God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Notes from America – Pt 5: Wrigleyville

Posted by Martin on July 25, 2007

For the thousands of people who’ve been wondering what happened at the conclusion of my recent trip, here you go. You’re about to find out the ending. Get ready for the big finale. Block out your weekend to read it. Does Harry die? Does Jim? You’re about to find out..

UghWe’d stayed up a little late on Friday night. Perhaps we were afraid of the nightmares we’d have about the big scary mutant bugs, I don’t know. Anyway, we’d run into two people with very sad stories – sad for very different reasons. The first was a middle-aged lady youth worker from a different part of the country, who’d flown in to Chicago for the Willow Creek Arts Conference. She wanted to sit and talk to us in the bar, and she showed no signs of ever wanting to stop. Midway through the conversation, she spat out a fairly significant revelation about her activities the previous night which to her obviously didn’t seem that strange. Even more sadly, later in the evening we saw her getting ready to make exactly the same mistake again. Anyway, I’m aware that I’m not sinless enough to throw stones at her – Jim and I were simply saddened that this lady clearly did not receive enough love, support and attention in her life, and therefore had bought into a lie about the places we can otherwise get those things.

The second sad story belonged to a guy who had flown halfway across the country to compete in a World of Warcraft battle card tournament at the hotel. And sorry, but I’m allowed to throw stones at THAT. Jim and I wandered down to the ‘battle arena’ (a ballroom with lots of tables in it) later that weekend, and found around 100 grown men caught in some sort of teen-angst timewarp, wearing Megadeth t-shirts and making jokes about goblins. There were two women in there. One was dressed as a pixie and was almost certainly being paid to be there; the other looked like she was ready to throw her suddenly-much-less-attractive boyfriend into Lake Michigan.

That long, long story is my way of explaining that despite having SWEET tickets to the baseball game, Jim and I overslept. That’s not to say we missed the game – it just ensured that the morning was a little more madcap than we’d intended.

We travelled to central Chicago – which, it turns out, was not anywhere near the supposed ‘Chicago’ hotel we’d booked – by train, and bus. The train was very different to British trains – firstly of course it was on time, and secondly, it was shaped like a great big tin can. Inside, I felt exactly how I imagine a sardine might feel, although thankfully American trains are not filled with brine. On the train we coincidentally met a family who attend Willow Creek, although thinking about it, that was only like a 1 in 3 shot, considering how many people they get on a Sunday. Then we hit the bus – which was unremarkable except for the fact that the driver could not have been more of a sitcom stereotype if she’d changed her name to Chandler and asked ‘could this bus be any fuller?’ She was an extraordinarily shouty African Caribbean lady, with all the patience of a gnat with attention deficit disorder.

‘I’m sorry, do you have change of ten dollars?’ I asked in my autopilot Hugh Grant voice.

‘WHAT? CAN’T YOU READ THE SIGN? NO CHANGE! I CAN’T MAKE CHANGE! GET OFF MY BUS’ she replied, very moderately I thought.

‘Okay… does anyone else have change?’ I asked my fellow passengers. Someone did – but it was taking far too long for bus lady’s liking.

‘GET OFF MY BUS! IF YOU AIN’T GOT CHANGE, GET OFF MY BUS!’

Wrigley FieldSo she was lovely. Anyhow, a couple of kind-hearted Irish bloked sorted us out with change just before she went Vesuvial on us, and we were allowed to ride. We got to the stadium – the world famous Wrigley Field – literally five minutes before the start, and it was then that we realised how God was surely smiling on us. Chicago Cubs vs San Diego Padres – even that fixture seemed ordained. And with seats like these – right behind home plate – surely we were about to be treated to a festival of sport…

Baseball. Not a lot happens, does it? For three hours, pretty much nothing happens, truth be told. A guy throws a ball at another guy. The other guy swings and misses, swings and hits it backwards – which means pretty much nothing, or swings and hits, and then generally gets caught by some other guy. That’s it. Add to the fact that the game we saw ended 1-0 to the visiting team (pretty much the worst possible result in terms of sporting value), and on paper, it sounds like the worst day out since Legoland ran a ‘don’t touch the bricks’ day.

But in reality, it was fantastic! Not least because we witnessed a real rarity – a great big fat fight on the pitch! Now I’m as much of a pacifist as the next Republican, but this was too much fun to worry about morals. I’ve posted this video clip before, but to save you rooting around…

Wrigley field is as amazing a sporting stadium as you’ll find. Set literally in the heart of a residential area – a little like Arsenal’s old Highbury stadium in London – the low sides allow you to glimpse the bustling (and slightly 1930s-feel) Wrigleyville outside, and of course allows people in high enough buildings to peep in. After the game, we headed for those very buildings, to sample a little more of the local culture.

In the end, our social experience was saved not by our nationalities, but by our national game. We went for a drink in a very busy bar, which we were attracted to by the sight of plasma screens showing a (real) football match – the first we’d seen in America. To our amazement, even though the US national team was playing, there was barely anyone paying attention (to be fair, we’d wandered into a slightly wild place – there were a few crazy bachelorette parties around). But then, we noticed two guys transfixed by the screen. Next thing I know, Jim’s talking to one of them (he’s always chatting to guys in bars, that one), and the moment after that, we’re sitting with them. Bradley and Jimmy – for that was what they were named – were die-hard English football fans living in a country of ignorance. I mean they’re ignorant about football, obviously.

Bradley and Jimmy not only took us under their collective American-eagle wings – they also took it upon themselves to show us the very best of Chicago’s night life. Quite by accident, we’d found ourselves a tour guide. And we had a great night, which saw us weave through some of the coolest spots in the city – including a quite amazing 80s bar at which I befriended and then practically replaced the DJ. Dexy’s Midnight Runners, we salute you (guess you had to be there).

We’ll almost certainly never see those guys again. But one thing was interesting – the hospitality and friendship which they extended to us that evening was equal to anything I’ve ever received in my life. Good guys.

Ah. I’ve run out of time. I apologise – you still don’t get to find out if Jim survives. I shall attempt to rectify this as soon as possible. Bye for now.

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One Response to “Notes from America – Pt 5: Wrigleyville”

  1. roy said

    what an experience. The hospitality and friendship is something I treasure from my time in Michigan. For 6 months my friends catered for every need…..I will forever be indebted to them and 15 years later still value their friendship to me (and now the family!) God Bless America eh! (well as long as baseball does not reach our shores ;-))

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