Monday, August 30, 2010

Home is where the Highlander is

Our team’s summer season ended in early August, and we went to Maxie’s to celebrate over fish fry and cocktails.

I really had a great time playing this year. The Highlander team is an awesome group — we spend tons of social time together, too. (In fact, I was just at Jean’s house for a BBQ, eating my 1.5 brats.)

And the club itself feels like home.

Of course I love the controlled settings — the air conditioning and the ice machine and knowing where the glare is (now that Beth has pointed it out). I’ve even gotten used to the squeaky fan on court 8 and the broken lock in the downstairs bathroom.

But yesterday, driving to Western, I thought about how lucky I was to be able to play tennis outside on a beautiful summer day. Sure, it was tough to play in 90-degree weather. And trains rumbled by a couple of times. But Carol came to cheer us on and we had fun playing.

I took a break before our second match by going to Highlander to consume my banana and chocolate milk in silence. Or, in near silence: Doug said it was “nuts” (yes, nuts) that I wanted to freshen up and collect my thoughts.

But the second match was fun, too (here we are with Gina and Mary afterward), and my miniature cooler helped me get through the heat. Per our tradition, Patrice and I had a post-match debrief — this time at O’ Donoghue’s.

August marks the end of summer league and the last outdoor tournament of the year. It’s a month of endings, but I also feel like some good changes are in the air. Au revoir, August!

I hope the change of season brings good things for you, too.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A hundred thousand welcomes

Another Irish Fest done, another summer gone. This year’s Fest was a blur, even though I was there twice.

On Thursday, Addie and I worked at the souvenir tent. I had a blast selling t-shirts. For real — maybe because I like being asked my opinion. I also love seeing the volunteer crew every year.

Later we ate insanely large baked potatoes from The Irish Baker. Mine had sour cream, chives, and bacon. I added cheddar (why should I be limited to what's on the menu?) to make a syrupy mess. Yum!

On Sunday, Denise and I worked at beer tent #5. It was pretty mellow, which gave us time to watch the parade and eat shepherd's pie and reuben rolls. To keep with the green theme, I also ate mint chocolate chip cheesecake at the Tipperary Tea Room.

The people at Irish Fest are always friendly and happy; sunshine and beer will do that to a person. I did have one odd encounter with two women who seemed puzzled that I was volunteering. But it was nothing I couldn’t handle: my years at Nevin’s prepared me.

Cheers to the melting pot that is Irish Fest!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Going home: Nevin’s reunion

When I drove into Evanston, I felt a weird combination of excitement and sadness. (I think people call it nostalgia.) Because I realized that virtually all of my memories of the mid 1990s involve Nevin’s Pub.

I first started going to to Nevin’s in 1994 with my grad school friends. Eboni, Rachel, Holly, Tom, Murph, Leigh, and I would eat clam strips and cream cheese balls on Thursdays.

We’d also run into Tommy on our school-night adventures. Sure, he’s all grown up now (here he is with Kobe and Quincy, whose 3rd birthday was yesterday), but in the mid ’90s, he spent a lot of time at the pub. We all did.

To maximize my time there, I started dropping in with my roommates — Jen, Joe, and Charlie, and later, Ed and Chris. In retrospect, it was inevitable that I'd work at Nevin’s.

It's not just the friends and cocktails I remember. My love of shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and chicken pot pie — borne of my time there — has endured. (I also get a little lump in my throat whenever I see a block of Kerrygold Swiss.)

Eventually I made my own friends there. Like Joanna. We used to go to the Fish Market and eat lunch and then go shopping at Old Orchard. There were also some long conversations about what we were going to wear to the Christmas party.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Nevin’s felt like home. I felt like I was missing something if I was away for more than a couple of days.

So I was skeptical about going to the reunion. It had been 13 years since I moved away, and wouldn’t I be tempting fate to revisit my old home?

I didn’t need to worry. Right after I walked in, Joanna told me how Sarah McLachlan’s “Ice Cream” reminded her of me. And we remembered Jamie saying that ice cream is a depressing topic. Ah, the soundtracks of alcohol-fueled drama.

We also tried to piece together the happenings of a crazy night at her friend Torby’s place (was it a house or an apartment? were there aggressive cats? or an incontinent dog?). Torby doesn’t remember the night in question but thinks it sounded like him.

These memories (or blurry interpretations of reality), oh how I cherish them. For a couple of hours, it was okay to be stuck in the past. Even better than okay: reliving those times, it was a nice place to visit and remember who we used to be.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gnomeless on a big birthday

Patty and Dave hosted a 136-year party: They both turned 50, and their daughters, Molly and Robyn, turned 18.

Befitting a family with multiple milestones, this was a party to end all parties. Artichoke dip was had and scotch was drunk — much of it by one guest, I might add.

We all mingled outside, on another beautiful summer night. I got to hear some great stories from Dave’s parents, too (like when his dad played state league at age 77 on Dave’s team).

The only thing missing? The gnome. “Patty has the gnome, but it refused to come out for the party,” Dave said.

How odd, as the gnome is not afraid of crowds. The tennis gang spent a lot of time in the family room, admiring the collection of books, and we never saw him.

I suspect this four-milestone family will have trouble passing him along. But his travels continue.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Shapsons and a short film

Shappy invited us to a fundraiser at Bucketworks for an upcoming short film by his son, Sam Shapson.

Sam, Victoria, and Brent (who are the director and producers) are currently students at Columbia College, and they mingled and presented the concept behind Harvest.

With its focus on childhood fears and cornfields, the film will address the question of whether monsters are real. (I hope it isn’t as terrifying as Children of the Corn.)

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day — no worries in sight — and we celebrated everyone’s efforts afterward with margaritas and tacos at La Fuente.

For details about the film and how you can contribute, check out Sam’s Kickstarter page.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Colleen's birthday and the last match

Yesterday was the very last match of our summer state-league season, at Lake Country.

Of course each team had two wins. So everything came down to this court, our #1 doubles team. No pressure.

Carol and I came to watch, and we could not have asked for a more exciting match. We clapped and yelled while trying to keep a respectful distance. (Tennis is a tough sport to be a spectator at, when you're trying to be supportive but not distracting.)

They couldn’t hear us through the glass. Maybe it was the big earrings.

The second set was close, but Colleen and Marilee won.

Then, in a picture-perfect finish, they won the third set. Go team! We celebrated with cake and champagne.

It was also Colleen's birthday (though not a milestone). We figured out that she'll be the gnome keeper for several years unless we add new people to the group.

As Manuel likes to say when he returns a shot his opponent thought would be a winner: “I don't think so!"


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Preschool artwork

On Saturday, Steve delivered this piece of artwork. He and his family had just visited Mary Tooley, our preschool art teacher. She gave him a masterpiece he had done and this one of mine to take back.

I’m blown away that she kept our work for over three decades. She told him that she doesn’t save tons of things but she remembered how much we loved art.

Of my circa 1974 bowl-haircut-and-bellbottoms number, Mrs. Tooley said, “I loved it! It is impossible to look at that picture and not be happy.”

What makes me happy is that it’s a wonderful connection to Children’s Workshop and to the past in general. Steve was one of my first friends. And Mrs. Tooley was the first teacher I admired. With her bright red hair, she was so fun and chic (not that I knew what "chic" meant yet).

So thanks for bringing back more good Tosa memories!