I grew up with my mom, my dad, and my sister. My dad’s family lived in the Pittsburgh area, so we saw them infrequently, only when we’d make the trek East (always grand visits). My mom was Italian—maiden name Latini—and her Italian family feuded in a way that made the Godfather look tame. As a result of the estrangement, big family gatherings became a thing of the past by the time I was a teenager.
Then Beth and I got married.
Holy moley. Six brothers and sisters. And there is not an infertility problem in the bunch. I have one blood nephew, my late sister’s son Aaron, and really, I’d probably be content with that one wonderful guy. But, by marriage I have…I don’t know. I lose count of the nieces and nephews. And their kids. Yikes.
Beth posted earlier that a lot of these brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews would converge on Chicago this past weekend. The occasion: Brian, the son of Beth’s sister Bev and her husband Lon Miller, returned to the United States for the first time in a few years. He teaches English in Japan, and also is an accomplished photographer.
Brian was at the center of the weekend’s festivities
Brian and his crew (sister Stacey, her husband Ryan, their son Bryce, and Bev) went to a Cubs game Thursday afternoon. We met them for a bite to eat after the game and then they headed to a Bears pre-season game. I’m already tired writing this.
On Friday, Bev and Brian joined our nephew Ben (son of Beth’s sister Cheryl) for the afternoon opener of the Cubs-White Sox series at U.S. Cellular. By all accounts it was a splendid day, except for the outcome if you’re a Sox fan. I’m a Sox fan.
Beth and I threw a party that evening at our place. Well, we ordered pizza and Harold’s Chicken (it’s the best, btw) and bought boxes of wine and a mini-keg of beer. Luckily, this is not a pretentious crew. Finke family members came from as far away as Orlando, Fla. (Beth’s sister Marilee, her daughter Jen, and Jen’s daughter Kennedy aka “Toots” Ulen), Louisville, Ky. (jazz trombonist and Beth’s brother Doug), and Indianapolis, Ind. (Doug’s daughter Marsha). Plus all those Millers from Michigan. Oh, did I mention Beth’s niece Janet and her brood came in from the suburbs?
Now. Back to Brian. He and his mother left a close game early in order to be at our place for the party. I had to report to him (a Cub fan) that indeed, the Cubs had hung on to win a close game. The words didn’t come easy.
We ate, drank, and then headed down to see the Fat Babies at Summer Dance. I’ve posted here before about Summer Dance. It’s always a wonderful scene, but it’s never been better than Friday night. Clear skies, a cooling breeze, a crowded dance floor, and…we snagged a picnic table! That never happens.
The music was superb—the Fat Babies play traditional jazz and have become kind of a thing. At one point, Beth’s brother Doug (the jazz musician) was compelled to stop our chatter and interject: “I just want you to know, that what they’re doing right now sounds effortless but it’s really, really hard.” And, once I stopped to listen closely, I realized what he was talking about.
The next day Ben (remember the nephew from the ball game earlier) and his wife Julie (they have four children) hosted a backyard pool party in the suburbs. Beth stayed here in Chicago to meet her niece Jen and Jen’s friends for breakfast.
I stayed home and took a long nap.
That evening, Brian and company, Beth, I and Marilee (that’s a sister, remember) convened at Hackney’s. It was great to get to talk to everyone, especially to Brian, who has some fantastic stories, worthy of their own space, about Japan and its culture and his photography.
Sox win. Cubs lose. Love my flag.
The finale: The Sunday afternoon Cubs-Sox game. The Cubs got the better of it for the first two games of the series. But I was confident. Chris Sale was pitching that day. That usually means good things for the Sox. I knew I’d be going along with the group to the Sunday game, and when I saw the pitching matchup earlier in the week, I got a brilliant and evil idea.
The Cubs have a tradition: when the Cubs win, they fly a W flag at Wrigley Field. When they lose, they, to their credit, also fly an L flag. The Cub fans have taken to flying W flags in the stands when their baby bears manage to win a game. They love doing it. Especially when they invade stadiums on the road.
Somehow, unlike the organization, they don’t unfurl the L flag after a loss.
Anyway. Sunday afternoon. White Sox leading 3-0 after a dominating, 15-strikeout game by Chris Sale. Top of the ninth inning. Two out. I reach into my pocket. And then…a home run by Jorge Soler off our closer David Robertson. I took my hand out of my pocket.
Then an infield single. Argh. Homer ties it.
Then…a bouncer to second. Sox win!
With that, I reached back into my pocket and unfurled the beautiful L flag I’d ordered earlier that week (yes, they sell them) and that had arrived just in time. Me and that flag are on a lot of Sox fans’ Facebook pages today.
I was with Brian, Bev, Stacey, Ben, Ben’s son Colin—all Cub fans. But they took crazy Uncle Mike’s antic in stride. (Stacey’s husband Ryan was also there, but being a Detroit Tigers fan, he was agnostic.)
I paraded the flag down the ramp, drawing a lot of “awesome dudes” along the way. I was spritzed by water by a Cub fan, but thankfully, nobody slugged me.
We rode the Red Line home, where Brian, Bev and crew collected their luggage before heading to Union Station for the train home to Michigan.
Before they left, Brian, gave me a Hanshin Fighting Tigers jersey. Brian has become a big Japanese baseball fan, and the Fighting Tigers have an especially funky history. They have a curse, like the Cubs, only instead of a goat, theirs involves KFC (yes, the chicken place). All I can say is the jersey is really cool.
Thanks for that, Brian, and thanks especially for visiting. And thanks Finkes, all XXXXX of you, for a great weekend. I need another nap, though.