Boulevard of Broken Dreams

It had all the makings of an historic occasion. I was meeting up with fellow blogger Jessica from Daughter of Opinion for dinner and drinks. Jessica is a successful stockbroker and was in town for a big stockbroker convention. Her hotel was conveniently located within walking distance of my office, so we decided to meet after work on Tuesday.
I arrived at her hotel promptly at 6:00pm, saw Jessica lounging in front of a gigantic Christmas tree in the lobby, and walked up to greet her, “Jessica! So good to meet you! Hope you’re not too tired out from your stockbroker conference. I want you to know that tonight has all the makings of an historic occasion.”
She looked a bit confused, glanced to left and right, then stood up and said, “Jenny?”
“Yeah – of course it’s me! Okay, so about this historic evening. Are you aware of the fact that right here, in your very hotel is the famed Trader Vic’s Bar and Restaurant, the bar that invented the world-renowned Mai-Tai? And are you also aware of the fact that Trader Vic’s is closing at the end of this year, never to return to Chicago? You probably aren’t aware of this because you were on the trading floor all day, and the announcement was just published in the Sun-Times this morning. This could be our only opportunity to taste a Mai-Tai the way the Polynesian gods intended it to be made.”
Jessica was surprisingly easy-going for a stockbroker, and said, “Hey, whatever you have planned sounds great. I’m totally easy-going.”
“But that’s not all! Are you also aware of the fact that hometown hero Marshall Field’s department store was recently bought out by the evil Macy’s empire, and that this will be the very last official Marshall Field’s Christmas window display? We have to go admire their world-renowned window displays before they desecrate the stores with the Macy’s logo. It’s just up the street.”
“Sounds great. Like I said, I’m totally easy-going.”
Part One: Dinner
We went to an Italian restaurant near her hotel that is known for its phenomenal cannoli and exclusively Russian waitstaff. After a lively discussion about jobs and travel and blogs and family, I was ready to move on to this world-renowned cannoli. Sadly, I now suspect that they only have one world-renowned cannoli at this restaurant and simply pass it from table to table, knowing full well that nothing, short of a diamond bladed jigsaw, could crack the impenetrable exterior.
At one point, Jessica tried to use a pepper mill as a makeshift mallet to drive a fork into the cannoli shell for me, but to no avail. I eventually just had to scoop out the filling and leave the exoskeletal remains for the next unsuspecting diner. With her stockbroker’s keen foresight, Jessica wisely ordered the cheesecake.
When the bill arrived, Jessica whipped out her corporate American Express Platinum card, which I protested with a dramatic, “No! You’re not going to pay for dinner – it’s on me!”
She waved me off with a toss of her perfectly manicured hand and said, “Jen, relax. I’m expensing it. As long as we talk business, it’s not a problem.”
“Well then, let’s get down to business. What’s that you say? Porkbelly futures are down and we’re closing at margin? I can’t call that! I’m a bear in a bull market! I’ll lose my shirt! Buy! Sell! Buy! Sell!”
Jessica raised one eyebrow and said, “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m talking stockbroker lingo. We’re doing business. Wink. Wink.”
“Uh, Jen. I’m not a stockbroker.”
“Sure you are. You’re here for a stockbroker convention.”
“No. I’m in sales. I’m working a tradeshow. But even though I’m not a broker, I’m pretty sure that nothing you just said made any sense.”
“Can we still expense this?”
“Of course.”
“Makes sense to me.”
Part Two: Marshall Field’s
For many in the city of Chicago, the loss of the Marshall Field’s name is a big one. For over a century, families have gathered in front of the store windows to see their world-renowned Christmas displays. Mine was not was one of those families, however, so I had never seen the glorious displays with mine own eyes.
After finishing off our wine and coffees, Jessica and I ventured into the blustery night to witness first-hand the elaborate decorations at Field’s. I was certain that nothing would kick-start the holiday cheer like a good old-fashioned Christmas window display. As I pushed past the crowds to get near the first window, I looked in and saw this:
I glanced over at Jessica who smiled politely and said, “Oh, how pretty. I guess that’s… Cinderella? And… oh, is that a lizard by her feet? I guess I didn’t remember there being a lizard in Cinderella.”
I just stared at the display, my faced pressed so close to the window that a circle of fog appeared on the glass with each frustrated exhale. “Are you kidding me? This is hideous! What the hell kind of Christmas display is this? That doesn’t look like Cinderella, it looks like that one puppet… that ventriloquist puppet. What’s her name?”
