Joy Town: Where I Was When The Cubs Won In ’16.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 20
Cookies at The Goddess & Baker, near school in the Loop. Photo: Me, with crumbs on my face.
Cookies at The Goddess & Baker yesterday, near SAIC in the Loop. Photo: Me, with crumbs on my face.


All day long, I’ve been old.

Because all day long I’ve been thinking that when I’m an old lady and people ask me about stuff that happened in Chicago when I was younger, I’ll be able to say, “I was in Chicago when the Cubs won the World Series in ’16. That, my holographic friend, was cool.”

(I figure there will be a holographic element of our digital lives at that point and that it will be entirely pointless but really fun, like Snapchat.)

I hope my memory lasts a long time because I don’t ever want to forget last night or the feeling of lightness and joy in Chicago today.

Just in case I do forget, I’m going to write down just how it happened; that way, if someone asks me where I was when the Cubs won in ’16, I can just read this.

I was at a theater earlier in the evening watching my friend Susan Of The Wonderful Laugh in a big storytelling event. Even with the big game going on, the Athenaeum Theater was full. The show’s emcees kept the audience up to date on the score throughout the show because even though people at the theater were obviously not die-hard Cubs fans — if they were, they were dying, hard — we were all buzzing, tense. Because the World Series this year ceased to be about baseball weeks ago. The Cubs being so close to winning was about chance. Change. Obstacles and overcoming. The Cubs at the Series was about universal stuff irresistible to any audience of any kind, anywhere.

By the end of the show — not that anyone was surreptitiously checking her phone during curtain call — the Cubs had lost the lead. The teams were tied 6 – 6. Just like that, the confidence the audience had allowed ourselves during the show was gone. It was a dreadful, wretched feeling.

Susan and her friends offered to drive me to the train after the show, but I declined. There was something I had to do. Deep in my heart, I felt it: I needed to get on a bike and bike home.

It’s a ways from the Athenaeum to the South Loop. But I needed to make contact with the night. I wanted to hear people cheering from the bars — and if they cried or wailed, I wanted to hear that, too. I wanted to breathe the night air, the electric air in my city. The need was overwhelming to experience the rest of the evening in that particular way at that important moment. There was a bank of bikeshare bikes outside the theatre; I’m a card-carrying, devoted member. I bid adieu to Susan and her friends, checked out a bike, and began my ride.

All the way down Lincoln, the humanity was almost too much to bear. In every single bar there were people packed inside, faces upturned to screens, watching with anguish and untenable expectation. I saw people praying. I saw people literally biting off their nails.

Near Oz Park, I came upon a huge number of bike cops who had all put their bikes down and were crowding around a pizza joint and a bar and a falafel place, all trying to get a view of a screen. Not too far from them I came upon another pack of cops. I didn’t understand at first but then realized, oh, they’re mobilizing for the end of the game. Win or lose, it’s gonna be a hell of a night. I can’t tell you how tense everything was, how dead the streets were, how every tree and traffic light felt invested in the moment.

I rolled on, peddling faster, now; I needed to park the bike and see for myself what was going on. But I didn’t want to get stranded anywhere. Why wasn’t there more noise? Shouldn’t the Cubbies be scoring a point? Why weren’t people cheering, shouting?? I started doing ridiculous, magical thinking in my head: If I get this green light, they’ll do it. If I sing a song. No, no, that’s silly. The lesson here, I thought as I crossed into the Loop, is to let it go. Just let it go. It’s out of your hands. It’s just a game. Even if they don’t win, they got so far. It’s baseball. It’s baseball.

By the time I got home, I knew something must have been horribly wrong. It was well past 11 p.m. I had biked seven miles in about 39 minutes. The city had not erupted in cheers, in 1,000,000 ticker-tape parades. I docked my bike and ran to my building, stabbed at the elevator buttons, and finally got to my unit. I turned on the radio just as my sister texted me, deeply troubled. Tenth inning. And the rain delay.

The radio announcers seemed to be in almost physical agony. My muscles were tight. I poured a little gin but couldn’t even drink it. I turned on my sewing machine and made Log Cabin blocks while I listened. And waited. And didn’t breathe.

And then it happened.

The city broke open.

The South Loop erupted all over with joy. My windows were open and the moment the Cubs won, cars in the streets below honked and honked and honked and people shouted, “Hurrah! Hurrah!” and “Cubbies Win! They won! They [BEEP] won! Yeaaaaahhhhhhh!” and “Woooooooo-HOOOOOOOOOOO!” Fireworks — real fireworks! — from three different places in the immediate area began to go off. Pew! Pew! Zeeeee-pew! Shouts and laughter, whoops and hoopla, beautiful hoopla all over town. It was bliss. It was every Christmas morning, I swear, that feeling of yes.

I was making squeaking and yipping sounds, hopping and jumping in my apartment, texting my sister furiously and then I’d just burst out laughing with happiness and excitement for the pure joy of long overdue change and victory! I stuck my head out the window and joined the chorus of voices across the mid-rise buildings: “Yaaaaay! Go Cubs! Go Cubs! Yay! Yay!!! Yes!!!” The guy one floor up from me was calling out, too, and we laughed and called to each other: “Go Cubs! They won! They won!”

Did you know there are 108 stitches in a baseball? Did you know?

