Monthly Archives: September 2012

Chicago: 90 Miles Cuban Cafe

90 Miles Cuban Café

It’s a beautiful Saturday in September, and spouse and I are meeting our two older sons in Chicago to have dinner out together. Unexpectedly we are also to meet the “new girlfriend.”

The new girlfriend is a key part of the experience of having three grown sons. They have introduced us to a small succession of girlfriends over a period of time that now stretches to fifteen years. The first girlfriend (in high school) proved to be an asset due to the fact that she actually knew our oldest son’s athletic schedule and was willing to communicate it to his parents. She was a nice girl, enthusiastic and bright. And she was his age, a freshman. However by the spring of that year there was a new, new girlfriend, and she was a senior. She drove a convertible. I don’t recall ever meeting her, but I do remember seeing her car pull up in front of our house to let him out after a ride home.

We are encountering traffic on the expressway into the city, but eventually we see Buckingham Fountain. This signals a left-hand turn, followed by a right, followed by another left until we are on Lakeshore Drive, Rt. 41 heading north.

The seemingly-most-serious girlfriend experience began when our oldest was a senior, and she a junior. They were teammates on the school cross-country running team, a team that was successful enough to earn a berth in the state tournament that Fall. Soon after the season concluded they were an item, and their relationship blossomed, eventually lasting for more than three years as they went to separate universities together. She was a bright and pretty girl who nevertheless remained stoically incommunicative to his parents, even when on trips together. She came from the sort of family in which a boy from the wrong church, or no church, was never accorded the same status as a boy from the right church. His family was particularly suspect.

The traffic heading north is heavy, but the scenery spectacular. It’s early evening of a day on which the lake surface was roiled by deep green surf, strong enough to cancel out the weekend’s main beach event, Flugtag, the launching of inanimate objects out across the water of Lake Michigan from a 30-foot-high platform. The purpose of these launches was never made perfectly clear, but it had something to do with drinking. While driving, we had already contacted middle son twice in an effort to make a decision on what restaurant we would be heading toward, me being reluctant to drive all the way to the far north side only to meet and then turn around and drive to the far southside. With no restaurant destination we continue heading north to his apartment, just three blocks off Rt. 41 where it turns briefly west onto Foster Ave., well north of Wrigley Field.

We call again and make final plans for the actual rendezvous: pull up curbside and they will all meet us at the car, two sons and one girlfriend. We know little about her. She’s near his age, a teacher, has a dog recently adopted, was willing to go canoeing in the Boundary Waters for a week, and enjoyed it. The meeting of the new girlfriend is a thrilling and strange experience, especially for my wife who harbors a few opinions about the type of relationship that would be best for our sons. She is looking forward to grandchildren someday. We both know that random girlfriend meetings, though common and inconsequential in themselves, are bound to include, as a matter of biological near-necessity, at least once and perhaps several times, a first meeting with the eventual mother of your grandchild. During college years these prospects seem far-off and somewhat shadowy, but as their thirties loom into view distinctly more noteworthy. Perhaps.

Perhaps, because let’s face it, who knows? Who knows anything, about who is compatible with whom, and who is ready for a big step, and what are the chances, anyway?

She is walking along the sidewalk between our two sons, dressed in a skirt and loose top. She has blond hair, not long, parted somewhere near the middle, and wears glasses with fashionable black frames. She is not tall, but perhaps tallish, and our son is introducing us. I offer a handshake, my spouse a hug. Everyone smiles and chats all at once. The car is at the curb with hazard blinkers going, but there’s no real hurry. We will all be a little squished, and no one is in a big hurry to begin the squish any sooner than necessary.

We are in the car, middle son giving directions turn-by-turn without telling us where we are going to eat, but it takes only fifteen minutes, and we’re there. It is on Armitage in Logan Square neighborhood, called 90 Miles Cuban Café.

I am a fan of Cuban cafes.

Unexpectedly, the place turns out to be BYOB, so middle son and I walk two blocks to a Walgreen’s to buy beer and wine for our table, and on the way I hear his story of one of his latest city adventures, an ill-advised encounter trying to persuade a carful of girls to park just a little bit further ahead than they had in mind. This was a few nights ago, and I know from the tone of this story that everything turns out well enough in the end, but I also know from the blow-by-blow nature of the sequence of events that things weren’t necessarily going as planned. Yes, the police were called. He wasn’t worried, because unless someone is bleeding CPD are not apt to respond in an emergency-like fashion.

