Just off the plane returning from Chicago and I am still feeling the shakes from my last night in the city. Two nights prior things seemed to be just coming along the way you’d hope they would: Fog and drizzle at home in San Diego set me up perfectly for the dry 85-degree heat, light wind and good vibes across downtown Chicago. PRIDE was in full swing and Chicago knows how to show respect to the folks who are living. But the wheels eventually went off the rails for me, and even though I’ve now been home for 48 hours, the effects of bad decisions linger.
Chicago isn’t shy about its diverse food offerings: Patty melts and rye whiskey for lunch and banana leaf smoked trout and tequila for dinner will send you down a path of fun that will make your head pound for future sobriety. But for those willing to hydrate along the way, Chicago will keep giving: Wrigley Field for a Cub’s game,Dove’s Luncheonetteand a couple Schlitz’s at Dave’s are a day well spent running around the windy city.
But like Hunter always told me, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” So as things got fuzzy in Chicago on my last night, I was ready.
A great margarita in the Midwest is a tricky and curious thing to find, so once I found one, I was sure to have three. But the thing is: by then it was already 1:30 a.m. and the bar was flicking the lights for last call. I figured it was time to call it a night — especially since I had to be up and out the door by 8:30 a.m. the next day to fly home to San Diego. But the next thing I knew I was following some folks I’d met in the lobby of my hotel to a “4 a.m. bar” for shots of Wild Turkey and Miller High Lifes. Shots of Wild Turkey with strangers is always a good call, but be ready to pay for it the next morning. As I did.
I can still taste the Quarter Pounder with cheese from McDonalds that I ate at 4:30 a.m. — which now clogs my memory of all of the other proper meals I had. Worth it though. Mopping up my day and night before the flight was necessary.
Off the plane landing back in San Diego I was very ready to see my family. I put on the guise of not being physically and emotionally bankrupt, but at 39 years old this becomes a harder thing to fake.After a nice night out — pasta, wine and my family — I thought I was back to normal. But hangovers like this tend to stick around for a few days. They start to become a real problem on day three.
But before I stumbled into the abyss of day 3, I can happily say I am cured. And the cure for me was Opening Day. California’s first proper summer beach day: 80 degrees on the beach, packed with bodies, zero waves, clear water and buzzing with enthusiasm. The water was colder than I hoped, but the bite helped shake off the remaining uglies leftover from the 4 a.m. whiskey shots and McDonalds chaser. The warm air and crisp, clear water jogged my memory of all the characters I’d met and food I ate while in Chicago. Six-foot six-inch proud drag queens; diner cooks who came out from the kitchen to have a drink with our group; the old man dancing at the Cubs game with his shirt off and wearing two sets of sunglasses on Wednesday afternoon. My people.
Thinking of them I was reminded that things were still up. We still have a chance. This isn’t an American nightmare we are living in. It’s a dream. Just needed my local beach’s opening day to shock my system back to normal and remind me that sometimes the best character is built at McDonalds around 4:30 a.m.
After all that, I’ve decided to show up this summer. See you at The Ranch for a tequila in 5, someone call my wife and tell her that I will be out of commission tonight. —Adam Warren