Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Frostbite Avoided

Yesterday, Cheryl and I took the train into Chicago joined by a lot of people dressed in blue-and-white -- the 9:20 Express does indeed look like a good deal for attending a Noon ball game at Wrigley Field -- and made our way to the park.

We had a minor misadventure along the way: Cheryl's CTA transit pass (I bought a pair of 2-day passes) got stuck in the gate. Now when this happens at BART, the gate agent will open up the machine and pull out the card. But the agent at this station couldn't do that. After several attempts to extricate the card, the agent gave up, had Cheryl sign some forms, and gave her at $10 (five ride) CTA pass because she didn't have any 2-day unlimited passes. Apparently at some time in the future, CTA will mail us a replacement 2-day pass, which isn't very useful unless they send me out to Chicago again, but that's all they can do. And they let Cheryl into the system without charging for the first of those five rides, so we'll be okay.

Wrigley Field is definitely in a neighborhood, not isolated on a sea of asphalt in an area where nobody wants to live like Candlestick Point. It's a short two block walk from the CTA station to the park. A t-shirt vendor hawked his wares and bemoaned the Cubs' slow start: "$5 t-shirts! Half price t-shirts until the Cubs win a home game! $5 shirts! May be $10 after the game, but probably not!"

While we were approaching the ticket windows, a woman approached us and offered to sell us a pair of $22 lower terrace seats for the price of one (her daughter couldn't use them, apparently) and we took that offer. I'm glad we did, as the lower terrace seats were slightly more sheltered than the seats we probably would have bought, and that was important, considering the weather. We had a pretty good view overlooking third base.

Now, yesterday was not the best day to see a baseball game. It didn't rain, but it was cold and windy. I'm sure it's much nicer when the weather is warmer. The ivy on the walls is brown and dead-looking at this time of year. I certainly see what people say about the "intimacy" of the park. But still, for us the Frozen Friendly Confines during this day game approached the chill of an extra-innings night game at Candlestick Park with the wind blowing. We shivered in our seats and summoned the hot-chocolate vendor with great enthusiasm. I clapped my hands at any reasonable opportunity, not to cheer either team, but to try and restore feeling to my fingers. It's a good thing I didn't have a scheduled diabetes blood test that afternoon -- I don't think I would have been able to raise enough blood to trigger the meter.

The first few innings went very quickly, as if neither the players nor the umpires wanted to be out there, either. Then the Cubs, aided by terrible fielding by the Reds, broke the game open and eventually won 7-0.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, I proposed that we leave, despite it being the sort of thing a Dodgers fan would do, in order to get out on the subway -- which is running at reduced capacity due to construction -- before the worst of the crush. Cheryl agreed that the game was under control. I think I heard some catcalls about the "San Francisco fan" as we made our way to the exit.

I'm glad I made a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field, and I can see the attractive elements. If I'm in town again when the Giants are playing, I will definitely make an effort to attend. (It does make me wish my company would send me here in mid-July this year, although that's unlikely and would disrupt the rest of my life for other reasons.) But the park has relatively few amenities, not enough bathrooms, and not much variety in food as far as I can see. It's okay, but not exactly the place of perfection some seem to call it. Newer-built parks such as Emperor Norton Field in San Francisco have the benefit of learning from other older parks and incorporating design improvements. But I'm biased, of course.

After the game, Cheryl and I went and visited her friend and Locus reviewer Gary Wolfe in his Chicago near-lake-front apartment, where Gary's cat (one of the most talkative cats I've ever met) must have decided that I tasted like the bratwurst I ate around the 6th inning and tried to bite me. At Gary's suggestion, we went to the bar near the top of the Hancock Building, which gave us the benefit of the great view from one of the tallest buildings in the world for the cost of buying the overpriced drinks, which was still cheaper than paying for the top-floor observatory tickets. After a pleasant (and much warmer) afternoon, we had an early dinner at Le Colonial, a French-Vietnamese restaurant. (Going early was good; otherwise without a reservation on a Saturday night, there's no way we could have gotten in.)

Heading back to Gary's apartment, I checked the train schedule and discovered that the next train back to Aurora was at 8:30, and the next after that was not until 10:30. Minor panic ensued, but Gary saved the day by driving us back to Union Station, and we made the 8:30 train with time to spare. Then it was an uneventful ride back to Route 59 and drive back to the hotel.

Today, we're taking advantage of having unlimited-ride Metra weekend passes to head back into Chicago and probably see a few museums.

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