A Christmas Miracle

A Ray of Sunshine

Caroline’s 87-year-old grandfather, Ray (for those of you in the know, he’s the maker of grampahol), decided on a whim to join us in our trek up to Chicago for Christmas. Ray lives in Arkansas, so the 9-hour drive is too long to attempt on his own. However, the 4-hour drive to St. Louis is manageable. So he drove up here on the Friday before Christmas, and Caroline and I drove the rest of the way the next day.

I really enjoy Ray’s company, so his presence made my stay in Chicago all the better. A lot of our dialogue consists of me making fun of how old he is, and him telling me that I’m full of s**t (both claims are true). A typical sample of our conversations:

Ray: What time are you getting up tomorrow?
Me: Around 7:00.
Ray: How about 4:00?
Me: I’ll tell you what. If you can make it up the stairs to my bedroom, I’ll wake up at 4:00.
Ray: Done. I’ll make it up those stairs, but I won’t be able to get back down!

Ray’s body isn’t holding up too well, but his mind is quite sharp. He challenged Caroline and her sister, Lorraine, to a contest in which they would play an old tune on the piano and he would guess the name of the song. He hardly missed a one. And he knew pretty much every song just a few notes in. I think this was his favorite time of the trip. For days after that, I’d catch him tapping his toes to music only he could hear.

Oh, Chicago

It seems like it was the trend after college for Wash U students to move to Chicago or New York. Every time I go to Chicago, I understand a little more about what makes it a really cool city to live in…and I’m all the happier that I didn’t move there. Let me break it down:

Pros: Lots of people (attractive people!) at bars all the time
No smoking in bars in 2008
Police presence makes most areas feel really safe
Potbelly’s sandwich restaurants

Cons: Ridiculously cold. I couldn’t feel my dignity
The same douchebags who go to bars in any other city are in Chicago in greater numbers
Smoking in bars in ’07 (I barely missed the cutoff)
Traffic
Not enough Potbelly’s sandwich restaurants

A few notes: I’m reaching my wit’s end on the smoking in bars thing. I’m not even bothered by inhaling secondhand smoke for a few hours while I’m out having a drink, but the smell…the smell afterwards and the next day is awful. I literally don’t want to go to bars that allow smoking anymore, but that would mean that I can’t go to bars in St. Louis anymore.

Also, Potbelly’s is the single greatest sandwich establishment ever. Seriously. I didn’t know this place existed until last Sunday, and I’ve been thinking about my pizza sub ever since. The key is the freshness and ratio of the ingredients—sometimes subs are bogged down by too much bread or meat or veggies, but the ratio at Potbelly’s is perfect. I want to live in a Potbelly’s pizza sub. That restaurant must come to St. Louis.

Notes/Highlights/Quotes

Below are some notes, highlights, and quotes from the trip.

Ray warning me to watch out for the “Dillinger boys” when I went downtown in Chicago

Caroline’s mother opening her present from me, a box of specialty chocolate-covered cherries, a week before Christmas (I used their house as the shipping address) and eating all of the chocolates before I even made it to Chicago.

Driving in a Prius. This is what cars of the future will be like.

(Sitting around the dinner table at Caroline’s great uncle Elmer’s place)
Elmer: So Ray, how’s that female neighbor of yours doing?
Ray: Oh, she’s dead.
Caroline (to me): Zing!

(Sitting around in the breakfast nook at Caroline’s house following a brief lull in conversation)
Caroline: It’s my hand that smells so bad!

(On the drive home. Caroline has just correctly identified a Ben Fold’s Five song)
Me: You know, I used to be the lead singer for Ben Fold’s Five.
Caroline: Jamey Fold’s Five? All of your music videos consisted of you ironing your underwear and singing off key.

That, my friends, is the miracle of Christmas.

Tomorrow:

Do I Detect a List?