For years, I’ve been wanting to make my way back to Chicago for a visit,
primarily to reunite with the Japanese Giants Guys —
dishonorable Bill Gudmundson
— both of whom were among my closest friends when I lived
in the Windy City in the 1980s, as well as several other wonderful folks in
the area. As far back as 2018, Ms. B. and I had tried to plan a trip northward,
but finding the time off from work, particularly with other obligations we had,
never allowed for it. Finally, in early 2020, we had things squared away and
were all set to go in the spring. And then... WHAM!
Here comes COVID-19.
And in 2021, our long-planned trip to Europe took priority over everything else.
Thus, we had to postpone Chicago yet again.
But now... at long last... we’re on our way. Chicago... by way of Nashville,
Some months ago, Ms. B. discovered that Colin Hay, of
Men at Work fame, was scheduled to play at
City Winery in Nashville in early May, and since both our
birthdays are in early May — and both of us love his music — taking in his
show struck us both as a mighty fine mutual birthday experience. And thus did
the plan come together.
Sunday, May 1, 2022 — GSO to CLT to BNA
Long before the ass-crack of dawn, we were up and at ’em for a 7:15 a.m.
flight out of Greensboro. We connected in Charlotte after the briefest of
layovers — one of those
run-through-the-airport-at-top-speed-or-miss-your-fucking-flight kind of
layovers. I feel almost bad for plowing into at least one person as we made
haste from one end of the airport to the other; I might even feel some
honest-to-goodness bad if the person in question hadn't been one of a row of
slow-creeping numpties taking up the entire width of the corridor. We made it
onto the aircraft with moments to spare — we were literally the last
passengers to board the plane. We were worried our luggage wouldn’t make it on
board, but once we arrived in Nashville... happily... our bags showed up on
the baggage claim carousel. Literally, the last bags unloaded from the plane.
From BNA, we took a cab to the city center and checked our bags into a luggage
drop, since we couldn’t check into our lodgings until 4:00 p.m. We'd had no
food — or coffee! — on either of our flights, so we immediately sought
breakfast, which we found at a lovely place called
. Our vittles proved delicious: eggs over medium, taters, bacon, toast, a
Bloody Mary, and most of a pot of delicious coffee (as black as midnight on a
moonless night). Happily, in downtown Nashville, there are geocaches
aplenty, and so, after breaking the fast, we wandered and geocached. As
afternoon approached, we walked up to the big farmer’s market near the Capitol
grounds, just north of city center, where some of us cached and some of us
shopped. One guess as to who did what.
At last, after a brief stop at the nearby Publix
to snag a few staples,
we wandered back into the city center, grabbed our bags, and checked into our
AirBnB, an industrial-style, reasonably comfortable place called
on Church Street. After freshening up and relaxing for a time, we
decided to seek dinner, which we found at an establishment called
I killed some better-than-tolerable beef brisket and Ms. B. demolished
a pulled pork sandwich. This might have been followed by bit more geocaching.
According to our phones' health apps, we walked just over nine miles today.
I had come to Nashville a couple of times for World Horror Con — way
back in 1991 and 1992, I believe — but my memories of the city are hazy, at
best. It is safe to say the first day of this travel venture proved
"It's wine... wrapped in plastic!"
Monday, May 2, 2022 — Who Can It Be Now?
Window washers viewed from our window.
Not a job for which I'd be
Whose birthday is it? Surely, not mine. But wait....
Ms. B. and I slept in for a bit this morning because we could. We had picked
up some light breakfast fixins at Publix, so we braced ourselves on coffee
and yogurt before hitting the streets (which, given our heavier-than-usual
diets since leaving home, was just the ticket). More geocaches (yep!) and
shopping (yep!) awaited us in the very touristy Broadway area, so we added
some additional mileage to the soles of our feet (which eventually began to
bother Ms. B., for she is old and frail). There's a big-ass place
called Assembly Food Hall
with tons of restaurants and bars, so we stopped a little spot
called Smokin' Chikin
for lunch. Relatively light fare (except for the french fries) and
reasonably satisfying. Then... wine time! There's a large wine
bar/restaurant on the upper floor of the Assembly building called Sixty Vines
, and between Ms. B. and I, we checked out a good half dozen of said vines.
