The next day, it was an early start for those of us heading to Chicago (I have recently gotten in touch with one of my former classmates who went to the Chicago that day, Tina Blisset). We left early enough to get to the city, park and make it to the entrance to Wrigley Field where Kevin was already waiting for us with our tickets. I have been to a few Cubs’ games, but there has to be something really cool and special to watch a game from the centerfield bleachers on your birthday.
On that day, the Cubs were playing the Reds and it was a rather historic occasion to be able to watch Pete Rose play in one of his last seasons.
Now the thing I liked about going to a ballgame with Kevin is that he is very vocal. He really gets into the game and loves to razz the players. When Red’s player Eddie Milner tried to score on a hard hit single by Rose and was thrown out at the plate, Kevin let Milner know about his base running when he went out to centerfield at the end of the inning.
(Kevin, his brother Luke and I also went to some Peoria Chief’s games that summer and the following summer where we got to watch rising stars like Mark Grace, Joe Girardi, and Rafael Palmeiro play. And yes, we let the opposing players know how “well” they were playing.)
The Cubs did not let me down (not to mention the rest of my birthday entourage) on my birthday by beating the Reds.
If my memory serves me right, after the game we stopped off at this Punk/New Wave record store that was next door to the Metro, a music venue just up the street from Wrigley Field. (It was either this time I was in Chicago with Kevin or later that summer.)
Anyway, there was this woman working there who I knew from SIU (I had gone out with her roommate Christine) and the year before, I had run into her at a Cure concert in Chicago that I had gone to with Chris Vasquez. Turns out her boyfriend had ditched her at the concert and she was feeling pretty bad. She had no ride back to Carbondale and no money.
I had gotten a backstage pass from one of Chris’ friends and seeing her looking so sad and depressed I gave it to her. I figured she needed it more than I did.
We were both surprised to see each other again and after we got caught up on what had happened the past few months, she told me that she ended up hanging out with the band on the road a for a few weeks before coming back to Chicago.
“Thanks for that backstage pass,” she said. “You really saved me that night.”
“I’m happy that everything worked out for you.”
It did. She had eventually found her way back to Chicago and was getting her life back together. I wonder whatever happened to her? I wonder whatever happened to other people who I knew from SIU in the fall of 1983 like Savich? (He was the inspiration for Sexton, the main character in Going After Sexton, a short story I wrote for my Creative Writing Thesis at Western Illinois University.)
That’s been one of the more bittersweet underpinnings to my life, all those people walking in and out of my life; or was it me walking in and out of their lives? It seems the older I get, the more I think about this.
And then it was off to Greek Town.
Before Kevin had come to Eureka (the same year I started) he had taught speech and theatre at a performing arts school not far from Greek Town. He had been quite active in theatre in Chicago that included working on a play that starred Willem Dafoe (at Wisdom Street Bridge) as well as working on another production with one of Chicago’s more famous theatrical/artistic directors Robert Falls. (I saw Falls’ production of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo starring Brian Dennehy at the Goodman Theatre later that year. What an unbelievable production!)
Kevin recommended Diana’s, one of the more famous Greek eateries. How famous? Judging from the autographed photos of Anthony Quinn and other Greek notables who had eaten there, I guess it was quite famous. It was also the first time I had Greek food (other than the gyros Chris Vasquez and I used to indulge in at Athens Gyros in the Peru Mall before it closed in the mid 80s) as well as Roditys Wine (as well as some shots of Ouzo that I had already had before).
What I have always liked and admired about Kevin is how vivacious and jovial he is when he is out with friends. It’s hard not to smile or have a good time when Kevin is in the room, or in this case a Greek restaurant screaming “Oh Pa!” (similar to “cheers”) when the saganaki was lit and the flames from this flaming cheese dish nearly scorching the ceiling.
I was really glad that I could get together with Kevin on my birthday. He would have a major influence on my life while I was at Eureka.
It was just too bad we had to drive back to Eureka that night.