What is a rendezvous? It can mean many things. By dictionary standards it means a meeting at an agreed time and space. It can also mean the place where the meeting takes place. Weekend? Well all know that one. Webster’s says it is “Friday evening through Sunday evening, esp. regarded as a time for leisure.”
What does that mean to four women that work full time and also take care of their family members (being parents, children, and/or spouses) and whom spend a weekend “at leisure” maybe a couple times a year if they’re lucky?
Doing absolutely nothing they don’t have to.
It means no dishes, grocery stores, doctor’s waiting rooms, vacuum cleaners, computer screens, phone calls, folding, straightening, helping with, or answering to. And it is sooooo nice.
My weekend rendezvous wasn’t spent in Cancun or being massaged in a room of wafting incense and sounds of waterfalls. It was simply a date with my BFF to get the heck away from our norm. She’s never been anywhere, literally (which I found more than pathetic) and I hadn’t not worked all weekend in maybe … six years … unless you count when I was hospitalized or recuperating from a hospital stay — which altogether, minus the poking and prodding and pain, is a pretty gig with all the people coming to your aide at every beep, peep and light flash. Heck, you get flowers and cards and you can frown a little and people are running off to the hills, offering you (if you can handle the smell of cleaning fluids) a nice, quiet, calm existence. I was always a little sad to be leaving the hospital knowing I couldn’t pull any strings to have people come bring me a drink or help me put my bootie socks on. Though … having tubes removed from one’s body is much more pleasing, as is being able to sleep in your own bed.
Well, we had no medical reasons to be hospitalized, so instead we decided on a trip to Chicago for some window shopping, food overindulgence (that we didn’t have to share!) and a little self-pampering. I mentioned something to my sister about my upcoming trip and she of course wanted in, and with three being a crowd, I answered with the only reasonable response I could give: “I guess you’ll have to bring mom.” Not that that isn’t a good thing. Mom likes to travel and by travel I mean from shopping followed by massages and champagne with lobster or prime rib, to airfare, rental cars and fighting with computerized guides to find a particularly interesting, fun, or beautiful destination. And when Mom travels she of course CAN’T go alone, so my sister and I take turns playing “companion.” Which means going anywhere from an area zoo to Atlanta, Ga., to Louisville, Ky., to Disney World, to Paris, France.
So, the four of us nailed down a date that — aside from death or dismemberment — we vowed wouldn’t come and go without us acting out our itinerary … and the rest was history. We talked about what we wanted to do on our rendezvous. We all agreed again: eat, relax, laugh, and no worrying, work or managing. With an “anything goes” entourage I chose to do what every visitor to Chicago wants to do, which, though I’ve been to Chicago more than a dozen times, hadn’t done. That meant visiting a ridiculously-tall building, shopping, eating an incredibly-deep pizza pie, topping that off with a gratifyingly guilty dessert from a chocolate company, shopping, experiencing some sort of unique entertainment, and trying something I had to force myself to do … and shopping. With several websites ready to offer my quartet any number of exciting and new and Chicago-style things-to-do in mind, in no time we had a general plan.
While some people worked, ran errands, and toiled and tasked their Friday away, we stuffed suitcases in a trunk, filled up a gas tank and shot off to the great, wide, Windy City. We dodged traffic (pretty much anyone on the 80/90 toll road is certifiably insane); we deflated as we smelled and saw pollution, homelessness, abandonment, and deterioration; we perked up when we felt the rush of the pulse of the city as the behemoth skyscrapers reached at us from the distance; we heard the deep call from the great lake; and when our bell man took us to our extravagant rooms and we opened the curtains to welcome in the world from high above it, we were overwhelmed to silence. The picketing workers strutting through the porters, bell men and parking garage staff didn’t take away from the elegance of the historical hotel, Grant and Millennium parks or the monolith fellow structures with their glint and glam. The faces of those picketers and the homeless huddling from the cold wind did however wound our hearts, making us feel guilty for enjoying ourselves.
But not too guilty.
We then went to a dinner show that attempted to take guests back in time to a bygone Chicago when gangsters — the well-dressed kind — ruled. A fedora-capped doorman wielding a tommy-gun greeted us at the door and asked us what the code-phrase was before allowing us in (which, if I tol ya, I’d hafta whack ya) while his “goon” flanked us from behind telling us he would take care of the car for us dolls. We entered another era, one that smelled of defied prohibition and gunpowder (but thankfully no smoke) and our greeter and waitress, a caramel-colored flapper named Sugar, brought us drinks and took our orders. Men with interesting accents (if yooz knows what I mean) and flashy suits sang to us, asking if we is or is we ain't their babies. Other goombas told jokes and ladies with feathered boas (tastefully) tried to seduce gentlemen in the crowd with their cooing and jiggling routines. We were given some ground rules to follow, assuming we knew what was good for us, and the night wound on for several hours of laughter, history and dynamic food.
Twice audience members were called to take part in scripted routines that poked fun at them and roused the seated crowd to a gentle roar. At one point I was folding my napkin to place it on the table, the next, I had a Mafiaso at my side, a spotlight in my eyes and a room full of eyes on me as he held his bent arm out to me to join him onstage for a variety show bit. I guess the look on my face was enough to induce a peal of giggles from my Indiana companions. Once on stage with two other suckers, I was told I was to transform myself into Mae West, who honestly, I didn’t mind portraying — I mean, a lovely, strong, outspoken, unique woman that’s ALL woman? That’s almost a hero to me.
