Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to Chicago for family, friends, fun, food and just a little frustration

We live in Charlotte, Ben lives in Chicago and Katie lives in Seattle ... so having a family reunion quite an undertaking.

Thankfully, we undertook it! We met in Chicago last week for several days of family, friends and fun.

On the way to Chicago, Roberta and I stopped in Lexington, Ky., to visit our first Chicago next-door neighbors, C.J. and Alan Hatter. Here I am with their grand-daughter, Jamaya:

Then, it was on to Chicagoland. We spent a couple of nights with Roberta's dad and also got to visit with some of our favorite people: Dave and Michelle Pangallo and Jim and Kristi Johnson.

Dave is my "little" from when I was in the Big Brothers program in college. He's now in his 40s, a high-school guidance counselor, married and has three kids. We remain very, very close; I see him at least as often as I see my "real" brothers, and I'm very proud of everything he's become.

Here is Katie with two of Dave's kids, Molly and Connor:

Of course, we couldn't leave Milwaukee without grabbing a butter pecan cone at the greatest gastronomic establishment in the world, Leon's Frozen Custard!

From there, we went back to the northern Chicago burbs and caught up with the Johnsons. Jim ran my softball team in Apple Valley, Minn.; he, Kristi and their kids now live in the far north Chicago burbs. Roberta and I laughed so much during our visit with them, our jaws actually hurt afterward.

Then it was on to Chicago. We stayed three nights at the Marriott downtown and reacquainted ourselves with the vitality of the city.

On the first night, Katie and Ben met us at Millennium Park, as did our former across-the-street neighbors, Darcia and Mike Brundidge (and son Troy, who is Ben's age). It was too much fun!

Not long after waking up the following morning, Katie called with some bad news: Some clown smashed in the back windshield of our car. (It was parked near her friend's apartment.) Nothing was stolen, so we're not even sure why the perpetrator did it. What we are sure of: The new windshield cost us $323. Oh Chicago ... sometimes you make it so hard to love you!

After getting that squared away, the kids took us out to dinner at the delicious Wildfire downtown. Good thing they, unlike their dad, are gainfully employed! Afterward, we went to the dueling-piano bar Howl At The Moon, but it was howlingly cheesy and we didn't stay long. (Although, for the record, I was pushing for us to hang out awhile because the people-watching was hilarious.)

On our last full day in our former hometown, I went to lunch with my former AP co-worker, the recently retired Rick Gano. Roberta lunched with her former marathon partner, Laura Garza. And that night, we had dinner and gelato with our longtime Chicago friends, Linda and Gary Mark.

I know, I know ... it seems like all we ever did was eat! In our defense, we also drank!!

On Saturday, after saying goodbye to the kids, it was back to Charlotte. We arrived on July 28, less than one month away from our three-year anniversary as North Carolinians.

Jeesh! Has it really been that long since we called Chicago home?

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