Lap Dances in the Bleachers of Wrigley It was never supposed to be this way. How the hell do four guys from nowhere wind up standing in the opulent shadow of Wrigley on a Saturday afternoon celebrating with a teary-eyed city that hasn’t seen a pennant clinched at home since 1938? Apparently, like this: The trip began Friday morning, hungover and sleep-deprived from a long night out at either “Milwaukee’s” in Toronto or “The Muddy Water Tavern” in wherever the hell Dunner is from. We were a little late getting on the road because Skeeter is the only living human being who would ever think to schedule a job interview for the day he was supposed to be driving to Chicago to pick up Ronnie from the airport at 9:00, but he figured that since Ronnie was willing to fly all the way from Houston for the bender, surely he wouldn’t mind waiting around the airport for an extra couple of hours. But Dunner and Skeeter were surprisingly prompt with their arrival at the Highbury St. McDonalds, and we hit the road for the Windy City sometime after 2:30. We clearly had to stop in at the duty free to pick up the essentials, and while waiting in line to pay for our beer, scotch (12 year old Dewers ‘cause we’re money and it was for Mikey), and darts, Dunner pulled from his wallet a three inch thick stack of American singles that he’d taken from the Angus Tim Horton’s and announced to the world: “I pity the poor bastard who has to count all these ones”. No less than ten minutes later, after unsuccessfully attempting to peel out of the border inspection booth before the slutty attendant was through with her cross examination, we found ourselves in the immigration office, face to face with a rather large and disgruntled black man who obviously hadn’t gotten his tip wet in a considerably long period of time and who was more than willing to take it out on us simply because we weren’t stuck working his pathetically depressing job. Our subsequent dialogue went as follows, the immigration guy’s dialogue in bold and with finger-pointing and spit flying into our faces: “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” “Chicago” “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO CHICAGO FOR?” “Just figured we’d catch the Cubbies ga–“ “SHOW ME YOUR TICKETS!!” “Uh, we don’t have any tickets yet. We were planning on getting them from scalpers.” “SCALPERS! HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR WALLET?” “I don’t know. I think around t–” “I DIDN’T ASK YOU HOW MUCH YOU HAVE APPROXIMATELY! I ASKED YOU HOW MUCH YOU HAVE. TAKE IT OUT AND COUNT IT.” With the shotgun poking into our ribs, we removed our wallets and began counting: Sean – “twenty, forty, sixty…two-twenty.” Skeeter – “twenty, forty, sixty…two-forty.” Dunner – “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven…” And of course, I started dying laughing because Dunner had inadvertently become the poor bastard that he’d been pitying only minutes before. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LAUGHIN AT? WHAT’S FUNNY? I SAID, WHAT’S FUNNY?” “Nothing. Just the stack of one dollar bills he has…” Dunner – “…twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three –” “PUT THAT SHIT AWAY AND GET OUTTA HERE. I DON’T EVER WANNA SEE YOU AGAIN…” And with that gracious welcome, we pulled away from the border, the picture of our two neighbouring nations happily holding hands across the Bluewater Bridge disappearing into the rearview distance. And because we were on a road trip, it had to begin pissing rain in the tradition of an East Indian monsoon as soon as I got behind the wheel of Dunner’s Grand Am just after Flint. Only then did Dunner reveal to us that his car had had six break jobs done on it in the past two years. Only six, eh? He also told us that his buddies called him T-bone because he almost T-boned 17 cars on their trip to Montreal. Bring on the eighteen-wheelers. But aside from that, the drive was a breeze. Before we knew it, cruising down 69 just past Lansing, we saw a sign for a pretty little town by the name of Olivet. And who goes to school at Olivet? None other than Mr. Mike Dinner. “Pick ‘em up!” We pulled into the thriving town of Olivet and allotted ourselves one half-hour to find Dinner, considering we’d never been to his school and we didn’t have his number, and, oh yeah, we were already two hours behind schedule to pick up Ronnie. So we pulled up to the campus and asked the first person we saw: “Do you know a guy by the name of Mike Dinner? He’s a golfer? Canadian guy?”