Vale Papa

body of water between green leaf trees
Photo by Ian Turnell on Pexels.com

My Dad peacefully passed away at home on Thursday the 9th of December 2021.

Words will never explain my feelings towards my extraordinary Dad. As a young person I firmly believed that by the time my Dad would be old enough to die, they would have invented a cure for death. Here we are many many years later, and no such cure has been invented.

He did it his way in the end, which was waiting for us to not be in the room with him. I’d been there with him almost every minute of the preceding 6 days since he was placed into palliative care, sleeping just one room away with my subconscious tuned into his every breath. Not going to lie there wasn’t a lot of sleep had and the quality of it wasn’t great, but what Dad needed was more important than what I needed at that time.

I had gone with the other half to get his daily scripts of morphine and another drug they use – usually either Mum or The Other Half would go. As the weekend was coming up and we’d had some trouble sourcing these drugs from our usual chemists the doctor had ordered enough for the weekend and we finally had found a pharmacy that tends to stock plenty of them given they supply all the local nursing homes.

While we were gone Mum had gone upstairs to send some emails. When she came back down he was not breathing anymore. She called The Other Half kind of in a panic saying she thought Dad was gone – I was just coming out the door of the shopping centre so The Other Half motioned and yelled out the car window that I should hurry.

We got back home to discover Mum was right. The geriatrician had been right about a fast decline. But Dad had also been right too – it was just a forgotten thing at that moment. It wasn’t until my Adelaide family arrived for the funeral that my Aunt reminded me..

On the 29th of October after the geriatrician sat Dad down to tell him the diagnosis, we came back here and sat out in the nirvana to have coffee. Dad called his sister (my aunt) and said “they’ve given me six weeks to live”. My sister and I looked at each other quizzically – no time frames had been mentioned and the geriatrician had been very specific with us about that – saying she couldn’t say how long it would be but that she thought it would be rapid.

Dad passed away exactly 5 weeks and 6 days later.

Many people find death scary but something that I have learned as part of this process is that I am not one of those people.

It might not sound right to anyone else but I was really happy for Dad. When his body had let him down nearly ten years beforehand, he coped very well with that. He did not cope at all well when his mind chose to let him down. Watching him go through this constant confusion and agitation and distress was hard for us all.

The hardest moment for me during this time was when I had to leave Dad in the dementia unit that first day. He just wanted to go home. I just wanted to take him home. So when it came to palliative care I was determined it would be at home as he would have wanted it to be. Mum was not so sure to begin with but now she is convinced it was the right and best thing for us to do. I am so glad we chose it, not only was he comfortable in his own home but we were able to be comfortable there and we could be with him 24/7 which would not have been possible in hospital.

Two things really helped me through this time. The first is going to sound quite crazy but it was a TV show I discovered earlier this year called The Casketeers. This is a TV show about a funeral home in New Zealand. The traditions they have around death are far more beautiful than ours – our traditions tend to keep death at arms length. One of their traditions is to dress the body and thanks to having seen that, I chose to do that for Dad.

The other thing was a book I was reading in the week Dad was in the geriatric unit called “Smoke gets in your eyes” by Caitlin Doughty. On Amazon it says of this book – “Exploring our death rituals – and those of other cultures – she pleads the case for healthier attitudes around death and dying.” – it really helped me with my attitude to all that was happening.

On returning home to find Dad had made his departure, we sat with him while we waited for the palliative care nurse to attend and issue us the required paperwork. We sat with him while we waited for the funeral home to arrive and collect him.

While we’d been waiting I realised letting him leave the house was going to be the hardest and most emotional moment for me, but I need not have feared.

The wonderful team who arrived read the room perfectly and when I said “do you want us to leave the room while you do what you need to do” – they said of course not, you have been caring for him, you can help us if you want. They made me a part of the process of his leaving the house. I even got to wheel him out on the stretcher and load him into the van. I can’t tell you how much being a part of that meant to me. Thus I did not lose it as I had expected I would.

There certainly have been tears during this time. I’m sad for my Dad who worked so hard for so many years and retired too late to enjoy what he had earned and travel as he wanted to. Covid kicked off the month after they retired so the world cruise, trips to Hawaii and Italy did not happen.

My Dad was always there for me whenever I needed him and this year I have been able to return that favour to him. He would be tremendously proud of how strong I was for him. I am still shocked at it myself. Dad taught me so much about myself during this time and I won’t ever be quite the same, but in a good way.

