Tag: Chicago

“Chicago feels smaller today”

The news broke as it so often does these days: on Facebook.

Immediately, I tried to go to the Sun Times website. It would not load, so I went to Chicago Tribune instead. There I read the headline about Roger Ebert’s death, and the essay about his life.

I posted my own thought on Facebook, and one of my oldest Chicago friends pointed me to the WBEZ stream, the whole show being dedicated to discussion about Roger.

And that led me to this tweet:


And that led me to this thought:

twitter screen-at the moviesDays like today, when pieces of my childhood, pieces of my life in Chicagoland, are gone not just from me, but from the world, my heart is never more there.

We used to have a little black and white TV in our kitchen, and roger and Gene Sikel’s At The Movies TV show, on channel 11 {aka PBS} is one of the shows I most remember being on it. As a teenager and budding journalist (my dream job is still “paid columnist”), I loved that Roger was a graduate of University of Illinois, my dream school and where I eventually attended for a year. As an adult, I still always turned to Roger’s movie reviews first…and sometimes found myself stirred or angered by his social commentaries on Twitter.

I heard him described 100 times on Thursday afternoon as “prolific.” ‘Tis true.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever think of any place but Chicago as home. I still go to Chicago websites for news. I  know what the weather is like there most days. I hold allegiance to their teams, museums, colleges, Mexican restaurants, and airport. And even though it would be entirely sensible, I have not been able to change my area code form “708” just yet. And upon hearing the news of Roger Ebert’s passing, just a day after hearing about his recurrence of cancer and lovely turn of phrase, “leave of presence,” I found myself more than a little homesick.

In these past few weeks, I have made big strides in solidifying the south strand as my home. We have found doctors… local-owned favorite shops and restaurants…shortcuts. I am in the mix of things, like playdates and meal trains and gatherings. I get asked where to get hair done or what is the best movie theatre! I am so, so, so happy about and grateful for this.

But for now, my home is still divided a little (hence the title!) {Chicago-lina, if you’re new here). I first heard this beautiful song the month we moved, when Rod and I were sitting in our still-not-quite-unpacked living room and watching the season/series finale of the great show, Chicago Code. I can’t imagine moving away from my beach, from the blue and green and salty air and basket full of flip-flops, but sometimes, often really, I still dream of Chicago.

Recently, the same dear, talented, lifelong friend I reference above sent me pictures she took of our “See YouS Later” party. Here are a few of my favorites, and just a few of the reasons my diverse, sweet home Chicago is close to my heart always:

Mort Castle and Miranda
Mort Castle and Miranda
My Gramma, Aunt Janice, baby cousin Gavin, and Dad (Paige laughing in background)
My Gramma, Aunt Janice, baby cousin Gavin, and Dad (Paige laughing in background)
Me, Rick, and Bex
Me, Rick, and Bex

the one where they go to Beverly Hills

Last week was a whirlwind.

I mean, we tend to live in one, but last week was more of one than usual.

Due to extenuating work circumstances, we’ve been scouting magicians. Yeah. Six months ago I was scouting homeschool curriculum, now magicians. Anyway, an act at the top of our list happened to have a show in Los Angeles, where Pat Boone also happens to live (in the Hills, that is), so it made perfect sense for Rod to go.

When he started looking at flights, the airline we typically use to fly out of the Myrtle Beach airport only had flights to L.A. that stopped over in Chicago.


Well, it then made perfect sense for both of us to go (we work better together, after all) (and we haven’t had a night alone that didn’t involve packing or unpacking boxes in m o n t h s) (and, Chicago!). We flew to Chicago on Wednesday evening, leaving the girls to suffer with my parents…

We flew to L.A. Thursday morning, by way of Vegas

(it was 45 degrees in Chicago, that morning, by the way).

(it hurt my heart a little not to stop there. I heart Las Vegas)

and spent our rental-carless evening ordering pizza and watching utter crap on the TV before passing out at 9:30 pm, Pacific Time.

(and I am sad to say, due to our lack of a car and forethought, we had to pass up the opportunity to go here):

The next morning I woke up at 5 – 5AM! – which was ok, because it was already 8 on that other coast, where we live now.