. The guy didn’t even hesitate for a second. “Yeah. All the Canadian golfers live over there”. And with that, we stumbled onto Dinner’s room. And of course he wasn’t there, but the one person who certainly was there was his next-door neighbour, and we know this only because he was happily filling the dormitory hallways with the unmistakable sounds of skin slapping and euphoric moaning. Sorry Dinner: if the note we left wasn’t as thorough as it could have been, it’s because we were highly distracted. After taping the note to the door and standing there in the hallway listening for a few extra minutes, we all went back to the car and snapped off a load, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that the sweet sounds coming from that room stayed with me the entire weekend. Then it was back out into the rain, and we soon learned on the radio that Friday’s Cubs game had been rained out. Which wasn’t supposed to happen. We thought it would be tough to get tickets as things were before, but it seemed now that it would be damn near impossible, considering there would now be twice as many people vying for those same seats. Can you say, seller’s market? This truly was the worst case scenario, but we figured that if we couldn’t get tickets to the game, we’d just spend the allotted money on booze instead. A call from Ronnie let us know that his flight was delayed, which really only meant that his time waiting for us at the airport would be delayed because we were nowhere near where we needed to be. The traffic jam in Gary, Indiana didn’t help matters, but before you could say “Mum’s a Hun, Mum’s a Hun, Gooch”, there we were at Chicago Midway, hugging Ronnie at the arrivals terminal and dragging his luggage and his brand new Astros shirt to the trunk of the car. We pulled up to The Fairmont Chicago and opted out of the $34/night valet parking in favour of the old fashioned $12/night do-it-yourself job, and then walked into the classiest hotel this hillbilly has ever stepped foot into. I stated that this place seemed a little beyond our means, but then Skeeter quickly reminded me that nothing was beyond his means, and the fact that we were tossing the football around in the crystal-laden lobby and carrying a case of duty- free Coors Light cans which had already been dropped and scattered along the street, suggested that what Skeeter was saying was the truth. There really was nothing that could ever be too good for us. And when we ordered Dominos pizza to our room because we didn’t want to spend any real money on food and because we needed more time to drink before going out to the bars, it simply drove his point home further. After drinking a considerable amount of beer and scotch in the room, we got into the cab, road-rockets in hand, and asked the cabby to take us to where all the Russian people lived because we were unable to grasp the concept of the following streets intersecting: Rush and Division. We were now headed for what would affectionately become known as the Russian Division. We asked our extremely African-American cabby what he thought we might pay for tickets to the game the following day, and he said, because it’s a double header, probably $250. “Two hundred and fifty dollars?!? You gotta be fuckin kidding me!!” “You tellin me mahn. I lick yo booty hole fah two hundred fiddy dollas.” Absolutely classic. I told him that if I had a camera and a spare quarter-thou, he’d be on. Our anally-fixated cabby (Richie?) dropped us off in front of Bar Chicago where there were about two hundred hot chicks lined up outside, so obviously the first thing we did was run into an alley and stand behind a port-o-john so we could pound back another few beers. Like Skeeter said, nothing is too good for us. We then wandered into two extremely shitty bars and learned that if the guy outside the door is saying, “come on in guys – no cover, free shots”, chances are, the bar is going to suck big sweaty nuts. We eventually sucked it up and dropped the six bucks to get into Bar Chicago, where we immediately got shot down by a group of hideous looking thirty year-olds. Were we really that bad? I mean, didn’t these people know that we were staying at the fucking Fairmont? But not to worry, because it wasn’t long before we were putting on a drunken dancing clinic, with Ronnie pouncing on everything before Dunner could even get a word out, and some dude teaching me how to properly do the lawnmower. It was getting to be last call, and all seemed lost, when all of a sudden I glanced over and saw Skeeter standing in the corner talking to a girl who was neither fat nor ugly. Could it be? Could Skeeter have actually picked on a road trip? And a non-warpig no less? It wasn’t long before the four of us, along with Skeeter’s new baby and her less-than-attractive friend, were piled into a cab and headed for Chicago’s most famous Blues Bar, The Kingston Mines. The doorman knew that we were already retarded but he let us in for five bucks anyways and gave us each a free drink ticket because he could just tell that we’d soon be out on the dance floor shakin our boogie to the sounds of Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues. Skeeter was obviously tearing it up out there, the first man in the history of the Chicago Blues scene to blend this deeply spiritual southern music with a taste of traditional Ukrainian dancing. But the highlight of the night came in the form of a John Candy lookalike; this dude was unquestionably the biggest slob I’d ever seen, his massive gut hanging from the bottom of his unbuttoned Cubs jersey, but he could tickle the ivories like no other, and the way the cigarette dangled motionlessly from his mouth as he felt the music and grooved on the piano, you’d