I’ve lived in California since May of 1992. Actually I left Kankakee on May Day of 1992 and arrived in Santa Cruz about seven days later. I left Santa Cruz in May of 1998 and moved to Ashland Oregon. I met Ceridwen there (my wife of 22 years, my soul mate, whom I’ve lived with for many, many previous lifetimes). About a year later, a friend of ours offered to rent a cabin he had about ten minutes north of Grants Pass OR, where we lived until February 2004. It was at that time that we moved back to California and landed in Eureka, home of the famous “Redwood Coast.” We have been there ever since – eighteen years.
I love California. I love the Redwoods (both the Sequoia Sempervirens (Coast Redwood) and the Sequoiadendron Giganteum (Giant Redwood). I also love the ocean, and I love nature in all of it’s glory (after all I am a Druid (or Jew-id or sometimes a Hin-Dru). I love the politics (I am a lifelong Progressive Democrat – Democratic Socialist).
As much as I love it here, there are things back in Illinois that I truly miss:
- Museums and Zoos: Honestly, with the exception of the Monterrey Aquarium, the Museums and Zoos of Chicago are far superior to any that California has to offer.
- Chicago style Hot Dogs: A few restaurants out here have attempted to make these but they always leave out some key ingredient, or they add ketchup (EWW!). A Chicago-style hot dog, Chicago Dog, or Chicago Red Hot is an all-beef (usually Kosher) frankfurter on a poppy seed bun. The hot dog is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. The complete assembly of a Chicago hot dog is said to be “dragged through the garden” due to the many toppings. The method for cooking the hot dog itself varies depending on the vendor’s preference. Most often they are steamed, water-simmered, or less often grilled over charcoal (in which case they are referred to as “char-dogs”). The canonical recipe does not include ketchup, and there is a widely shared, strong opinion among many Chicagoans and aficionados that ketchup is unacceptable. Most Chicago hot dog vendors do not offer ketchup as a condiment.
- Chicago style (or Deep Dish) Pizza: Up until about two years ago, you just couldn’t find one of these anywhere in California. Now, having said that, there is a Pizza restaurant in San Francisco that allegedly serves these up, but I haven’t been there. There is another here in Eureka that is supposed to open, but it’s been over six months since it was talked about, and nothing has materialized. However, Safeway is now selling a frozen version, much smaller that ones you can buy at any restaurant in Chicago, but otherwise very authentic. And you would expect them to be because they are manufactured by one of the iconic Chicago Pizzareas, Gino’s East. The sauce is to die for! Chicago-style pizza is pizza prepared according to several different styles developed in Chicago, widely referred to simply as deep dish pizza due to its cooking style. The pan in which it is baked gives the pizza its characteristically high edge which provides ample space for large amounts of cheese and a chunky tomato sauce. Basically, the pizza is made stating with the pan. The pan is round and about two inches deeps. A thin crust is spread across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Next comes cheese, then other toppings (except they are not on the top) of your choice, then more cheese, and finally a thick covering of sauce.
- The Little Corporal Restaurant: This was my favorite place to eat growing up, and well into my adulthood, in Kankakee. I won’t go into detail here, but there is a Facebook page dedicated to it with pictures, anecdotes and even a few recipes. My favorite (something I could get for a quick lunch) was their chicken noodle soup. Or maybe it was more like a stew. The sauce was so thick you could almost eat it with a fork. Another favorite was Eggs Benedict. Another was the Hamburger Boneparte.
The restaurant featured the only revolving door in Kankakee County. The motif was a historical tribute to Napoleon Bonaparte, who was portrayed in a Lifesize painting that adorned the inside of the restaurant. Other touches were drum shaped lamps over all the tables in the main dining area. Trumpet shaped warming lamps over the serving counter. A huge crystal chandelier over the dining counter, In between the round booths that lined the walls, were paintings of military troops and officers dressed in the uniforms of the period (Napoleonic France). The really cool place was the Waterloo Lounge. The back wall featured a painting of Napoleon relaxing in his imperial garb, complete with a Roman style leaf headdress. Chairs on along the wall were underneath a map of the battle of Waterloo, with throne like chairs dedicated to the various generals who fought the battle. The bar itself was a piano bar, and once hosted Barry Manilow on a regular basis (before he became famous). In the back of the lounge were these very private booths (you could make out with your girl friend if you wanted to) made like period military tends, each dedicated to one of the armies that fought Napoleon’s troops.