I am concerned there is going to come a day when I fall in a heap but I’m learning that for me grief is not really quite like that. It is the small moments when I least expect it – when I went to Aldi and saw someone wearing a similar pair of shoes to Dad’s – when the airconditioner at our hotel didn’t work and I thought I’ll call Dad, he’ll know how to fix it before realising I can’t call Dad. I can never call Dad again.

I will leave you with this thought from the speech I gave at his funeral, which was honestly the best funeral I have ever been to and a fitting send off for Dad with over 100 people attending and many more watching online.

At the end right before he entered palliative care Dad became very impatient. He would say Let’s go, let’s go. What do we do now? What’s next?

What would he want me (us) to do next? Dad’s biggest regret was that he didn’t travel while he could have. He could have taken holidays or time off from work. He could have asked someone else to step up to the plate and be the reliable one for a while. That thing you have always wanted to do but kept putting off – stop doing that to yourself. Take the holidays you are entitled to. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Seize the day. All that stuff from the Dead Poets Society movie – but this time, let us all actually DO IT.

Because they are not inventing a cure for death, friends.

aerial photography of water beside forest during golden hour
Photo by Sindre Strøm on Pexels.com

family, Uncategorized

I should be doing a million other things but..

instead I would like to sit here and update you on the goings on. How did this begin? Back in March 2021, I talked with my sister as my parents flat out refused to go to the doctor at all, for anything. I was worried about Dad as he’d started to have some memory issues and to be fair I was convinced these issues were related to his not having the vitamin B shots he was supposed to have regularly.

So my sister and my nephew came down for a visit and we took Dad to the doctor and he passed the memory test. We got him a blood test which showed he was low in vitamin b as expected, so we got that shot done and expected there to be an improvement, which there kinda sorta was, for a short time. And luckily he now had a new doctor who was quite good at keeping them coming back for other things so he could monitor what was going on.

As the months went by there was quite a bit of sudden weight loss – 16kg in total – which concerned the doctor so he sent Dad for more tests, and to a dietician, and then one night I got a phone call from Dad about 10:15pm where he was telling me there was this strange woman in the house trying to steal his phone. He seemed super agitated and I wasn’t quite sure what the deal was so The Other Half and I went over there.

Dad was convinced that Mum was.. not Mum. This person looked like Mum and spoke like Mum but was most definitely Not Mum, according to him. I called his doctor the next day and did a telehealth appointment and that got us on the road to finding the most awesome geriatrician – she is wonderful. She ordered a new battery of tests one of which was the MRI which got us to a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia with a side of Capgras delusion, which is essentially –

Capgras delusion is a psychiatric disorder in which a person holds a delusion that a friend, spouse, parent, or other close family member (or pet) has been replaced by an identical impostor.

So that diagnosis was a few weeks ago and ever since I’ve had to be the circuit breaker between Mum and Dad, I’ve had to spend the majority of my time over there. We’ve had a team of folks put into place to help us most notably being the older persons mental health care team.

We were told the decline would be fast from here and it has been very fast. There are a few motor disorders which tend to come with this and we’ve had issues with his swallowing, sometimes things go down the wrong way.

We also got a bit of reduplicative paramnesia which kept telling Dad he was not at home when he was. The easiest way to solve that was to put him in the car, drive him around the block, and then get him to direct us back home.

Mum has really struggled with all of this, and last Tuesday she couldn’t cope anymore. We ended up in hospital, and then Dad was sent to a secure dementia unit to see if we could adjust his medications somewhat and whether maybe his delusions might lessen in a different place. Also they wanted Mum to get a decent break because it has been 24/7 for her for weeks now. So she was banned from going to see him for a couple of days and that meant it was all me.

Lucky for me one of my customers was the first nurse I saw when I entered the unit and she really made my first day so much easier. She also got the visiting times waived for me so I could go in whenever I was able to, and I’ve spent about five hours each day there this last week, I took Mum in for her first visit and now we are alternating visits.

Lucky for us he did not have any capgras with her while I was there and she’s been in for another visit on her own since without any such incidents. It might have helped that I told him the unit was secure and “mother 2” as he calls her is not allowed in.

Where do we go from here? I really am not sure. We have family from Adelaide coming up for a visit next week and we hope he can come back home for that time.

We have managed at the moment to stabilise his weight due in large part to me constantly presenting food to him plus my awesome packed with nutrients protein shakes.

Work has become last priority at the moment which is not great for work but it is necessary just now. We need to do what we need to do.

So now I’ll go take a shower as I’ve had a lazy morning in my jammies writing this post, drinking my coffee and relaxing for the first time in ages. Then I’ll put in a couple of hours work before I head in to visit Dad at 4pm.

family

So Much Happening

Half of it I can’t talk about here, and the other half I haven’t had the time or energy to talk about here. So let us go back in time to Christmas Day. After just one year of hosting Christmas, The Other Half and I have this down to a fine art and really do not need to do much food preparation at all, just putting out nibblies, cooking a BBQ with steaks and sausages, and Mother provides the dessert of Pavlova.

