Monday, September 26, 2011

My Kind of Town

I love taking in a new city...and Chicago was a nice surprise.  I'm not really sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn't European architecture, expansive gardens with modern sculptures and cornbread-like pizza crust (honestly, what's up with that, Chicago?).  With the high humidity and abundance of chubby people, I almost felt like I was back home in Houston. I mean sure, I had an unintentional Afro all weekend, but unlike in Denver my chub rub was in good company. There were even times I felt svelte.

The Boy and I flew in to the Windy City for a long weekend before I attended a Marketing conference. This was our first non-family-related vacation and for you eye-rollers out there let me irritate you by saying it was amazing.  I really do think you learn a lot from people based on how they travel...and what Derek learned about me is I can be a tad bit high-maintenance. A smidge.  I suspect this didn't come as a huge shock, but I really did appreciate how good-natured he was about holding my purse, my carry-on bag, my itinerary, my latte, my Nook, my iPad and my Blackberry at various times during our plane-boarding experience. I travel for work quite often and now I have no idea how I've done it without a sherpa. Or at the very least, an alpaca. And I'm pretty sure if I play the heart card, I can arrange for one on future trips. I have special needs, people!

We arrived around midday on Friday and after checking into our hotel and a delightful sheet inspection session, we headed out into a damp and chilly afternoon.  After walking around a bit, we settled in for a late lunch at an Irish gastro pub on Michigan Ave.  Late lunch turned into a second round of totally yummy Dark Horse raspberry ale at the bar and eventually our conversation turned to primate evolution. Obviously.

The Boy got his Masters from Duke in Evolutionary Biology (or as I like to think of it, "Monkeys"), whereas my scientific knowledge is limited to Time magazine cover stories I've partially read.  Don't even get me started on the study of single-celled organisms from the Vendian period-- my grasp of the topic is positively paragraphic!  So perhaps I could be excused for asking Derek if  "Lucy" was the oldest known primate.

Suddenly, he needed a cocktail napkin and a pen... and I knew I was in for something special.  Soon I was being led on an evolutionary romp beginning 50 million years ago with Notharctus running through Neanderthals and ending with Ted Nugent Not really that large of a leap, if you ask me.  Seriously, have you seen his brow ridge and the deranged way he runs around the woods killing things?

Oh God, it's just too easy.

You may be incredulous, but my eyes didn't glaze over once!  And I was amazed at how much of the material he remembered. By the time he was finished, 3/4 of the cocktail napkin was covered by a timeline complete with little stick-ape drawings for the non-cranially inclined.  It was clearly my turn to dazzle.

I was a Radio & Television major at the University of Houston and I didn't exactly walk away with an encyclopedic understanding of the subject matter. Still, undaunted, I flipped Derek's cocktail napkin over and began what I hoped to be a comparable lecture on Radio & Television.  I drew a timeline beginning with Marconi inventing the radio and ending with someone (I couldn't quite remember who) inventing the TV. I think I may even have done a horrible impression of Al Jolson somewhere in there.  Man, I'm really lucky I'm hot.


My absolute favorite part of the trip was going to the Field Museum the next day to see Sue.  For you regular folks out there, Sue is the most complete T. rex skeleton ever dug up or unearthed or whatever you call it. Despite the fact that my mother long-believed that dinosaurs (or as I like to call them, "Jesus Horses") were a hoax, I've always been interested in dinosaurs.  And since my friends and family have long-delighted in mocking my T. rex-like arms, for me it was like visiting a long-lost Auntie.

TyrANNIEsaurus rex.  Arms shown actual size.

We soon found ourselves in the museum's wicked awesome evolutionary exhibit where I was able to relive the previous afternoon's discussion, just this time with actual fossils as examples.  I know many of you will think I'm mocking him (okay and maybe I am, just a tad) but seriously, it was amazing to go through an exhibit like that with someone who really understands the science so well. It would be like visiting a White House Black Market museum with me.

Hey, we all have our strengths-- and it's important to recognize them.

We ended our visit in the Whale exhibit, where I made a complete ass of myself by pointing to an X-ray of a human hand and saying "Wow, that looks exactly like a human hand."  I thought it was a flipper.  This is a whale exhibit, Derek.  And then we moved on to things that I know, like pizza, beer and a dive bar where I caused a ruckus by locking the door to the men's room because I was tired of waiting to use the women's.  And where I may or may not have dozed off at the table.  It was late.

So what did I learn about The Boy on this trip?  Well, for starters, he draws horrible stick-apes.  And his intellect is truly dizzying, for another.  And his patience with me knows almost no bounds.  I learned that I love the feel of his hand in mine, the warmth of his breath in my ear as he whispers one Latin word or another, and the look of our reflection in a display case.

And mostly I learned that I still have so much to learn.  I can't wait.

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