Out after midnight
(This one’s writing for the sake of practicing writing again, not an especially compelling story. A huge thank you to people who have helped me out recently so I can treat myself a little.)
I’d forgotten what it’s like to be out late. I miss it a bit, not a lot. (Given that my previous post is about looking for ANY work, I want to sound cautious and responsible. Well, but if the work I can get is a bar/restaurant, I also want to add I’m not AVERSE to being out late.)
I’d just started taking the “free” Metra (due to a dispute, the Union Pacific lines haven’t been collecting fares — except now for trains in/out of Ogilvie station downtown — for months) on a weekday, not just weekends, and figured out I could get to Evanston (Main) for enough time for a short visit to Sketchbook brewery, a favorite, on its fifth anniversary. I was on the Irving Park platform, no inbound train in sight, an announcment about a delay, when I checked my phone and it was a 35–40 minute delay on the train due to a car getting hit. (I didn’t see this on the news, so hopefully not serious.) Obviously I had to scratch that plan and continued walking to Old Irving Brewing (passing the great Eris on the way, but I thought they might need reservations). A very favorite spot, but one I’d only been to once, with a friend, during the pandemic. I don’t think I’d been here solo in a long, long time. I got a table by the bar and tried a double IPA, an imperial stout that was on special ($4 for 10 ounce, a good deal but I definitely wouldn’t have more than one), and a sour.
I didn’t feel like walking a half-hour home with my laptop (which I’d brought along assuming I’d be in a place with wifi; I mean, OIB has it but I wouldn’t try it on a moderately busy Thursday night) and the Montrose bus is detoured several blocks away due to bridge construction, so I braved the construction zone to find the L station — only the south entrance at Montrose is open now. (The other side isn’t even attached to a street anymore, if my views from Metra are correct.)
I hadn’t had a cheeseburger with fries at Red Hot Ranch yet this year, just about my favorite quick meal for around $5 in Chicago. (Now $5.75.) I ate that outside on a bench on Armitage. I miss the nights where I used to go out and spend $15–20 on craft beer, $5 on food (either a Chicago fast food stand or a 7-Eleven sandwich), is that wrong? I didn’t feel like spending money on a CTA trip just to avoid a modest walk and to get a burger, so I stopped in Green Eye, a rare pandemic bar visit (socially distanced, sitting in another room rather than at the bar like almost all my past visits). I realize that means I spent money on a beer because I didn’t want to waste money on a CTA trip, but…that’s my logic. Fortunately they weren’t being strict about the card minimum (in the old days, this was an issue for me at bars where I only wanted one drink and didn’t have cash, and I’d resolved to carry cash more often, and then the pandemic messed that up. Red Hot Ranch is still cash-only, by the way, or I’d have used it for the beer). I checked the Blue Line times carefully — Green Eye is right under the platform — and made it to the train I’d wanted, around 12:15. I was perplexed seeing the wait times at 11 or 12 for the Blue Line that looked as good or better than the wait times I’ve been getting on my afternoon or evening trips during the pandemic. Just 15 minutes at night when I almost always have 10+ minutes during the day? In the old old days I assumed half-hour wait times at night, at least very late at night, and in those old old days I might have gone to another bar or two along the Blue Line, but even pre-pandemic I was cutting that out. It was still my first solo Old Irving trip, first solo bar trip, and first time out after midnight in 2021. And I’m pretty sure, first post-midnight transit trip during the whole pandemic, home about 12:40 after a noisy train ride and short walk home.