Our sommelier was knowledgeable, attentive, and a great conversationalist,
so we give Sixty Vines high marks.
We returned to Sonder-Dovetail for a while to mellow a bit before heading
to City Winery
, about a mile south, for dinner and the Colin Hay show. We hung out on
their terrace for a while, where I tried a couple of Jalapeno margaritas,
the peppers in which turned out to be hotter than your average
jalapeno, so I was happy.
City Winery is a lovely venue, with dinner tables set up in a relatively
small auditorium. Once inside, we ordered big honking burgers for dinner,
and these were delicious. Again with the french fries! (I am now
thoroughly potatoed out.) Our table was the closest possible to the stage,
so our seats were fantastic. We got to watch Colin Hay go at it from a
distance of fifteen feet, with lovely lighting and an excellent, very
clear sound system. Hay is 68 years old and still in fuckin' top form —
his vocals sounded better than ever, he told many engaging anecdotes, and
he played a few Men at Work favorites as well as many newer
compositions. The show went nearly a full two hours, and the experience
was a joy. The crowd clearly loved every minute of it.
Adding an unexpected and very enjoyable twist to the experience was my
running into a familiar face in the crowd — a fellow geocacher who goes by
the moniker MonkeyBrad
. Brad is a Facebook friend, and for
quite some time, his mug was literally the face of geocaching.com
. His image was ubiquitous on the Geocaching site and in advertisements.
Some time ago, he had purchased a copy of West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman
— which I had autographed — for his son. I knew he lived in the
Nashville area, but I had absolutely no expectation of running into him,
especially at a non-geocaching-related event. We did get to have a couple
of brief but pleasant conversations. So, Day Two in Nashville ended on an
altogether satisfying note. Which, I suppose, is proper for a birthday I'm
not really claiming.
By the time we hoofed it back to Sonder-Dovetail, we had put another
seven-plus miles on our achy-breaky feetz.
View of downtown Nashville from pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland
Old dude and Ms. B. sampling the fare at Sixty Vines in Assembly Food
A delicious if junior-size jalapeno martini at City Winery
Tuesday, May 3, 2022 — Hurry Up and Wait
Our flight to Chicago was scheduled to leave at 10:45 a.m., and since we
wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get to the airport (during the
morning rush hour), Ms. B. and I rose with the dawn. We had scheduled an Uber
ride for 7:45 a.m., and our driver arrived right on time. Morning traffic did
slow the ride, but we made it to BNA without undue delay. Naturally, about the
time we arrived, a text notified me that our flight was delayed by 45 minutes.
Well, at least we'd have plenty of time to get through security, have a
leisurely breakfast, go pee, and such. About midway through breakfast at some
airport restaurant, I received a text that the flight was now moved up to
11:00 a.m. Still plenty of time, so we didn’t rush to the gate. Once we did
wander over that way, we discovered the incoming flight hadn’t even arrived
yet. It didn't pull into the gate until after our “updated” departure time.
So, not only was the altered flight time wrong, take-off was well over an hour
From there, our flight took a little over an hour to reach ORD. Lots of
turbulence, but that’s not at all unusual for Chicagoland. The worst of it was being forced to listen to a boisterous know-it-all run his useless mouth at top volume for the entire flight, never once pausing to take a breath. He, I suspect, might have been responsible for the turbulence. We had reserved a
car, and getting to the rental area required a long walk and a train ride. And
once we got there... lord a’mighty... the place was almost empty except for
our check-in counter, where a passel of very angry-looking people
were gathered. It took a while to get things squared away at the desk, and we
were told it would be twenty minutes or so before a car was ready for us. One
livid, elderly woman demanded to talk to a manager because she’d been told
twenty minutes but had been waiting for over an hour. This did
not bode well. However, sure enough, twenty minutes later, the
nice folks at the desk called us over, and... what do you know... they had a
car for us. Getting to it required another fairly hefty trek, but at least
things went more smoothly for us than they clearly had for most of those other
folks there (I suspect they had not reserved their cars in advance).