Only this year I had gone on a Christmas Shopping expedition to The Treat Factory and found out they were making gelato logs. What a fantastic idea. I ordered one in dark chocolate and salted caramel. It was fabulous and we had leftovers which we have greatly enjoyed on all the hot evenings since.

I did mostly forget to take photos, we were having too good a time really. It was lovely to be still and enjoy each others company. However I knew it was back to work the next morning, so it was a little less relaxing than usual.

I worked on Boxing Day, not a long shift. I gave a Christmas present to a fellow co-worker and they told me it was the only present they had to open on Christmas Morning, which also made me a little sad – but extra happy I went to the effort to get something for them. I remember many years of having nothing to open, which is why I go to an extra effort now to make sure I do have things to open even if I bought them for myself.

I haven’t had a chance to write up the No Spend for both November and December – and not sure there is much point now we’re in a new year other than for the sake of completion. December was a spend month but mostly spending on presents for other people. I did have two things I wanted to buy in the Boxing Day Sales – Bras and Kiehl’s Moisturiser in the super large size.

I’ve worn the same 4 bras to work for 6 months now – these were the same 4 bras I’d been wearing for almost a year already – and while they are still semi-wearable, they were past their use-by date. I figured it would be a good idea to pick some up if they were on special. I’d bookmarked them in my browser. I hoped to buy them on super special on Boxing Day, but none of them moved in price at all, at least not online.

That is a really smart thing on the part of Bras N Things, to have an inhouse brand which you fit customers in and sell them but don’t ever discount, not even on the biggest sale day of the year. I thought maybe they might be on special in store or maybe there might be something else I could try on which was on special, so I suggested to The Other Half that he drop me off at the shops and I would go for a wander. I thought he wouldn’t want to go. Surprise, he did join me! Because it was mid-afternoon, the sales rush was over and we even managed to find a decent park.

There was a shopping incident where I thoroughly spoiled myself with new bras. I tried one on and it was so comfortable I gave it to the sales assistant and said “please can you go and find every bra like this in my size, I will take them all” – she found 7 in my size. Perfect! One for each day of the week, and I got two navy blue polkadot ones which I have officially allocated as work bras.

A few days later another family member needed bras so we went together and they had more in my size back out on the shelves – I bought 5 more because they were so comfortable and even cheaper on sale than they were the first time, because they added “spend $100 get $20 off” on top of the great sale prices and I had two $5 vouchers as well – one of which I gave to my family member..

I had not bought any bras at all since mid 2017 after my big weight loss, so I think I did pretty well. I wish I’d done it sooner because I did not realise how uncomfortable the old ones had become, and I got to a point where the minute I got in the house I would take them off – not anymore, now I am enjoying wearing these all day long, the same way I once did with the old bras.

I got my Kiehls for 15% off. Sometimes it is really handy to have signed up for the mailing list, as I was able to go back through the emails since September and realised 15% off is the best deal they’ve done in those three months. I still have 1/3 of the jar left from my Canberra shopping trip.

This new jar is 3x the size so I should get 9 months out of it at least. I’ve maybe missed two mornings since I bought it and on those missed days I can really tell that I missed applying it. I’m so glad I found this moisturiser and have to send another big thanks to Sydney Shop Girl for making me aware of this brand.

I bought a few things from my TVSN wishlist for crazy discounted prices, including this one I mentioned in my April did not buy post for $9.95 instead of $64.95, what a bargain! The material is so gorgeous. I’m glad they had it left in my size, I was not so lucky with some of the other items I wanted.

In other family news, my cousin and his wife have arrived for a long-ish visit. They are replacing a couple of staff on my parents side of the store, who had two staff members resign leading up to Christmas. Not sure if this will be temporary or long term. I’d not met his wife before but it turns out we are like twinsies and get along super well, plus she loves to walk which is great for me.

In blog news, at this stage I am not sure if and when I will return to regular posting. A few things are up in the air at work right now, and I’m waiting for things to settle before making any big decisions. I’ll try and get in one post a week but I’m just not making any promises because I don’t know my future schedule.

family, Home

Something I Bought In August

Above you see some of my rings which once fit me like a dream. In particular my favourite triangle Mystic Topaz. Thanks to protein shakes I am 25kg lighter but that also means many of my favourite rings no longer fit. I have one ring that used to fit on my pinky finger which now fits on my middle finger. Most of the rings I used to wear on my ring finger are too loose to wear.

