We were without phone service for five days. The company was AT&T. We called them on our cell phone from the parking lot at Al’s Market, a three-mile drive, but it was the only place where we could get reception. AT&T’s automated answering service machine asked for our billing number. Stupidly, we had forgotten to take our Indiana phone bill (which we receive in Los Angeles) with us. Adding to our foolishness, we had neglected to commit our AT&T billing number to memory. Unfortunately, without that billing number, the answering machine service said it couldn’t help us. After many calls back, we connected with a nicer machine, which permitted us to leave a message.
(It turns out that AT&T has no office in our vicinity, just a mobile repair service. Once, while we were making our desperate cell phone inquiries, I spotted an AT& T repair truck (or was it a mirage?) pulling out of Al’s Market’s parking lot. We decided not to chase after it, however, fearing we might end up in the next day’s newspaper’s crime report: “Out of state couple, arrested for speeding, claimed they were trying to catch up to a Phone Truck.” It would have fit right in with the garden hose thefts, and the 17 year-old runaway arrested in his home.
While still in L.A., Dr. M had signed up to attend a three-day psychoanalytic conference in Chicago, which, fortuitously, coincided with our vacation. Rather than drive, we parked our rental car at the depot, and took Amtrak in from Michigan City. The plan was for us to see a Cubs game together, then she’d stay on for the conference, and I’d take the train back alone.
Cubs fans from nearby small towns got on at every stop on the way to Chicago. Cubs fans are different. They treat regular season game like it’s a Football Homecoming. They adorn themselves in team colors. Women (mostly) sport dangly Cubs-logo earrings. The crazier ones apply Cubs-appropriate face paint. I even noticed an attractive Cubs tattoo, just above the butt…I mean, belt.
The most noteworthy thing, particularly to a Dodgers fan, is that Cubs fans stay for the whole game. Even when, as in the game we attended, the Cubs are massacring the Astros 12 to 0. The explanation for their remaining till the last out of that prodigious drubbing wafted down to our front-row seats.
“It doesn’t happen that much.”
My experience tells me that Cubs fans stay till the end even when they’re losing. And that happens a lot.
Amtrak returns me to the Michigan City depot on 11th Street. Okay. Regular readers know I’m not the most comfortable of drivers. All together now… I brake for shadows. Yes, I do. I also slow down to think. The Toyota Rav 4 has been left for me, so I can drive back to the cabin (and anywhere else I want to drive over the next three days.)
I made it back successfully to the cabin. Though I missed our street on the first try. It wasn’t entirely my fault. The Chickadee Trail street sign faces the other direction, and the neighboring streets look exactly alike – a paved road canopied by trees. I can’t tell one canopy from another.
Okay, so I’m now…Home Alone. (Clasp cheeks and scream.) The third Indiana State Prison escapee remains on the loose, and our phone still doesn’t work, in the off chance that I spot him and want to notify the authorities before he kills me. I’m not fan of the death penalty, but this does seem like a bit of a problem. An escaped convict serving “life without the possibility of parole” has little incentive to leave me alone.
But things pick up. A gentle evening breeze at dinnertime. I’m eating tasty leftovers on the porch, there’s a White Sox game on the radio, I’m smoking an excellent cigar, and a passing deer hunkers down on the lawn directly in front on me, and stays there. Snap this shot. And call it “Contentment.”
The next morning, I drive to Al’s Market, for newspapers, and the best coffee in the tri-state area. During the drive, I pass a prominent billboard, which for years offered quotations for the Bible but now advertises The Four Winds Casino – Biggest Progressive Jackpots. I momentarily ponder. Biggest Progressive Jackpots. Is that better than heaven?
After five days, the phone starts working. I guess to “mobile” guy got the message. My first call, after reporting the good news to Dr. M, is to order a pizza. Little Giant. Great crust. I’m in a tiny cabin in the forest. But somehow, they always manage to find me.
I’m reading a book, one of five I completed in two weeks. Other than the assigned readings for my extension classes, I find myself unable to read books at home. (More on that later.) My current book of choice is a novel by House star, Hugh Laurie, written in 1996, when he was only famous in England. Unfortunately, I donated the book to the Michigan City library, and I can’t remember what it’s called. The…something, if that’s any help. It’s pretty entertaining.
I hear a knock at the kitchen door. Remember, I’m alone, and there’s a killer out there. But do killer’s knock? They do if they’re pretending they’re not killers, but a lost passersby seeking directions, though their true intention is commit mayhem on a solitary Jew.
