Tag Archives: Midwinter

Shoe shine

(I thought I had posted about this already, but it seems I hadn’t.)

The Chicago Day-Hiker Buffing.

Sit back.  Relax.  Grab a cup of tea and some Maria biscuits.  Listen as I tell you my not-quite-macabre tale.  Music, night, bamboozling and some clean looking day-hikers.  It’s all there.

See these shoes?

Buffed Shoes

Ordinary shoes, right?  They’re day-hikers or approach hikers or something like that. They have rubber toes and the rest is a rough, suede-like leather.  I’ve had them for years.  Ordinary shoes.  Never shiny.

I had them buffed in Chicago.

On the Wednesday of Midwinter Conference in Chicago, Randall and I took the El into downtown Chicago to hit a few stores and sights.  After supper, we walked up to Andy’s Jazz Club for an evening of  jazz by the Mike Smith Quintet.  It was a good evening: mellow, relaxing.

I believe it was about 10p.m. when we left the club.  It was dark and the streets were deserted.  After making out way through some side streets, we made our way south on State Street to catch the Blue Line back to our hotel.  Things were somewhat busy in front of the House of Blues.  A couple of hucksters trying to sell their wares and services to people coming out of the venue.  They were turned down by everyone.  When we passed them, one of them turned and started walking in stride behind us.

“Just keep walking,” said Randall.  Randall is old hat at this sort of thing.  He knew what was going on.  Plus, he’s an imposing figure: tall, long black coat.

They guy kept following us.  We stopped on the bridge over the Chicago River to take some pictures of the Chicago skyline at night.  As it happens, Google Maps has a street view of almost the exact spot we stopped:

View Larger Map
(Make sure the view is just west of north, facing those corn cob towers).

We stopped and as The Guy who had followed us passed by he remarked that my shoes were rather scuffy.

“I see those shoes!” he said.

I tried to ignore him.  He kept talking and then approached me.

“I don’t mean no disrespect, sir.  I ain’t gonna rob you or anything.  I don’t mean no harm.  I just want to show you something.”

As I’ve already said, the type of shoes I had on didn’t need shining.  Those are not shoes that are shined.  But he bent down and put some white goo from a bottle on the toes of one of my shoes.  Randall was behind me, taking some pictures and watching me with one eye, I presume.

“Just put your foot on my knee.  I don’t mean no disrespect, sir.  Just put your foot on my knee.  I’ll shine your shoes.  Four dollars, plus tip–but that’s up to you.”

I don’t think fast on my feet at the best of times, but this is downtown Chicago in the middle of the night.  I’m in a huge (but seemingly deserted) city in a foreign country where people talk different–just like they do in the movies.  In the movies.  Where Chicago is the setting for gangsters and gangs and murderers and…well…murders.  I don’t know if this guy has a knife.

So I put my foot on his knee.  This must have been the clincher for The Guy, because I heard Randall groan behind me, “Oh no.”

So he buffed the rubber toes and the sides of of the soles on those old hikers, rattling off all the while.  I’m not sure of everything he said–he was talking fast–I just remember him repeating the same thing, “I don’t mean you no disrespect, sir; I don’t mean you no harm.”

He finished buffing the hikers, quite pleased at the result.  And they were certainly cleaner (and remained clean until very recently).  

“That’s four dollars per shoe, plus tip, sir.  That’s eight dollars, plus tip, but it’s up to you.”

Four dollars per shoe!

“No, no, no,” Randall interjects, “You said four dollars!”

“Four dollar per shoe, plus tip.”

I’m fumbling through my wallet.  It’s American money so it’s all essentially the same colour and I don’t have the bills in order.  The Guy is hovering over my wallet as I’m thumbing through my bills, all of my spending cash for the week in plain view.  Randall’s gesturing at my from behind The Guy’s back, trying to tell me not to give him more than…something.  But I’m trying to keep an eye on my wallet and The Guy hovering over it, so I can’t make out what Randall’s trying to tell me.

It’s taking too long to sort things out, so I take out some cash and hand it to him.

“Here.”

“This is only seven dollars, sir.”

Randall jumps to my defense again.

“It’s okay,” I say to Randall, “It’s okay.  Give me that money back.”

He gives it back.  I pull out a ten.

“Here.  Take it.”

“Thank you, sir.”

And off we all go.  Me in my buffed hikers.  Along the way we passed by a couple other hucksters, but we ignored them.

I’ll admit it shook me up and kind of put a damper on the evening.  Randall felt bad about the whole thing, but it wasn’t in any way his fault.  I wasn’t bothered by the ten dollar shoe shine–I just didn’t like getting bullied into it.

By the time we got back to the hotel forty-five minutes later, we were joking about it.

Later that night–or maybe later that week–we were watching the news.  It featured a couple of stories about assaults on the transit system and in other places in the city.  It was probably the right thing to do, to give him the money.  No reason to risk anything for a couple of dollars.

And that’s the Chicago Day-Hiker Buffing.