We headed out of O’Hare into the afternoon traffic jam on I-90... wow, just
like old times! Half an hour later, we arrived at our AirBnB, about three
miles from the airport. It was the upper floor of a typical Chicago bungalow,
with two comfortable bedrooms, a bath, and small kitchen. The only thing
missing was a living room or other common area, but for the price we paid, one
could scarcely complain. Once settled in, Ms. B. and I headed over to friend
Bill’s place, just over a mile away. What a joy to see him again — and old
friend Bob Scism
was also here! After hanging out for a bit, we set out
for Morton Grove, a few miles up the road, to have dinner at
, which had been one of our favorite pizza restaurants way back in the old
days. Here, we met friends Ed
; his wife, Mariko
. Another joyful reunion! And the pizza at Pequod’s was still
as delicious as ever — unique even for Chicago, and certainly beyond compare
of anything we have back home.
And there was a geocache on premises. Hell, yeah! Fortunately, for me, I
snagged it quickly while we were waiting on the pizza.
Mike presented me with a copy of an old drawing (on a restaurant placemat!) of
King Ghidorah that Bill and I had collaborated on sometime back in the 1980s.
He had kept it on hand for all these years, and seeing that again brought back
a flood of great memories. All in all, we had a wonderful little reunion in
one of our favorite places ever. There are still more gatherings yet to come
After another brief hangout at Bill’s place, Ms. B. and I made a supply run at
the nearest supermarket and returned to our place. It was a long... LONG day,
much of it spent in transit (or waiting for transit), but what a payoff at the
end. A long-awaited homecoming, such as it was.
Pequods — the best anywhere
King Ghidorah, drawn on a placemat at Nancy's Pizza, by Bill Gudmundson
and me, circa 1984
|A ravenous bunch: Ms B, old dude, Bob Scism, Mike Paul, Ed Godziszewski, Mariko Godziszewski
Wednesday, May 4, 2022 — Our Shadowed Past
Hiding in the corner at Café Touché...
Ms. B. and I had a fairly early lunch date, out in Elk Grove Village
with old friend Bob Issel
and somewhat newer friend Jeff Kenny
Our Shadowed Past
— a collection of Dark Shadows
memories — was Bob’s
original project, but he, Jeff, and I became the creative team that put it all
together back in the fall of 2021. We met at
Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ,
enjoyed tasty lunches, and hung out yakking for a long while. Bob and I
have a considerable shared history in our respective
–related creative journeys. As
with all my Chicago friends, it’s been too long since our paths have crossed.
Jeff brings in new talent and perspective to the table, so it was a treat to
meet him for the first time.
After we parted ways, I headed after a few nearby geocaches. Then Ms. B. and I
hit the road toward the city proper, figuring we could partake of a drink or
two prior to heading back to our lodgings. We found a lovely little
neighborhood bar called
, which fit the bill nicely. Wine for Ms. B., a gin martini for me. After
that, we returned to our home away from home to refresh ourselves and make Ms.
B. more presentable. Then it was back over to friend Bill’s
where we met his lovely and charming wife Gari
for the first time. Bill
hauled us to dinner at
Korean Restaurant, where we met old friend Alex Wald
good friend I probably last saw before the turn of the century. Dinner was
fantastic — our courses were brought to the table, where we roasted them over
a flaming hot grill in the center of the table. I’ve had plenty of Korean
food, but never in this presumably authentic fashion.
The creative team behind
Our Shadowed Past: Old Dude, Bob
Issel, Jeff Kenny
Dinner at Chicago Kalbi Korean Restaurant
Thursday, May 5, 2022 — Chicago de Mayo
In front of the apartment building where
Bill & I lived, many
Ms. B. and I didn’t avail ourselves to any Mexican treats today, but
treats aplenty we did find. This morning, we met Bill at his abode and then
had a delicious brunch at his favorite coffee shop —
, on Irving Park. From there, Ms. B. and I drove down to
where Bill and I lived back in the 1980s. There was a
cache just down the street — or should have been — but after a thorough
search, I am confident it’s missing. Sad!
