Chick Magnet

Dearest Rachel –

I doubt it’s only because he’s in town, but if I thought the girls would come over more often because he was, I’d invite Kevin to come back to the Chicago area on a more frequent basis. After all, this is the second time in a week they’ve been over, whereas it’s been generally agreed upon that they would be over at best once every other week.

Dude’s a chick magnet, is what I’m saying.

I’m pretty sure I’m just kidding, but it is true that this is the second time they’ve come over this week, so I’m not going to discount anything. It’s always nice to have as much company around as possible; they’re almost better at hostessing in my own house than I am.

And before you point out that I can’t hostess at all, let’s move on.

One of the reasons that I insist that I’m not a particularly good host is that I can rarely think to plan much ahead; I admit freely to not being able to come up with a menu the five of us can agree on, which generally means that I simply give up and try to arrange for us to go out to eat together. If nothing else, I have been somewhat lax in taking Kevin out to some of the more local establishments in our area, considering how often we went to the more local places when we were down there in his. I still remember you running around last November, attempting to find – and hold – a parking place for me on foot when he had us check out some place called The Frothy Monkey, in particular.

It’s weird to realize that it wasn’t even a year ago – despite the fact that it sometimes feels like an eternity since you’ve been gone. And I’m so sorry that it took your departure for me to realize how to properly document my life in the photographs I take – not to mention determining what pictures are truly important. I wish I had pictures of you standing there in the street, waiting for me to pull in… but oh well, how was I to know?

We had our own parking place issues this time around too, but I’ll get onto that in a moment. There’s other stuff that went down first.

Like I said, I’ve not learned much about planning ahead. I did, however, decide to get us a cake, because while Erin mentioned that her birthday was coming up, she made a point of telling us that we didn’t need to make a big deal about it, and when I responded with the idea, she made it clear that we certainly did not need to go so far as to do that.

Now, as you know, I’ve never been much for birthdays myself – but my logic was based in the fact the birthdays were never as special as I’d like them to be, so why bother? With that in mind, I resolve to be dead set against her insistence that we not bother, because I would’ve said the same thing, but I really would’ve wanted everyone to make a big deal out of it regardless. And I apologize if that meant I asked you to read my mind when you couldn’t back in the day, but at least, I’d like to think it came in handy last night.

Again, I’m getting out of myself.

So, I had sent a text out to the girls around noon or so, asking each of them if they had any preference as to which restaurant in the alfresco district they would prefer to go to. Meanwhile, I mentioned to Kevin that I needed to pick up a cake at the local grocery store, and he replied that he would need something for breakfast this morning, as we were running low on milk, orange juice, and something with eggs, so he was willing to accompany me on my trip.

Needless to say, it’s while we are out perusing the aisles that I get a text message back (which limited the amount of conversation I might have with Kevin on what to get and so forth, but whatever). It’s Ellen, on her lunch break, giving her approval to the idea of going out – although not offering any preferences as to where – and also asking if we’d be willing to help her take something to the FedEx place to ship out.

Now, I’m thinking she’s talking about something she needs to deliver from her place of work; after all, this was the sort of thing she would do fairly regularly when she worked at Signs Today.

Nope. As it turns out, she’d bought a standing bicycle to exercise on, but it’s a bit too large for her, so she’s returning it. By FedEx. I didn’t know they dealt with packages of this size.

And naturally, she needs help carting it to the place, as it fits reasonably well in my car. She insists that she got it home in her car originally, but it was a tight squeeze, and she’d rather not go through that again. Which is understandable.

You learn something new every day.

Between putting it back in the box, lugging it out to the car, stuffing it into the car, and driving it over to the FedEx place, the three of us take up the better part of an hour. Since Erin has a knack for running late (and I mean that as much literally as I do figuratively – she is, after all, still training for the marathon), we all figure this will be ample time for her to get her workout in and get over to meet us at the house while we struggle with shipping back this contraption (all the while hoping she doesn’t take offense at the fact that were using FedEx rather than her own UPS – in Ellen‘s defense, that is the method the manufacturer used to ship the bike to her, so it only makes sense to use the same method to send it back).

But things don’t quite work out that way; I got a phone call from Erin shortly after returning from the FedEx place, saying she’s absolutely dripping in sweat, and is just going to take a shower before heading out. Well, we all understand that a workout will do that to you – and actually appreciate the fact that she wants to clean herself up beforehand – but given the exertion involved in packing and hauling that bike around, and the fact that she’s among friends, we’re not really sure she needs to bother. Still, if it bugs her, she might as well take care of things. On the other hand, it does cut into our time together – and things are getting late as it is.

