Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In honor of Chicago's new mayor, a proposal

{Photo by rocketlass.}

I'm cross-posting this from my Tumblr Annex. For that small number of you who read both, I promise I won't do this regularly; today's post, though only tangentially connected to books, was something I enjoyed working on enough that the duplication seemed justifiable.

Blame P.G. Wodehouse, whose character the Honorable Galahad Threepwood once said of a Mint Julep that “it sidles up to you as innocent as your baby sister, then it slips its little hand in yours and the next thing you know, the judge is ordering you to pay the clerk of the court $50.” In a Wodehouse story I read recently, Bertie Wooster was drinking a Manhattan. It got me thinking. New York already has so much to hold over us: more people, more tall buildings, winning baseball teams, the body of Illinoisan Ulysses Grant. Why should they also boast a signature drink, while we’re left with tallboys of Old Style?

Thus The Loop was born—but only in concept. The rest is up to you. In this city teeming with young sophisticates, surely there is a mixologist of sufficient imagination and taste to provide Chicago with its inexplicably nonexistent signature drink. Surely someone can chemistry up a concoction that allows us to give the soul of our city a good roll around the tongue, followed by a satisfied, flammable sigh. I have provided the 1% inspiration; a dedicated mixmaster will have to provide the 99% perspiration (but please keep it out of the drink).

As research, I ordered a Manhattan. It’s smooth. So smooth. A broad Fifth Avenue of sophistication. It knows how to tie a bow tie. It tastes like all the best parts of bourbon and none of the parts that used to be so helpful in battlefield surgery. Did I mention its smoothness?

The Loop should not be like that. Here’s how The Loop should be. The first sip opens your eyes wide, so you look like one of those just-graduated-from-UW kids falling for the dude running the shell game on the “L.” The second sip makes you wonder whether your shoulders are broad enough that you can read Carl Sandburg’s three-volume biography of Lincoln. The third sip knows a guy who knows a guy who can get you seasonal work driving a snowplow at O’Hare. The fourth sip has you fishing in your wallet for a Big Jackson so you can get in on some of that shell game action. The fifth sip convinces you to take out papers to run for alderman. The sixth sip convinces you that it’s not even worth taking the trouble to go vote. No one has ever taken an seventh sip.

The Loop could come with a little blown-out umbrella.

Alternatively, The Loop could reflect Chicago’s glorious summers: sweet and smooth, unbelievably refreshing, with hints of delicate flavors you never knew were there. One drink and you’re calling friends in San Francisco to laugh at them for paying those absurdly high rents, friends in New York to explain to them how sufficient provision of alleys enables a city to keep its garbage out of sight (and smell) in August. This version of The Loop closes O’Hare for ten weeks, because why on earth would you ever want to go anywhere else? And it should be served in a glass that is tall but deceptively narrow, so that it runs out just as you’re deciding that never could there possibly be a better drink. The next morning, it should feel like all eleven weeks of January have been jammed behind your eyes and left there to melt and trickle down your brainstem throughout the day.

Much more likely is that the city will co-opt the idea and sell The Loop at Navy Pier. It will be a phosphorescent drink flavored with imported fruit and cheap rum, served by a guy dressed as a Blues Brother. You’ll get to choose between a ceramic Daley head and a ceramic Bears helmet. If you leave it on your table long enough, a crew will arrive and erect a wrought-iron fence around it. It will be a huge success. In an attempt to recapture the joy tourists felt on seeing the Cows on Parade, the city will set up bars on the corners downtown to give away The Loop in the summer. It will become so popular that Daley will begin to fear it, and he’ll cast it into the wilderness of Springfield, getting it named to the state Liquor Control Board at a salary of $99,640 per year.

And then it will be ours again. But first we must invent. The hard part lies ahead. Go to work, City that Works! Immortality awaits. Let’s get Looped.

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