Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chi Town Sound

When you drive the whalebones home, there's always lots of water in tow.

Get the reference?

Chicago - home of the Blues. The windy city has always been a bit of a romanticized spot for me, as I have spent many bittersweet and melancholic moments there.

When my grandpa George became older and alone, he moved back from North Carolina to his alma mater town of Wheaton, Illinois (a Christianized burb of the big city). At the age of 93, in the year 2002, my mom's father passed away after many health complications. He was truly a man who walked the earth. He loved to talk with people, he adored sports, he loved to laugh and he is absolutely the main DNA contributor to my 6 foot plus, barrel-chested body type. There is rarely a day where I don't think about him, and where I don't wish that I had spent more time with him before he passed.

After a brief visit in 2006, I was able to re-visit the greater Chicago area this past week for a decent stint with my mom. My grandfather was a bit of a lightning rod for family in that region, and since his passing, many of my family members have made that region their nesting spot.

Without disclosing a lot of personal details, this past trip was another somewhat sad but enriching experience. Although there is some brooding, overcast gloominess within some family members of that region, I was able to focus on the positive and spend some time with some long lost cousins.

My cousin Andrew (who is my cousin through marriage) and my cousin Mark were the main proprietors of good vibes on this trip. Andrew is an accomplished musician, a craft beer passionista, and a loving and patient father - and Mark is a once-boy-turned-responsible-man-and-dad, an all-sports aficionado and someone who is easy to talk to and always game for a spontaneous urban adventure. I spent the bulk of my time with both of them, and though they have both been distant figures in my life in the past decade, a connection was rekindled instantly and I felt all the richer for having made the trek. Though I didn't see them as much, my other cousins Amy and Rob were also joys to spend time and reconnect with, along with Mark's lovely wife Jamie, two of my Aunts and Uncles, and all of their unique and varied canines and children.

One of the beautiful bookends, however, had to be a surprise baseball game with Mark, to see the Cubs take on the Cincinnati Reds for a $10 ticket in one of the most charmed and nostalgic baseball stadiums in the galaxy; Wrigley Field. For as long as I can remember, baseball has been a great equalizer for me - a leveller of the mind. There is something about the sweet simplicity of baseball that allows me to think fondly of myself, my childhood, and many stat analysis sessions and amber-monitor 386 PC earl weaver faceoffs with my old neighbourhood best friend Brian Macdonald.

When Mark and I entered the grounds, I instantly felt like I was in the presence of greatness - and I had to hold back from tearing up. So many stories and so many great athletes from the annals of time have graced the outfield ivy with their gloves and extra base hits, and I was blessed enough to enter that special realm.

Wrigley helped me to remember that whether we like it or not, we are all part of a larger story of some kind. We march on, but the past tags along with us. It holds. It glues to our adhesive souls. It is the sticky oatmeal in the bowls of our existence. We cannot get shut of it - but maybe, if we allow for it to play its part, it can teach us many things about us and about those that we love.

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