America 2016: Day Five (30 May)

And I’m proud to be on this peaceful piece of property,
I’m on sacred ground and I’m in the best of company,
I’m thankful for those thankful for the things I’ve done,
I can rest in peace, I’m one of the chosen ones.
I made it to Arlington
– Trace Adkins
Monday 30 May
I must say, there’s something just a little climactic about waking up the morning after the 100th Indianapolis 500. After all – and for those who know me well, they’ll know that this isn’t exaggeration – I’ve been anticipating race day for pretty much as long as we’ve had a deposit on tickets.
So, Monday morning was a little flattening, but before any sort of post-Indianapolis 500 depression could set in, we were on the road (after the most American breakfast possible: Starbucks), headed north to Chicago, where Nathan and I are lucky to have a bunch of really great friends.
First up, for lunch, we went downtown Naperville to the iconic – or so I’m told – Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, where the slices of pizza have to be seen to be believed. They are enormous. We ate there with one of my oldest Chicagoan friends, Kevin, who was the second new face I met the first time I came here in 2010. Six years ago, but it doesn’t seem anywhere near that length of time.
Anyway, Kevin lives in Portland, Oregon now, but was out here for a wedding, and our schedules mated up perfectly. We had a really great weekend laughing and eating and drinking, touring the picturesque River Walk, and basically dominating the town known colloquially as Naperthrill. The thrill is real.
For dinner, we went over to Brian and Debbie’s where the rest of the clan had gathered for a Memorial Day BBQ – or “cookout” as they are called here – which began with me feeling a lot like Santa Claus after offloading all manner of gifts from Australia, including somewhere around twice my body weight in Tim-Tam packets. There was also an echidna and a wombat (both stuffed, for Bri and Paige) and half the contents of the online shops for both the Sydney Swans and the Manly Sea Eagles.
The Tim-Tams, though, are king here. I don’t exaggerate. In fact, they’re basically ticket in the door. Well, mine anyway, because Nathan gets in with his charm. I need something more, and when the Chicagoans see that chocolate…watch out! In the door we go. Americans don’t do chocolate like we do, and every time we come, someone else gets a packet, and loves them, so we must bring more and more each time. One day, we’ll need an entire extra suitcase!
But seriously, so many nice people in one place made my heart hurt. Thanks to Brooke, there was a very serious softball game before dinner – read not at all serious, especially not when like fifty percent of us were carrying beer into the game – that involved anyone who was older than two or not pregnant.
It didn’t start off well. There was a draft, and although you’d assume the visiting Aussies who everyone professes to love would get picked first, we did not. In fact, Matt gleefully told everyone – at the top of his voice, so the neighbours as well – that he drafted a pregnant woman before me, I was obviously the star of the show, driving in a few runs and managing a one-handed catch on a laser down left field. No glove. Just stuck the hand out and that ball came to it like the Jedi can call their lightsabers. Total fluke, but a very good story that I am dining out on all week.
It’s a very solemn day in America. Memorial Day (which falls on the last Monday in May) is basically their version of ANZAC Day, when people commemorate the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, dying for the American flag. It’s an honour to be here on such an important day, and I was definitely thinking about all of those who’ve died to make America such a great country to be in as a tourist.
Chicago, it’s so great to be back. Looking forward to the next week!
The Stars and Stripes prominently on display at the Donohue’s for Memorial Day.

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