It’s after eight o’clock when she arrives, and we pile into my car (after putting all the seats back up – possibly for the first time since the last time we were at the island, I think), and head downtown…

…only to find the area an absolute madhouse. None of us were expecting the village to be holding a festival this weekend.

You can’t see the band from here, but you can clearly see the stage. I want to be the first to point out that it was loud – which probably means I’m too old.

My dad would probably point out that this is something that I would’ve known were I subscribed to, and reading, our local paper. Of course, you and I both know that even if we were the former, we would never get around to the latter. That’s why we canceled our subscription so long ago; those papers were just stacking up like cordwood back in the day.

Be that as it may, there was no parking to be found anywhere near the place because of this ‘Harmony Fest’; we had to resort to the underground parking a couple of blocks over.

Curiously enough, we actually found a space right as we came down the ramp. I imagine a lot of people passed it up thinking it was too good to be true, but there were no markings indicating that was for special permit holders or anything like that, especially at this hour of the night. So we got lucky: Hail Jenny, full of space. Blessed are you among parkers.

The walk back to the alfresco district was such that Kevin needed to pause and catch his breath. Which worked out fine, as we actually ran into Pam and Melissa from church. Evidently, they had stopped in to another local restaurant after Melissa was done with work, only to find this crowd and be just as surprised as we were. By the time we were done chatting with them, Kevin was ready to move on.

We got to Armand’s, only to find a series of booths where the normal alfresco dining would be (Erin picked Armand’s for us purely by accident – I referred to the alfresco district as the ‘Alfredo’ district when I talked to her earlier on the phone, and she suddenly developed a hankering for Alfredo sauce. So, Italian it was for the night, as no one else felt like objecting). Things were laid out like a kind of ‘taste of Arlington,’ or some such.

There were some tables, but not nearly the quantity that they usually had, and given the crowds in the streets, the wait for one of these tables was ridiculous.

We settled for eating indoors.

Even then, it was pretty loud inside; not much for conversation.
The food was good, too, although Daniel has now learned that pan pizza is not the same as hand-tossed, and much more than his appetite – even at the best of times – can handle.

When it came time to head out – and that was essentially when we were done eating, as we had no particular taste for the music (even though we did find ourselves recognizing a song or two from time to time) – I led the group through the crowd to a back alley en route to the garage.

As before, Kevin needed to sit and rest; but at least this time, there was a spot right by a small parking lot, so I could just pull in and pick him up once I’d retrieved the car. So Daniel and I headed on, while he stayed behind to rest.

The girls stayed with him. Like I said, chick magnet.

Back at the house, I debated as to whether to take the cake out or not, as we were all pretty much full from dinner. Still, I’d taken the trouble and effort to hunt the thing down; I might as well offer it.

I have to confess, I didn’t exactly take Erin’s taste into account, mostly because I hadn’t remembered what her tastes were. I just figured, ‘well, who doesn’t like chocolate? Besides, it’s not a great big cake, so what’s the big deal?’ I had forgotten that she likes chocolate more than I do – which I honestly didn’t think was possible. So, I probably shouldn’t have apologized as I took it out; I should have just taken credit for getting things right. But come on… that’s not my style.

So everyone took a slice – except for Ellen; what with the fact that she avoids gluten as best she can, I actually found some rice-flour cupcakes for her to enjoy separately. So we all had something we could partake in while we continued to chat for probably something close to an hour or so.

And while we didn’t come anywhere close to finishing the cake (despite its relatively small size), Erin has given me permission to bring it with us to church on Monday when we come to Awana club and Grief Share; we’ll do well to have dinner on our way, rather than waiting until after passing the cake out, since that will take us well past when most restaurants are closed, I shouldn’t wonder.

The evening comes to a somewhat awkward end when Erin adjusts herself in her seat because she discovered she was sitting on something… she’d rather not have discussed – which has the usual Streisand effect of leading to a discussion of certain other unmentionable things, before she pulls an ‘oh, look at the time,’ only for all of us to realize just how late it’s actually getting to be – it’s almost past eleven, in fact. At this point, I hope she got home in time to get a decent amount of sleep before having to head off to UPS in the wee hours of the morning.

Still, it leaves me thinking I should write you in praise of the nonchalance that you learned from your folks, and imbued in Daniel and myself. But that, as they say, is a story for another time.

And until that time comes around, just keep in mind that I still love and miss you. Take care.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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