Tag Archives: road trip

The Wrigleyville Riot or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

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They look like a nice bunch of non-troublemakers.

As a kid, summer vacation meant loading up the family car and heading somewhere for a week to play miniature golf, sleep on the fold-out couch of one of my Dad’s old Navy buddies and possibly take an unplanned detour to someplace like the Rodeo Hall of Fame.  But now that the statute of limitations has surely passed, I can finally tell the story of our last family vacation.

When I was around 27, myself, my sister Megan, my brother Sean and Sean’s then-fiancée Beth all decided to go along with my parents on an annual trip they took with friends to go see the Cardinals play the Cubs in Chicago.   For the trip, the six of us loaded into a single car to approximate the comfort of flying in coach for five hours with the added bonus of my Dad being in control of the radio.

The first part of the trip went off without a hitch.  My Dad complaining about downtown Chicago traffic, going to dinner at an old-school German restaurant and accidentally visiting a gay bar along with my parents friends from church.  Typical vacation stuff.

The next day, we went to Wrigley Field to cheer on the Cardinals as they (possibly) beat the Cubs (maybe).  I really have no recollection of the game outside of the fact that I promptly cut myself off from drinking any more Old Style when I caught a glimpse of the trough in what seems to be the only Men’s Room in the entire stadium.

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Here’s a picture of us at the game.  There certainly doesn’t seem to be any evidence of intoxication or premeditation here.

 

Following the game, my family and about 2,000 of our fellow attendees decided to head to a bar called the Cubby Bear, which is within stumbling distance of the entrance to Wrigley Field.  And here’s where things start to go sideways.

While attempting to find my parent’s friends and some of Sean’s fraternity brothers in a bar where the phrase Personal Space probably only referred to a shot they made with Grenadine and Peach Schnapps, it became obvious that my parents were not that thrilled about being pushed up against someone in a sweaty Shawon Dunston jersey.  So we decided to leave the Cubby Bear.  As I led our group to the door, I managed to “excuse me/pardon me” my way through the thick crowd, walk down the narrow stairs to the exit and emerge onto the sidewalk off of West Addison.  I waited.  And waited.  No one else was behind me.

Full disclosure, I was not a witness to the next few minutes of this story.  For narrative and liability reasons, I thought it would be important to point that out.

Back in the bar, my Dad squeezed through the crowd towards the exit and nudged a tall, thin guy frat guy in his early twenties.  This polite young man admonished my father for bumping into him and my Dad apologized for bumping into him.  Frat Guy then called my Dad a “Motherf….”

(Quick aside about my Dad, who is a retired cop and is built like one of those blue mailboxes.  He is a man who would, quite often, come home from work and show his children how take down a larger man by pulling back their thumb.  I can’t say that his job regularly involved melees, but I doubt that any of my friend’s Dads growing up ever came home with a story about breaking up a bar fight in a parking lot following a wet t-shirt contest at a local disco.  Now back to the story)

“…ucker” and pushed him.  Once again, my Dad apologized and said, “We’re just trying to get to the door.”  Frat Guy then pushed my Dad back into my sister Megan, knocking her down.  Upon seeing Megan sprawled out on the floor, I can only imagine that my Dad experienced some sort of Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno transformation.  He raised his hands in the International sign for “I don’t want any trouble” and then rapidly smashed his palm into Frat Guy’s nose several times.  Frat Guy and his gushing nose tried to collapse but the thick crowd kept him upright.

I imagine the phrase “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” passed through my Dad’s head and he split for the exit.  Frat Guy must have felt that he still had more to say, and took a step towards my Dad, who had turned his back to him.  My sister Megan, who is five feet of dynamite, then jumped in and received an elbow to the face from Frat Guy for her troubles.  While she countered with a punch to his throat, she assures me that she was aiming for his face.  “He was really tall,” says the now-mother of three.

At this time I (Yay, I’m back in the story!) heard a message on the doorman’s walkie-talkie announcing that he was needed to help break up a fight.  No sooner had the thought “My poor family is stuck up there because some drunken ruffians started a ruckus” crossed my mind when my Dad came barreling down the stairs.   He crashed into a souvenir stand and continued running past me as my sister also emerged from the bar.  The souvenir stand owner yelled, “Hey buddy, you break it you buy it” to my fleeing father, and both Megan and the man who walked her down the aisle at her wedding yelled in unison “Hey, fuck you!”  My Dad then ran down an alley.

Needles to say, I had a couple of questions.

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Since Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs (a then-wholly owned subsidiary of the Tribune Company) told us to go to the Cubby Bear, aren’t they at least somewhat culpable?

As my sister began filling me in, my crying Mother, Sean and Beth also exited the bar.  Apparently, after Frat Guy once again attempted to go after my Dad and Megan, my brother Sean had put him into a headlock until the bouncers had kindly asked him to leave.

In the pre-cell phone age, if your father broke someone’s nose in a bar fight and then ran down an alley while removing his baseball cap to change his appearance for the cops, you were unable to simply text “Where u at?” So, as my Mom attempted to clean the blood off of my brother’s forearms with Bath and Body Works Vanilla-scented hand sanitizer, we decided that we should probably take a train back to the hotel before the police arrived.

Back at the hotel, my Mom paced and cried while her friends asked her if she might like to go shopping to take her mind off of my on-the-lam father.  Roughly an hour and a half later, my Dad, who was completely soaked, walked into the room and simply asked, “Are you guys ready to go to dinner?”