I can still sometimes wear my Mystic Topaz on my middle finger but only if my hands are puffy from water retention. The green one seen above does not fit on any finger, even at my most puffy. For the most part I have no rings to wear and that is SO NOT ME.

In fact there was one occasion – the Take That concert, where I put a ring on right before leaving. Then once I got into the car, I realised I must have lost it in the process of getting into the car. We looked everywhere for that ring. I thought maybe it had fallen into one of my bags and I would find it when I unpacked.

When I got back home, I found it sitting on my dresser – I had decided it was too loose and took it off, then in the rush of getting out the door with all my stuff, I totally forgot about having that little conversation with myself in my head. If I am out in the world without a ring, I feel a bit strange.

I had intended to buy one at the start of 2019 at the end of the year of buying nothing, but out with my Aunt in Berry on the 13th of August, there was An Incident. An Opal Incident. It began with this ring –

I liked it and wanted to know more, but it did not fit me. In fact none of the rings in the entire cabinet fit me. The lady in the store said she had some not on display and she pulled out a box filled with rings – most of them did not fit me, but *one* did, and it turned out to be a very fiery gorgeous opal, which had many colours in it.

Greens, blues, reds, oranges, yellows.

It depends on the lighting which colours fire up.

The ring does have a flaw in it but for me that makes me love it more.

Sometimes you even get pinks, purples, and aqua. For me, one of the reasons I will treasure this ring was the time spent in the store with my Aunt choosing it. It was a special happy moment after trying on many rings to find one that actually fit me, too.

Our wanders to the shops always include a special lunch – on this day we chose croissants with smoked salmon, a poached egg and avocado and cucumber salsa from the Milkwood Bakery. Special time spent with a special person who we very nearly lost a few years ago. There really are no words for that.

family, jewellery

These are Not Chickens…

Hi folks, Sephyroth here…Snoskred is very busy with her job, so asked for me to pop in with a little surprise. :)

Earlier this summer, we were graced with the presence of this lovely couple of ducks who would stop in and enjoy the food we put out for the other birds in the area. However, unlike the birds of Australia who take to sunflower seeds like kids to candy…these birds don’t seem to like it as much in the States…

Note from Snoskred –

Sorry folks, I am in the middle of a 7 days in a row at work thing. One person quit, and the other person went on holidays to Europe. I only had two shifts with her before she left so it was a big learning curve for me, and that poor girl did not know where anything was because the previous person kept hiding things from her.. so I did a huge cleanout and found all the missing things.

I’m handling this new task far better now that I organised everything the Aspie way I like it, but it took a lot more energy to organise than I expected, plus the person who resigned from this job did a little creative throwing out of manuals and deleting of files that I actually needed, so that took a lot of phone calls, downloading instruction manuals and sorting out.

I am hoping to have more spare time this week. I will try to schedule a few posts ahead. The bonus is I am really enjoying this new task. Happy moments!

guest post, Sephyroth

A Quick One

Adding just one Aunt to the mix can add in a LOT of unexpected events. The other day we both had the day off so we went out for a lovely 5km walk near Vincentia, then we ended up going into the nearest “big” town for crepes, shopping, and general wandering.

We had a chai latte with the crepes – the cafe had a gorgeous open fire – and we have since decided we will try as many chai lattes in the Shoalhaven as we can. We suspect the one we had may well be the best one we’ve both ever had, so it will take some beating. We both have today off, so who knows what kind of mischief we will get up to, or where we will end up. I suspect perhaps Berry, or maybe Milton or Ulladulla. We do have a plan to catch the train to Sydney at one point, more for the journey than the destination.

While we were in the “big” town, we ordered a carrot, orange and walnut cake for my Dad for his birthday, which was yesterday.

We’ve volunteered to hold a BBQ at ours yesterday so that the cake can be experienced by all. I have to tell you, my Mother is very Anti-Cake. If it were up to her there would not be one. I bought candles for a significant Dad birthday 9 years ago now, and she has never once let me buy a cake to put them on. It had been so long I thought I had lost them. I guess, lucky me that I did not buy numbers of any kind.

If I do manage to get these candles on a cake and lit, hopefully a photo will be added to the post here. If there is no photo, Mother won the battle and the candles remain in their carton, perhaps for another 9 years. I mean really, can’t we just set fire to these things for a short moment, so I can enjoy the coloured flames? YES WE CAN.

These are the most gorgeous candles ever, well worth the 9 year wait. Even Mother enjoyed them. The photos do not quite do them justice. Perhaps I will be allowed to cake and candle again sometime this century. :) If not I might print some of these photos and put them into frames, for posterity.

