I called Elyssa to see if she wanted to do something, since we were both bored, living in Chicago and desperately wanted to live it up. I heard about the German-American festival in Lincoln Square and was interested in boozing up the good Oktoberfest way, while Elyssa was interested in the free opera at Millenium Park. So we decided to make a whole day out of it.
I took the CTA to Lincoln Square, pacing up and down Lincoln Ave. as I helped navigate Elyssa to the right place. It wasn’t easy seeing how the driver, who I didn’t know, was from Kentucky and trying to navigate in Chicago. But all was well when I spotted the three walking down Lincoln to meet me.
I knew Elyssa since sophomore year of college. We’ve been good friends and had many lazy stories between each other in her piled dorm room over the years. When I found out she was going to be in Chicago volunteering for Amate House, I was excited to have a friend up here. With her was one of her roommates, Mary Ashley. I only met Mary Ashley (soon to be known as MAshley) once at the Amate House Little Village (LV as they called it) birthday-let’s-throw-a-party-and-play-beer-pong extravaganza. I didn’t know her well but as the day went on, we became good friends. Next to MAshley was her friend from home, Aaron. He was a tall, skinny guy who dressed very well and learned the streets of Chicago very quickly. And then there was me who was still warming up to the city that I lived in all my life. All four of us were looking for an adventure that day and we got more than we bargained for.
Being all poor post college grads who were either jobless, volunteering or working for Catholic schools, we all gaped the prices at the festival. It was either MAshley or Elyssa who said, “Hey! You can’t truly celebrate Oktoberfest without a stine.” And so it was. $11 or so later, we all had our hands on an extremely large and heavy plastic German-American festival stine filled with beer up to the brim. There had to be at least 5 pints in that stine; all we cared about was making the stine lighter. So drank and drank and continued to drink as we walked around Lincoln Square.
By the time we all finished our stine, all giddy and giggly (like it really mattered at an Oktoberfest celebration), we realized that we were all starving. Upon this realization, we also came to the conclusion that we drank on purely empty stomachs. We laughed and dutifully (or humorously, depending on who was watching us) sought for food.
We found this hole-in-the-wall Thai restuarant, where after some dilemma of how much longer can we go without food, that we sat down to ease our stomach pains. Upon ordering, we found out why it was a hole-in-the-wall. There were no bathrooms. After that stine, we all had to really pee. Our closest restroom was across the street at the McDonalds. So we took turns, two at a time, to run to McDonald’s to pee.
Elyssa & I went first. Now I’ve cross busy streets before during rush hour, but nothing came close to crossing a busy street while grossly intoxicated and desperately holding your bladder. I could only remember 2 things from those next few moments: 1. it was one of the best 45 seconds of my life and 2. how I got back to the Thai place, I had no idea. I doubt if Elyssa, MAshley or Aaron remembered either because next thing we knew, we were eating and laughing once again.
Sobering up (sadly), we swung by my place after eating so I could grab my school keys such that we could park at Quigley while we were at the opera. But that wasn’t the only detour, we decided that we should properly enjoy the opera. We stopped by a Dominick’s to grab some bread, cheese, smoked salamon (good call Aaron) and 2 bottles of wine.
As we drove into the courtyard of Quigley to park, Elyssa, MAshley and Aaron were in awe. It was their first time seeing the place that I called home for four years of high school. As much as they wanted to see and know more, there was no time; we were late for the opera. We booked down Michigan Ave, inconspeculously hiding the 2 bottles of wine, hoping that no cops or bums would see us. Upon reaching the Pritzker Pavilion, we joined the sea of people who were there, laying on the lawn, eating, drinking and enjoying the free opera.
It was cool night, the stars were out and here we were laying on the green looking up, listening to the beautiful sonnet, under the city glow of Chicago. Oh, and let’s not forget about the 2 bottles of wine. By the opera was over, it marked 12 hours since we started drinking. Not a single one of us thought we would be drinking this much or this long, but we all agreed that this was an amazing day.
Approaching the car after the opera, I could still see that everyone was pondering at the beauty that is of Quigley Seminary. “Do you guys want to go inside?” I asked. Let’s just say, our amazing day just continued on.
I became Mr. Tour Guide as we walked through the hallowed halls of Quigley. I told them facts and shared my stories when I was a student there. My favorite place, the one I’m most proud showing off was the chapel. As we walked into the dark chapel of St. James, only illuminated by the glow from the outside street lights onto the stained glassed windows, I couldn’t help but smile; they were in for a big surprise. I turned on the lights and their eyes just grew. I told them about the rose window and we snuck outside to the balcony just under it, looking onto Rush and Pearson. There, I snagged one of my favorite pictures of all time.
We then toured the faculty lounge. Alright, we rested in the faculty lounge, recalling our adventurous day and laughing even more. After about 15 minutes or so, I told them that there were still more to see. The patio with the magnificent view of the John Hancock brought ideas of future BBQs to our heads. But nothing beats the best adventure yet as we ventured to my office.
Memorial hall never cease to leave people wondering at the amount of history of Quigley. Walking through history, I decided to do something daring. “Follow me,” I said, as I walked outside and began to climb the rusty ladder at the end of Memorial Hall. One by one they followed, as I lead them to a secret place that very few people have ever dared to go. Using only our cell phones as flashlights, relying on my grey memory and forgetting our fear of heights, we started to climb to the top of the chapel spire. Scared as we were, we were all curious and continued our ascent.
Opening the trap door, I climbed on to the spire and breathe in the amazing view. Elyssa, MAshley and Aaron all did the same once they reached the summit. It was breathtaking. We were on top of the world. The view was unmatched by anything else I have ever seen. 10 stories up on a cool autumn night with 4 friends on top of the city of Chicago. Nothing could ever topped this.
We just sat there. Occasionally talking and laughing, but mostly taking in the view and recollecting the day’s events. No one expected that we would be taking on such an adventure, but here we are at the summit of it all; even if we’re relatively sober by now. We didn’t want it to end. It was prefect. For me, it was the first time since I moved into Chicago after college that I truly fell in love with the city and felt belonged. As for what was going through Elyssa’s, MAshley’s and Aaron’s mind, I don’t know, but it was a moment that we will always remember.
“So you guys want to see the pool?” I asked as we were ending our night. “Pool?” They all said. Oh man, does Quigley have surprises after surprises. As we walked into the oldest public pool in the State of Illinois, one thing ran in our minds. Let’s make the most out of this day. And so, we all jumped in, clothes and all.
It was the best day ever.