In Chicago

So I’m in Chicago and things are not going quite as planned, update-wise.  Saskatoon Airport has free wifi.  Winnipeg airport requires an account with Telus or a ridiculous credit-card charge.  The hotel which I’m staying at advertises “free wifi access in every room”, or something along those lines.  When I read that, I think “free wifi”, but the key word is actually “access”.  Because when I open Safari on my iPod, I need to go through a gateway to set up a charge account (or bill to my room) to get unlimited internet access for $9.99US each day.  I still haven’t decided if Twittering is worth that much.  I’m thinking maybe not.  (Maybe Randall with feel otherwise and let me borrow his iPod or laptop for a bit.)

And my iPod decided to freeze up after I got onto transit.  It won’t shut down, it won’t let me use it.  Can’t do anything about it until I get to the hotel.  So no Twittering from coffee shops in the city, I’m afraid.

It was an uneventful trip.  I was patted down at customs in Winnipeg.  I wasn’t sure if we’d actually leave the airport, it was such a blustery day there.  O’Hare is too much airport, but I found my way to the shuttle/bus station for a complimentary ride to the hotel.  The hotel is swanky, but the denomination has worked out some kind of deal so that we’re actually paying less than we’d probably pay at a budget hotel (aside from meals).

How am I doing this?  Well, I’ve made it to Northpark University/Seminary.  I am in the library and one of the assistants has kindly logged me in as a guest.

Getting here was my goal for today (success!), but now that I’m here, I’m not sure what I should do.  I’ll check out the library and the seminary.  I’ve wandered the campus a bit (it’s a nice campus) and I’ve looked at some of the student housing (from the outside).  But what else to do here?  I don’t know–perhaps the point is just to get a sense of the place.  I may end up at Northpark again on Wednesday with someone in the know (who should be en route soon).

After Northpark I plan on making my way downtown and wandering around the “Miracle Mile”.  As I say, I’ll be doing some touristy stuff with Randall on Wednesday evening for sure, but I couldn’t just sit in that hotel all day.  So I ventured out on this beautiful day.

I’ve already met  a couple of Covenanters already–one from California, another from Alaska.  I was on the same flights as the Melfort church’s new pastor, although we didn’t introduce each other until we were in Chicago (but somehow I already knew he was heading to the conference).  Seems like many people know each other already here.  Me?  I’m one in about 8 million people right now and I know nobody.  The anonymity is kind of nice, but then walking around a hotel filled with pockets of people talking to each other…

From what I can tell, I fall somewhere in between a large crowd of hip, trendy twenty-somethings and the older, old-school looking Covenant pastors.  Not sure where I fit in.

Registered this morning.  Free books!  Well, “free”–they come with registration.  Some great selections, including Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet and N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.  Unfortunately, I already own (and have read) both!  No matter–they shall become gifts or church library donations.  Couple of other interesting books in the bunch as well.

Got into almost all of the workshops I wanted to.  Unfortunately, that did not include the one I really, really wanted to be in: Scot McKnight’s one-day workshop on The Blue Parakeet.  It’s a good book that has generated some questions.  Plus, I’m (attempting to) teach the youth Sunday school class on that book, so some more in-depth discussion about it would have been helpful.  Alas.  Maybe I can sneak in, or someone won’t show up, or maybe because it’s so popular (it filled up by December 15, well before I registered) they’ll add second workshop on the book (not likely).

Anyway, that’s all.  I’m off to browse the library catalogue for a bit, then to the seminary building, then to find my way back to the Blue Line (or Brown Line) and to downtown.

All things go, all things go.

So I’m taking a little trip to Chicago next week for a conference. I can’t remember the nature of the conference–words in the title included “sustainable” and “paradigms”–or maybe it was “matrix”–but I can’t remember the rest.

I’m kidding. It’s “Midwinter”, our denominational annual pastors conference. “Pastor’s conference?” you query. Yes. I know I’m technically not a pastor, but it was felt that it would be good for me to hobnob with those in our conference who are. It should be an interesting and educational week. I dont’t know if I’ll blog at all, but I’ll keep you posted here (also in my sidebar on the right).

I’m arriving in Chicago a day early, so I’m trying to think of where I should go. It’s the 3rd largest city in the U.S.ofA., so I will need to keep my goals reasonable. It dawned on me two days ago that Chicago is the birthplace of The Second City, the launch pad for many of our greatest comedians, including, but not limited to, Fred Willard, Bill Murray, Eugene Levy, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey (the Toronto Second City was home to many, many more). Unfortunately, I arrive to late on Sunday to go to an evening show. So that won’t work. Hopefully I arrive in time to catch the hour long episode of The Office after the Super Bowl.

At this point I plan on going to North Park Seminary on Monday morning for a look-see. After that, who knows. Perhaps Chicago’s Old Town, where The Second City theatre is (as well as the Old Town Ale House, apparently a favourite haunt of Second City actors). And then maybe a stop at either Giordano’s or Gino’s East for some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza (I’ve been thinking about it all week–let’s hope they sell pizza by the slice).

Then Monday night the conference begins.