Monday, December 22, 2008

Parrot Cage

Thursday (December 18), J. and I were supposed to meet friends at Parrot Cage for dinner. The reservations were made weeks ago, and all was green for a good time—until meteorologists helpfully predicted a major sleet/snowstorm to start around 3:00 p.m. that very day. It was like the plot of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, only without music or Burl Ives. As one co-worker described it, "They're predicting Armageddon." Who would want to drive during Armageddon?

Let it be known that J. wasn't about to be deterred by a little ice, snow, and a wintry Armageddon.

The time for the fun to begin was pushed back to 7:00 p.m., so my friends canceled. Not J. After some phone calls, one during the hour I waited for my doctor, he made a 6:45 reservation, and we agreed to meet at Bonjour (or, as it turned out, Walgreens, because neither of us had money). Because there wasn't time for him to come into the bakery, I was pressed into service to order him a croque monsieur poulet, the ideal sandwich for a man with high blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose ("That's what medication is for!").

We found the gateway to the South Shore Cultural Center, which in the dark looked closed to me, so we parked on Coles. Yes, thanks to my impeccable judgment, we walked several blocks in the cold on treacherously icy sidewalks when we could have parked a hop, skip, and jump from the front door. I have my moments. My excuse is that it's exercise, and exercise before a meal is good.

Indoors it felt like springtime in an old-fashioned parlor, with flowered curtains and a giant parrot cage with decorative parrot that dominate the comfortable room. There was one table of two and one of four, so there was plenty of room. My tomato soup warmed me up, the wild mushroom fettuccine filled me up, and the sundae on a giant chocolate chip cookie filled me out. I'm not sure about J.'s starter, but he ordered maple-glazed pork chops and, I think, pecan pie as they were out of sweet potato. All in all, it was a very pleasant option that's convenient to me (and has parking, I must add). A 10 percent gratuity is added automatically; it goes into a scholarship fund.

Friday was my first day off, with a return date of January 5. Naturally, I would find something to do that wasn't relaxing—namely, getting lumbar spine x rays. Although my doctor thinks my current back issue is muscular (yes, even I have muscles), she wants to check for possible underlying arthritis. I've no idea what I do in my sleep (except dream odd dreams), but that seems to be when the trouble begins. Once I even pulled a hip muscle in my sleep.

As I was downtown, I made a few stops—Staples, Argo Tea, and Utrecht. At Argo Tea, I overheard a young woman enlighten a young man about the ins and outs of the theatre and her career in an amazingly mundane way—she was no Tallulah Bankhead, and if pressed I could probably make writing sound more exciting.

After taking care of some household tasks on Saturday, I headed over to J.'s to help him with his. We took a long detour to Dracula Cafebar, and after getting some work done ended up at Chef Klaus' Bier Stube in Frankfort. I ate some bread and salad, but I couldn't eat any of the fettuccine primavera I ordered. I wasn't full or nauseated; I simply couldn't eat. It seemed to be an effect of my growing anxiety about my worsening gum problem. It looked bad and ached badly, and I couldn't relax enough to enjoy anything.

From my windows we could see vehicles, one minivan in particular, struggling against the snow in the parking lot. It took more than an hour, and numerous nudges from a car, to get it out of the snow rut that had trapped it—and it almost got into another. The next day, Sunday, a pickup seemed to have the same trouble. I wonder if the drivers divide their curses between their vehicles and the Chicago Park District.

Yesterday I woke up to the sounds of a banging bathroom vent and howling winds. The temperature on my weather widget was -6 degrees Fahrenheit, and there was a layer of frost on the inside of my bedroom windows. After consuming coffee, steel-cut oats, and tea, I deemed it to be a good time for a long winter's nap to help me escape my anxieties.

When I woke up, my gum hurt more than ever.

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