After roaming Logan Square for a little while, we headed downtown, for what
turned out to be a consistently drizzly day of walking around the northern end
of the Loop. Ms. B. wanted to check out a paper store to pick up some of the
papers she uses for her arts and crafts, so while she did that, I hunted a
nearby cache — again, sadly, unsuccessfully. Apparently, many Chicagoland
caches have gone missing and aren’t being maintained, which is pretty
disappointing. But I did find a handful of particularly nice hides as well, so
that made me smile real big.
Eventually, we wandered into
Harry Caray’s Bar
on Kinzie Street, which, in all the time I’ve spent in Chicago, I had
never visited. A most pleasant experience indeed. Martinis for me, vino for
the lady. I never realized the building was once owned by Frank Nitti, Al
Capone’s number one man back in the bad old days. From the bar area, there’s a
“secret” stairway down to his old vault room, which has been turned into a
mini-museum. Kinda fun, I will say.
Again, out into the rain for a handful of caches, and another wine bar stop —
a happy little place called Good Funk
, but where we actually found some bad funk (wine, that is). Happily, our
top-notch server gave us a couple of tastes for us to see what we liked
because, in her words, “some of this stuff smells like it came from the
barnyard.” No exaggeration. We did end up with some really
From Good Funk, a walk along the river to an establishment called
, which we sort of randomly selected for dinner. Not even a little bit
inexpensive, but the food was incredible. I had spicy roasted duck wings, and
Ms. B. went with Spaghetti Bolognese, which was red-wine braised chicken ragu,
parmesan, and basil. I sampled some of hers and was literally stunned by how
delicious it was. I hate to say it, but it rivaled or surpassed most of the
Bolognese that we had while in Italy. Yeah, it was that good.
By the time were were finished, it was getting late, so we made our way back
to the car and headed to our home away from home. This little venture into the
Loop was, to me, invigorating, certainly among of the most satisfying times
we’ve had on this trip. The crowd downtown was actually the smallest I’ve
probably ever encountered there. Traffic wasn’t bad, we had no delays getting
in and out of any place we visited, and parking was quick, easy, and not all
that expensive. Once back at our AirBnB, we decided to watch a movie, so we
went with U.S. Marshalls, which neither Brugger nor I had seen for many a year. It was, as I
recalled, quite entertaining.
And now... one more full day in Chicago before heading back home.
A mighty drizzly day in the city
At Harry Caray's Bar
Down by the lazy river
Friday, May 6, 2022 — Sushi Station, Mitsuwa, and More
There was supposed to be a cache at the Homeless Jesus bench, but he
wouldn't give it up.
Old dude, Old Mr. Bill in The Library
I’m glad our day of hoofing it around the Loop was yesterday and not today
because today it rained real water. Not that phony stuff that came down
yesterday. Happily, for the most part today, we had roofs over our heads.
Once up and going, Ms. B. and I drove out for a couple of caches and then over
to Bill’s place. We piled into Bill’s car, picked up Gari, and headed out to
the suburbs, to
, a lovely little Japanese restaurant in Arlington Heights. After a most
enjoyable lunch, we trucked the short distance over to
, a large Asian market (back when I lived here, it was called Yaohan
Here, we browsed the bookstore and shopped for groceries — mostly for our
evening dinner at Bill’s Kitchen. Once done, we hit the road for our return to
Bill’s, only to be stopped by a parked train blocking the road. So...
alternate route! Anyway, once back, we hung out, drank some wine, and made
googly eyes at Bill’s impressive library. Sometime prior to dinner, longtime
friends Jeff Osier
and his wife, Cathy Van Patten
and — again — coming to Chicago brings us to yet another happy reunion.
Mr. Bill and Gari set up the fixings for okono miyaki, savory Japanese
pancakes, which we prepared as we desired and grilled at the table. I haven't
had okono miyaki since visiting Bill on some previous trip — probably in 2007,
when I was here for a G-Fest (the last one I ever attended, I do believe).
Afterward, Ms. B. and I returned to our AirBnB and started getting things
together for our departure on Saturday. This trip to Chicago meant a lot to
me; it’s been in the works for many years now, and I hope there won’t be so
many years before our next visit here. Truly, I still have more good friends
here than anywhere else in the world, and even after such a long time, when
we’re back together, all those years just kind of melt away.
Okono miyaki in the works
|Bill and Gari preparing to attack|