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  • As a graduate student I spent three summers at Indiana University in Bloomington studying languages. During my first summer there, studying Azerbaijani Turkish in 2002, I met Johnathan, a recent college grad studying Georgian before he went there in the Peace Corps. We quickly became very good friends.

    Both of us are big baseball fans, so we decided one weekend to go to Chicago and see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Jonathan had some friends there, so we had a place to stay. We hitched a ride off the ride board and made it to the fried we were staying with, just one neighborhood south of Wrigleyville.

    The first night we spent bar-hopping in Lincoln Park, not really my kind of neighborhood, more of a young urban douche scene, but the alcohol was flowing quite freely. Over the course of the night a rather large young Irish girl took a liking to me, and by closing time we were making out intensely at the bar. The two of us stared to discuss how we could continue the night, when Jonathan grabbed me and pulled ne out of the bar, no doubt thinking he was saving me from some early-morning hangover regrets. As I was being dragged out the bar, I grabbed a cell phone that someone had accidently left behind on a table, and started making drunken long-distance phone calls as my friends fell drunkenly on the street, until the person who owned the phone called, and we met a few blocks away and I returned the phone.

    The next morning we wake up hangover and dehydrated, but day game at Wrigley, had to get motivated. We get to the park, buy some bleacher seat off a scalper, and take our seat – Cubs vs. Astros (when the Astros were good) from the bleachers of Wrigley, baseball heaven. During warm-ups before the game, a Cub tossing a ball around through it up to the stands, where I caught it, not spilling a drop of beer. However, Chicago was going through an incredible heatwave, with the temperature pushing 100f, coupled with the typical Midwest humidity. And neither of us had any sunscreen, and even worse, I had no hat for my bald head. Watching a ball game while being cooked in an oven lessens the whole experience.

    By the time the game was over both of us had been thoroughly baked. I took an ice cold shower for a long time, just trying to cool of my head. When I got out of the shower, and started to get the chills, I began to fret over whether I had heat stroke. Not the worst sunburn in my life, but the second.

    After a terrible night of sleep on a couch where every movement caused great pain, we woke up to one more day in Chicago, with nothing to do until that night when we were meeting someone for dinner in the Ukrainian part of town (of course, us Russianists got to find the borscht). We took the El to the Loop, and looked at the transit map to see the quickest way to get to Wicker Park, the arty hipster part of town (my type of neighborhood) with book and record stores and cafes and bars and so on, plus it was near the restaurant we were going to later. On the map, this area didn’t seem s far away, so I convinced Jonathan to walk. On this walk I bought this snow globe. But the walk was not a quick one, indeed we soon realized that we had embarked on a miles long walk, through the projects, Cabrini Green. Plus, it was still incredibly hot, and we were incredibly burned. The couple hours of that walk were absolutely miserable, and it took all of Jonathan’s will not to tear me a new asshole for dragging his boiled body through the projects on the hottest day of the decade.

    We spent the day in Wicker Park, and I learned that businesses in Chicago don’t have air-conditioning. I was burning in hell. We met our third for dinner at the Ukrainian restaurant. We couldn’t decide what to order, so we chose the everything special, where each person got the sausages, the stuffed cabbage, and borscht, one of everything, a big feast. However, when we ordered, we were told that they only prepare that dish when there are four orders. Not wanting to limit ourselves in our nostalgia (all of us had lived in Russia or the Ukraine) we ordered four. And soon some of the largest plates of food I have ever seen appeared on our table, platters full of meat and fat prepared in various different ways. Not a meal for the health-conscious, but for Chicago-bred descendants of eastern European immigrants.

    Big platters of hot heavy food does not mesh well with heatstroke. With each bite of my meal I got sicker and sicker. But I was not going to let all that food go to waste, so I forced it down. After the meal we went to a bar with no air-conditioning, and I started to get dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out. I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet for I don’t know how long, but long enough the Jonathan had to check on me. I was felling absolutely miserable and uncomfortable, hot and sick and no way to escape either. We looked for air-conditioning and could not find any, the night truly turned into one of the worst nights of my life, but I kept saying to myself, this will all be forgotten, and the good times will be remembered – it was all worth it for Wrigley.

    The next day we went back to Bloomington, and soon the skin on my head started to peel, leaving discolored patched on my forehead. It was then I acquired the nickname ‘Gorby’ for the remainder of the summer.
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