I head tentatively towards the kitchen. I look outside, and standing at the door…
is a really hot pizza delivery girl.
Holding an equally hot pizza.
Normally, Little Giant delivery guys look like third-string nose-tackles from the Michigan City High football team. This girl was…let me put it this way. If there were such as thing as a Miss not-a-lot-of-clothes-on Pizza Girl calendar, she could very easily be one of the months.
Fantasy is a wonderful thing. Harmless, but not without its rewards. The pizza cost thirteen-fifty. I handed her a twenty, and when she asked, “Do you want anything back?” I think I giggled. I’m not sure what she thought of me, other than I was a terrific tipper. There’s a thin line between “funny guy with a twinkle” and “annoying old man.” My fear is that I’m perilously close to that line. (My real fear is that I crossed that line a long time ago, and I’m the only one who doesn’t know it.)
Dr. M returns. That night, we drive to the movies. A depressed-looking deer passes precariously in front of our car. He seems almost suicidal, like he’s saying, “Hunting season’s soon. I’m a goner anyway.” It’s strange. The other deer we’ve spotted seem to be living more in the present.
We get to the movie theater early. There’s a large pond adjacent to the parking lot. We walk over, and for twenty minutes, we enjoy the antics of ducks, birds, fish and a beaver. This was our alternative to catching the movie’s “pre-show” and learning fun facts about Cameron Diaz. So we took it.
Driving to South Bend, to catch a Silver Hawks – Peoria Chiefs baseball game, we pass dozens of cornfields, and I notice something that, to me, seems very confusing. Growing right next to a crop where the corn stalks are, like, six feet high, is a crop where the stalks are considerably shorter, in some cases, barely one foot high. I wonder what’s going on – a big crop and little crop growing side by side. Is the “little crop” farmer worried about it, I wonder? Does he sneak out in the middle of the night, glare at his pygmy cornfield and yell, “Grow!”?
How is it possible that one crop could do so much better than a crop that’s directly next-door? Is it some kind of weather anomaly? “The rain stops at the fence. He gets it; I don’t.” That doesn’t happen, does it?
Maybe the loser farmer accidentally bought the wrong kind of seeds. Maybe his seeds are for those baby corns you sometimes find in salads. Whatever the explanation, it seems kind of humiliating. I can imagine the "tall corn" farmer driving by, offering a friendly (possibly condescending) wave, and the "little corn" farmer going all red. Of course, there’s always the possibility that I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Random Eatery Noticings
My dinner at Bob Evans came with biscuits. Accompanying the biscuits were two packets of “Fresh Buttery Taste Spread.” I have no idea what that is. So I left it alone.
This year, Redamaks, the enormously successful hamburger place that clearly states their hamburgers do not come with lettuce or tomato, offered a new item on its menu:
"Deep-fried thinly sliced breaded eggplant with melted Swiss cheese and marinara sauce on a baked French roll."
The item was listed under “Lite Dining Alternatives.” I guess that’s because the eggplant was “thinly sliced.”
I try not to eat sugar, but for nostalgia’s sake, and because it’s delicious, I order a “Kiddie Kone” of coconut almond fudge at a popular local ice cream emporium called Oink’s. I eat about half of it, and deposit my leftovers in a nearby trash bin. As I do so, I notice a bug-eyed female customer exploding in a look which can only be described as incredulous disgust. “You threw away ice cream!” Her reaction suggests she had never before witnessed such inexplicable behavior in her entire ice cream-eating life.
A printed sign posted on an antique store wall…
“This store is under video survalince.”
Who knows? Maybe it’s an antique spelling.
Front Page Story
A woman planted a potato plant, and it grew a tomato.
That one knocked health care right onto Page Six. (And shared the front page with the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.)
Next to last day…
Dr. M is back in Chicago, this time attending an Elementary School reunion. I decide to take one last walk, to say goodbye. Strolling along Michiana Drive, I spot a deer, standing confidently in the middle of the road. I hear a truck coming. I immediately point out the deer. As he passes, the driver barks an acknowledging, “Yup!” and slows his truck as he heads towards the deer. With time to spare, the deer scampers easily to safety in the nearby woods.
A moment as metaphor.
It was that kind of trip.
“What did he say?”
“I don’t have time.”
“He saw a lot of deer.”