…And Then I Went to Chicago to See a Cubs World Series Parade

World Champs“Hey, do you wanna go to the Cubs World Series parade?” I asked my roommate Carrie upon waking her up Thursday afternoon.

“What?” she asked, groggy.

“Do you wanna go?” I repeated.

“When?”

“Now. We have to leave, like, now.”

“…Okay.”

And so began the whirlwind.

I haven’t been to Wrigley Field since 2012 when I saw the Cubs lose their 100th game that season. Time and money constraints have prevented my return. I didn’t luck out in the postseason ticket lotto and couldn’t afford them on the secondary market (honestly, I couldn’t have afforded them if I’d won the lotto, but that wasn’t going to stop me this time). I felt like I’d missed out on everything during this magical season. The least I could do was find a way to get to the victory parade. This feeling was cemented when I found myself in tears on the drive home from work Thursday afternoon because they’d played the Harry Caray call/final World Series out mash-up on the radio. Of course, I’d been bursting into tears regularly since their win Wednesday night.

When I got home, I DM’d my Cubs bestie Harry and asked if he was ditching work to go to the parade and when he confirmed that he was, I told him that I was trying to work it so I could go to0.

“If you can get up here, I’ve got a hotel room for you by Wrigley.”

Harry had booked the room for his mom to attend the celebration, but she unfortunately couldn’t make it.

But I could.

Kiki and HarryCall it serendipity. Call it fate. Call it divine intervention. Whatever name you want to put on it, fortune smiled on me for once and I was more than beaming back.

Within ten minutes I was waking up Carrie and throwing things into my overnight bag (notebook and pen first, of course; writer life). By 3:30, we were on the road to Chicago. Three hours later, driving through rush hour traffic on Lake Shore Drive, I pointed out the buildings lit up in celebration of the Cubs winning the World Series. Carrie took pictures of them through our unfortunately dirty windshield.

After picking up Harry and getting settled at the hotel, the three of us went out for a celebratory dinner. The mood was giddy edged a bit by the surreal. Despite all of the tangibles, there was still a misty fantasy quality about the whole thing. The Cubs had won the World Series and we were going to the victory parade in the morning. That’s probably why I struggled to sleep Thursday night. A long held dream had finally become reality and it was just hard accept.

Friday morning, we walked around the block from our hotel to stand on Addison and watch the parade. Here, less than a mile from Wrigley, there was a crowd lined up against the barricades, but not nearly as suffocating and dense as what was around Wrigley or lined up along Lake Shore Drive or packed into Grant Park. The morning weather was pleasant, a little chilly, but really perfect for a parade. The crowd vibe fed into the surreal joy and the three of us stood there, soaking it all in.

BryzzoThe parade itself happened so fast. Part of it was that the buses were going by at a quicker clip since this wasn’t prime parade real estate and they’d left the gate late to begin with; the huge crowds on Lake Shore and at Grant Park were waiting. The other part, the more personal part, is that when you’ve been waiting for something for a long time, be it an hour for a parade to begin or since you became a fan in the late ’80s for a championship to be won, when the moment arrives for you to experience, it feels like it happens too fast. Like even at a snail’s crawl, it still wouldn’t happen slowly enough to be thoroughly enjoyed.

But I managed.

To see the guys that I’ve been cheering for all season, to see the guys I’d cheered for in past seasons that almost feel like past lives, to see the coaches and the front office and the families, the whole shebang that had to come together just perfectly to make this one incredible thing happen, to see them all go by in total victory put my heart into a state of bliss that it won’t forget. This is a memory that won’t be corrupted.

After the parade, the three of us went back to the hotel room to watch the rally for a few more cheers and tears of joy. We bid Harry farewell and then Carrie and I left the city. It took us over an hour to get out of city, almost like Chicago was begging us to stay. And I wish we would have. I would have loved to have spent the weekend there, walking around Wrigleyville and soaking up that vibe until my seams split and I burst with joy.

Instead, happy and exhausted, I drove back to the cornfield, content that I had the pleasure to experience just a little bit of history.

World Series Champions

I Had a Weekend

Cubs Con haul 2015And really, that’s the best way to say it. This past weekend was just so bizarrely jinxed that it was both frustrating and great at the same time.

The main event of my weekend was Cubs Con 2015, which was to begin Friday evening and conclude at noon on Sunday. As such, I booked my hotel room at the con hotel for Friday and Saturday night and booked my train tickets for Friday morning and Sunday afternoon.

Friday morning I awoke to an email at 5 AM because I was a chump and forgot to mute my phone before going to bed. Before hitting the mute button, I saw the email is from Amtrak concerning my train. Glorious. I’ll deal with this when I decide to be awake.  When that time came, I saw that I also missed a call from Amtrak around 6 AM (I’m glad I muted my phone at 5). Both of these things pertain to the fact that the train is late and I may want to consider other options.

