Ah, the Taste of Chicago. A ten-day 4th of July extravaganza of food, music, food, 3 million free admissions and more food.
Vendors from venerable establishments around the city peddle culinary highlights such as BBQ turkey legs and cheesecake on a stick by the pan-load. Great for unbridled gluttony, bad for claustrophobics. And the perfect place for a somewhat risky urban adventure with an 8 month-old.
Quick synopsis: Kind of a rip-off for Bub, really. He got to watch me eat several things, sometimes staring, sometimes reaching in vain at my chicken-chipotle sausage. Some might call this male bonding. And all he got to try was the same old milk and sweet potatoes he could have had in the comfort of his own high chair. Maybe next year, when he has teeth, he’ll have a better go of it. But it really wasn’t about sausages or beignets or pulled pork sliders. It was about the experience. It was about getting out there.
The usual issues had to be addressed before tackling this mini-mancation: Stroller or carrier, number of necessary bottles, general sanity check. The great thing about babies is that everything is new. This would be Bub’s first train ride, first time downtown, first time seeing and smelling countless food items.
The bad thing about babies, of course, is that everything is new to them. You have no frame of reference, no real patterns of behavior to gauge how they might react to a given stimuli. All you can really do is guess, plan around naptimes, and roll the dice. Hey, it beats sitting at home.
I opted to go with the carrier. Diaper backpack fully loaded with milk, changing pad, toys, fikeys, wipes, etc. The essentials. No biggie. Walked down to the station, up to the platform, and stepped onto the crowded train. He started to cry as soon as the doors closed, but it was gone almost before it started.
In the end, though, it was as much for me as it was for Bub. While that juicy, smoky hunk of white-bird goodness certainly laid influence, I really wanted to go by myself anyway to see how I would react with no partner, no help, and no excuses. True character comes out of crises, like Fight Club; you never know how you’ll react for sure until you’re put in that situation. I much preferred to put myself in that situation then be forced into it. And save the true character for another time.
What I learned through it all was to go and do it confidently. Maybe I’m full of it, but I think much like sharks, babies can sense fear, smell it like sour milk. As soon as he loosed that door-closing cry, Arrested Development (‘I’ve made a huge mistake.’) immediately came to mind. But I just believed that he would be fine, I would be fine, that it was no big deal—just a train ride and a walk in the park. And so it was.