoon.
As I digested my food, under the bright, cloudless blue sky, my mind wandered to how short the summer seemed.
It started off with a gowned-up, pre-K graduation for the youngest of Tom’s three grandkids. The boy really did work hard on his dissertation, a study of cartoon canine behavior that serves as the basis of Paw Patrol.
A good part of my summer was spent watching the three tykes. We know pretty much all the parks within a 10 mile radius of where we live. We know the libraries, too. And the Dairy Queen and the Dairy Mart. And the Dollar Tree.
We hit several splash pads. A water park once, where the youngest lost one of his ear plugs going down the water slide with big old me. We didn’t dip into Tom’s backyard pool as much as I thought we might.
Fourth of July fireworks proved too much for their young attention spans, at least from the vantage points where we tried to watch two shows, held on separate days.
Now the kids are all back in school, one just a few blocks from Tom’s house. I wound up picking them up and watching them after classes their first week back, the week when it was so damn hot.
It seems it always gets ridiculously warm when school starts. As that happens in mid-August these days, go figure.
The other highlight of watching the kids this summer was watching Tom build a bunk bed for his grandsons. It was from IKEA. That’s all you need to know.
As for my own summer stuff, Tom and I did our annual trek to the Chicago Scots Highland Games. And we went to Milwaukee twice.
The first time was for the air show. Just like last year. And just like last year, fighter planes buzzed the rooftop from where we were watching.
Oh. I took my first-ever electronic, pay-per-ride bike ride that day, too. It rained for part of the otherwise enjoyable trek. It also rained when we walked back from the empanada bar where we ate dinner to the condo building where we had watched the show.
The next trip involved an annual, ritual stop at the Dog N Suds in Richmond, just south of the Illinois border with Wisconsin. Then it was on to the Milwaukee Irish Fest.
Well, there also was a Celtic Fest outside the NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates the weekend before Milwaukee’s big bash. It was very kid-friendly and free to attend. The kids bounced high in the air with one of those bungee cord attractions and had their faces painted. It doesn’t get much more Celtic than that.
As for Milwaukee, the fest was its usual fun time. Tom thought he was buying a lamb sandwich for dinner, but it was a Flintstones-sized leg served over vegetables. I had to try a bit, as I was the one wearing that t-shirt with Fred, Barney, Wilma, Betty, Bam-Bam, Pebbles and Dino on it.
That day held a true adventure for the timid suburban kind of guy I can be. See, about three-quarters through the gregarious Gaelic Storm set, Tom decided he wanted to go back to where we parked, at Mark’s son’s place.
I offered to pay for a cab or an Uber. Nah. He wanted to walk. Probably to show off his walking stick. Either way, we wound up hauling our big, old Irish asses almost two miles to our destination.
It started out fine, flat and well-lighted.
Only thing is, the route the Google directions suggested mentioned nothing about the sidewalk on one side of the street turning into a dirt path. Or that we would have to cross four lanes of traffic to get what was essentially a poorly lighted bike and jogging path.
Tom wanted to go up a winding way he claimed he remembered from the aforementioned rainy day bike ride. I adamantly insisted we trust “the Google.”
I readily admit that I was muttering at this point, when I walked as far ahead of Tom as I could.
What could possibly go wrong with two older dudes, one hobbling along with a cane, in a city they don’t know on a path with no lights, but for the occasional biker passing by us? And what’s up with that tall guy with the neon green/yellow hoodie and the white backpack? He looked like he was an extra from the Wisconsin version of Squid Game.
Yeah, I have an overactive imagination. It’s probably the only part of me that’s overactive.
Still, we made it to about a tenth of a mile from our destination. That’s when we had to climb 100 stairs. That’s when the Squid Game guy, who at one time was 100 yards or so ahead of us, decided he’d hike up the steps, too.
Strangely comforting was the street above us and so close to our destination was cordoned off with caution tape. Police and fire vehicles were there, too, investigating where there had been a traffic accident.