swear that his name was Del Griffith and that he was playing along to Ray Charles’ “Mess Around” on the dashboard of a rental car. He turned out to be Frank Pelligrino, and when Ronnie and I went up to him after the set and told him that the way he played with his cigarette made him look just like John Candy in “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, he looked at us with complete seriousness and said: “Where do you think he got that from?” Too cool. The rest of the night after that is a bit of a blur, but I do remember Dunner and Ronnie ordering one last round thirty seconds before we had to leave the bar, so the four of us spent the waning moments of the evening huddled in the T-shirt alcove, avoiding the bouncers and trying to choke back the last of our Rolling Rocks. I’m not sure where Skeeter’s baby was at this point, but there’s no doubt that she was dreaming of a big friendly elephant named Dumbo. Then we got in the cab and Ronnie demanded that the cabby take us to the pussy, which he didn’t, opting instead to drop us off at the hotel where we piled into the elevator and pushed every button between the lobby and our 24th floor, and then began wrestling like the eleven year olds we are, fleeing from the elevator like little girls at the sound of the elevator speaker voice which asked us whether or not everything was alright. When we stumbled into the room, Ronnie decided that the way to pick up the non-existent chicks in our hotel room would be by showing everyone his new touchdown celebration, as he spiked our free two-litre bottle of Coke on the floor like a young Sam Adams in the endzone. When the bottle exploded and the carpet instantly changed from an immaculate snowy white to a sticky, syrupy brown, Ronnie simply said: “that wasn’t supposed to happen”. Three soaking towels later, the carpet was back to its original pearly hue, and we were spared the inconvenience of having to explain to Natey why he’d have to begin looking for a new job. We then cracked another round of beers, called my Unkle Mike because it was only 4:30am, and then passed out in a variety of positions, the most intriguing being that of Skeeter in the upright reading chair. We all awoke still drunk from our unconscious comas to Dunner exclaiming, “Holy fuck! It’s 11:16!” First pitch was in less than an hour, which meant that it was clearly time to start givin’er. Quick team shower, and then off to the red line train to Wrigley, with a stop for some legalized speed at Starbucks. It wasn’t until I got on the train that I had time to realize that I was in a world of hurt, and that the only way to get over this pounding hangover would be by getting right back into it. Of course, Ronnie was wearing his Astros shirt, so we were pretty sure that we’d be getting into a brawl later on, but we were all friends and we all came together, and hell, he’s family; so after much discussion we made a pact and agreed that no matter what happened, we wouldn’t kick the brash and cantankerous Texan while he was down. When we got off the train, Wrigleyville was absolutely jumping. I looked for our Cabby from the night before because I was in the mood for a booty-hole lickin’, but he was nowhere to be found, so instead we just ended up getting the best seats in the world to the most highly anticipated double header in the history of the North Side of Chicago. Could life be any better? I highly doubt it. We grabbed some burgers from McDonalds because we knew we’d be drinking our faces off inside, rationalizing that it might be an idea to have at least some food in your gut before embarking on a sixteen hour drinking marathon. And then it was Wrigley. In his tour of all thirty major league ballparks, ESPN’s Jim Caple wrote: “If you were to take foreign visitors anywhere in the United States for the very best experience this country can provide, where would it be? I’ve thought about this question many times and I know exactly where I would take them. To three places that are quintessentially American: Disneyland, the Yosemite Valley, and Wrigley Field.” He later retraces this statement somewhat by declaring: “On second thought, this place is better than Disneyland or Yosemite. Babe Ruth never played in Disneyland and he never hit one out of Yosemite Park.” Wrigley Field. You have to sit in the bleachers on a September afternoon to have any idea what he’s talking about. We climbed up to the bleachers in the fourth inning with the Cubbies already ahead 2-1, and the Astros already choking worse than the ’87 Jays, so things were getting better by the second. Seeing as Wrigley’s bleachers are general admission and we were already late, we decided to cozy up to a group of about 15 guys who just happened to have been drinking since 8 that morning because it was the bachelor party for one of the excessively drunken dudes. As soon as the lads heard we were from Canada, they threw us right into the mix and introduced us to the four girls “we brought along because they aren’t our girlfriends and because they like to have a good time, wink wink”. And then the double fisting commenced, and by the