I need a vacation from all of this relaxing. No-Fail Recipe for Good Times: Combine two of my best friends from college (Anastasia and KD) with the most beautiful Chicago summer days on record. Can you smell the patchouli?
I had the good fortune of meeting Annie and KD, who have been BFFs since they were in middle school, within the first few weeks of our freshman year of college at Ohio University in Athens. The way they remember it – and I believe that this is an accurate account of events – I simply walked up to them while they were standing outside of Boyd Hall (our collective dorm), and said, "Hi, I’m Lou."
It was a simpler time.
For Annie and I, it was love at first Marlboro Light. We bonded instantly over a shared addiction to cigarettes, a desire to learn to play the guitars we had both recently acquired, and a weakness for musician-wannabes and other shadier types. KD stood back for a few months and eyed me suspiciously. Eventually she decided that "Crazy Lou" was more "fun crazy" than "psycho crazy" and she came around.
It was just like that Judy Blume book. Only we had already gotten our periods when we met. And we didn’t name any of our crushes after a brand of paint. And we weren’t twelve. Whatever.
Ten years later, we're still together.
A word about the place where the three of us met... Athens, Ohio (for the three of you who didn’t live there at one time or another) is your quintessential, fiercely liberal, hippie-infested college town nestled quietly in the hills of rural Southern Ohio. So, if you will, close your eyes and imagine a main street lined with bars whose policies are – let’s say – lax when it comes to the drinking age and/or the use of illegal substances, head shops, worker-owned restaurants that double as art galleries, dreadlocks, patchwork pants, hacky sacs, and prairie skirts (Oh yeah, and frat boys, drunk kids puking in trash cans, book stores, coffee shops, and Reverend Such-And-Such preaching on the campus green about how we’re all going to hell for wearing clothing that doesn’t resemble a burlap sack… again... whatever...). It's the kind of town that boycotts Wal-Mart.
Isn’t college the coolest?
Back in Chicago… Heartland Café, nestled in the urban jungle of Rogers Park – my least favorite neighborhood in the city – with it’s communist propaganda, organic menu, questionable bathrooms, apathetic waiters, and general store stocked with all of your hippie essentials (Patchouli!) might as well have been plucked from Athens and transported here via time warp. I heart it. I hearted it from the moment I set foot in it because it reminds of KD and Annie, simpler times, and all kinds of nostalgia.
As we all know, I am rarely one to veer from my policy of “under-promising” and “over-delivering,” but I could not contain my excitement when it came to introducing KD and Annie to a place in Chicago that, for me, embodies the place we came from. Lucky for me, Heartland didn’t disappoint. We stayed for three and a half hours, lounging on the patio in the Friday afternoon sun, drinking beers, eating the best hummus in the city, and chatting, chatting, chatting, chatting, chatting, chatting.
Cause that’s what we do. Then we all bought cool headbands from the general store and rode the Red Line back to the future.