We are in the midst of a major decluttering at the moment – more about that another day – and I have a bunch of Avon which I used to sell some years back that I want to find new homes for. I just don’t wear makeup myself, not even the cool liquid eyeshadows. I had a lot of perfume samples left over some of which people in Australia for are really missing now that Avon has left Australia. Mother has been receiving Avon perfumes for some years now and using and enjoying them, so she left with almost all the full bottles I had left. Even the men at the table found things to take home in among my decluttering pile.

The cake was delicious. Three bottles of wine were consumed, considering Mother and I do not drink and The Other Half only drinks bourbon, the remaining four people were quite happy when they left, if a little wonky getting into the car to be driven home by the always sober Mother. A great night was had by all.

family

The Chicago Trip – Part 4

After a full day in the city, and plenty of activity, it was time to head home in one way or another :)

The day started with some planespotting out into the still-gloomy skies outside, but there were a few highlights –

A dying breed, literally. American are phasing out their “Super 80” fleet slowly but surely, yet you can still find them around, like this one taxiing to its gate –

O’Hare is clearly a United hub…just a few of their planes hanging around the tarmac, plus some semis at the cargo hangar and even a train on the tracks in the background –

Lastly for this section, a commuter jet taking off for Palm Beach, Florida, which was hopefully a little bit warmer than Chicago!

After that quick spotting session, I went down to the hotel fitness center to enjoy the pool and its amenities. I was slightly dismayed to find out that the fitness center cost $15 to enter – something that almost deterred me until seeing the sign that the pool was free for guests to use. Whew!

So, I jumped in and just let my foot soak for a while, then gradually turned up the heat by first going into the steam room and then into the sauna – whoa, that’s hot, but something worth doing occasionally, as you can chill and sweat it out ;)

Walking away, I snapped a picture of this, which is a sure sign that O’Hare can be a community upon itself –

I then headed back up to my room for the final re-packing and the trek out to the car. But first, another plane ;)

Or 3, including that Etihad 777 arriving at O’Hare 49 minutes late after its flight from Abu Dhabi. Now the last airplanes, for real this time ;) I like this shot because it’s a great display of how busy O’Hare is, planes *everywhere* –

While all this is going on, I made a coffee with the in-room coffee maker and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf coffee. For being a filter pack coffee, it was acceptable, but nothing you’d get from a proper coffee shop. I then made my way back to my car using the tram.

Remember the walk to the train station from the car? It’s still as long on the way back…only complicated by the slight problem that the skies opened up and the rain poured down. I was very thankful that I brought an umbrella, even though it could unequivocally be classified as the world’s worst umbrella, it would have been much worse without one.

I made my way to the Chicago Premium Outlets, which are definitely premium, considering this is one of the stores there:

The only other place I know has a Kipling store is the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. As a guy, handbags don’t interest me, I’m good with the suitcases that I have, and if I’m going to buy a new backpack, I prefer function over fashion ;)

However, there is a store that drew me in –

I made sure to pick up a packet of hand creme there with the outlet discount :)

It was time for something to eat, as I hadn’t had anything as of that time, and I was also ready for a proper coffee. When I was coming in, I noted on the wayfinding display that there is a shop called Crepe Cafe, which is right in front of Lindt, I may add…but I got the house special crepe –

It has banana and mixed berries topped with Nutella and chocolate dressing, along with a dollop of whipped cream, and OMG again there are no human terms to describe this!

After the crepe, I wandered around the mall a little bit, and when I got to one of the exits, there was this –

Yep, a wall of clocks. All set, like a watch ad, at 10:10. This wall only covers A-Fa (Abu Dhabi to Fayetteville…skipping Chicago). The rest of the alphabet goes through the doors into the vestibule from the parking deck. More public art…

My foot had stopped hurting as much due to me walking around, so I hopped back into the car, and started driving along the Des Plaines River Road…a road that takes a winding route, not surprisingly, along the river. I spent what felt like an eternity on this road and thought…the tollways don’t have stoplights, crossroads, and will actually get me out of Cook County by the end of the decade, let’s be smart and get on there!

This is also where the photos really end, since I was driving – I took a couple of quick stops to stretch at the Oasis, then stopped at Costco where I had a realization looking at this scene –

This could be literally any Costco in the USA…the pricing signs are the same, with date codes and stars; the produce selection is practically homogeneous – some items may be organic in one store, non-organic others. Heck, even the food court is the same.

Well, except this one was different. The beef chili wasn’t there, replace with an Al Pastor salad. Also, they still had the chocolate frozen yogurt, which is being replaced in food courts with an açaí and vanilla yogurt blend. The açaí for the new Açaí bowl offering that has started coming around. I would have had the salad, but they were sold out, so I decided against the other food court items, and dropped in at the grocery store to do a quick shop there as well. Too bad I wasn’t going to be there in a few days though!

I carried on home, listening to the qualifications for the Indianapolis 500, making one last stop at Starbucks for an iced coffee, and then I got home to unpack everything and then return the loaner, adding about 400 miles to its clock, and increasing the average fuel. Maybe it is time for a hybrid ;)

Note from Snoskred –

I hope you all have enjoyed our 4 Mondays of Travel With Sephyroth. I know I certainly have. It should be noted the entire reason all of this came about was due to The West Wing Weekly who were arranging some live podcast recordings – tickets sold out incredibly fast and Sephyroth missed out on tickets.

I follow Rob Lowe on Twitter and when he mentioned he would be touring I looked to see if there were any dates nearby to Sephyroth and it turned out Chicago was the closest. I suggested to add in a couple of days of activities and stay a couple of nights, and this trip was born.

I am hopeful this experience will encourage Sephyroth to book a couple more trips, whether it be overnight stays or longer. Travel is an awesome thing!

guest post, Sephyroth

The Chicago Trip, Part 3

After what proved to be a very long Friday, Saturday came early, with alarms set left, right and centre as to make sure I was out of my hotel room in time to get to my 9AM yoga session, and I was successful, being up around 6AM and on the train by 7:45.

Getting off at the station, I was presented by what used to be these payphones, now replaced by a small mural of public phones around the world. Nice art, but not terribly helpful if your mobile is flat! :)

A short bus ride and walk later, I made it to 875 North Michigan, and headed to the 94th floor to get checked in for the class. The class was a straightforward yoga class; the highlight of which was doing tree pose with a partner – in this case the leader’s second-in-command was my partner. While tree pose can be quite treacherous, with a partner it’s quite a refreshing move, and so much easier.

After the class was over, I left the yoga mat behind as I had planned, but it wasn’t alone as there were other yoga mats in the corner for those who may have forgotten to bring a mat, which is a good tip especially if you’re travelling from further afield.

With the fog as thick as it was, there wasn’t much in the way of photo opportunities outward, unless you’re interested in the lake and seeing Lake Shore Drive.

Then we come to this – the actual skystone (not cornerstone) that was installed in the building when it was going up. The inscription states “This Skystone in the shape of a contemporary space travel vehicle was raised to the 100th story of the John Hancock Center on May 6, 1968. After public display, it will be secured and sheltered at the top of the building. Members of some future generation will break the time capsule’s seals and find within a collection of artifacts and microfilmed documents and photographs reflecting interesting aspects of the history of Chicago, Illinois, and the United States of America”

The “some future generation” happened to be my generation, as it was opened on March 12th, and the items in the Skystone, including baseballs signed by the two teams as well as a piece of the Eiffel Tower, are on display right next to it.

I wasn’t nervous about going on TILT, but if you are, there is a solution to it. Alcohol. ;)

The line goes pretty fast, and not much later it was my turn to get in the booth. At first, it’s not too bad, as they start you out with a very small angle, but after a moment or two, you’re leaning out over the city at about a 45 degree angle! It seems scary, but the adrenaline carries you through the experience – an experience made better by the fact that you have grab bars to hold and, as such, are not permitted to take your phone or camera to put in your hand.

If you’re in Chicago, it’s well worth buying a ticket to not only 360 Chicago, but spend the extra $8 and go on TILT…for such a thrill, it’s really a bargain, and make sure to buy the commemorative photographs they make of you on there. In fact, the only souvenirs I purchased in the entire trip were the photographs and magnets of 360 Chicago.

I was off to Navy Pier, but I needed fuel both for myself and my phone. The phone got situated with a stop at Best Buy for a portable charger, and I fed myself via the different shops in Water Tower Place – namely foodease, which features items from different restaurants and local sources such as appetizers from Joe’s Crab Shack and vegetarian quesadillas, plus “pickled things”, and Wow Bao, featuring steamed buns in an Asian style and Thai iced coffee.

I enjoyed my meal in a small park next to a fire house across from the Children’s Hospital. A block down the street was the beginning of the Northwestern University Chicago campus which houses the Law and Medical schools. Around the corner was one of Chicago’s Divvy bike sharing points, and I decided it was time for a change, so I rented a bike…the last time I rode a bike was three years earlier in the same situation.

I was still rusty. So rusty that I didn’t even pedal the bike, just walked it and glided along, almost crashing into a wall while going downhill, so the bike was quickly returned to the next station and I walked the last couple of blocks to Navy Pier, ready to begin my Pokemon adventure.