time the seventh inning stretch of the first game came around, we were already feeling better than the night before. And then four other hot chicks, these ones sitting in front of us, began hitting on us because yes, we are that fuckin money, and yes, chicks can sense that sort of thing. Halfway through the eighth inning, the old dude inside the manually operated scoreboard propped up the Houston final, and Wrigley absolutely exploded because now there was a chance that the Cubbies, yes, those Cubbies, could clinch the division today, at home, for the first time since 1938. You gotta be fuckin kiddin me. The first game ended and the Cubs won 4-2 and the partying began, and those who were double fisting began triple fisting, and the guy sitting beside me handed us his business card because he works for the Packers and he loves Canadians and we were getting absolutely annihilated together and he told us, “any time you guys wanna come to Lambeau, it’s done.” What a legend. And then we bought each other beers and then those girls who like to have a good time began having a good time, because they just randomly began giving everybody lap dances, yes, that’s right, lap dances in the bleachers of Wrigley, because it was just that kind of a beautiful, perfect day. And then the cubbies came out for game 2 in their dark blues, and in the bottom of the first Sammy absolutely crushed one 440 feet that landed about three rows from us, and I jumped up so fast that I knocked Ronnie’s elbow which was attached to his arm which was attached to his hand which was holding his brand new 16oz. beer, which just happened to pour all over the one of the lovely young girls standing in front of us, and even though it was completely my fault because I was and am an excitable drunk, we blamed it all on her and she believed us because she was drunk and yes, we are that fuckin money. And then in the bottom of the second the boys scored five more and the romp was on, and for the next five innings nobody even paid any attention to the game because it was already in the bag and the Cubbies were going to win the NL Central on this very day with us sitting in the bleachers, and everybody was partying in a way that can’t be described, except by saying that the friendly confines of Wrigley were never as friendly as they were on that day, and I remember Skeeter yelling over to me, “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS IS ONLY THE THIRD INNING? FUCK ME!” It’s hard enough to drink all the way through one entire baseball game; but two? I remember later that night the guy on Sportcenter rhetorically asking, “hey, you think anyone was over-served at Wrigley today?” Well, apparently Rob the drunk guy from the bachelor party was over-served on this day, because in a move that can only be compared to Skeeter’s phantom shoving and subsequent fall at the Brunswick House on the night of the famous cheesewagon fiasco, this dude, standing one row behind us, simply lost complete control of all motor functions and began tumbling, sprawled lengthwise, taking out four people per row, not just down into our row, but down to the row below us! Laying there on the wet concrete at the feet of our four beautiful, beer-soaked babies, the look in his eyes was one of complete bewilderment and stunned confusion, like he had no idea how the hell he’d come to end up laying in a puddle of beer two rows below where he’d been standing the last time he checked. After laughing for way too long, somebody went to help him up, and asked him if he was alright. Rob could do nothing but shake his head and candidly mutter, “no…” The next thing we knew, it was the seventh inning, and myself, Ronnie, Skeeter, and Dunner spontaneously stood and began singing “O Canada” because we were drunk and because we love our country. When we were done, we obviously received a standing ovation because we were the life of the party. After the seventh inning stretch, the four beautiful babies ripped Ronnie’s Astros shirt off him and tore it to shreds because the Astros were no longer a part of this baseball season. And then Kenny Lofton made the most ridiculous Willie Mays catch right in front of us, And then Moises Alou hit a moonshot out onto Waveland Avenue, and then the Cubs turned a double play to end the game and clinch the pennant, and then Wrigley erupted and the people wept and the celebration continued forever with Springsteen’s “Glory Days” blaring throughout the stadium, and the setting sun peeked through the clouds for just a moment as if to say, ‘yes, this is the best day of your life’, and again, we found ourselves asking, “how the hell did we get here?” It was simply too perfect. And my head still hurt as we danced through the streets and bought T-shirts that said “Right Field Bleachers: Shut up and drink your beer”. Then we got on the train and headed back downtown, stopping off at Lou Malnati’s for what most surveys describe as the best deep dish pizza on this continent, but unfortunately Dunner was unable to enjoy it because he was out of cigarettes and absolutely refused to smoke “that American shit”. I’ve never