Every story has a lead in, an introduction to set where the tale travels, in whatever vehicle the storyteller employs to carry his message.
I set off just before eight in the evening, the sky darkening and the weather mild. I had a specific destination in mind, the Lime Lounge (‘Eat.Drink.Mingle.’ on their website) in Waukegan (IL), about 7 or 8 miles away, so I had plenty of time left in the evening to administer to my need to write among the stimulation of a busy lounge on a Saturday night. I directed my motorized motion toward that end and drove north the mile and a half to Rt. 137, turned east, quickly reached the main north/south freeway, Rt. 41, which runs just a couple blocks east of my home, and aimed north again for a quick jaunt further up, before hopping east once more in a zigzag effort toward the destination lounge. My mood was chilled in the cool tunes of Johannes Linstead, an upbeat Latin-flavored disc. Reaching the specific street I wanted, and knowing that the establishment, which I had never been to before, was still east of my location, I turned right toward town, and cruised with an eye out for the happening place that the on-line website inferred it to be.
As I travelled down the street, I came to an area lined with parked cars. This was in the vicinity of my intended goal, so, after making sure there was nothing of interest for several blocks past there, I found an empty parking lot, pulled in and turned around, then drove back for a second view. I still didn’t see the specific place as I passed by, but there were two or three bars that had people gathered in their respective entrances. I parked at the first open space along the street, a block away, locked up and strolled back, enjoying the pleasant evening and anticipating a high-energy, head-banging, heart-pounding, creatively involved night. The area is Hispanic, and populated by several restaurants and stores with specific Latin offerings, which lent a dash of cultural spice to the night. Johannes was good, and I enjoy Latin music, but I hoped the lounge would have a variety of less culturally specific offerings.
I approached a one story building that had an opened front door from which loud Hispanic music rolled out. There were a couple male Latinos conversing on the sidewalk as I walked by and glanced in the building, but we ignored each other. My glance inside perceived a large dance floor and verified the action advertised by the ‘Come-N-Dance/Zumba’ signs painted brightly on the entryway. The crowd was overtly Hispanic, and the music washing over those inside was festively serenading the sidewalk as well. I still wasn’t looking for Latin rhythms and beats, so I continued on without stopping. A few doors down I passed a bar that was culturally similar, but quieter, then a biker bar, and then another biker bar and then came to the intersection. Stoplight. No refreshing Limes to be had for the plucking or dancing. Having just driven several blocks past this point, I knew that there were no other open businesses in the continuation of the Hispanic neighborhood. I turned and walked back toward my parked car, looking carefully to visually pluck the names of each open place, yet still not finding the particular fruit I desired. I was confused, disappointed and lost as to what course of action to take. As I passed the loud, Latin dance music building once again, I got a bit caught up in the head-bobbing beat, so I took it with me as I got back to the car and climbed in. I started up, pulled out and headed back west, the direction I’d come from, away from the area where I knew the place was supposed to be. After driving about a mile, debating with myself about my actions, I (took a vote and) decided (1-0 in my favor) I should do a more thorough investigation for the missing, fruited link of the evening’s evolutionary progression. So I pulled into a parking lot, turned around and drove back the way I’d just come (again), passing the same busy block still without seeing any kind of Lime at all. I continued until I got to the middle of downtown. Nothing. I turned left and headed north, thinking I could stop by to visit a friend who lived nearby, but opted to steer west again in search of the actively elusive nightlife I desired.
I tried to remember where there might be a place that would be open late, with enough energy to tempt my patronization and spark my creative efforts, and I knew there was potential in various areas within reasonable driving distance, but I couldn’t place them in my mind. I came to Grand Avenue, knowing it continued west for quite a ways, and so turned left, heading that way once more. A couple miles on, I passed Rt. 41 again, thought of the potential connections to my desires in this roadway link to both Chicago (south) and Milwaukee (north), but decided against the intriguing pull of either. I knew that both cities would have what I sought, but the respective 40+ mileage was a daunting deterrent. I eventually sped right by the street which I had intended to turn onto, Milwaukee Avenue, Rt. 21, and then inertia drove a bit more as I rethought my intentions (making them up as I went along). As I passed the Great America Theme Park entrance, I knew that the Gurnee Mills shopping sprawl was just over the tollway I was approaching, and since I couldn’t think of anyplace interesting out there, decided that I didn’t want to go in that direction any longer. Luckily there was a parking lot that I could turn around in and head back the other way. I was starting to get dizzy, but carried on as if I knew what I was doing.