Had he jumped into the Chicago River to throw off the police dog’s scent?  Taken second place in a Boy’s Town wet t-shirt contest? Perspired through his shirt while taking The L to Schaumburg before realizing that he could no longer see The Sears Tower?  We may never know.

While my Mom worried that the incident would scare Beth off from marrying Sean (thankfully it didn’t), my Dad’s reaction to the entire event was to pretty much avoid ever talking about it.  Even now, I’m not sure how thrilled he will be with this story.

It was our first and last family bar fight and, deep down, I am still secretly disappointed that I wasn’t more involved.  It may have been my only chance to fulfill my lifelong dream of breaking a pool cue over someone’s back.

I guess it will just have to remain a regret.  Although, even at 4, I wouldn’t put it past Kate to get a little lippy with someone who bumps into her with a pitcher of Bud.  So, I guess I better keep in “running down an alley” shape just in case.

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10 Miles to Lebanon or How Al Bundy Scared the Hell Out of Me

 

They often say that the most exciting part of a trip is the journey and not the destination.  I’m not sure who “they” are, but they probably never broke down in the middle of nowhere late at night.

In the Fall of 1992, my brother Sean and I were both attending Southwest Missouri State in Springfield, MO.  I was a Sophomore, and Sean was taking a “bonus” semester before he graduated.

Sean and I had plans to take the three-hour trek back home to St. Louis for the weekend to do laundry, eat something other than Cashew Chicken and visit our family.

Sean was working as a shuttle bus driver around campus and wasn’t set to get off of work until around 9 pm, so our plan was for me to wait for him in the disgusting basement room he shared with two of his fraternity brothers and head home late that evening.

But fate, and the clutch in a 1982 Datsun B210 with 150,000 miles on the Odometer, was against us.  Driving through the Ozark Mountains outside of Springfield, it became apparent that we would not be making it home that night.

The exit at Phillipsburg, MO now boasts The World’s Largest Gift Shop (I’m not sure how official those ranking are), but in 1992 it was home to a single gas station which closed at 7:00.

While the Datsun could still drive in reverse, our plan to drive backwards on the highway to the next town was deemed “unfeasible.”  So the decision was made to walk the 10 miles to Lebanon.  A town which looks like Chicago next to Phillipsburg, by flaunting both a Long John Silver’s and the Walnut Bowl Outlet.

Using the payphone at the gas station, we placed a collect call from “It’s Sean and Scott, don’t hang up!” to our parents.  The one casualty of the cell phone that I truly miss is the late night collect phone call.  What better way to scare the hell out of your parents while also costing them a fortune.

So we were on our way.  Armed with the tire iron from the Datsun for defense and a Hostess Fruit Pie from a vending machine for sustenance.  Just like the early settlers.

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How long could it possibly take to walk ten miles in a pair of Bass loafers?

 

With ten miles ahead of us, we started things off right, with me slipping on a beer bottle in the grass and immediately injuring myself.  But luck was still on our side as I didn’t smash the Fruit Pie in the spill.

While the prospect of a motorist slowing down to pick up a guy wearing a trench coat and another wielding a tire iron seemed slim, Sean made it clear that he would not accept a ride from anyone even if they did stop.  “How do we know that some guy that pulls over to help us isn’t Al Bundy?,” he said.

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Fictional shoe salesman Al Bundy.

 

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Prolific 1970’s serial killer Ted Bundy.

 

 

 

Despite Sean’s reluctance to get into a stranger’s car, that did not stop him from cursing out the occupants of cars which sped past us for their lack of human decency and compassion.

That anger led to some minor vandalism, as I’m sure many of the mile markers along the route still retain dents from the Datsun’s tiny tire iron all of these years later.

We spent the next several hours walking and talking about all of the things that life had in store for us.  All the while being cruelly mocked by billboards which advertised the Walnut Bowls outlet only eight miles ahead.  Seven miles.  Six miles….

When we finally got to a hotel well after one in the morning, Sean waffled on whether or not to spring for two beds, since the credit card he had came with strict instructions from our parents to only use in case of an emergency.  I let him know that despite the lack of locusts, this would definitely count as an emergency.

We were exhausted, we were sore and we had only a handful of hours before our Dad would arrive to tow us home.  Despite all of that, as was mine and my brother’s way, we turned on the TV to find that “The Outsiders” had just begun.  So instead of going to bed like sensible people, we spent the next hour and a half watching Dallas and Soda Pop.

In the morning, my Dad arrived in exactly the way we would have expected.  With a plan to tow the Datsun home hundreds of miles with an old rope he found at a junkyard tied to the back of our Malibu.

I immediately volunteered Sean to take the wheel of the powerless Datsun, which he was happy to do as long as he could still listen to the radio.

I can still see him drumming on the steering wheel and singing at the top of his lungs as the Datsun got smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror.  The first of only three times that the junkyard rope broke before we made it home.  Who would have guessed?

I don’t get to Springfield very much anymore, but any time I am on that stretch of road, I always remember our long walk.  Just walking and talking without a care in the world (aside from passing serial killers).

It was an experience and a story that I only really shared with one person, and now maybe I can help it to live on here.

I miss you Sean.  Stay gold, Pony Boy.

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