The Taste for Old Times’ Sake

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(Photo: Who doesn’t love eating over a garbage can and peeing in a porta-potty?)

My last Taste of Chicago (God-willing) was definitely the best. Protest though I did last year about Chicagoans’ proclivity to attend the Taste year after year although everyone rants how much it stinks, this being my last summer in Chicago, I decided to take one final opportunity to eat lunch over a garbage can.

Maybe it was because it was 75 degrees instead of 95. Maybe it was because I never have to do it again. Maybe it was because it wasn’t on July 3rd when the Chicago Transit Authority had yet another as-usually unforgivable CTA meltdown stranding thousands of riders on stifling trains after the Taste and the Independence Eve fireworks. But for once I have to admit, I had a good time–an unexpectedly good time at that.

I took the plunge on Day One of the food fest last week after one rainstorm after another kept me from reaching NYC to begin my apartment search (the worst moment: sitting on a plane at the gate with a buckled seatbelt only to have the captain come out–and it’s never good when the captain actually comes out–to tell us to deplane because there was no more safe room in the air between Chicago and LaGuardia). Good enough, I thought. I’ll just start my job search first and go have a three-ticket vegetarian samosa.

My tally turned out to include aforementioned samosa, as well as a breaded-steak sandwich with hot peppers, Cajun meatballs, a fried plantain and pork sandwich, and a combo lemon and watermelon ice. Of everything, the only miss was the waxy, tasteless ice. (I love Chicago, but Hogtown has nothing on real New York City Italian ices, hands down. Don’t believe me? Come sleep on my air mattress in a month and find out).

Lunchtime isn’t as crowded as the evening rush, so the pushing and jostling and six-inch shuffling was bearable, although not absent. You’ll still have to body check a few people out of your way at the Taste in the early afternoon, but you’ll have that trash can all to yourself as you drip your Italian beef into the smelly bag of wasps below.

The only other real backfire: Patty Burger. The teeny home of tasty, retro hamburgers and shakes on Adams between Michigan and Wabash seems to love continually shooting itself in the foot. While every other eatery on Boul. Mich. and adjacent side streets has been filled to capacity during this year’s Taste, Patty Burger has–as usual–been a ghost town. It’s easy to see why. As has been the case since the day they opened last year, they still don’t bother with posting their hours or their menu on their front door, leading potential customers to walk up and wonder what they serve and if they’re even open.

Worse, since they always seem to have a yellow “caution” sign sitting in the middle of the floor (four words, people: get a rain mat), most people just think they’re closed and walk away. Note to Patty Burger owners: when the management can’t even be bothered to realize they’re actually turning people away during the Loop’s most crowded week of the year, it’s probably time to get yourselves a new manager. Your employees are actually bored from the lack of customers. Just ask them; I did.

This is not one of the places I’ll miss when I move back home to NYC. That list is long enough, and I hate belaboring good-byes. My plan is to live in Chicago as normal until my last day here, have my friends see me off, and eschew a slew of “last time I’ll do or see this” scenes. God knows I’ll be back soon enough for weekends on couches, anyway.

Neither is there to be a long, or really any, good-bye with Devyn. We are, at the moment at least, officially estranged, and not by my choosing. Tomorrow being the eight-week mark since the break-up, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that recently. I spent most of the past couple of months taking all the blame for our separation–and sinking into a pretty deep, major depression because of it (not to brag, but we’re talking every single symptom including suicidal ideation: I figured I deserved a statue for it, something carved in the shape of a sad clown face, in pewter).

A daily clinical (900mg) dose of nature’s magical St. Johns Wort (i.e. natural Zoloft) puts a lot into perspective. With my objectivity back and my mood swings gone–likely for the first time in years–things look much different in hindsight. The old times I pined for don’t look quite as rosy now. I have my issues to continue to deal with (and recover from), but so did my partner. And unlike before, now I can see the interplay of issues, back-and-forth between us, during our two years together. Did I ask for too much of an emotional investment? Maybe. But was I ever offered enough of one in the first place?

After two years, it’s hard to admit the answer: no, I wasn’t.

I miss having a friend in Devyn. But knowing now that he was never really emotionally present in our relationship, I can’t exactly expect him to be able step up to the bat during our break-up. And after these past several perilous, frankly terrifying weeks of the absolute stoppage of my life (we did not break-up gently), I can finally see that the aura of self-destruction over which I have been suffering so much guilt and shame is simply not my own.

I may have asked too much, but at least I was there in the relationship. I deserved my partner to be there, too. I always said getting rid of me would be his first step in dealing with his issues. It remains to be seen if there are any other, more constructive steps on the way.

For his sake, I hope so. It would be nice to actually talk to each other someday. He is still the most creative person I’ve ever met in my life. At the very least, I finally know it’s not me who’s hiding up an emotional tree right now. Unfortunately, I don’t expect that to end anytime soon.

In case you haven’t heard, many trees grow in Brooklyn, too.

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