I checked on Sara, because checking on her has been a habit for over a year, and now that her journey has almost ended, I find myself manically checking on her. Thankfully, on Friday, there was a blog post update, and it’s been quiet since. She is resting peacefully, it seems, and though we the internet love Gitzen Girl, this time is really about her RL family and friends. And so I pray. And choose joy…

After it became a respectable hour on the Pacific coast, Rod and I foraged for food. Let me pause her to say that while there are many lovely things about L.A., the area surrounding the airport is not one of them. At least we got a good walk in, before finding a Denny’s.

…where we encountered a waiter who was almost assuredly a character actor at some point, kind of reminding me of a pivotal Buffy character, in fact:

(and might I add here that I kind of miss scouring the internet for Buffy screencaps and such…those were the days…anyway…)

Also, Rod tried his own hand at magic.

Any second now, he’ll be shoving me into a box with flaming spikes.

Awhile after that, our new friend Marc (aka Pat Boone’s manager) picked us up and took us to the place where many pivotal scenes of The Lost Boys were fillmed~

(Also known as the Santa Monica Pier).

And we ate at a lovely restaurant across the street, where I ordered not enough of this:

(butternut squash & walnut ravioli. Yeah, it was).

And for those who enjoy hearing such anecdotes, I did trip THREE times crossing the street from the restaurant to the pier. Kelly is Kelly no matter what city she’s in…

As we headed to meetings at the Pat Boone office, Marc was a super-gracious host. He pointed out every cheesy landmark he thought I would like (It might have something to do with my squeeing over the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. He offered to stop there, but we were kinda running late, so my closest brush with the place that made Julia Roberts truly famous was this)~

It is absolutely true about L.A. traffic, by the way. There is no way Jack Bauer made it to all those places to save the world just in time. I mean, he’s amazing, but Chuck Norris he’s not…

The PBE offices~

were a ton of fun! There was Pat Boone (read: mainly 50s and 60s) memorabilia EVERYWHERE… from branded bobby socks to pictures with U.S. Presidents. And the cool part was, I got to ‘go shopping’ for the Pat Boone Family Theater by strolling around with a pad of Post-It notes (which is all this girl really needs to have a little fun) and marking things I want for display in the theater.

You’re really going to have to come see it

We did meet Pat Boone for a moment when we were there, in which he mistook me for my daughter due to this practically famous Facebook post:

And we watched some fantastic vintage footage with Charles and Andrea, the PBE office gurus. (Charles pictured here):

Then we had to leave for a magic show…20 miles/2 hours away. We pretty much made it just in time. We saw awesome stuff. Rod was an audience volunteer, teehee~

We met two completely wonderful people whom I hope to tell you about soon.

Then we crashed.

Then we woke up and graced the famous Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge with our decidedly Chicagolina selves…for breakfast with Marc and Pat Boone. For the record, the coffee was wonderful, I ordered the So Cal omelet, I did not spill anything on myself (or anyone else – score!), and… I did not take pictures.

But he was really there, as evidenced by this graceful entry he wrote for my nephew’s ‘journal around the world’ school project!~

He was full of fantastic stories. When I am, ahem, conducting business, I try not to put people into roles, but it wasn’t lost on me that Mr. Boone, just taking age into account, could be my grandfather, and my own grandparents would have gotten such a big kick out of my having breakfast with him. In Beverly-stinkin-Hills. He even sang a few little things, and prayed before breakfast. It was one of those wow moments, really.

Afterwards, I did the most subtly awestruck things I could do. I emailed my friends from the very posh bathroom, and made our good-humored Marc take this photo~

After the trip back to Illinois, we had one day to spend there. We went to our Chicago home church, we hung out with my parents, and I was visited by 3 of my besties, who came with food I can’t get in Myrtle Beach and babies i don’t get to see there~

…and then we headed to my bro and sis-in-law’s, who have one of the world’s cutest babies, which I don’t say only because she is my almost-namesake:
I was sad to see the time end, but grateful for a little bonus trip, one that included this

and this!

(having all four kids together for such a brief period of time that there are no pictures…)

and coming home to this:

We go rollin’ down this highway, chasing all our crazy dreams. You go your way and I go my way, and everywhere in between. One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground, just outside some sleepy little town, and set this circus down. { Tim McGraw }

You can go home

We didn’t pause for many pictures,
Or deep breaths.

…we did pause in Lexington for Chipotle on the way, but, really, that was inevitable.

