There was good news last Monday at Newark Liberty Airport. The TSA pre-approved me, deeming me worthy to enter a shortened security line. There was also bad news. The man waved through security ahead of me was transporting a vehicle that was one part flatbed, one part hand truck, the sum of its parts yielding dozens of cases of retail beverages.
This afforded me more than enough time to consider drink options other than filling my empty water bottle from a water fountain. Minute Maid and Coca-Cola were the most prominently displayed on the cart which was beginning to buckle under the weight of plastic bottles and flip top cans. I love air travel.
Each hermetically sealed case of beverages needed to be opened, one bottle plucked out at random and sent through the security screening apparatus. I was assured by the TSA employee that I needn’t remove my Chicago bound boots, just my weighty parka. An eternity later, the beverage cart ahead of me was waved through leaving me to ‘step up.’
My parka cleared security, as did my small carry on. Stepping through to collect my belongings, things took a turn. Bells were ringing, lights were flashing and I was asked to step to the side. The culprit appeared to be the buckle on my boots which just moments prior had been waved through. Hopping on one foot and unzipping with one hand, I looked down at the industrial carpet and wished I hadn’t worn clean socks. A kindly TSA officer ushered me into a Jetson-esque Lucite bubble where I was wanded and questioned. “No, no keys, no coins, no watch.” One more wanding and a glance at my wrists, the culprit appeared to be a slim bracelet. Gifted to me from Sibling Sister Formerly of Seattle, More Recently Relocated to Toronto, it’s unfortunate my pockets were not filled with coins. Had I needed to phone said sibling imploring her to spring me from TSA prison, I’m quite certain a pay phone would be the only option. The bracelet in question was examined, a brief conversation between secret agents took place and it was finally decided I was not a threat to society. Boots still unzipped, I stumbled towards the nearest bench to regroup. Far in the distance, rounding the corner, I could just make out the man pushing the beverage cart responsible for my security debacle.
Two and a half hours later, Chicago’s landscape loomed winter white shrouded in fog. There was just enough snow on the ground making boots and parka necessary. If Chicago could do winter without the wind, that would be right up there with winning the World Series. But they can’t seem to do one without the other which left me shivering and mentioning to any and all within earshot that coffee would be nice.
As I tried to understand what exactly is meant by the term ‘Chicagoland’ I was temporarily distracted by what appeared to be a drive-through coffee emporium in the midst of a shopping plaza. Salvation. `The small kiosk of caffeination reminded me of structures formerly dubbed Fotomat. I ordered a large coffee, partially for the caffeine, primarily to warm my frozen digits.
If there is one thing Chicagoland does very well, it’s pie. On the savory side, there’s stuffed pizza, Chicago-style deep dish pizza and for those dodging the carbs, thin-crust.
Chicago also does dessert quite well, boasting a number of old-school pie shops and quite a few up and comers. Baker’s Square, formerly known as Poppin’ Fresh Pies, has been dishing up slices since the late 1960s. On Wednesday enroute to a date with a pie in Evanston, Illinois, I barely paused at Baker’s Square, despite an enormous banner fronting the building announcing Free Pie Wednesday. That required enormous self-restraint.
Hoosier Mama Pie Company in Evanston is a newish kid on the block, offering close to a dozen sweet pies and almost as many savory choices daily. The shop also serves killer biscuit breakfast sandwiches and hand pies. The philosophy of the bakery/cafe is summed up in their motto, “Keep Your Fork, There’s Pie.” Hoosier Mama Pie Company could quite possibly renew my enthusiasm for Chicago, encouraging me to return. If the Cubs can win the World Series, maybe Chicago can tame their wind and their cold. Then the only thing stopping me would be a little thing called air travel.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm