Friday 3 May 2019

Amsterdam to Chicago

The day starts with a doctor's appointment. Bit bizarre. But I planned it before the trip. That's how my life works. All sorts of shit arranged at short notice. I nip back home for a quick cup of tea and to kiss Dolores goodbye, then I’m off.

All the public transport at our square is currently buggered by heavy duty tram works. Meaning my normal route of No. 15 bus followed by the No. 397 doesn’t work. It’s not such a drama. I just need to kick off with the No. 2 tram instead.

Dolores has been threatening, like a private equity investor, to pull the plug on my beer business if I don’t reduce costs. I can see her point, however much it pissed me off the first time she mentioned it.

So no bar visit before the flight. Instead a quick visit to the Albert Heijn landside for a sarnie. Then a couple of miniatures from the duty free airside. That’s about 50 euros saved. What a good boy I am. A sense of smug satisfaction washes over me. Or maybe that’s the whisky miniatures. I even bought the cheaper Glen Grant rather than Laphroiag for my hotel whisky.

Dolores finds this another insane trip: ”All that way for just a weekend.”

“I’m there for four nights.”

“Just two days, then.”

“Its four nights.”

“Whatever. A stupid amount of time for all that travelling.”

I genuinely don’t find it that bad. Seven or eight hours in a plane I can cope with fine. As long as I have enough legroom. I just watch some shit films and have a few drinks.

Not rushing, not stressing. That’s the main thing. Silver KLM status really helps de-stress my travel. Dolores was impressed when we travelled to Dublin earlier this year. It almost made her keen on air travel again. Almost.

The flight is a little delayed. No biggie. I’ve no connecting flight or any crap like that. And my first appointment is three hours after we’re scheduled to land.

I down my last miniature while I’m waiting for the first food service. That’s warmed me up nicely. And relaxed me out a treat. Handy, as the meal is shit. I still force it down. Trying not to spill too much on my shirt.

One thing I learnt from my last US trip: On KLM flights you can go to the galley and ask for drinks. Whenever you want. "Mag ik en rooie wijn, alsjeblift?" So that’s exactly what I do. A couple of times.

I only watch the one shit film this time. Some Mission Impossible bollocks. Then finish off series 9 of Peep Show. I only got as far as episode 4 on my last trip. After that, Modern Life is Goodish until the laptop's battery gives out.

Been a bit tiring, but all is going OK so far.

Then there’s the horror of getting through the fucking airport.

On the upside, the immigration machine accepts my fingerprints this time. I don't get the dreaded slip with a cross on it. But it takes 45 minutes to get to the machine. Then another 20 minutes after getting the happy slip until I get past the physically checking bloke. I think I’m done then. No such luck.

Dolores is a wonderful woman. The love of my life. But not someone to be ignored. She's been very clear on the topic of my expenses when travelling. No taxi from the airport then. Not such a biggie. The Blue Line metro stops literally at the doorstep of my hotel. Dead easy trip then. Une piece d'urine as they say in France.

Like bollocks.

Because the metro stop isn't in the international terminal where I arrive. And the usual shuttle train between terminals isn't running. Instead there's a bus. Substitute bus service. One of the most chilling phrases known to man. Bum.

"The line for terminals 1, 2 and 3 is there." I'm fairly aggressively told by a security guard. Proper aggressive, none of that passive stuff. I understand his brusqueness. Stacks of impatient travellers are trying to jump the queue. I just don’t know where the fuck I’m going.

OK. I get into the queue, as we call lines in the UK. Queueing - that's what we do best, us Brits. It's only when I get to the front that I realise it's a queue for another queue. It's almost 2 hours since I moved my sorry arse off the plane. I've really had enough of pissing around.

But, being English, I quietly wait my turn. Mumbling obscenities under my breath. While my piss slowly comes to the boil.

At least it's saving me 60 dollars on the taxi fare. I keep telling myself that, as I feel my blood pressure mounting and bopping around in my ears. This isn't doing my health any good. I can feel a knot of stress in my chest. That’s bad.

Finally, I'm in terminal 2 where the Blue Line station is located. Oh look - there's the Hilton Hotel I stayed in a couple of years ago. When I had a ridiculously early flight to Toronto. When did I get up? I think 5 AM. Or was it even earlier?

The signs to the station direct me under the road and past the Hilton. But the station isn't there. Oh no, it's not that fucking simple. There's a long corridor. There are moving walkways. But none are working. Bum, bum, bum. I'm really not up for this.

I've had enough of walking. At least I'm at the end now.

Oh fuckity, fuckity fuck. There's another fucking corridor, at right angles to the first, so it was cunningly hidden. With another non-working fucking moving walkway. This shit is going to be the death of me.

Getting a ticket is a piece of piss. I have my 5-dollar bill ready. The machine spits out a ticket. “Just think of the money you’re saving.” I keep telling myself.

Thankfully, I get a seat on the train. It trundles along reassuringly beside the motorway, as my heart slowly stops flapping around under my shirt like a fish caught in a net. No thrombie today. I'll live to see another dawn.

The hotel is just around the corner from the station. Thank fuck. Soon I’m in my room taking stock. It’s one bottle of whisky.

The view isn’t bad.

I've arranged to see Mike Siegel from Goose Island in the lobby at 5. Had O’Hare not been hell, I’d have a couple of hours to chill. As it is, I only have 45 minutes to check the quality of the hotel whisky I picked up at Schiphol.

Slightly strange seeing Mike. We spoke at length on the phone just yesterday. But he's always fun to chat with. After years of collaboration we’re old chums.

Mike has two bottles of Obadiah Poundage with him. "Would you like to try it now?" he asks. "Sure. Let's nip up to my room. There are two glasses."

Maybe I’d best explain exactly what Obadiah Poundage is: a blend of a Keeping and a Running Porter. Both Truman’s recipes from 1840. The Keeper has had a year in an oak vat. The Runner was brewed just a few weeks ago.

That first sip of a new collaboration beer is always a bit anxious. I needn’t have worried. 

Wow. The Brettanomyces character of the Keeper adds a trace of acidity and a stack of underlying complexity. While the Runner contributes a surprising freshness and lightness. It’s dead good. Complex, yet at the same time highly drinkable.

It’s only taken 2.5 years from the first time me and Mike kicked the concept around to actually getting to taste the finished beer. A good job I’ve learnt to be patient. In six years of collaboration we’ve manged to get just two beers done.

"What would you like to eat?" Mike asks.

"I'm easy. What would you recommend?"

"What about Costa Rican?"

"That'll do me. Never had that before."

"It's BYO, so we'll need to stop off for some beer."

Handily, there's a liquor store on the way. Mike talks me through the impressive Bourbon selection in the offie. This will come in handy when it comes to buying the kids some booze. I can get them something cool for under 20 dollars. Me, Dolores and the boys, all happy. Triple win.

We get a four-pack of Daisy Cutter to go with our food.

Irazu is rustic and already getting busy. The food looks dead good. We share a ceviche starter. I order casado for the main event. Which is a very Costa Rican dish. It's a mix of rice, meat, vegetables and beans. And rather nice.

Sated - what's next? "How about Map Room?” Mike suggests. That’ll do me. Been there before and it was pretty good. It's also within walking distance.

Map Room is quite busy, but we find a space to park ourselves in. And order some beers, obviously.  3 Floyds Alpha King for me and a Schlenkerla Fastenbier for Mike. Fastenbier is lovely, but I’m not going to drink a German beer here in the US. In the same way I don’t usually drink American beer in Europe.

No lengthy lingering. It’s getting late and I’ve been up how many hours? Mike has his family to get back to.

“Do you want to finish with an Abt?” Mike asks.

“OK.” I say, ditching my imported beer principles. It is on draught, I reason.

Back in my room, I check the Glen Grant is still OK.

It is. And sings a sweet lullaby to ease me into oblivion.

Full disclosure
Goose Island paid for most of my trip - flight, hotel and quite a bit of food and drink. Not everything, but a hefty chunk.

Garfield's Beverage Express
1704 N Milwaukee Ave Ste A,
IL 60647.
Tel: +1 773-666-5747

Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant & Catering
1865 N Milwaukee Ave,
IL 60647.
Tel: +1 773-252-5687

Map Room
1949 N Hoyne Ave,
IL 60647.
Tel: +1 773-252-7636

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