This all makes me cranky, but once I drink some coffee and see how late the train is running, I find my center. So I get to stay home an extra hour. Time for a second cup of coffee. No big deal.

Long story short, the train ended up being over two hours late (we left about the same time we should have been arriving in Chicago), it was delayed twice on the tracks (once for at least half an hour while we waited for another train to pass us), and I finally get to Union Station after 5 o’clock, where my favorite Cubs friend Harry is waiting. We took a cab over to the hotel, got me all checked in, ditched our stuff in my room, rode down in the elevator with a guy that said he was Jorge Soler’s agent, and only missed the first few minutes of the opening ceremonies of the con.

After participating in the autograph hunt (we got C.J. Edwards, who is a nice young man), we went upstairs to grab our coats and ended up riding back down in the elevator with Kyle Hendricks and his lady. They are also nice  young people.

We went to dinner at Big Bowl, which is one our favorites, and thus began our interesting service experiences. This time we had to request proper silverware and napkins, which of course is no big deal. We didn’t realize it would be a sign of things to come.

After dinner, we met up with some of the Cubs fans of Twitter, which was a good time. I got to meet some new folks that I didn’t follow and put the faces to the names of some that I did. Once the initial awkwardness is out of the way, everything just rolls, ya know.

The next day, Harry and I got autographs: Justin Grimm, Edwin Jackson, Ryan Sweeney, and the illustrious Jim Deshaies. All very nice people. I told Ryan Sweeney no injuries this year.

We took a break for lunch and ended up eating at the bistro in the hotel. The food was good, but the service was awful. Our waiter couldn’t have openly despised us more. It took him forever to bring Harry a simple glass of water and when he brought him mayonnaise, it was one of the little jars you get if you order room service and it had already been used. Like, there was a glob of ketchup in it. And the waiter was really unimpressed when Harry asked him for a new, unused one. Needless to say, that guy didn’t get much of a tip.

Mystery Ball 2015While getting our afternoon autographs, Harry was in need of a second wind in the form of coffee. The line at the coffee place in the hotel was crazy, so we ended up going back later. When Harry finally did get his coffee, there was no half and half and he had to wait to get more. At this point it was becoming clear that liquids would not come easily to my friend.

However, Harry did get to ride in the elevator with Addison Russell and C.J. Edwards, so his elevator luck was way better than mine.

We went to dinner that night at Eataly. It was an hour wait, so we went for an appetizer and a drink at the pub they have there. Again Harry asked for a water. Again he had to remind our server to get it for him (but this guy didn’t despise us, he was just really busy). But! When we had dinner, Harry had no drink trouble. So that was a nice surprise.

Sunday, I was on my own. I went down to the con, bought a cube for the mystery ball I’d gotten the afternoon before (I ended up getting James Russell, of course) and bought some Cubs socks as well. Then I prepared to leave.

I should have known that I was in for it when my cab driver managed to hit most of the red lights. But I was optimistic. The trains leaving Chicago are more likely to leave on-time. It’d be fine. I had a nice lunch at Union Station and then I went down to the waiting area.

My train was scheduled to leave at 1:45. At 1:15 it was announced that it was delayed because they had to repair something and it could be forty-five minutes to an hour.

Pigeons WaitingAnd I laughed a madman’s laugh.

Luckily for me, a couple of pigeons had gotten into the waiting area and when they weren’t waddling about, looking for food, they were buzzing people’s heads as they flew around, so I was at least entertained.

After three other trains scheduled after mine had left and they announced they were waiting on the conductor because he had apparently wandered off for coffee and a smoke and we stood waiting to board because they announced that we were boarding, but took it back, we finally got on the train. And then the train started to move!

And then the train stopped in the yard while they fixed something else.

To make a long story short (too late), three crying babies, a guy with a Budweiser wondering out loud if he could find his seat, and many atrocious cell phone ringtones later, we arrived at the station, a good two and a half hours after we should have.

One car ride later, I arrived home with my convention swag and this tale.

So, About 2012…

Pat Hughes

I was going to do some kind of reflective, year-end post about 2012, but I’ll be honest…I don’t really feel like it.

Most of it was pretty boring. I did boring, routine things. I struggled to pay my bills, used up a big part of my savings, felt like a complete failure, failed to meet many of the writing goals, and totally lacked any kind of success on the professional front (and most of the personal front, too). Really nothing to get into or write the Internet about.

But I did rarely have the occasion to do some cool things. I went to Cubs Con and Casino Night. I saw the Cubs lose their 100th game of the season, but Pat Hughes waved at me and that totally kills any of that pain. Let me repeat that. Pat Hughes waved at me.

I was able to hang out with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time (Hi, Becca!) and I met some really cool people, too (Hi, Harry!). I reconnected via social media with some people I haven’t seen in ages (Hi, Josh!) and I met some really cool people that way, too (Hi, everybody!).