Cubs Win, Strangers Hug.

posted in: Day In The Life, Story, Travel 9
The Lyric Opera House of Chicago right now; "Fly The W" means fly the "Win" flag! Photo: Wikipedia.
The Lyric Opera House of Chicago right now! “Fly The W” means “fly the ‘Cubs Win’ victory flag!” Photo: Wikipedia.


On Sunday evening, down in Houston for Quilt Market, I supped with several people from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, which means that I got to be at a big, round table with some of my favorite people on the planet. I’m a member of the board and was invited to be there, but if I had had to pose as a waiter, I wouldn’t have missed that meal. However, because I also can’t miss office hours or class on Monday… I had to leave before dessert. It’s true: My flight out of Houston was 10 p.m. Sunday night. After risotto and Malbec. Gaaah.

(When people ask me how I get everything done, do you know what I say? I say, “It’s easy: I have no husband, children, pets, or plants. No one cares where I am.” That sounds awful, but it’s really okay.)

When I got to my gate at the airport, the World Series game was on, obviously. And because I was on a flight to Chicago, there were many people waiting to go home, just like me, which meant there were people whooping and hollering and drinking, watching the monitors. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to live in a town that could win — could actually win — the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Telling you what happened on the plane gets at it, maybe.

There was a bald man in his early sixties (it was hard to tell) sitting kitty-corner from my aisle seat. He was wiry, pretty short, and wore a Hawaiian shirt. His voice was so gravelly I think he must’ve been a pack-a-day guy. He had a cell phone that he was having a lot of trouble with as people finished boarding the plane and we waited for the crew to close the doors. Southwest has free on-board TV and the guy was trying to get on to see the score.

While we were at the gate, during the fourth inning, the score had been 2- 3, Cubs. Now, who knew?

“Miss! Miss, can you??” The guy waved at the stewardess several times while he stabbed away at his phone. The screen was so big I could see repeated error messages of various kinds. He wasn’t being rude about asking for help, but he was insistent and didn’t seem to have a single clue about how his phone (or the internet?) worked. I’ll admit it: Those of us around him, after 10 minutes of this, were getting a little exasperated.

“Are you online?” he asked his seat mates. They shook their heads. “How about you, did you get online? Did you get the score?” He was shifting in his seat, frustrated, then would be back at his phone. He started talking about the game to people and I picked up that they weren’t Chicagoans but Houstonians, possibly wary about going into Chicago for business this week.

The truth was, I was freaking out a little, myself. I don’t follow baseball. I’ve never been to a Cubs game, never even been inside Wrigley Field. Part of the reason for this is that Cubs fans can be very loud and there are a lot of them. Remember Lollapalooza? It’s the same problem. But when this World Series thing became real, it ceased to be a Cubs thing. It’s a Chicago thing, now. We all want this.

I pulled out my phone and took it off airplane mode for a second to see if I could get the score for him. I tapped him on the shoulder and showed him. “It’s still 2 – 3. Cubbies,” I said, and gave him a polite smile. “I have to turn this off now, though —”

Too late. He was already launching into this stat and that one, the odds of this, the odds of that. He had excuses ready for the Cubs if they lost that night (something about how no No. 1 team has won Game 5 after losing Game 2, etc.) and factoids about this or that player. I listened and nodded then politely said, “Well, I hope you can get online to see the score…” and smiled as I opened my laptop to communicate, “I am working, now.”

But I felt a pang of love for that guy.

He loves the Cubs. The Cubs are part of his life. They’re something he connects with his family. Or they represent or symbolize stuff. Maybe he used to play ball; maybe he never could. Maybe he actually lives in Wrigleyville. Maybe his parents took him to games, maybe his kids like the Cubs and he couldn’t care less about baseball but he loves his kids and loving the Cubs is a way he can feel close to them. Maybe it’s something else or all of the above. All sports fans have their reasons for loving their teams, but almost all sports fans count “Sometimes they win the big game” as one of their reasons for loyalty. Not Cubs fans. Their main resource is loyalty. You have to give them credit for that.

I secretly couldn’t keep my eyes off the guy’s stupid screen the whole time he was trying. He was at it a good 20 minutes more after we were airborne. In my mind (and under my breath) I was saying, “Come on, Cubbies. Come on, baby,” willing them to win, pleading with them. You can do this. When we get to Chicago, I thought to myself, we’ll learn the Cubs have won Game 5. (Honestly, I feel like if the Cubs win this whole thing, everything is gonna be okay. Like, everything. You know?)

Finally, the man got online. I could tell because the screen said, “You are now online. Enjoy live streaming TV courtesy of Southwest.” I looked away. I couldn’t take it. Please, Cubs.

He whirled around. Every muscle in his body was vibrating as he spoke to me and to everyone in the immediate vicinity. “They did it. The Cubs. They held ’em 3 to 2. They did it!”

I yelped. “They did?! They did!!!” I grabbed the man’s shoulder across the aisle. He leaned toward me with his arm out and we did this weird cross-aisle-male-female-stranger-hug and it was glorious, celebrating the Cubs win at 35,000 ft.

As I write, the boys are in the lead. The game is not over. The Series is not over. But I’m proud of my guys no matter what. Everything is gonna be okay! Fly the W!