When the NHL announced that the Penguins and Blackhawks would be playing a Stadium Series game at Soldier Field on March 1st, TJ quickly contacted every Pens fan he knew. Here was an opportunity for him to bring together his current world—Pittsburgh—and the one that birthed him—Chicago. This couldn’t possibly end well.
I was immediately onboard with the plan. Tennessee confirmed that he’d be there, along with his girlfriend. Swag and Canada required very little convincing before they were in. Weatherman soon notified us that he, too, would be at the game. He’d be travelling with some of his peoples, and Gaelic Gangsta (GG) would be among them. Alex, who doesn’t know hockey and sports exist, eventually informed us that she had made plans to be in Chicago that same weekend (why, I still don’t know); our buddy E Bomb would be vacationing with her. Also planning to be in the Chi that weekend: a friend of TJ’s from college, who now lives here in Pittsburgh. And a college pal of mine. And a girl from my graduating class in high school. Not to mention a few friends of mine who grew up around here but now live in Chitown. And AIDS, who also now lives there. And all of TJ’s friends and family who still live around greater Chicago…
There’s no WAY this ends well.
One of those friends—“Fire,” who lives in Old Town—agreed to let TJ, Canada, Swag, and me crash at his place. Everyone else found hotel rooms. Game and plane tickets were purchased. The “battle stations” alarm was sounded in Hell. Destiny was handed a shot of whiskey and told to pucker up.
And I thought to myself over and over again, “Yup…I’m gonna die.”
Friday, February 28th
Even if there was no destination to write about, simply putting TJ, Canada, Swag, and me into the same automobile for a 7½ hour stretch would be a story. We’re all assholes by nature, and you’re just not going to set the world in a good direction by putting us in a small space that’s traveling through the boredom of Ohio and Indiana.
Some quick highlights from the drive, since the Chitown activities are the real focus here:
- About 1:40 into the trip, Swag erupted. Canada was driving, TJ was sleeping, and I was daydreaming from the front passenger seat. From behind me Swag offered, “What if we passed someone, and I was just jacking out a batch?” As he said that, we passed a small van driven by a squirrelly-looking guy in glasses who glanced over at us; that mixture was enough to ignite Swag. Tear-laced, high-pitched sounds came from him as he died from hysterics in the backseat. Canada and I soon laughed ourselves into tears as well, though purely from hearing and watching Swag’s random fit of uncontrollable laughter.
- At 11:55 a.m. the shuffle on TJ’s iPhone, which we had plugged into the stereo, queued up “Homecoming.” I couldn’t even look at him, but I felt his cheesy grin beaming behind me.
- An hour and a half later we stopped at a rest stop to gas up and grab lunch. While we stood in line at Burger King—or “Da Kang,” as he calls it—Swag, who had been drinking heavily the night before, looked at me and said, “Gotta go throw up.” And with that, he casually walked off towards the restrooms.
- The rest of us watched the world’s oldest pimp in action. A woman in her 80s walked towards the soda machine with a coffee cup, when suddenly her equally 80-year-old husband exploded. “THE COFFEE’S RIGHT THERE, GLADYS! WHERE ARE YOU GOING, IT’S RIGHT THERE! FOR GODSAKE! WHERE’S YOUR HEAD AT?!”
Sharing awkward stares with strangers: What road trips are all about.
- Swag was legitimately annoyed at me. I’d been an hour late in meeting up with everyone that morning, which meant we were an hour behind schedule—which meant we didn’t have time to stop in South Bend so he could take a dump on a floor/field/desktop on Notre Dame’s campus. …Seriously.
- As we passed a small SUV, I took in an eyeful of the MILF behind the wheel. After a few seconds of ogling, my eyes glanced over to the passenger seat, and saw her teenage son staring at me.
- …about ten minutes later they passed us; this time the kid held up a Penguins jersey.
- Swag’s summation of northern Indiana: “It’s just random piles of shit, everywhere.”
- Weatherman tweeted me that, within 1/64ths of a mile from their hotel, and within sight of the parking garage, he hit a pothole and blew a tire.
[To be continued...]