I should have expected problems… two Fridays ago, I find out after my three-day weekend that they were thinking of sending me to Chicago to cover the White Sox’s season opener. Hmm, okay! However, no one remembered to ask for credentials.
I’m a resourceful guy. I called the media relations office at 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon. And managed to get credentials… using a few tactics I’ll never share.
So Sunday arrives and I wake up in a cold sweat to thunder. Not ordinary thunder; this was echoing, you-will-be-dead-in-15-minutes thunder. And for the rest of the day, continuing rain, severe weather and even TORNADOS.
All set! The drive up to Chicago was usual, involving heavy traffic that just shouldn’t exist on a Sunday afternoon. I managed to print out vague, incomplete directions to U.S. Cellular Field before leaving and they were now getting to be problematic. I was 3 hours before the game; at least I wouldn’t be late.
I’ve grown used to using my horn more since moving from Kansas to Illinois. Cathartic and even productive, the car horn symbolizes impatience and frustration. Ah, there’s Lot C. Now to… park. In another hour. It’s only open two hours before game time.
Now I’m faced with a problem; I’m 60 minutes too early and there are absolutely no places to park in the south side of Chicago. With a big “Journal Star” logo slapped on the side of my car, I’m ripe for ridicule. My knowledge of Chicago navigation amounts to areas in and just outside of the Loop. I find the Sears Tower in the distance and drive toward it.
Out of all the places I could have eaten, I find a Subway. I mean, how can you refuse free parking in a city that has none? I eat a quick sandwich and then walk to Grant Park. That walk was the highlight of the entire trip; fading sunlight, an empty Chicago downtown and me.
As for the baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, I should have skipped it. Photographers are such a “boys club” group; you better know at least one person or you’ll never get any help. I managed to squeeze myself into the Chicago paper’s photo work room (I really should have been down the hall with the Japanese and suburban paper photographers.) And I managed to find room in the first base photo pit. Second row, right behind the Tribune and Sun-Times.
After just 3 innings, lightning arced across the sky and that bowl of sky above us broke into a million pieces. Torrential rain and wind slammed into the stadium, causing all of us photographers to quickly retreat into a long, 2 foot stretch of dugout while we attached our rain gear to our long lenses. We remained this way for 3 hours.
I should have left. Deadline had passed and I gave the paper some unexciting baseball photos. But I wanted to experience an entire game, my masochist tendencies telling me that driving back at midnight would not be a problem.
Midnight, maybe. The game actually ended at 1:15am, with even the Chicago veterans grousing and using more profanity than actual words. After a quick stop at a 24-hour Arby’s in a nameless suburb, I made it back to the paper at 4:30am. The press workers were cleaning their giant machine and Journal Star delivery trucks were threading through the city with my photos on newsprint.
When I got home, I noticed that my red hoodie and red sneakers had stained my socks and shirt a blood red.