My sister and I and a few of our closest friends have an annual Memorial Day Weekend tradition of getting the eff out of Grand Rapids. Usually we opt for a rural setting and camp or rent a cabin in a beach town. This year we decided to try a city-cation in Chicago. I had stayed at the Getaway Hostel before and thought it would be a great place to meet some new people and sleep for cheap while we ventured into the city. What an understatement.
Friday’s pilgrimage out of GR started with a surprisingly quick drive, a great playlist and a LOUD car. We made it to Skokie, parked the car at the CTA station and hobbled under the weight of our luggage to wait for the train.
We had just set our millions of bags down on a bench when a grisled looking man with a long feather earring sidled up next to us. (My first thought was: “feathers are SO out”). He made a comment about being weighed down to ship out and used that as a self-segue into mentioning that he was ex-Marine (Vietnam). He then launched into a monologue about being Apache and described what his braid, feather and general disregard for our interest (or lack thereof) meant. We smiled politely, mumbled some things about “thanks for being a soldier” or whatever and watched him hobble away on what I assume was a peg leg. We would run into him later on the train when he all but begged us to sit by him, told me I had beautiful eyes and bid us farewell with a “goodbye pretty lady”. Weird dude. I ended the debacle by stating, “Great, I’m sure the Apache Vietnam vet will be the only guy to hit on me all weekend”. Wrong.
The train ride into the city from Skokie is kind of lengthy, which gave us time to discuss all of the things we planned to do over the weekend. Navy Pier, Millenium Park, Mag. Mile shopping, Lincoln Park Zoo, North Ave. Beach party, Belmont Music Festival, etc. We did manage to wander down Michigan Ave. at one point, but that’s as far as we got on our list of things to do. When we finally arrived at the hostel it was late evening and we were starving. The front desk had messed up our reservation and tried to charge an extra $100 for the weekend. Nope. We hashed it out for a bit and in the end we ended up paying $60 less than I had intended. That money would later be used to buy a half-gal of Sailor Jerry. Oy. Once we freshened up we headed out into the wilds of Lincoln Park and Clark Street to find some food. We wandered into an Irish Pub and unknowingly began our strictly Irish-themed weekend.
The plan all along was to sight-see during the day (one of us hadn’t been to Chicago since she was a young teenager and wanted to be a tourist) and just drink/hang out at the hostel at night to save some cash. We stopped at a liquor store to grab some Solo cups and some Jager (Jager makes friends) and headed back to the common-area of the hostel. We were surprised to find that we were the only ones in there, but were soon joined by a delightful Japanese man. We introduced him to Jager and “Ride the Bus” and I made an accidental WWII faux pas. Next, three Irishmen wandered in and we asked them to join us as well. We had problems pronouncing one of the Irishman’s name, unable to give it the “grrr” he requested, so we just decided to call him Tiger. Since he was Tiger, his friends became Bear and Honey Badger. Because Honey Badger don’t care. The next several hours are a haze of familiar drinking games with “Irish rules” and new faces and accents. Our lonely foursome became a table full of people by the end of the evening.
Somehow, I ended up deep in conversation about the political climate of Ireland and the existence of racism, religious head-butting and other non-fun things with Tiger. We learned a few new phrases, such as “What’s the crack?” (What’s up?/What’s going on?) and really enjoyed ourselves. Do NOT mention the words “UK” or “Protestant” to these boys, even if you’re discussing what they’re not. I learned that! The timeline of the evening is a blur, but I do know that it involved meeting Alaskan Tony (creep), Irish Tony (amazing), Mexican Alejandro (Ale-Alejandro), Italian Tiziano (quintessential), Spanish Miguel (uh…), Colombian Jose (too young to hang out with us) and…I’m sure some others.
At one point, we had an impromptu beatboxing show performed by D.J., one of the wonderful staff at the hostel. He was great. His new, longer nickname would become “D.J. (suck it J.T.)”. That good.
As the evening wound down, I found myself sitting at one of the tables with Tiger on one side of me and Alejandro on the other. They were both trying to secure my affections for the evening and it was hilarious. I kept calling it a love triangle and exaggeratingly looking from man to man, exasperated. My sister tried to help by telling Alejandro I wouldn’t be able to resist if he spoke Spanish. Tiger answered by speaking French. Again, hilarious. I think I just ended up getting up and walking away but the events are a little hazy after all those Irish rules. At some point I did rob the cradle a bit and introduce my face to Tiger’s in the TV room. Oops. At around 5 or 6 am, the four of us trudged off to bed to sleep and prepare for the events of the days to come.