We are selecting a six-pack of Goose Island 312 and a bottle of six-dollar wine. The line is long at the single register. He decided it would be best to vacate the parking spot before the police eventually arrived, and then, and this was the point of the story, how strange and fortuitous it really is to live in the city and have adventures like this, then the girls from the parking incident, it turned out, showed up at the same concert event where he was meeting his friend. There they were, standing in line to get in. And there was their LandRover being valet-parked, because, they must have concluded it wouldn’t necessarily be smart to leave the vehicle parked where it could be keyed or vandalized by some type of crazed parking-nut in the city. All he’d wanted them to do was scoot the vehicle forward three more feet so he could park behind.

We return to the Cuban Café and make our way to the table. It is a table for four, and we are five, but it’s just fine, crowded and busy in just that “Hey-you’re-in-the-city” way, at a popular place that has outdoor tables on a beautiful, warm night when everyone who lives in Chicago is glad they made that decision. You’re at your table with your spouse, and two of your three sons, and this blond girl who you really just met. But who may be the mother of your grandchildren.

Because as conversation goes on, and appetizers are shared, and wine is opened, and beers are offered, it becomes more and more obvious that it is a very fine night in the city.


Get romantic, man

Kelly Thore at Cosmopolitan thinks guys enjoy romance too. But her hints for their dates/wives/fiances/female companions to try out? Well . . .

here is her list:

1. Play Wii ?          OK, if you NEVER play Wii, and then ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU GRAB THE CONTROLS? He’s going to give you that look that says **WhatAreYouDoin??** (Suggestion: first, take off your clothes, then GRAB THE CONTROLS and say, . . . wait, doesn’t really matter what you say)

2. Do the dishes ?          Not THAT romantic, but . . . While you’re at it, get out the ladder and get the windows too, will you? Those can be a pain.

3. Grab the check ?          OK. Picking up a check is not romantic. If picking up a check were romantic, guys would be having sex a lot. Even with their relatives. Better approach: first, you surreptitiously pay the check, BUT, you don’t tell him that you paid it. Eventually, he’s going to try to pay it, but then YOU say: “It’s already paid.” Him: “You paid the check? When?” You: “It wasn’t me. It was that guy over there! (**pointing at a random guy**) And you know what he said? He wants to watch.” Fun variation: pointing out a random woman

4. Treat ?          Brownies? AweSOME! Romantic? Not so much. Try this: Make the brownies, BUT, in the brownie mix (important: do this before you bake the brownie mix) you hide miniature things that if he finds them you’re willing to go for it: try handcuffs, for instance.

5. Foot rub ?          Yeah, OK, we get the rubbing part. Ummm,  . . .this is going to be a little delicate . . . try rubbing other things.

6. Shower steam “Bye babe?”          Personally, I’m not a shower-steam kind of guy, and I actually ventilate the bathroom during my shower so I can SEE MYSELF WHEN I SHAVE. But I see where you’re going with this one, so try a subtle improvement: don’t write anything on the mirror, but instead write it on the shower wall. Inside the shower. While he’s watching you write it. Just don’t use up all the shaving cream, OK?

7. Touching in public ?          This is actually a pretty good one, and it can be easily improved by varying what you wear. Or don’t wear. A suggestion: wear less and less the longer you’re touching.

8. Photo in suitcase ?          OK, let’s get this straight. He’s traveling without you. For the weekend, right? And, so . . . you’re  figuring, he’s probably going to need a reminder to think about you. Try this: blow-up doll with your face on it, with an auto-inflate feature that’s triggered by the suitcase zipper. However: keep your fingers crossed that the TSA guys at the airport don’t pull the random check.

9. Tickets to a concert ?          Romantic means different things to different people, apparently, because the concert tickets are a great idea, but to make it romantic you’re going to have to take it to another level: say you stop at one of “those” stores on the way to the concert, and then you tell him that you’re willing to buy anything he picks out and furthermore either WEAR it or USE it (as appropriate) actually DURING the concert.

10. No cell ?          Yeah. Ummm, like he’s going to notice. Here’s the scenario I’m picturing on this one: After 45 minutes with your mobile still in your bag, you go: “OK. I was wondering how long it was going to take for you to notice! I guess it’s for-EVER?” Him: “What?” You: “I left my cell in my bag! To be romantic! But you couldn’t figure that out!” Him: “I’m sorry. You’re right, this IS romantic!”

