Disarranging Mine: A Journal


Journal

Tuesday ::: July 9, 2002 ::: 9:54 p.m.

Tuesday ::: July 9, 2002 ::: 9:54 p.m.

A story to cool off by.

Have you been to the Pig Hip in Broadwell, Illinois? It's on old Route 66 and if you find yourself there, you're probably lost.

We rarely went out to dinner, but I recall one adventure to the Pig Hip as a small child. The details of why and when we were there are a little vague at this point. I'm thinking we must have been coming home from a camping trip. And, I'd guess I was probably about seven or eight. This was in the early days of the interstate, and looking back, I think my father had a propensity to take the old highway whenever he could. The one specific thing I recall about that visit to the Pig Hip was what I ordered. Of course, I had no idea what I was really ordering when I ordered it. That is, until the waitress set it down in front of me. It was the house speciality. Grilled ham steak. This thing was so huge, it not only covered the plate, it hung over the edges. It was enough to feed a family of at least four.

My next adventure to the Pig Hip, and it was an adventure, was when I was about 13. It was during the week between Christmas and New Years.

I had taken the Greyhound to Chicago to meet my then brother-in-law, Doug. He went to Chicago about once a week. His mainframe was located in a building on the Chicago River behind the Chicago Tribune.

I would meet him in Chicago once every month or so. I loved taking the Greyhound to Chicago. It not only gave me a feeling of total independence, but the freedom was exhilarating. I fell in love with that city on those trips. He'd meet me at the bus station on Randolph and we'd usually go to lunch nearby. It was at the restaurant right next door the station where I was first introduced to Jewish rye bread. I don't recall the name of that restaurant, unfortunately.

Sometimes I would just sit in his office and look out the window, marveling at all the activity on the Chicago River. I recall being amazed at how the building across the river would intermittently belch dirty water into the river from its foundation. And I wondered if the building I was in was doing the same. A guy who worked in the building asked me if I liked watching the river. When I told him I loved the river, he told me to be very careful of it. Oh, why? "Well," he said, "it's so polluted that if you even stick your big toe in the water, you'll die." Other times I would help Doug with the punch cards or read print-outs of code for errors. Cobol, I think it was. But, my favorite activity on those trips was exploring the city. I watched in total fascination as they were building John Hancock.

Then, when my brother-in-law was done working, we'd get in the car and go to Muskegon where he and my sister lived. I'd visit with them for a few days or a week, and then Doug would take me back to Chicago for the trip home.

This one particular trip though, and I guess it was because of the holidays, my sister came along for the ride. And instead of me getting on the bus to go back home, we all got in the car and drove to Springfield. Coming out of Chicago it had started snowing. By the time we got on I-55 it was a total blizzard. The storm was blinding. Traffic was sparse. It was dark. It was very slick. The snow was quickly piling up on the highway. Driving was difficult. It was scary. Treacherous. Clearly, conditions were dangerous. No one should have been on that highway that night. Somewhere south of Joliet, we managed to get behind a large snow plow truck. For me, and I think for Doug, the plow truck was a welcome sight. Not only was it a comfort to know that someone else was actually on this God-forsaken highway, it paved a clear path to drive in. As I breathed a sigh of relief from the backseat, and as I was about to encourage Doug to stay behind the truck, my sister very sternly demanded that Doug pass the snowplow. Oh boy, here we go. An argument ensued. "You're going too slow," she said. "I really need a break," he replied. And they went on like that for quite a while. Their arguments were so common to me. Carol, as usual, won, and Doug passed the truck. Having learned my lesson long before, I just stayed quiet.

Coming out of Bloomington the snow let up a little. It was apparent that Doug as really stressed and needed to stretch. By the time we got into Logan County, not only had the snow stopped, you could almost feel an approaching warmth in the air.

We pulled off the road at Broadwell. And there in all its glory was the Pig Hip. After we all went to the bathroom, Carol sternly instructed me to go out to the corner of the lot where there was a pay phone by the highway, call our parents at home, and tell them where we were. I would say I had to trudge across the parking lot through that wet white winter wonderland of snow to get to the pay phone, but trudging doesn't do justice to what I had to do to get there. It was more like swimming in mud, in that I had to use my arms and whole body, to get plow my way through the waist deep snow.

Finally, I arrived at my destination. I pushed open the doors to the old phone booth. There was a little bench inside where I sat down to catch my breath. As I looked up to the phone to make the call, it was like I had entered a nightmare. Much to my total astonishment, someone had ripped off the dial thing where you put your fingers to dial your number. In its place was a round piece of grey construction paper with little hole punches where the finger holes should have been. I just sat there until Doug and Carol finally drove the car over to pick me up.


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