Today's Special: Burger with a Side of Date

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.

Spring is coming.


DSC01828Spring is coming. Garden centers everywhere are kicking up mulch in their excitement for the shoppers' impending return to their stores — I never hear the end of it in the office. It's charming, actually.And a sixty-degree day a couple of weeks ago let me know Chicago would not forever be buried under this snowy misery, but it's easy to forget again when a late-February blizzard ruins all my plans of wearing flats with no socks. (With the exception of the skirts and dresses I joyously free from the depths of my closet, my wardrobe doesn't change when warmer weather hits; mostly I just lose the coat and wear big-girl shoes instead of boots that make me look like a fat Eskimo.) Side note: I really wanted to describe Chicago as a tundra, but being the diligent editor that I am, I had to look it up, and that plan was foiled just as my plans to look cute were. Apparently, Chicago could not even be loosely identified — even considering my love for hyperbole — as a tundra, scientifically speaking. That would mean, according to Wikipedia, that our landscape is treeless and prone to mossy, lichenous groundcover instead. And that musk ox and chinchillas roam free on Lincoln Ave. Simply not true. I'm not sure what biomic classification Chicago would fall under, but this weather right now is awful, and instead of moss and lichen, we have canine fecal matter and mud buried under four inches of snow. (And I promised myself I wouldn't be the kind of resident who complains about that. Because if I had a dog, I'd probably break the law and walk on by after my dog had done its business, too.)

Right now, my only real promise of spring is all the the promotional e-mails I've been receiving from my favorite stores. Almost every morning, I get "SALE! SALE!" and "LOOK AT THIS GREAT OUTFIT THAT YOU SIMPLY. MUST. HAVE." messages from Banana Republic, Zappo's, Piperlime, Ann Taylor Loft For the most part, they just tease me with photos of models wearing flats with no socks — which were obviously taken in warm studios where this behavior was OK. Those models probably wore their UGGs and very-very-skinny jeans to the shoot and left feeling just as depressed that they had to take off their warmer-weather clothes as I was after looking at them in those sale e-mails. And yet, I buy. I look at the shiny, tan legs of models and their precious spring outfits and think of myself, 10 pounds lighter, traipsing around the City of Light, a vision of printemps. Sipping Cotes du Rhone in a café, the backs of my pastel skimmers flapping off my heels and the skirt of my navy blue sailor-striped dress rippling in the Parisian breeze as I make people-watching notes in my leatherbound journal. And wrapping that airy, grass-green scarf around my neck one morning and strolling along the Seine, basking in the sun and my transatlantic solitude.

It's such a travesty to sink hundreds of dollars into new clothes that I won't be able to wear for another couple of months, but reverie like this, that transports me as I'm sitting in this fluorescent hole at a laptop that burns under my wrists, makes me want to spend, spend, spend. I guess that's how long-suffering retailers are still making it — selling products just as much as they are dreams of warmer, happier times to come. Let's get out of this country.