About this time I recalled another place I had been to, years before, and was tempted by the touch of its inspired, ambient memory, but it was still 20 miles further north, just past the Wisconsin border, and seemed too far. I drove back to turn onto Milwaukee Avenue (which ends a few miles north, and does not continue to the city of the same name) going south, as I had intended before blithely driving by, lost in space. A couple blocks down I passed a place I had heard about, which looked like what I wanted, but (of course) missed its entryway. So I continued on around the right-bearing curve, where an offshoot road split from the one I was on, and kept going until I got to an open parking lot, where I turned around (are you getting the feel for the evening’s efforts yet?) to go back. Milwaukee Avenue veered left, and coming from the reverse direction to the ‘V’ intersection offshoot gave me the option to travel straight onto the alternative street, which I did, then quickly came to the entryway for the place I wanted. I easily pulled into the parking lot (I’ve been practicing), drove slowly passed the front door while noticing some older people leaving and returning to their car. That gave me pause for thought. I parked and looked more closely at the advertised amenities of the place, saw that it was a family restaurant, with a bar attached, which did not really fit the qualifications for my inspirations. So I backed out of the parking space, turned around (no surprise there) and drove past the front of the building again, missing the exit on the left as I looked to the restaurant’s entryway on my right. I internally shrugged and drove around to the other side of the building, at the apex of the two converging streets. Lots of parking, but no exit. Great, now I was actually getting lost in parking lots. Since I didn’t need to look any further for a place to turn around, I managed to do so with minimal fuss, and then exited where I had come in. I opted to turn right, then right again at the ‘V’ to continue back north on Milwaukee Avenue, the way I had been going before. (I had actually just driven both ways, but don’t want to confuse myself here.) Two blocks further up I turned right, back onto Grand Avenue heading east. I may not have known where I was going, but I was certainly putting forth a lot of effort to get there. I continued to work my mind in tapping memories and knowledge, looking for the missing goodbar life of Saturday night inspiration.
Rolling on with no specific destination in mind, I drove past Rt. 41, and was inspired to turn on to the next larger north/south thoroughfare, Green Bay Road. (And yes, it goes all the way north to Green Bay.) I recalled a bar on this road, across from where we’d stopped last summer to take photos of a building. A couple patrons had come out and inquired as to our intentions, so we apprised them of the scenic interest of their neighboring structure, as well as the antique car parked in front. They were appreciatively friendly, and invited us to come in to the bar and socialize. We deferred, but the memory of that invitation sits comfortably within my recollections, so I thought to try there. I believed that this place was south of Milwaukee Avenue, so I turned right and continued my drive. I was still trying to think of more lively venues and quickly decided that this place was probably a quiet, neighborhood bar that would not generate the energies I sought. I again considered going to Chicago, but still did not want to deal with the lengthy drive, and the time was getting on after 9 o’clock. I knew that places downtown (Chicago) closed at 4am, but I prefer to start early and watch the night develop and build its energy. However, if that’s where the action was, that’s where I needed to go. The Wisconsin night spot I’d been to still tugged attentions and, as I turned right onto a main street back west, I realized that Rt. 41 still offered opposing choices to Chicago or toward Milwaukee.