I found out just what I’d do to try to make a life and a career my way and just how frustrating and hard that can be (and just how frustrating and hard I can be, too).

I changed a little, grew a little. It wasn’t all fantastic and glamorous. Most of it wasn’t. But it wasn’t an absolute waste either.

2012 was okay. And it’s a good thing I went through it because I have a feeling that 2013 won’t be much different.

I’m ready.

Pictures: Cubs vs. Astros 10/1/12

Pictures from my last Cubs game of the 2012 season and the Cubs 100th loss. Don’t let the downer qualities of that sentence fool you. I had a good time.

This is where Pat and Keith live.
This is where Len and Bob live.
Jason Berken’s first pitch of the game.
Dave Sappelt at the plate.
James Russell on the mound.
Len and Bob singing the stretch. This is when Pat Hughes waved at me.

 

Carlos Marmol closing it out.
Until next year…

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Saw 100

I got up at 6:30 yesterday morning knowing full well that after working two of my three current day jobs that I was going to drive three hours to Chicago, take the park ‘n’ ride bus to Wrigley, see my last Cubs game of the year, drive three hours home, and be up at 6:30 this morning and it might all possibly be for loss number 100.

Well, it was.

I’m running on four hours of sleep and pretty much just trying to get this written so I can go take a nap so I have no idea how coherent it might be. But I’m going to give it a shot.

I’ve never experienced the Cubs losing 100 games in a season. I find it to be a bummer. I’d much rather my team win. And they didn’t. I was really kind of hoping they’d pull off the sweep and avoid the 100. It’d mean nothing. Many people have pointed out that losing 99 is no different than losing 100, but it would have been something of salvage. A tiny morale boost in the midst of a tough season. It would have been nice.

But it didn’t happen. That’s a stone drag.

But it could be worse.

How?

Well, look at it like this. The Cubs will continue they’re rebuilding in 2013 in the NL Central. The Astros will continue their rebuilding in 2013 in AL West. Who would you rather suffer with? I thought so.

The thing about 100 losses is that it puts a team and its fans in an interesting position. How does management respond to this? How does the coaching staff? How do the players? How do the fans?

Now, I can hardly manage a fantasy team so I’m hardly qualified to speculate on what management should or shouldn’t do, will or won’t do, but I’m going to guess that Jed Hoyer’s not bullshitting when he says they’ll be looking at affordable, serviceable starting pitching. That seems like a pretty good place to start.

The coaches probably like being employed, even by a losing team, so I bet they’ve come up with all sorts of good things they want the players to work on. And the players probably have their own ideas about how they should improve, unless Darwin Barney is the only one that doesn’t like complacency (I’m willing to bet money that at least one other guy on the team doesn’t like complacency either).

And the fans? Well, the fans will continue to bitch and moan and whine and go out on ledges and nail themselves to crosses and rail against certain players, the coaches, the management, the owners, etc., and remind the world about how much better the team would be if they were in charge because, well, that’s what fans do.

A few of them, however, will be left standing at the end of another long season of possibly sub-.500 ball (but not another 100 losses; I don’t know that this team has it in them to do it again), sad to see another fall encroach upon their summer fun even if their team was dreadful because they tend to focus on the short term–this game, this inning, this pitch–rather than the long term. Because that’s what fans do, too.

Here’s the thing, kids. I’m all about the journey. Sure, I want to win. I like winning. I can’t wait for a Cubs World Series win. It’s going to be sweet. But I’m just as interested in the trip as I am the destination. 100 losses is part of the trip. The sucky part of the trip to be sure, but in order to fully appreciate the end win, the whole journey should be experienced.  Zen, no?

At least that’s how I look at it.

But, of course, I’m sleepy.

Observations on a Tiff

It’s like an aggressive Where’s Waldo picture.

When the Cubs and Nationals “brawled” last week many fans immediately got on their high horses to give their opinions on the whole thing. And that’s fine. I, on the other hand, tried to get down as close as I could to the action so I could see what was going on.

Baseball fights fascinate me. Most of the time it looks like a typical “guy fight” (some pushing, some shoving, a few crappy punches maybe, and a whole lot of yow-yowin’). The cause doesn’t interest me as much as who does what during the confrontation. Who’s first out of the dugout? Who leads the charge from the bullpen? Who’s playing peacekeeper? Who’s looking for a piece of the action.

I must have watched this tiff forty times (and paused 140 times) to get an idea of what was going on. And since this bruhaha had two bench clearings and three separate altercations, there was a lot to see.

Round One:

-The Cubs in the dugout really weren’t paying much attention to Jamie Quirk yelling at Bo Porter.

-When Bo Porter stopped at the top of the dugout stairs, the first guys to Dale Sveum’s side were Tony Campana, Luis Valbuena, Wellington Castillo, and Jeff Samardzija.