We did our bit which included my fellow “actors” Groucho Marx and James Cagney and yes, I twirled my feathered boa and invited strange men to “come up and see me some time.”
We made it an early-ish night Friday so we could be out on the town first thing Saturday, which we started off by riding an elevator at 1,600 feet (488 meters) per minute (I had to swallow three times each direction to “un-pop” my ears) to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower so we could get our view of the skyjack — and The Ledge — a glass platform that juts out a little more than four feet into the nothing.
From the windows surrounding that floor you can see roughly 50 miles in any direction and the view truly is amazing. From the ledge your brain instantly tries to tell you that you are surely going to die and your stomach drops though there is no actual physical movement. Cars look like tiny ants and the buildings we craned our necks from the safety of the room, in an attempt to see the tops of, we looked down upon like a creation of a architectural hobby enthusiast.
Some people took a step out or a peek out, looking down, and then opted to look straight ahead while they posed. Others crawled out on hands and knees trying to force themselves to convince their brains that they weren’t risking their lives while others just plain couldn’t, and shot back out of the ledges (there are four) and to the safety of the room and crowds like they had been bitten.
My sister and I, being a little “out of the box” ourselves, chose to walk out (her) and crawl out (me) and then lay on the glass floor with splayed limbs and frozen screams (much to the delight of the crowds around us — yes, we started something that day) while the other shot a view from above.
My mom and my BFF chose to remain traditional and shuffled out, only glancing down long enough to make them change their minds as they emitted expletives before posing uncertainly for a photo.
We did a bunch of shopping the kind that only a euphoric number of clothing racks can offer a lady — and that rifled through, paid for and conquered ... it was all about the chocolate. Chicago brazenly not only offers a glut of confectionaries like Vosges, Fannie May, World’s Finest, Candyality, teuscher of Switzerland, Godiva, Andersson’s, Moonstruck, and Ethel’s, but also The Hershey Company (where children can be stupefied after maneuvering the Magnificent Chocolate Works Machine which clunks and rattles and then drops out a candy Kiss), but the sinful temptations of Ghirardelli, which not only offers a plethora of chocolates but unnerving sundaes, milkshakes and floats made with the famous fudges and chocolate delicacies that you can partake of while inside at the soda-fountain-style bar or outside at wrought iron cafe-style tables.
I had the milk chocolate hot fudge/butterscotch sundae which was indescribable but that later made the cab ride to Navy Pier a little “iffy.”
We did some shopping, checked out the wildlife (and boy some Chicagoans are certainly wild), and oohed and aaahed at the beautiful craftsmanship of the stained glass museum. My sister and I had to challenge ourselves to the fun house (thank goodness we hadn’t ate immediately prior to) and light game challenge, something I think every spa and gym should invest in.
You have two people in two separate rooms but they can see one another. Along the walls at varying heights of each room are push-button lights, something to the effect of the Staples “easy” button. Tones count you down to a start and then one by one the lights light up. Each person has to run back and forth across their room hitting the buttons as they light and then run and reach high or low to hit the next lit button and so on.
Let me tell you it was crazy fun and got the old ticker pumping. My sister, a competitive A personality employed as a physical trainer, got the higher score — go figure.
Sweating, we felt a little icky watching the well dressed people headed out for the “party dinner cruises” lining the pier at the yachts, and a little scruffier than those headed off to live a pirate’s dream on the multi-sailed giant ship. From the end of Navy Pier, which led to the wide night of nothing and really offered the ferocity of the lake, looking back at the city, it was ethereal … and freezing. Another challenge we tackled was the giant ferris wheel.
Now, we had earlier that day rode nearly to the top of the highest building in the city, so a carnival ride, albeit large, was no biggie right?
Wrong. See, the ferris wheel isn’t enclosed by steel girders. It’s got creaky, metal, open gondolas that — as you see things below you get smaller and smaller — slowly make you realize that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I mean, this thing was constructed in 1893 and how safe is dangling 150 feet in the air really?
But the view was again, spectacular. Back on the ground on our shaky legs we headed off to find dinner. And what better than a good, old-fashioned, Chicago-style deep dish pizza pie at Pizzaria Uno? The hour-long wait (during which they put in your order and offer you beverages) was proved later, as always, well worth it once the mouth meets that fork. Another luxurious evening had, it led us ladies to a long, deep, uninterrupted sleep (thank goodness checkout was at noon) and we were ready for a long car ride along the loop where — despite the cold — the sun had lured bicyclists, dog walkers, skaters, walkers and picnickers.
Of course no shopping trip to Chicago is complete without a stop at Lighthouse Place in Michigan City. Mind you, it isn’t the plethora of stores on Water Tower Place’s eight floors, but still offers a dizzying number of locations to stop in. As the sun began to set once again, we headed home.
With all the sights we had seen, and tastes and experiences we took in, we agreed the best part of the weekend for all of us was simply not having to deal with anything we didn’t want to. We didn’t have any deadlines or appointments or goals we had to accomplish. We didn’t have to answer for or to anyone and we didn’t have to do anything beyond keeping ourselves out of jail.
And while we did nothing in Chicago that had to “stay in Chicago,” we were again liberated women, the people we were before we got responsible, married, had children, careers and grew older, more practical, and realized the genius in the creation of spanx.
We also agreed, that while we begrudgingly admitted we had missed our families, as well as the smells and feels of our individual homes and cities (Bourbon, Elkhart, Goshen and Mishawaka) we couldn’t wait to do it again … and for longer (and further away).