I approached the highway and, at the last minute, decided to carry on to Chicago and entered onto the southbound lanes. As I pulled into flow of sparse traffic, I suddenly thought of a particular place in Waukegan that we’d been to with a friend just a couple months ago. Loud music, people dancing, dim but not too dark, it would be the perfect setting; but it was north and I was heading south at 60 mph, with no parking lots in sight. Well, Chicago it was. Except, wait, how about just a few miles down the road, then east to Highwood? Lots of night life there, just waiting for me to plug into it, and much closer than the big city. The music in the car looped back to the beginning of the disc, so I put in a subdued, mellower selection to match the gathering mood, getting away from the Latin influence. Still cruising along, and now under the calming manifestations of new age music, I calmly drove right by the first exit for Highwood. Hey, no problem. I made the second exit, and so would arrive at the south end of town. On the corner where I needed to turn back north to get to the downtown area, I knew there was a night spot that I thought had good potential. I eventually came to the intersection, turned left and looked in through the windows as I rolled by. I then pulled up, over and parked along the right side of the street at the first empty spot, a couple cars away. I sat with the car still running, and reviewed what I had seen of the scene the place had happening within. There was a large open, brightly lit bar, and a few people scattered about. It didn’t look like the kind of energetic place I sought. So I pulled out and continued into town.
Lots of great restaurants on this side of the downtown area of Highwood, bisected by RR tracks, but I wasn’t hungry for that kind of nourishment, so I turned right, crossed over the tracks, then turned left on to the east side main drag. Another night spot was cornered in passing, and just as readily discarded as an option, due to similar low activity factors. And so on up the street, on the prowl for busy-ness and gather. Not a thing. Nada. There were several Hispanic restaurants, which makes me kind of hungry as I type this the next day. But, we have moved beyond Latin influences and we had our chance to find a restaurant on the other side of the tracks, so I must persevere in this growing odyssey: on with the no-Show.
I drove north on Sheridan Road and thought I may as well double back (quadruple back, by now) to take the highway south to Chicago after all. I turned west again, back toward Highway 41. In the drive to get back to that route, I continued attempting to recall any other possible, closer destinations. By the time I got to the highway, I’d decided on a place where I had played volleyball in summer leagues, and knew that it was a noisy busy bar. It is north (opposite my latest intentions, of course), right on Rt. 41, where the aforementioned Milwaukee Avenue meets it in an acute ending (would that be considered a good looking derriere?) for the Avenue. The bar sits on the other side where the road would go if didn’t end. And it was only about half way to Wisconsin. Doable.
I turned onto the highway again again, and drove back north, having come all that much further south in my fruitless (I’d given up on Lime, and was hoping for any kind of tasty selection, but all I seemed to come up with were lemons) search through Highwood. But I had a destination once more. Progress in things is not always a direct route, so to speak. The miles rolled by while I enjoyed the continued musical, electronic flow of ‘Ammerland’, soothing my ears and driving my mind down the high weigh considerations of my intended writing desires. I mulled some thoughts which interested me enough to want to put pen to paper and describe/follow. I had touched upon other ideas all evening, in between trying to figure out just where I was going, and I was once again pleased to be heading to a place where I could write about them. My mood was reflective and subdued, the adventure of where-am-I-going had somewhat dulled the excitement of my original intentions, but holding true to course all the same. My need to communicate in a creative form, in whatever medium I happen to utilize (I haven’t put much activity toward etching, in fact only taking a single etching class of a few weeks duration, in the local community center many years ago. I had fun with it, and created a printing plate of an open-clawed owl, swooping down past clouds against a moonlit sky. It is a delightful little work, and the only copper plate I’ve ever made for that particular medium. It’s a rare medium well done. So: now that I got that out of my system, let’s drive on, shall we?), brings me a sense of accomplishment in knowing that I have produced something by which others may find pleasure. I certainly like all my own art, and I am quite pleased and gratified when others appreciate it as well. My need to produce creative things, and the positive feedback I receive, drive my heart to belief that I can and will find that elusive state of ‘success’ I have been striving toward all my adult life. My need to reach out and touch the sensibilities of others carried me to this driving situation of unresolved action to produce written art. I wanted to find a place where I could scribe and carve the images that words write across the eyes of your reading mind. I wanted to offer you, as you are the one on one here with me now, what inspires me, what stimulates my passion to be an artist, what pushes my need to create, what drives me on down the long, winding highway of Life.
