Last Friday I turned 65 – in Chicago! So, when my wife asked me, “What do you want to do on your birthday, honey?” I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I said, “I want to go bar hopping.”
Our daughter met us in front of our hotel in downtown Chicago that evening and we started walking. She asked me, “Where are we going, Dad?” I said, “I’ll know when I see it.” She said, “Dad, It’s Friday night. You’re in Chicago. You don’t have a reservation?” She was not happy about my new-found exuberance. We walked down Ontario Street and then up State Street toward Rush. The streets were crowded and there were lines coming out of the restaurants and bars.
Because of my anxiety I never just go without a well thought out plan. I make reservations, check out reviews on Trip Advisor and make sure I’ve looked at every possible route to the restaurant on Google Maps. And because I am such an obsessive planner I’ll have to pass up a cool place because I’ve already made reservations at another. But not this time. As we walked along we came upon a place called the Devon. It was an oyster bar. The tables were all lit with candles and there were a few empty tables along the window. “This is it,” I said. When I walked up to the receptionist I told him, “Today is my birthday and I’d love to sit in the bar.” “No problem,” he said and he seated us right in the window I’d seen from the street.
A few minutes later our waitress came over – a young woman with two long braids who I immediately called, Heidi. I told her to bring me her most delicious beer but make it a surprise. My daughter was horrified – she’d never seen me like this before.
A few minutes later, Heidi brought me a beer, sat it in front of me with a flourish and waited. I tasted it. “This is delicious,” I said. “What’s it called?” “It’s called Vampire Dust,” she said.
I tried oysters on the half shell for the first time and loved them followed by a few lobster rolls. Then we headed out for another place and soon stumbled on the Bijon Bistro where I drank a beer called Daisy Cuttings and ate meatloaf – all unplanned – all surprising – all delicious.
Of course, at 65, bar hopping means going to two bars and having 2 beers but the joy of stumbling upon a bar that served oysters and a supper club that served meat loaf was full of wonder and made my birthday perfect.
I was so excited with how well the evening unfolded that I took a victory lap around the block just for fun. And I discovered that stepping out of my usual routine I stepped into a wonder full evening of joy.