We arrived before 2am, with Miranda & Kaity’s grandparents (the artists formerly know as my parents) waiting at the door.

An hour later, I emerged from experimenting with Ma’s soaps and lotions and a great, long shower to the sounds of Miranda talking Ma’s ears off in her bed, and KK and Dad snoring on the sofa bed.

Ah. Home.

The next morning was coffee and breakfast of casserole and Brown and Serve, catching up on the amazing developments of our 10 month old niece, and by the time breakfast was cleared, digging into the leftover Aurelio’s pizza while Dad offered to make us 16 different kinds of sandwiches, approximately every 30 seconds.

Then it was off to meet the BFF…at the BMR in the south subs (that would be El Cortez, Best Mexican Restaurant) for chips and salsa and icy beverages and possibly a plate full of mini burritos. We call that pre-eating. THEN we went to her house, where I smelled the familiar smell, flopped on what is truly my favorite couch in the world, and reunited with (L)Isabelle the wonder dog. Rod met up with us and we drove to one of my favorite places in the whole wide world Hollywood Boulevard to see Harry Potter again, together, and to eat more. It was merry. THEN, we went back to her house, made peppermint tea to ease our overstuffed tummies and played the very lame Friends Scene It game before our slumber party. I loved choosing from Jen’s array of flavored creamers in the morning, I hated saying goodbye, I loved knowing she would be showing up in South Carolina in just a few days!

…and I loved that twice during the movie, in fewer than 10 words, we made each other ugly-laugh…

We went back to the parentals’ early for another family breakfast, this time with our son Josh and his girlfriend Kirsten. It was great to catch up with them and hear about the adventures of their new pets, kitties Leah and Quinn and Echo the Leopard Gekko.

Perhaps most anticipated because of its double meaning was KK & Randa’s reunion with their friends, because the mommies of those friends happen to be some of my best. We picked up our rhythm easily, drank the coffee, partook of sandwiches containing avocado and Laughing Cow cheese, broke up fewer fights than we had to a few months ago, and thanked our husbands for sending us off to Panera, kidless.

…and I was reminded of all the reasons why these 3 women are my touchstones and my iron, and I will always remember the moment the conversation paused so they could say they missed my laugh, and the moment it paused so we could tearfully agree to keep praying for each other’s babies…

Sunday was all about the gospel life. Though it was difficult to drop the kids off at our home church in the morning (it’s possible Rod and Judy King had to body check me to keep me from drifting down the hall to my hymn-singing Sunday School class), it was great to sit alone during his service at Miracle Temple in Crete and watch him do what he truly does best: sing! But not only was he singing, he was encouraging a church body and its precious pastor with the gospel truth.

After that, we caught up with a bunch of church friends for lunch at Culver’s. Turned out the music leader from my childhood was also in town, and I so loved meeting her sweet daughter.

We drove 45 minutes to visit Josh and Kirsten’s menagerie for 30. The girls and I are now determined to convince The Daddy we need not just a theater cat, but a house one.

(Thanks to Mr. Howard for the only picture I have from the weekend!)

Then it was time to set up for the big Carolina homecoming concert. This is a sweet time every year with our North Carolina family, Jay Stone Singers / the Carter family, but this year even more so since, you know, we moved to South Carolina and all. The turnout far exceeded my expectations…there was much of our church family, friends, a surprise visit from Jimmy and Liz from Nashville!, and my awesome almost-94 year old Gramma. AND, there was a big old trip to Aurelio’s afterwards for the best pizza in the world.

We squeezed in breakfast with our pastor and his wife before leaving Monday. I treasure knowing them, and I can’t wait to take them to our new church!

I am full to overflowing with love, affirmation that miles do not erase bonds, Chicago quality food, and pollen, apparently, because I sneezed more in those 3 days than I have in 10 weeks here, and my eyes are a mess.

It took us 2 days to make the trip home. We were worn out in the best possible way.

I am very glad to be back in my house, back to routine, back to a place that is by the ocean and more colorful than gray. But it was simply wonderful for a few days to fit into the waiting embrace of my origin, where my jokes rarely have to be explained and I don’t feel embarrassed when they do.

We’ll get there, Myrtle Beach.

Who says you can’t go home?…and who says you can’t have more than one?

Flights booked for October 5. See youS at Aurelio’s.