seen a man so grumpy in my life, but as soon as we got back to the hotel he sat by the window of our non-smoking room and sucked back three darts in succession and everything was happy again in the eight-cups-of-coffee-and-a-pack- and-a-half-a-day world of addiction. Already drunk beyond belief, we weren’t exactly as gung ho to go out as we were the previous night, illustrated by the fact that when I went to crack one of the last two beers for all of us to share before going out, Skeeter asked with dead seriousness, “Sean, what are you, crazy?” But of course, Skeeter had to be on his best behaviour because he was meeting up with his new baby who at that very moment was sitting at a table at Chicago B.L.U.E.S., as were my Unkle Mike and Aunt Vicki, waiting for the four of us who inadvertently decided to make a fashionably late appearance. We got to B.L.U.E.S., a tiny little club on N. Halstead, and met up with my Aunt and Unkle and their two friends, and the four of them were already well on their way. Astoundingly, Skeeter’s baby was also in attendance, and not only that, but she had brought along three friends to share this momentous occasion: the same less-than-attractive one from the night before, along with a couple of solid 7’s. Nicely done. Seeing as this girl dragged her three friends along to pay a $10 cover in a bar they’d never been to, we pretty much figured that this one was along the same lines as the Cubbies playoff birth: a done deal. The band onstage was John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band, and John Primer, having played for years with Muddy Waters, absolutely blew everybody away. He played “Long Distance Call” for Ronnie and “Stagger Lee” for everybody else, and then did a ridiculous version of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” for Blues legend Sammy Fender, because it was his “bornin’ day”, and because he just happened to be sitting two tables away from us. Skeeter left early from the bar, but the way his baby was lookin’ that night, who could really blame him. After last call, we crossed the street to hit up Kingston Mines again because their last call isn’t until 5am on Saturday night, which makes perfect sense to me. Three quarters of the B.L.U.E.S. crowd came across with us, and the same John Candy lookalike was there again, and as soon as he saw us he proclaimed, “see, I knew you guys would be back”. Just can’t get enough of the “Mess Around”. For his birthday, Sammy Fender got up on the stage with Billy Branch and did some crazy soul-blues tune that I’d never heard before, and in his sequined American Flag sparkle vest, he had the entire bar groovin. Unkle Mike and Aunt Vicki left before us because they’d been given’er since 8am, whereas us part-timers had only been going since noon. We stuck around to see the beginning of the set by Kid Dynamite, a black midget bluesman, but when Ronnie tipped his bottle and held it upside down, just watching the beer pour all over the table, myself and Dunner decided that it might be time to go. We got in the cab with a driver who feared for his life and who, aside from being a Pakistani cab driver, was also amazingly both the mayor and the police commissioner of Chicago, and with Ronnie sitting shotgun telling this poor man that “hey man, your people, you Pakistanis, you guys are good people, and you’re alright with me, man”, we were again taken home before the services of any ladies could be acquired. Needless to say, sleep came quickly and contentedly on this night. Skeeter walked in the next morning a brand new man, and I won’t even begin to tell you what he said to Foley on the phone shortly thereafter, except that it had something to do with some guy named Richard and a cat. But of course we couldn’t have been happier for him, seeing as in Oakville on some nights it seems as though he couldn’t get laid in a Guatemalan whorehouse. So it looks like he’ll be headed back to the Windy City in the not too distant future, and I for one will be willing to come along for the ride. Unkle Mike and Aunt Vicki, it was awesome meeting up with you guys, and that night at B.L.U.E.S. is one we surely won’t forget any time soon. Dunner, even though we didn’t get arrested this time, I think it’s safe to say that this trip was one for the books. Thanks for not killing us with your patented T-bone, and I wouldn’t worry because I’m sure that that little gastrointestinal problem you were experiencing can be cured by your family physician. Ronnie, what can I say. The commitment to having a good time was just raised to a new level. Thanks for flying in because you truly did make the weekend. And we needed it just as much as you did. As for me, whenever we take a road trip, Ronnie says that everybody needs to get laid except for Sean, because if he goes to a cool bar, that’s the equivalent to him getting laid. Well, let’s just say that this weekend was the equivalent to me participating in a thousand-woman orgy with a whole cow’s worth of steaks sizzling over the backyard fire-pit and the entire Springsteen discography blasting from the hi-fi. Simply put, it was legendary.