Following my weekend in North Carolina, where I was clearly deprived of all sources of sustenance — what — my plane landed at O'Hare, and all I could think about was Kuma's.
Perfect beef and fluffy pretzel rolls and salty, salty fries and icky generic soda — KUMA'S. Goodgod.
So I dropped my suitcase off at the apartment, put on crappy clothes, hopped on my bike and toddled down to Avondale, where I perched myself on a stool at the quiet end of the bar and unpacked the supplies from my purse: leatherbound journal, Paris book, cell phone. I drooled over the menu for 15 minutes only to order the exact same burger I had the first time I went; why mess with a classic?
The High on Fire (yes, it's a metal band) begins with the aforementioned perfect beef, which is then piled high with prosciutto, roasted red pepper, a grilled pineapple ring and then laced with sriracha sauce. It's messy and disgusting and, quite frankly, amazing. Add hand-cut waffle fries to that, and you've got a glorious heart attack waiting to happen. And after working up quite a healthy appetite over the weekend and consuming nothing but a chocolate doughnut and an iced latte all day, I planned to eat the. whole. thing.
I sipped my Diet RC Cola and stared blankly at my Paris guide, forever daunted at the prospect of planning this damn trip, until I overheard the bartender and two guys next to me talking about iPods. Why yes, I'd love to join the conversation. I interjected some wit and tech savvy into their discussion, and to my surprise, the gentleman seated next to me decided he'd like to continue talking.
Well, all right.
Turns out this gentleman is a bartender, a cyclist (who calls himself an amateur yet rode his bike all the way across the country), a writer, a foodie, a world traveler and a convenient neighbor to me. And he thought I was hilarious. Whaaaaa?
We were discussing the best Thai food in Lincoln Square/Ravenswood — and how he thought it compared to what he'd tried in ACTUAL THAILAND — when my burger came, and we continued conversing between my mammoth bites of burger. God, we had so much to talk about. My life adventures aren't nearly on par with his, but I think he's got a few years on me, and I'd say I still managed to go toe to toe with him in conversation. Halfway through my meal and on to my second RC, I swooned, "My life just got 20 times better. Right. Now." And I wonder if he knew I only kind of meant the burger.
As I finished wolfing down that dripping half-pound of beef and prepared to pay my check, he said he'd like to take me out to dinner. And asked for my phone number. Like. A normal. PERSON. I actually had to ask him to repeat himself.
Let me reiterate: I did not meet this man online; I was wearing an orange ballcap and my crappy "University Daily Kansan: We Put Out Daily" (oh, the irony) shirt. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. This girl, right here, got a date the way real humans get dates.
So. I mean. Obviously, I'm going.
The best part of this story: He joked about stalking me and offered to ride home with me because he lives in the neighborhood. We coasted side by side back up the desolate stretch of California leading toward home, talking about who cares what. When we got to my corner, he shook my hand and said it was…a pleasure.
Yes it was, sir. And will be.