I neared the exit for my house, but decided that, even at 10pm, I still had a chance of finding someplace lively for a few creative hours, so I passed (over there, to the left, just a couple blocks away) on by. I aimed for the (further) north country (once more again) with my destination recharged, clearly defined and in the direction I was actually headed. I approached Rt. 137, from which I had originally turned on to Rt. 41 after I started from home. There is a restaurant/bar at this corner that caters to the (Great Lakes) Navy base across the highway, just east of there. I’d been to it before on a weeknight and had found it to be bright, quiet and mostly empty, so I hadn’t really considered it an option in any of my search parameters. I had heard that it does get noisy on the weekend, so I suddenly thought I’d give it a shot, pulling into the left turn lane and committing my actions. Of course, I’d driven past it two hours ago, when I was on my way to the Lime that didn’t exist, when I had had no need for an alternative destination. I felt somewhat adventurous in the spontaneity of my (latest) re-altered plan, wondering if shouldn’t have just continued on to the other bar, but I knew for a fact that the one I was now committed to had a parking lot big enough to turn around in, so I wasn’t worried about be able to get back.
I pulled off the highway, turned left onto the access road, then a quick right into the inviting confines of the establishment’s mostly full parking area. I parked, got out, made sure I had my journal book, locked the car and strode on in through the door to the lounge entryway. It was loud and there seemed to be motion inside as I entered, making eye contact with a large gentleman in an enclosed booth on the left. He had some money in front of him, so I thought he might be collecting it from those who wanted admittance. I stepped up to his window and spoke to him under the abbreviated pane of glass, “Is there a cover charge?”
He reacted in a slightly startled manner, and somewhat apologetically shook his head, “No…”
I smiled and went on in.
Loud was most assuredly dancing a beat as I stepped through to the left into the bar area. The bar itself was a ‘T’ shaped island in the rectangular room, set so the base of the ‘T’ was to my right, passing into the kitchen, against the far wall. I faced the top left of the crossbar of the ‘T’, with a dance floor and access to the restaurant across on the other, dimmer side. There was an overhanging faux roof above the bar below the actual ceiling, adding to the separation of the two sides. Video monitors flickered without accompanying audio, as the sound system music held aural sway in all regards. I stepped up to an empty corner chair on the corner of the ‘T’, looked around, saw a few people sitting at the bar itself, and a few occupied tables scattered on the other side, with an entryway leading to another room in which people were playing pool. One older, mid-40ish, t-shirt and jean appareled gentleman (admittedly a loose term, to fit his evident state of inebriety) was dancing by himself on the dance floor to the structure of the rap music pouring down from the powerful speakers. There was another room directly behind me, with a partial wall maintaining separation from the bar, yet leaving easy, open access between the two rooms. Inside that area was darker than the general bar area, although the music coming from there danced hard and bright, giving the gyrating folks therein something to move to, and fiercely competing with the bar’s rap music. Bright, to a certain degree, was what I wanted to help my eyes see where my pen would go, and the corner of the bar in front of me was the brightest area in the room. I glanced around once more, felt the positive, energetic, if crowdless, atmosphere, perceived the bartenders to be pleasant in action, accepted that the insistent noise of the music was inviting and made my decision: Good enough. I had (finally) arrived. I took out my notebook and put it on the counter, pulled off my coat and hung it on the back of the chair, sat down and pulled out my pen, then watched to see what I would write.
And that’s why it took me 48 miles of driving to get less than 2 miles from where I’d started. At least my ride home was short.
The wrest of the story is now prepared by this introduction, this lead in effort, wrought from the miles I traveled. So grasp well your eyes and follow after me as we are led astray astride the forthcoming handwritten ride I had taken this preceding descriptioned journey to find source for. My notion to touch creative insights was singing in the ears of my thoughts, and my mood of expectation was finally fulfilled. What will follow is the tale I played from my motionless seat, as the motion of my drive to arrive there passed the torch of creativity into the sounds of my pen as it touched and danced on the paper of my book. It will be posted once I’ve translated and edited the scrivened impressions. This entry took a week, so don’t hold your breath, but do hold on to your place in line. Stay toned and hear what my say had to play.
Oh. Did I mention that the music blasting from the dance room right behind me at the bar, blending and complementing to the Rap offerings, was Techno Latin?