America 2017: Day Eight (3 August)

Made in America, nineteen fifty nine,
Born down by the factories, cross the Jersey City line.
Raised on radio,
Just a jukebox kid,
I was alright.

                                                                – Richie Sambora

Thursday 3 August
Wheaton, Illinois

Today was our last full day in Chicago. It’s been one heck of a trip, this one, and we’ve done so much that it seems like we’ve been here for three or four weeks rather than just seven short and very busy days since landing in Los Angeles last Thursday morning. I’ll find myself thinking about something at home and wondering how much it’s progressed, because it genuinely feels like I haven’t been home in ages.

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Miles and I building speedboats

After a big night at Arrowhead, it was nice to sleep in and I was a little dusty when I first got up, but two cups of coffee (thanks, Jaimie!) helped me push through the fog, and after hanging out with the kids we headed over to see Allan and Mackenzie for lunch. Their baby, Emery, is potentially the cutest kid alive, and she was pretty happy to see me…but maybe that had something to do with the fact that I had a wombat toy in tow. The Rovik’s are gathering a nice collection of Australian animals at their place, because they already have a kangaroo from when Emery was born, which Allan said he’d named Kitch after me. See why I like these people so much?

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Emery liked me!

Last year when we were here, Allan took us to a really amazing southern BBQ joint called Steamboat. It sits in a fairly dingy strip mall and you wouldn’t think by looking at the place that it’s probably the best BBQ that I’ve had anywhere above the Mason-Dixon Line. Anyone you ask about the place is full of praise. So it was an easy choice of what to get as our take-out lunch.

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(I will momentarily touch on American politics and the dreaded T-word, because Allan was telling us about some of the Trump-related hysteria that seems to have infected the country, and it follows on from what other people have said to me on and off since last week. I’ve gotten the general sense that most Americans are fairly embarrassed by the lurch from crisis to crisis that the Trump administration has been marked by, and conscious that their standing on the world is being somewhat eroded with the varying clashes that Trump has had with other leaders. His interaction with Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, being a notable example.)

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Anyway, I’ll leave happenings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue there, and mention, instead, that Allan and Mackenzie are really great people, and we had a fun time hanging out with them. Emery is a sweetheart, and seemed content enough to let me feed her for a while after the adults had eaten their lunch.

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We headed back to Matt and Jaimie’s after making semi-concrete plans to do a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot with the Rovik’s in November, and headed around to Brian and Debbie’s for a dinner with all the Alley/Longhini clan minus Matt and Jaimie, who were headed out on their own. I knew it would be a fun time, and I wasn’t disappointed. Food was good, company was better. It’s nights like this that make me so grateful that my path and the Alley’s intersected seven years back.

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But it’s coming. Tomorrow. A four hour flight from Chicago to Los Angeles, then a layover of around 10 hours, and fourteen hours home to Sydney. I feel like leaving this time won’t be so hard because I’ll be back in Chicago in late November – and back in America in ten short weeks – but that might be just what I’m telling myself, because I think, all things considered, this has probably been the best week we’ve had over here.

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Don’t get me wrong: they’ve all been good, but this one, I feel like we hit it right out of the park.


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