The Little Corporal was a chain restaurant, with locations in Chicago and Hollywood CA. There is one still surviving in Green Lake WI. It doesn’t look like the menu has survived to me. The Kankakee restaurant closed forever about a year or so after I left Kankakee.
- My family. My three sons, Joshua, Jordan and Jesse, and their children: Isaiah, Jalen, Cam, Ian, Joy, Mia, Poppy, Dorothy, and Isaiah’s daughter (my great granddaughter) Olivia. The range in age of the eight goes from thirty four (??) to age five. Great granddaughter Olivia recently celebrated her first Solar Return.
Number five on this list is really number one. In fact you should really read the list from the bottom up, that being the list from the most thing I miss to the least.
Of my grandchildren I’ve only met Isaiah and Jalen. Is this my fault? Perhaps. I’ve been able to afford to travel back to Kankakee exactly three times. The first was around Xmas in 1995(?). I remember buying all three boys cameras and film for Xmas, and exhorting them to take pictures and send them (at my expense) to me. They never did. That was when I met Isaiah, whom (I think) was five at the time. I took the boys to the Paramount Theatre (an iconic art-nouveau theatre) to see Starship Troopers,
The second time was to attend the hearing for my divorce from their mother.
The third time was a visit in the Spring of 1996(?). This time I brought along “she-whose-name-is-not-uttered” whom I was “married” to at the time. I remember a tornado chased us from the South Suburbs all the way to our hotel in Bradley, where we watched the weather in our room until an all clear was proclaimed. After the all clear she and I traveled to my ex’s house to pick up the boys, and then drove up to the south suburbs, to Geordano’s Pizza (that was the last Chicago pie I’d had to that point. It would be 2020 before Geno’s East began selling it’s pizza at Safeway).
But since then I just haven’t been able to make the trip. I haven’t had very good jobs, especially after leaving Santa Cruz, and I just could not afford to take a flight. I missed three High School graduations, 3 College graduations, 3 weddings, and the births of seven of my grandchildren. The only invitation I received to any of these events was to Jordan and Nikki’s wedding, and I think that was only because I guilted him into sending it. Plus, I had a pipe dream that I might actually be able to book a flight.
I got to meet Jalen when his father Josh, mother Aisha and he flew out to visit me about five years ago. I really enjoyed showing them my world. Jalen was (is) a way cool kid.
Other than that, Facebook has been my main contact with any of them. Interestingly, I’ve never talked to any of the younger grandchildren. When I have called around the holidays I always talk to Josh or Jordan or Jesse, but they’ve never said “Hey kids, your grandpa is on the phone. Want to talk to him?” Not once. Frankly, I don’t know that any of them know I exist.
Will I ever meet any of them? I don’t know. I suspect that their mother made them swear an oath that they would never come to visit me. Although, Josh did. And Jordan has made some comments about making the trip, but I don’t expect that to happen until after Joy is completely free of Cancer. I know that Jordan has to make sure that the medical infrastructure has to exist for them to travel (because of Joy). They’ve been to Orlando FL a bunch of times, and this past summer to Anaheim CA. Jordan works for WMAQ TV (Channel 7 in Chicago) which is an ABC station. ABC is owned by Disney, so his family enjoys a bucket load of perks from Disney, including (I suspect) all expense paid trips to Disneyland and Disney World. Jesse travels a lot for work (he has his own video production house) – He’s one of about six videographers in the US (or maybe the Earth) who video tape surgeries. Pretty specialized stuff.
My plan is to live to be one hundred. That Solar Return will occur on November 15 2053. That gives the twins 31 years to make the trip out here. The problem is not meeting the grandchildren while they are still children. For Jordan’s Cam, and Jesse’s Mia, their childhood will end fairly soon. Both will be eighteen in just about a year or so. The youngest one, Joy, will be 35 when I turn 100.
As we say, WAITING IS.