Guilty Pleasures 1
Another Fine Mescal
[ TOP-DOLLAR TEQUILA ]
Pretending to be a high roller, I stroll into the restaurant Nine (440 W. Randolph St.; 312-575-9900) and order the priciest cocktail on the menu. The drink arrives, a $69 Vegas-style margarita on the rocks in a squat glass. I am decidedly unimpressed—until I take my first sip. Wowza! The buzz generated from the lethal mix of rare anejo tequila, single village mescal, and high-end orange liqueur is a silky smooth wave that massages the pleasure sensors in my brain. Reality returns only when the waitress arrives with the check. I pay the bill and then poach hors d’oeuvres from a private party before slinking out the door.
[ OGLING HIGH-PRICED HOMES ]
Once a week, less frequently if I can help it, I journey up to Winnetka. I put aside thoughts of the plummeting Dow and my kids’ soaring tuition. I climb from my Lexus and stroll the graveled driveway toward my “masterpiece of Classic French Regency” with its formal courtyard and Louis XIV paneling. A steal at $4.75 million. Or maybe I visit the Highland Park “Regency gem” with the seven baths and mature elms. OK, it’s $5.5 million, but there are those “unique brass doorknobs”—and an elevator! In an urban mood, I contemplate the 8,000-square-foot East Lake Shore Drive penthouse with the rooftop terrace and four—four—parking spots. I catch my breath. The cost is too astronomical to list. Dare I call the broker? “I’ve got caller ID,” she will sniff. “You’re the guy who salivates over those two-by-four-inch pictures of homes in the real-estate ads when you couldn’t even afford the gardener. Get a life.” I settle for the “unique country estate,” a rambling beauty with six baths and three whirlpools. “Perfect for corporate or religious retreat,” reads the copy. I point the place out to my wife. A moneymaker! She raises an eyebrow, then goes back to her New York Times Sunday Styles section. Nobody understands.
TRIBUNE photo by Abel Uribe
The Slow Descent
[ SLIDING DOWN THE PICASSO ]
For years I relived my youth through my little brothers. As long as I was escorting them around, I could run the bases at Comiskey Park on kids’ days or clamber atop the lions outside the Art Institute without incurring too many disapproving glances. Like so many Chicago kids, my brothers had a favorite activity: sliding down the Picasso sculpture at the Daley Plaza (on Washington Street between Dearborn and Clark streets). We would climb up the slanted platform at the statue’s base, form a train, and let fly—albeit very slowly—usually taking out a few innocents on our way down. The boys are older now—far too old, they say, for a slide—but even at 26, I still can’t resist the occasional Picasso descent, a slippery ride that always unleashes my own inner six-year-old.
A Sporting Chance
[ WHIRLYBALL ]
WhirlyBall is a combination of lacrosse and bumper cars—though mainly it’s just a pretext to drink, and a pretty silly one at that. Even without alcohol, something about the “sport” brings out murderously competitive urges. Before the night is over, good friends are smashing into each other’s cars to disrupt a shot, or slashing with their scoops to grab a loose ball. Afterwards you may feel petty, even ridiculous, but in the heat of combat, it’s every man, woman, or child for him/herself. (Three Chicago-area locations: 1880 W. Fullerton Ave.; 285 Center Dr., Vernon Hills; 800 E. Roosevelt Rd., Lombard. 800-894-4759 or www.whirlyball.com/chicago.)
[ WEARING PJS ALL DAY ]
What you suspect about freelance writers is true: we sit around all day in our pajamas. In fact, I am wearing pajamas as I write this—pink flannel with blue-gray Eeyores (Winnie the Pooh’s donkey pal) parading across them. What’s more, I actually spend serious money on cute PJs because I want to look good for the UPS guy. I consider it more professional. My current favorites are crisp cotton luau pajamas from The Company Store (available at www.thecompanystore.com or at the Original Outlet Mall in Kenosha; 262-857-7027). They are perfect for crafting deathless prose and for other work-at-home guilty pleasures, such as watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer at lunchtime and impromptu solo Go-Go’s dance fests.
[ TOO MUCH TANNING ]
Nothing feels as good as sitting in the sun. I know it can cause skin cancer and wrinkles—a colleague calls it “aging” rather than “tanning”—but it makes me feel great. And with my olive skin, I happen to tan easily. Just hearing Tom Skilling forecast warm and sunny gives me a little color. But since I live in a city inhospitable to my passion—and because I would never set foot in a fake bake parlor—I have to be diligent about maximizing my tanning time. That’s why, at lunch, I’m out the door for a jolt of rays at one of Chicago’s downtown plazas (two favorite spots: Pioneer Court at 401 North Michigan Avenue and the Bank One Plaza at 21 South Clark Street). But for me the goal is not really the tan; it’s the energy beaming down on me from the sun that makes me feel like I am connected to the wider universe. Now get out of the way—you’re in my light.
Aisle Be Back—Not!
[ PEAPOD.COM ]
Several weeks ago, my old car finally kicked the bucket, turning my annoying weekly trip to the grocery store into a much more complicated task. Enter Peapod.com. Now, for a $10 delivery fee plus tip, I can experience the slothful joy of sitting around in my underwear at three in the morning filling my bacon, paper towel, and Us magazine needs off the Web. The next evening, that big green truck pulls up with all my goodies. I may never set foot in a grocery store again—though I need to add a little Lionel Richie Muzak to my iTunes playlist just to make the online shopping experience more authentic.