While my initial plan was to be solo, I actually wound up spending the entire time with 3 folks from out of town, and then our group seemed to expand one by one, but the core group of the four stayed together catching these little guys –

The highlight of the time for me was when one of the major raid bosses popped up, there was a mass of humanity that descended upon the site, and at least 3 groups of 20 formed right away. Nearly everyone in this picture is playing the game here!

As the time wound down, I noticed that my feet were starting to hurt. Why? I decided to wear my new shoes. Not a wise idea when you walk over 7 miles in a busy city. Nevertheless, I still had one thing to do before going over to the theatre, which was to go to Millennium Park and the BP Bridge. Since the original plan was to go there during the 3 hour event, I was somewhat behind. I still made my way down there by foot with a cameo from the President of Poland’s motorcade, along with hopping on another bike and actually using the pedals this time, instead of acting like Fred Flintstone.

The parks connected by the BP Bridge are a bit different to each other. On the east side is Maggie Daley park, designed for families to have a nice day out with miniature golf, a rock climbing wall and a whole playground for the kids. You then cross Columbus Drive via the BP Bridge to Millennium Park.

Millennium Park is just about one square block of green space, along with two buildings that are waterfalls with illuminating faces on them. The folks and I who were watching tourists get into the water in the centre didn’t quite get it…especially on such a cold day.

Next up, I took a quick swing a block south of Millennium Park to the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago to get a picture of the Lion (One of a Pair, North Pedestal) in front –

Getting somewhat drained, I managed to find myself at a coffee shop to enjoy a mocha while getting the chance to give my feet a rest for a bit before walking on to the next stop, which was at Luke’s Lobster City Hall, which I managed to actually miss the first time past and had to backtrack around the corner back to the restaurant. I had the Luke’s Favorite – a lobster roll, coleslaw and bag of crisps (salt & vinegar). I also had myself the rare soda, in this case a local ginger soda.

There really are no human terms to describe how amazing the lobster roll really is. You just have to try it; you won’t regret it!

It was finally time to go to the show!

What can I say about the show? Rob Lowe is freaking hilarious, especially when he tells stories about sharing his After School Special, “Schoolboy Father” with a girl who stated her dad was an actor. His name, not known to Rob until rocking up at their house? Cary Grant. He left after watching the show with nearly a lifetime supply of soap on a rope shaped like a microphone. He also shared the story of when he was a part of, well, this:

He told so many stories, but I’m not going to spoil much of what he said here :) Though the concept of a porterhouse steak requiring a “hat” made of butter is, well, different. It was something that Chris Farley did when he was eating at a restaurant with Rob and some other cast members on a show they were doing together.

The show lasted about 2 hours, including a Q&A session with Rob, where I was mildly disappointed that his dad didn’t ask any questions of him, which I’m sure would have been a blast! I now want to (finally) read his two books – Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and Love Life.

I picked up my bag from the coat check, and hopped on the train back to the hotel via the O’Hare station and these neon signs –

I was ready for another good night’s sleep to be fresh for the drive home, with a few more surprise stops along the way.

guest post, Sephyroth

The Chicago Trip, Part 2

Having been to IKEA, the next goal for me was to find a Walmart to buy a Yoga mat, and then make my way to the Outlets for new shoes from the Adidas Outlet, and they did not disappoint. The instant that I walked into the store, I spotted an awesome pair of shoes that screamed my name. Two pairs of shoes, and a new long-sleeve workout shirt later, I was all set and pleased that I had only spent half as much as I expected.

With that stop done, it was time to venture into Illinois…and head into the Hell that is known as Chicago traffic on a Friday afternoon. But first, I made another stop.

One of my favourite things about the Illinois Tollway are the Oases along the highway. It’s like taking the shops and restaurants from an airport concourse and melding them all into a single building right over the tollway, and then putting a gas station on each side of the highway for fueling up at. A major plus is the view out of the windows –

While there, I organised the coins that I would need to pay the toll when I exited, since their automated machines only accept 5, 10 and 25-cent pieces. No notes or cards accepted. I also grabbed a Chai Latte from Starbucks to sip on while driving in the traffic on the way to the airport.

A quick musical interlude: since the car can search tracks in Google Play Music, I asked for it to play, by title, “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. Google mustn’t have been feeling well on this day, as this starts up:


Maniacal laughing ensues, but I quickly recover and coax it to the right song, and then decide that it’s time to load up some of the club and trance music that I have in my library to help with focussing on the rush hour traffic in Chicago. I get off the tollway via this ramp with 4 payment lanes.

