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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Out on the town


     Since we were both on vacation, but hadn't gone anywhere, my wife and I thought it would be fun to drive somewhere a week ago Saturday, and she suggested a trip to River Grove  to go to Gene & Jude's for lunch. I had been there a couple of years ago, and she hadn't.  It would be our first visit to a restaurant since our anniversary at Gene & Georgetti Sept. 3. It seems we're working up a culinary "Gene" leitmotif. 
     Of course we wouldn't eat inside. We'd eat in the car.
     I briefly contemplated bringing ketchup—they don't serve ketchup; their fries are that good—but. had gotten by the first time without it and, frankly, it seemed a matter of respect. Bringing ketchup to Gene & Jude's would be like bringing bacon into a Kosher home where you're a house guest, to fill out breakfast. No.
     The line wasn't terrible, and everyone wore masks, and social distanced. Only 10 people at a time allowed inside. There was one twist—cash only—and before we left we searched around for folding money, which we hadn't had use for in months. I almost said I hadn't touched any in six months, but earlier I was shopping at Sunset Foods, and checked the receipt a pair of bags of Pete's Coffee that were supposedly on sale—sometimes they neglect to ring up the sales claimed on the shelves—saw they had charged me $10.99 a bag instead of the $8.99 a bad that had enticed me to stock up. I marched back and they gave me the four singles, and change, and I gratefully tucked them away thinking, "Next time I'm in the city I'll have money for beggars." The last couple times I was there, when the libraries were still open, it was frustrating not to have anything for mendicants, who are truly suffering in the depopulated downtown.
     So I paid for our hot dog, french fries, corn tamales and small Cokes, the unaccustomed cash transaction, and knew in my heart that money is going away. Currency, I mean. Five years from now spending money will be like hearing an actual violin being played—still possible, but something that just doesn't happen very often.
     I noticed that the trip contained a series of small mishaps—I was so busy talking I missed the turn off on 294 and had to circle around on 290. Delivering the meal to the car I managed to flip over a Coke, which resulted in much sluicing and blotting as our meal cooled. I had trouble navigating to Schiller Park, almost directly across the street from Gene & Jude's for our post-lunch stroll. And I realized that I had fallen out of practice of leaving the house and going places, of getting in the car and driving to a destination. One drawback of being homebound all these months. It's premature to look ahead to spring and the end, please God, of lockdown. But I have a prediction worth salting away. When society does finally open up, and it's time to plunge back out into Life and Living, Going Places and Doing Things, at the joyous moment of release, the impulse outward and forward, there will be a countervailing backwash, a pause, a riptide, a vertigo. Longtime prisoners miss jail, often, at least at first. Because security and routine were there. Habit is a stern taskmaster, and does not release you easily. Expect a little fear, a little hesitation, a little adjustment. Or a lot. Then go anyway. You'll get used to it again.


  1. Four bucks was sufficient? G&J is perhaps the most overrated hotdog stand in town. I don't put ketchup on a dog, nor do I put mustard on fries, but they plop the fries atop the dog and the fries on the bottom pick up the mustard. Still the food is tasty and I might stop in if nearby for another reason, but to make a special trip, no. Superdawg is closer to you, and had you skipped the tolls, you'd have passed Paradise Pup, a superior establishment by almost every metric.

  2. Things will in fact be gradual and I’m not sure I’ll be quick to put away my mask.

  3. Cash will still be around. Never know when you need to buy some pot or bribe a politician.

    1. Had a couple dollars in my wallet...until I spent them earlier today.
      I had been carrying them around for the last three or four months.
      But then, I don't get around much anymore...
      (Old geezer and at-risk former smoker).

    2. Every time I DID use a chip-reader somewhere, instead of the cash moolah in my pocket, I would think: "Hey, the 21st-century cashless society has finally arrived."

      Not that it wasn't rapidly approaching, well before 2020. The Plague Year just gave it a big nudge into becoming a reality.

  4. I'll stick to Costco for hot dogs.

  5. I always enjoy Neil’s family stories, if not for their wisdom, then for their follies. Either way, I gain, either in knowledge or in delight that it wasn’t me this time that spilled the pop.


  6. Great piece. Thank you for not bringing ketchup, and for thinking of keeping cash on hand for those in need. I can truly relate to this: "I had fallen out of practice of leaving the house and going places, of getting in the car and driving to a destination." When I drive now it feels very odd. When people talk to me that does too.

  7. I recall reading about a previous family hot dog pilgrimage after which one of your sons opined that he preferred Little Louie's in Northbrook to Hot Doug's. We readers today are left wondering whether your wife thought G + J was worth the trip.

    Seems to me, these days, that just the chance to get out and about would make it worthwhile, whether one found the hot dog exceptional, or not. Personally, I agree with JP -- I'd maybe stop if I was nearby, but a couple visits have satisfied my curiosity about that place.

    As for "Going Places and Doing Things," I wonder how the adjustment to normal life will go, if and when we ever get back to normal life. I try not to think about it, at this point.

    1. We used to live two blocks away from G&J, so It wasn’t a big deal to stop in, though I always thought the hot dogs, and especially the fries, were excellent.
      Now we’re nowhere close to it, so the few occasions we’re in the neighborhood, of course we have to indulge. I think the fries make or break a hot dog stand, and G&J fries are head and shoulders above the others IMO.

  8. Worked at Wally's red hots at diversy and central in HS. Sold nickle bags through the pickup window. Never ate a dog. Cash drawer balanced to the penny every nite.


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