-James Russell led the charge from the bullpen.

-Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro strolled over to the confrontation. Alfonso Soriano and Brett Jackson hustled.

-Jeff Beliveau peeking over the bullpen fence at the fuss cracks me up every time I see it.

Round Two:

-Joe Mather, Campana, Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt, Samardzija, and Anthony Recker were first out of the dugout after Lendy Castillo went inside on Bryce Harper.

-Russell again led the charge from the bullpen. Carlos Marmol and Manny Corpas were laughing and nudging each other as they ran in. Franklin Font runs pretty damn fast while wearing shin guards.

-Even Lester Strode ran in! (PS. I love Lester.)

Round Three:

-Corpas was part of the reason round three started. Anthony Rizzo tried to play peacemaker.

-Russell, Samardzija, Recker, and Blake Parker were right on the front line.

-Barney kind of got sucked into the crowd at one point, but they spit him out unharmed. Same thing happened to Rizzo.

-Some guys moved to the back of the crowd, some guys couldn’t get close enough. Chris Volstad, Campana, and Wood were three looking to get in on it. Travis Wood looked like this wasn’t his first rodeo. (I’m sure he and his mullet have seen many bar brawls.) (That was a joke.)

-Bryan LaHair was one of the peacekeepers.

-A Nats player had a hold of the front of Samardzija’s jersey and was swinging from it like a monkey when everyone was doing their share of shoving and I’m not sure Shark noticed.

-Some how Kurt Suzuki managed to keep a towel around his neck the whole time despite being in the thick of things at one point. (I wasn’t going to keep this strictly Cubs, but that really impressed me.)

-Dale Sveum and Dave McKay looked pretty calm throughout the whole thing. Pat Listach must have rowdy kids. He looked like a dad breaking things up. James Rowson was right in the thick of things, pulling guys apart and separating them.

-Many of the guys had a look of “WTF?” on their faces. Those guys were more to the back of the most pit. Several players (David DeJesus was one) didn’t seem to get too excited.

I was kind of impressed with the way the Cubs came together. Everyone answered the fight bell (okay, the second time Soriano jogged in, but he really needs to preserve his wheels) and while tempers flared, there were enough cooler heads to keep things from getting too out of hand. Everybody seemed to feel the need to protect his teammates. Nobody was left to hang. I appreciate that.

Yes, I realize this is unpopular opinion. But then, isn’t every opinion I have about baseball/the Cubs unpopular?

Yeah. Put away your surprise face.

Goodbye, Kerry

After a few days of thinking about it, I feel like I can put my feelings and thoughts into a coherent form without it sounding like nothing but sappy, saccharine drivel. Nothing screws up my Friday like finding out one of my boys is retiring.

A few weeks after Kerry Wood threw his twenty strikeout game against the Astros, I graduated high school. That was 14 years ago and in that time, the two of us have changed quite a bit. He went from starter to closer to setup man. He went from young phenom to a guy that fans called broken down and useless. He went from a chubby teenager to a grown man, a husband and daddy at that. I went from college student to dropout to student to dropout to student to dropout. I worked in retail, banking, and professional wrestling. I went from only seeing one game ever at Wrigley Field to making a point of going to the opening and closing homestands. I went from fat, single girl to…well, still fat and single, but a little more of a woman.

Really, the only thing Kerry Wood and I have in common is the number of times we’ve ended up on the DL.

But it still feels like we’ve grown up together in a sense, which is a stupid thought, but the only way I can explain it without mucking up the works. So his retirement strikes a chord with me. Just a couple of weeks before, at Casino Night, I told Harry that Kerry Wood was my guy. That so long as he played, then I wasn’t old. That night, just a couple of day or two after he chucked his glove into the stands after a frustrating outing, he was one of the last players to leave Casino Night, talking and taking pictures, a smile on his face. It was encouraging to me that despite the struggles he was having this season, he was still smiling.

Now maybe I know why.

As much as it saddens me to see Kerry Wood retire, his final appearance on the mound couldn’t have been happened any better. Ending his career as it began, with a strikeout, was beautiful. His son Justin running from the dugout to hug him as he left the mound brought tears to my eyes. His press conference the next day, all of his thank you’s, was another example of class (I got the tears again when he thanked Lester Strode because Lester is so often overlooked). I’d always hoped that when Kerry Wood left (and therefore left me to be officially old in baseball years) that it would be on a high note.

Really, I don’t think this note could have been any higher.

I wrote last week that Kerry Wood was veteran and a pro and that he would find a way to help his team. When I wrote that, I wasn’t thinking about retirement. But I guess he was. I guess this was the way he felt he could help them best.

I’ll miss you in pinstripes, Kerry. But I’m glad you’re a Cubs lifer.

I guess that’s one more thing we’ve got in common.