Four payment lanes are great, until you see what’s ahead. Within 300m, you have to merge into a single lane, and then keep an eye out for traffic from the left that could be entering your lane to exit at one of the two exit ramps that are immediately after the merge point. It certainly isn’t the greatest moment in Civil Engineering. The positive for me is that I needed that first exit to access the remote parking lot.

I’m greeted at the parking lot with a recorded announcement in the classic Chicago accent; it’s really a ‘ting’ of ‘bewdy’. The next challenge is to find a parking spot. The first spot I find is in section D12 and right next to a tree, in the blue circle. It was quite a hike to the people-mover to get to the airport.

After reorganizing my items to carry them to the airport, I make the jaunt to the people mover and travel to the airport. The check-in at the hotel was straightforward, and I was up in my room on the 9th floor with a runway view after just a few minutes.

So, what’s the view like? Look one way and you see one tower, the other way you see the other tower :) Here’s the tower to the right –

After taking a few minutes to get myself recombobulated, I had a chance to study the tarmac and had the opportunity to see the Queen of the Skies in one of her cargo configurations –

It was now 7PM and time for dinner, so I hop on the train and head to Logan Square, and then on to Fat Rice. During my walk, I was keeping my head up, and the early-1900s flats caught my eye –

Even though it was raining very lightly, it was still good weather for a walk, and I get to Fat Rice only to find out that it would be an hour for a table to open up, so I went searching for another restaurant for dinner. I find Restaurant Ecuador, which has a high rating on Google and, more helpfully, its menu posted on the window, so I chose to pop in and have dinner there.

A tip if you find yourself at Restaurant Ecuador – Spanish knowledge is a major plus. Even though you’re very much in Chicago, you have to specify to the waiters that you speak English; otherwise, it’s assumed that you know Spanish, which is something that I do know, so I had a relatively easy time chatting there.

When I looked at the menu, one dish sparked my interest right away: Churrasco, which is Steam Steak served with 2 eggs, french fries, lettuce, tomatoes and white rice. I chose that for main main, and also selected an appetiser of Bolon de Verde, which is Plantain mixed with pork skin. The waitress was suggesting that I try it with cheese, but I chose not to this time. While waiting for my food, I had a chance to look around at the surroundings. You can tell that this is a small operation since you have some basic decorations, but nothing outlandish.

After about 10 minutes, my plantain arrives with a small container of salsa:

The plantain was soft and the pork that’s in there is crispy to give a nice contrast of textures. What about the salsa? Holy cow, this is knock-your-socks-off levels of spicy, but something that I would definitely have again. Just as I’m finishing up my plantain, the Churrasco arrives –

Snoskred and I had been talking about putting an egg on top of my pizza, so it was only fitting that I did get the item that had the egg on top ;) The steak was cooked about medium-well and was quite tender, especially when you combine some of the egg with it. The lettuce and tomatoes on the bottom were a good accompaniment. The only suggestion I would have is to include some different vegetables for more contrast.

Having completed just about half of the plate, I paid the check and chatted for a couple of minutes with the waitress in Spanish about how I wound up enjoying their restaurant.

While I was having dinner, the rain picked up a little bit so I decided to catch a bus back to the train station. A quick look to the east reveals that there isn’t a bus imminently arriving, but it couldn’t be too long, right? I wound up standing out in the rain for close to 15 minutes before abandoning that idea in favor of walking back. It was fortunate since in the time it took for me to walk to the station, I saw two busses heading the other way, and nothing my way.

Getting back to the hotel around 10:00, I wasn’t tired so I decided to take a walk around the parts of the airport that I can access, and come across this sign offering Indulgence, Love, and Beauty at O’Hare-

Indulgence – “Nuts on Clark”; Sarah’s Candies; and McDonald’s
Love – Hoypoloi, an uncommon Gallery; Seaway; and Coach.
Beauty – MAC; Sunglass Hut; and Hudson.

Let’s look at this a bit deeper. Each of the categories features one really strange inclusion…for Beauty, we have Hudson. Hudson run the convenience stores in numerous airports around the world. Now…Love. What the heck is Seaway? It’s a bank. Maybe you can use the money you get from Seaway to love a new bag from Coach, if you can get through the barrier.

McDonald’s for “Indulgence”? It’s a bit of a stretch to consider anything there indulgent. Surely you could find something different, like Eli’s Cheesecake. Or, if all else fails, Dunkin’ Donuts:

Making it back to the 9th floor, it’s time to settle in for a night’s sleep in preparation for a full day on Saturday, which will come next week. :)

guest post, Sephyroth