Shootin' Buddy had a seminar to attend in Chicago, and asked if I'd like to come along and make a mini-vacation out of it. We'd stay with his friends in the city, he'd do his thing on Thursday, and then Friday we could take in a museum or something, maybe go out to eat, do some sightseeing, that sort of thing, and return to Indiana on Saturday.
I thought it sounded like a swell idea, and showed up at his crib on Wednesday evening. My turse thoroughly denuded of anything remotely weaponlike and carefully inspected for any stray magazines or speedloaders, my purse howitzer tucked away in Shootin' Buddy's safe, and my pockets emptied of everything but my Spyderco Dodo, with its Chicago-legal 2" blade, we hopped in the car and drove north.
The run into Chicago through Lake County, Indiana always reminds me of Frodo & Sam approaching the borders of Mordor: The vegetation gets blighted and unhealthy looking; there are murky pools and low-lying swamps that look like they could contain anything from tentacled horrors to Blinky the three-eyed fish; whole neighborhoods of rusting industry and boarded-up homes can be seen from the highway; and atop a giant black pinnacle on the horizon is the malevolent, unblinking red eye of Mayor Daley... Or maybe it's just the aircraft warning light atop the Sears Tower; it's hard to tell from a distance.
We arrived in Hyde Park a little early, having decided this time to get directions from our hostess rather than MapQuest, so we proceeded to kill a few minutes by picking up some necessities at the neighborhood Walgreen's. Standing in the checkout line my eyes wandered from the photo of a smiling Barry O., autographed for his local drug store manager, to the cigarettes that were proudly listed as On Sale! for something around eight bucks a pack. Did you know that when you suddenly blurt "Sweet zombie Jesus!" aloud in a checkout line, even Chicagoans will turn and look?
Next door was a Treasure Island, whose marquee proclaimed it to be "America's Most European Supermarket", as though that were a selling point; perhaps they were trying to make a virtue out of rude staff and VAT-like prices? Anyhow, after we went in, I couldn't even figure out what was supposed to be so European about it. It seemed like a pretty normal supermarket, about like a Kroger in a nice neighborhood, certainly not as pretentious as a Fresh Market or Whole Foods.
So there we were: Out of ammo, surrounded by hippies, and boots on the ground in the O-zone...