Columns

2013.03.20 No luck of the draw in Chicago

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

My daughter, Maddie, lives above a gay bar in Chicago and it's a wild place until the middle of the night, at least that's how it sounds. The bar is on the ground level, the second floor is the owner's office and I don't know what else. On the top floor is the big apartment where she and two other young women live.

It's a great place with lots of space and a big bay window area that hangs out over the sidewalk to give an excellent view of everyone walking up and down Halsted Street. I love to watch people and Halsted provides a lot to look at.

Colleen and I were offered a vacant bed to use while one of Maddie's apartment mates was gone, so off we went to Chicago two weekends ago. We arrived Friday night and I went to bed "early" (after midnight, for sure, especially after entering a new time zone) while Colleen stayed up much later. I was so tired that I knew I could drop off to sleep in no time like I always do, despite the loud frenzy below.

I was wrong.

The bass beats from the music two floors down were so intense that it kept a very tired man awake. It sounded as though someone was down there with a sledge hammer pounding away in time to the music, sending the vibrations up to us. 

The bar is open only until 2 a.m. on weekdays, I was told, but Friday and Saturday nights the action pounds away until 3 a.m. and that's probably when true sleep finally arrived.

None of us got enough sleep, but there was an impressive city to look at. Colleen and I both called it a little New York which must be an enormous insult to Chicago residents, but it has grand old buildings with fancy architecture and lots of parks with trees and wonderful rows of old apartments and an extensive subway system.

We took the train downtown and just before noon we entered the lobby of what I want to call the Majestic Theatre. That's the original name of a very majestic building operated by Broadway in Chicago. Maddie knew there would be a drawing for $25 tickets to the supposedly hilarious "Book of Mormon" and we had a chance to win two tickets. That was her opinion. Colleen thought otherwise. She KNEW we would win two tickets and most likely two of us would win two tickets.

We wrote our names on the little registration cards, dropped them into the slot and waited. We could peer through the entry doors and up the stairs into the gilded, beaux-art interior where we would spend a good share of our afternoon. We watched the other people waiting. The odds didn't look all that bad. If we spread out with one of us at each set of doors, we could hold them shut and keep the crowd down to a manageable size. Even when a dozen or so other people arrived just before noon, we could still see ourselves sitting pretty inside for the matinée. Colleen gave us hope. Well, maybe not all of us. Maddie knew better.

At noon two people emerged from closed doors and instructed everyone to have an ID in hand so the winners could quickly be processed. I said that I guess I shouldn't have used a fake name and I thought I was going to get beaten. I could use my fake ID to match it. It was just a joke; relax, you two. The first card was drawn and No. 10 was standing right next to the announcer. No. 9 was right there at the front, too. Was this thing fixed? No. 8 started off "Maa" and we all knew it was Maddie until the next syllable. Matilda, maybe. That was hurtful, but there were many to go. No. 7 wasn't present and they had to draw another card. That's good. No. 6 screamed as her name was drawn. I think another person was not present further down the list. How could we not win? We didn't win.

Colleen was crest-fallen. Maddie didn't really expect to win anyway. She already experienced the loss on a previous weekend. I was somewhere in the middle, but we all knew there was a second opportunity at 6 p.m.

Chinatown, an odd art museum, the Cultural Center—we squeezed in some good stuff in the afternoon before heading back to the Majestic.

At the Cultural Center I had started following two women down the stairs before I realized they were strangers. Fatigue was coming on strong. I did it once more on the sidewalk and as we stood in the theatre lobby, Colleen joked about how we would probably fall asleep in our seats once the curtains opened and the show began.

This time the crowd was larger. Colleen knew we needed a different place to stand, a location closer to the front. We were pros at this now. We talked about our reaction when our name was drawn. Should we nonchalantly stroll to the front? Should we thrust up a hand and make some sound of acknowledgment? There was no use talking about it. We all knew that Colleen would go absolutely nuts.

I was nervous this time. It was a loud and spirited crowd. When the first name was announced, a scream erupted from behind and people applauded. It happened again with No. 9 and No. 8. Applause and cheers. Did everybody know each other here? You start to have mean-spirited thoughts at a time like this. Why does that guy deserve to win? And who is this big group of friends—are they all going to win? This must be rigged.

There was no "Maa" or "Col" to quicken our heartbeats this time. No. 4 had such a complicated name that the announcer tripped over it twice before a man from India, perhaps, scurried to the front. After No. 3, I actually put my ID back in my wallet. I had given up—but it was also one last attempt to trick fate. When my name was called I would have to madly tear into my wallet for proof.

It didn't work. None of our names were called and we walked out into the sidewalk, dejected but knowing there was much more of Chicago to explore before falling into bed and wishing for sleep amid the pounding. 

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