Thursday, March 26, 2009

Going Back/Going Home

Everybody knows I've seen a lot, yeah I'm experienced.
Makes you feel so old after a while, just like our president.

Every time I come back in this town I know

That I finally know the difference between going back and going home.

I was one of those kids that was pretty much "18 and Out" from the town I grew up in. I turned 18, went off to school in the city, and didn't really even look in the rear view mirror to watch the old neighborhood fade back. Sure, I went back home for important things like holidays and to do laundry and have a place to crash when bands were coming through town that I wanted to go see, but it's been a LONG time since I considered that my home.

Where I grew up was just outside the city of Chicago, but growing up, I considered it the suburbs. My husband, who grew out WAY in the suburbs (like, the people where we'd pack snacks in the car when we were going to visit them when I was kid, even though you can still see the Sears Tower on a clear day out here).

During my last year in college, my parents moved out of the house my dad had grown up in to move further out into suburbia. The club I'd been going to for years to see bands also closed (owner wanted to retire and people had been offering him loads of money for years for the land, could hardly blame him) there just wasn't a good reason to go back there much.

And after the butcher who made the awesome Italian sausage closed.... well, there wasn't much of any reason to head back there.

But I was back there today for the unhappy occasion of a wake. I decided to take a drive through the old neighborhood.

Was the area so dumpy when I lived there?

Butchers... turned into a "title loans" place. Old Taco Bell, turned into a now-closed actual Mexican taco joint. Old bowling alley, turned into a church. Old church, still there. Grade school, middle school and junior high, all looking way smaller than I remember.

I left the wake around dinner time, and knew there was one place that was dumpy looking while I was still living there, but was still much beloved.

Gene & Judes.

It's all you need to say to get me salivating.

It's been about ten years since I've had a hot dog from there, so a trip was more than overdue.

It's right next to a river. That floods a lot. A LOT. The place has been half-underwater several times, and it is constructed out of sturdy stone, brick and tile that can be cleaned with some bleach water.

But people would probably wade through waist-high water to eat at the place. Seriously.

No frills. They have hotdogs, fries, corn roll tamales and sodas. End of menu. It's all they need.

Sadly, the ice cream place that used to share the parking lot is no longer there. But at least it means more parking spaces for the hot dog stand.

Have I mentioned that there is not a DROP of ketchup to be had in this place? Like, not even for fries?

It might be one reason the hubby could never stand the place.

And while the hot dog in the picture above looks great and the HAND CUT (really, the put the whole potatoes thru a fry cutter and they're in oil about a minute later) fries look all crispsy, the wrap it all up in one nice, neat little package. And no ketchup = we always ate them at home because we wanted fries at least for our ketchup, so I'm used to it all becoming a lovely, soggy mess by the time I ate. Because to get home, you had to pass over two sets of train tracks and would often get stuck by both. Sometimes for like an hour. In the days before cell phones. While just trying to make a hot dog run. But it was always worth it.

I panicked in line a little bit.... been so long since I've been there that I'd forgotten the "lingo" of how to place your order... but I remembered quick. And I laughed like everyone else when the dude in front of me asked about lettuce. Dude... this place has NEVER seen a single lettuce leaf.

I got my order of three hot dogs, a tamale, and some extra fries (all for under ten bucks) and stowed my goodies in my thermal lunch tote, and headed home. Which only took about 40 minutes on all surface streets.

Yeah, the fries were soggy. And by that point, there are just some fries you cannot pull off the hot dog without making a mess of the whole thing. But it is part of the beauty.

We sat down (with ketchup... I looked aside as the hubby soiled his hot dog with ketchup... I like some hot dogs with ketchup, but not these) and ate... I wish I'd gotten like five more. Man, was it good. And it was nice to have that moment with the hubby, watching The Office and 30 Rock.

There are nice things about going back, but it's nice when you can bring "back" to "home" and enjoy it there.

Lyrics courtesy of "Going Back/Going Home" by Butch Walker, Image yoinked from

1 comment:

BustyRedHead said...

i hear you. i find it odd to drive back through the town we grew up in. it feels like a different place.

great picture of the hot dog. :)