We made it. And that, pray tell, was my big adventure for the summer.
Sure. I could have gone to Tennessee with Tom and Mark for an outdoor drum corps show. I opted out, as it was 105 with the heat index down there that weekend.
Besides, I had been to one drum corps show already this summer, out in DeKalb. They sure use a lot of props these days.
Also this summer, I did rejoin the gym at the park district near me. It’s $20 a month, due to a July promotion. I like it because there are usually less than six people at any one time there working out. Sometimes I am by myself. It makes me feel rich, like I have my own private club.
That’s why I like going to the cinema near me, too. It’s never usually crowded. I saw four movies there this summer.
Oppenheimer will be nominated for many Oscars, including Cillian Murphy as best actor for playing the title role. Someone from something that will come out around Christmas will probably win. That’s how those things go.
Barbie is Pee-wee’s Big Adventure updated for girls and their moms. Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City looked pretty.
Either way, Hollywood finally figured out that women like to go to movies, too, and that not all movies have to involve superhero nonsense.
Speaking of, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem was a little too violent for little kids. Besides, the three I know don’t have the attention spans needed for a 90-minute movie.
Which reminds me. The three kids and I got stuck waiting out a torrential thunderstorm in the lobby of the cinema one afternoon. For me, that qualifies as a semi-adventure.
I did happily live vicariously through the travels of friends this summer, though.
Thanks to social media, I followed Tracy’s travels across Italy and Germany. Alice went to Rome. Shay, Traci, Charlie, Tonna and Jamie hit Paris and cruised up and down the Seine. Moira toured Ireland. Andy ans Sonya went to Greece, Croatia, Italy and Austria
It was in the 80s, 90s and 100s in Europe, too.
Steve and Joann visited Chicago from Austin. They also hit the coast of California this summer. Vince visited New York City and Columbus, Ohio. Bob and Karen went to Toronto, Syracuse, where they almost saw Bruce Springsteen and Cooperstown. They bought a new alternator somewhere in Ohio as a souvenir.
Stuart was in town for a bit from Portugal, where he now lives. He travels all over Europe these days. And he’s made Irish friends. The diaspora is everywhere!
Tony rode his motorcycle from Oklahoma to the Fox Valley and back. He didn’t like that the hotel where he stayed up this way wouldn’t let him bring breakfast foods from their spread back to his room.
Speaking of further adventure, my cousin Dr. Dan took trips to the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland this summer. Photography is his hobby. I hope to see the pictures soon. I should ask if he knows how to make View-Master reels.
My sister and her husband traveled to Prague, Budapest and the Italian Alps. I think they are spies.
Hey, I saw a drone show in Elgin. They even spelled out “Elgin” with the drones. I probably was spied upon by the drones! Do drones smell like cannabis? For some reason, the park in Elgin did that night.
And that, but for the smoke from the Canadian wildfires, is pretty much how my summer went.
Fall hit Sunday when the abysmal Bears started what most likely will be a woeful season.
That game looked pretty much how my friend Tim must feel. This past weekend, he tried to help a neighbor put up an electric fence out there in rural McHenry County, to keep cows where they belong. Tim wound up getting tossed about by a bull.
Before the Bears lost, Tom and I welcomed the changing of the seasons by going to an Oktoberfest at the Village Vintner Winery & Brewery.
Their sound system played polkas and folk tunes that included The Wild Rover sung in German. Nein, nein, nie mehr? Dah!
It was nice to catch up with old friends as we downed pretzel bites, bratwursts, sauerkraut, potatoes and beets. It was also nice to take a nap after eating German food.
Naps. I can see why bears take them once the cold weather hits.
Which inspires me to end this ramble with a bad dad joke: How are the Chicago Bears like real bears? Because they both typically hibernate during winter.
Me. I’ll still be wearing short pants and thinking warm thoughts. Or worn ones. Something like that. With a space heater. And one of those special sun lamps.