11. Deep kiss ?          At first I misread this, and I thought it said “Deep Dish.” Like with mushrooms and peppers. But “Deep Kiss,” that’s pretty good, too. Subtle improvement: more than one. (OK, wait, I just noticed this. If you go to Kelly’s Cosmo article you can actually click on the words Deep Kiss, and guess what? It takes you to an ad for UGG boots, but then if you stick with it, it takes you to kissing advice. Suggestion: do NOT print out the Deep Kiss advice to reference during the actual date.)

12. Sushi class ?          Sushi. Romantic. Wait a minute: sushi . . .romantic . . .sushi . . .romantic . . . Yeah, I’m just not getting this one. I’ll grant you that ordinarily dead fish are pretty romantic, just not when you have to eat them raw.

13. Handwritten note ?          OK, this is another one that is WAY more romantic if it’s illustrated. If you’re not good at drawing you can download something creative. (Just don’t use the UGG boots ad.)

14. Hang with the guy friends ?          Yes, this has romantic written all over it. You: “I was just thinking, . . we could hang with some of your guy friends this weekend!” Him: **Blank Look!** You: “You know, your ‘bros’, your ‘posse,’ your ‘insignificant others!” Him: “You want to hang with my guy friends.” You: “Sure! I’m thinking it’ll seem, you know, ROMANTIC.” Him: **Blank Look!**

15. Fake like you’re into it ?          Yeahhhh . . . not so romantic. Unless you’re ready to take it to the Meg Ryan level, he’s going to see through this within ten minutes. (By the way, Kelly, guys will NOT take thirty minutes to buy a basketball. They’ll know which one they want when they walk into the store, and the store either has it or it doesn’t. Sunglasses, now . . . those can be tricky.)

16. Dancing at a bar ?          These are the list of things that GUYS find romantic, right? Cuz I’m thinking you got this mixed up with that other list. Maybe, you dropped them while on the dance floor and then they got mixed up or something?

17. Curve-hugging dress ?          I see this one working out. Still, this one’s from the other list too, isn’t it?

18. Work out together ?          This is actually a pretty cool one, IF (and that’s a capital “if” there, OK?) you actually like working out. Because if you hate working out and you’re there for 25 minutes, and he’s all warmed up, and you go, “Are you almost done?” I’m just saying . . .

19. FB photo to print out ?           Nope. Not romantic. Not on the guy list. Check your lists again, Kelly. I guarantee that if there is a good picture of you on your FaceBook page that he doesn’t already know about . . .he’s not that into you.

20. Sit next to him ?          Okayyy . . . this one’s actually not bad. Just don’t start explaining all about the oxytocin and everything. Don’t mention “hormone” either.

21. PDA ?          This is a little like Number 7 above, but let’s assume you’re doing way more than you’re comfortable with normally. And let’s further assume that you are approaching the level that he thinks should be “Normal—What’s the Big Deal—No I don’t think anyone is looking!” But (and this is a big but) if all you’re really doing is sending a message to other guys, he’ll probably pick up on that. Not saying he’ll mind, I’m just saying, . .  What? No I did NOT just say you have a big butt!

22. The TV date ?          The weekly TV-date can be a good idea, but is only romantic if one of the following three scenarios occur on a regular basis: one, you’re alone together, your cell is turned off (no, not just “in your bag” like up there in Idea Number 10) and you’ve got those brownies made; two, you make a bet with him about what will happen during the show (yeah, that kind of bet); three, you’ve got a nice big screen plus, during the commercials, you don’t complain when he channel-surfs with the remote.

23. Roadtrip!  ?          Doesn’t say where you’re going. Kind of a big deal for a road trip. Especially if you want it to be romantic. Three random suggestions: a nature preserve or national park that has out-of-the-way places to get naked together; a fun city that has out-of-the-way places to get naked together; a beach that has out-of-the-way places to get naked together.

24. Compliments ?          Good idea, but keep in mind: romance-value will totally depend on what you’re complimenting.

Good: “I love your shoulders, and how strong they make you.”

Not-so-good: “I love how tall you are. Can you hand me that box from the top shelf?”

Good: “When we first met I couldn’t wait for you to call me.”

Not-so-good: “When we first met you called me super-fast.”

Good: “When we make love . . . I feel like I’m in heaven.”

Not-so-good: “When we make love . . . I really like your after-shave.”

25. Text him ?          Hmmm,  . . .  No, that’s all. Just . . . hmmmm.