It was my daughter, aged 14 at the time, who first pronounced Wrigley Field as unfit for human habitation. Never mind that the Friendly Confines is the second oldest in the majors, dating back to 1914 (Boston's Fenway Park opened in 1912).
"It smells like urine," she sniffed, as she walked the concourse holding her nose.
"Yes, but some of that belongs to Babe Ruth," I countered, a bit pedantic, but still…
My son had no misgivings, either about Wrigley's sanitary standards or the Cubs, embracing the team with the same anguish and fatalism he'd come to embrace the New Orleans Saints - a team neither my son or daughter has ever forgiven me for making them fans.
But this was a day for pure nostalgia. After Carol had shrewdly maneuvered herself out of the second ticket ("you really should spend that time with your son") and packed herself off to the Red Line for an afternoon at the Chicago Art Institute, following a brief circuit of the stadium, Zack and I shuffled off to find a pre-game bite in Wrigleyville. There the nostalgia began in earnest.
Back in the 90s we both retain vivid memories of a Cardinal series, where a server at a bar called Sluggers, ignored our table with a disdain bordering on the malevolent. We had no trouble recalling that incident this day, as it was repeated in three different watering holes. Finally, after we grabbed two seats next to a pair of thirsty patrons who offered them ("Good, maybe you two will bring a waitress. We've been waiting 15 minutes."), we gave up. My theory is Wrigleyville servers are not paid in tips; instead, they are paid royalties by the kitchen staff in exchange for them not having to cook. Anyway, we decided to grab a beer and a dog inside the stadium, rather than miss the first pitch.
Just settled in our seats near the last row of the upper deck, It was Zack' s idea to "go find a bar that will serve us, whenever you're ready." He said this in the second inning of a game that the Cubs showed every sign of sleepwalking through. He wanted to talk (our weekend phone chats are legendary marathons that can run four hours), but it had been years since I'd been to Wrigley, and I wanted to stay awhile. In the fifth, Ian Happ put the game away with a grand slam, and we knew that would be the highlight. This time, it was the second bar we found that featured a waitress apparently new to the Wrigleyville bar scene, and who practically never left our table.
But the real reason we left the ballpark was the insufferably mindless chatter coming from a group of sub-millennial frat boys who managed to get under Zack' s skin first. I mention this now, not so much because it ruined our day at Wrigley (It merely provided a good excuse to book.) But the semi-literate "conversation" would not have taxed even Koko's verbal inventory. It's a subject I want to address further, as the predictability of such babble has become de rigueur for my attendance at public events. I will explore these themes in my upcoming series On The Road to Curmudgeonry: The Prayer for Armageddon.
We finished our beers and the adoption papers for our waitress, and headed for the "L": Zack for home, and me to meet Carol downtown and dinner at Harry Caray's Steakhouse, where the service was positively Old World.