Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brandon and Matt Visit Chicago

There are many types of ships. There are wooden ships, plastic ships, and metal ships. But the best and most important types of ships are friendships.

~ Old Irish Quote

Earlier this week I was telling a friend how lucky we were to have such a pleasant, mild summer with very little rain. Afterward, I forgot to knock on wood. It began raining Friday evening. That’s when I reunited with one of my closest college friends, Matt. The rain didn’t let up, but neither did the drinks. It felt like we were back in Chapel Hill. The next day another close friend, Brandon, arrived in Chicago. Brandon and Matt grew up together in North Carolina, and were roommates at UNC. I met them in the fall of 2002; I believe on Halloween. They were dressed up as females. As a college freshman I had dressed up as Britney Spears in her school-girl outfit…. we at least had that much in common.

Though nothing seems to change when we’re together, it has been a while since we graduated in May 2004. Since then Brandon became a police officer, got married, and bought a house. Matt bought a house as well after he quit teaching and began selling boats. And I think I’ve finally mastered the art of opening doors and carrying luggage for hotel guests.

They both flew in from North Carolina before the cold Chicago weather. They stayed at the hotel where I work. Thankfully, I had three straight days off. Of course we went out Saturday night and reverted back to our college years. However, our bodies don’t seem to recover like they used to. It’s human nature to push oneself well beyond reasonable limits, especially among close friends.

Though it rained we managed to see the sights and do some serious eating at Gino’s East and Zed 451. At the latter, a fancy Brazilian, all-you-can-eat steakhouse, we enjoyed the dozen or so meats and fishes brought to our table after feasting on a salad bar filled with things I couldn’t name. We left with full bellies and empty wallets.

Today, we ate less and did more. At the Museum of Science and Industry -- in the Hyde Park neighborhood next to Lake Michigan -- we went inside the only German submarine in the United States, the U-505 from WWII. Each time I see this massive submarine I am amazed at how they hauled it ashore and then built the museum walls around it. Apparently two of its crew members have visited it. Talk about a flashback. We also were able to take an elevator shaft deep into a recreated coal mine where we road on a miniature train and saw how the miners survived. Living in Chicago you don’t usually think about all the coal mines in southern Illinois. Nor do you think about the Grand Canyon, which we saw on the domed OmniMax screen. Although I’ve been to it many times, the Museum of Science and Industry seems interesting every time I go. And it’s fun! Brandon got a kick out of watching Matt rush me over to take a photo of him sticking his head through an empty, wooden space of an astronaut caricature. It was only humorous because Matt had ignored the nearby Apollo 8 capsule that had first orbited the moon. The museum is not only the largest in Chicago, it’s free on weekdays, boasting a 3,500 square foot model railroad. It reminded me of the train set my dad had kept since his childhood. We then visited the Shedd Aquarium and the John Hancock Tower, where there is a lounge at the 95th floor to eat and drink.

Having my close friends visit, I spent time really enjoying the city. And though the Chicago weather wasn’t the greatest, Brandon and Matt are a reminder that it isn’t always where you are but who you’re with that makes it fun.


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