“Yeah! These are horrific! What, is this Marshall Field’s final ‘F* You’ to the city of Chicago? And what does Cinderella even have to do with Christmas in the first place?”
“Yeah, good question!”
“I mean, where’s Santa? Where are the reindeer? No snowmen? No bags of gifts? Not even a lousy glittery snowflake? This is an outrage!”
As we continued on past the windows, hoping for some improvement, we realized that we had started at the wrong end. The way we were walking, the story of Cinderella was being told backwards, beginning with a handsome prince stealing sparkly glass slippers from his young bride, and ending in a depressing portrait of sister-on-sister abuse.
A fitting conclusion to this grotesque Theatre of the Macabre holiday display.
Ever the trooper, Jessica tried to control my rant by changing the subject, “Oh! That stepsister looks like the woman from Wicked! Have you seen that?”
Semi-oblivious to her question, I felt a tug at my sleeve, and turned around, “Huh? Wicked? Oh, yeah. A bunch of us saw it a while ago.”
“How did you like it?”
“Um, I thought it was really good. Great costumes and really cool set. But so many of my friends had seen it in New York and thought it was amazing that I think it was just built up too much. You know how sometimes someone keeps telling you how great something is going to be, that when you finally see it, it just falls flat?”
“Kind of like how I kept hearing about that world-renowned Marshall Field’s display?”
“You’re funny. Especially for a stockbroker.”
Part Three: Mai-Tai
Finally the moment had arrived for us to taste a piece of history and settle into a couple world-renowned Trader Vic’s Mai-Tais. I grabbed a table near the bar, ordered our drinks, then bee-lined for the ladies room. By the time I got back, the drinks were ready and waiting.
“Oh, Jen. You totally missed it! The bartender set the drinks down and said, ‘I give you hope Mai-Tai. I give you fortune Mai-Tai.’ Then he left without explaining anything.”
“I give you hope Mai-Tai? Fortune Mai-Tai? What does that even mean?”
“Don’t know. He was very mysterious.”
“Well… give me the fortune Mai-Tai, ‘cause I’ve got nothing but hope. And you’re a stockbroker, so you don’t need fortune.”
“Jenny, I’m not a stockbroker.”
“Ha. Yeah, right.”
After a few elaborately staged photo shoots, we toasted our good health, hope, and fortune, and took our first sip of history. We had no idea that history tasted quite so bitter.
I grimaced a bit, smacked my lips a little and asked, “Do you like it?”
“I don’t know. Maybe this is one of those drinks that you need to have a couple sips of before you really get the true taste. Let’s give it a minute.”
A minute and three more sips went by, and it still tasted like I was drinking a glass of bile on the rocks, with a lime twist.
“Jess – I don’t like it. Mai-Tais are nasty! Ugh. Sorry ‘bout that. Guess I’m starting to understand why Trader Vic’s is closing.”
I looked over and realized that Jessica had already drained her glass, and was busy stabbing a piece of pineapple with a clear plastic sword. “Yeah, I didn’t really like it all that much, either. I definitely wouldn’t get another one. Unless you did.”
After scanning the menu for a few more minutes to find an alternate drink, we realized that each of the 74 drinks on the menu was some slight variation on a Mai-Tai, so we took this as our sign to call it a night.
So that evening, I learned the cold, hard lesson that building things up too much in your head can be self-defeating. You only set yourself up for heartbreak and disappointment because the reality can never live up to the fantasy. The cannoli was stale and nothing like my mother’s. The scenes from the Marshall Field’s window display are certain to pop up in some recurring nightmares I will discuss with my therapist over the next decade. The Trader Vic’s world-renowned Mai-Tai gave me sour belly.
But through all these shattered dreams, one bright ray of hope emerged: I discovered that stockbrokers are some of the most charming, funny, and genuinely sweet people you’ll ever meet. And that makes a month of Cinderellamares all worth it.

19 Responses to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

  1. Dave2 Says:

    I saw the Marshall Fields windows as I was making my way back to the Blue Line yesterday and was equally unimpressed.
    I’ve never been to Trader Vics, but I had many, many Mai-Tai’s while in Hawaii and didn’t mind them so much… perhaps you have to be drunk to appreciate them? :-)

  2. Jen Says:

    So is that Dr. Phil’s son in that one picture, or one of the New Kids on the Block?
    I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vics. And his hair was perfect. (Dup!)

  3. The Scarlett Says:

    The guy looks like a strange combo of Don Ho and Wayne Newton. And that shirt/blouse he is wearing isn’t helping.

  4. jenny Says:

    Dave2 – What the-? You were in Chicago? Dang – shoulda stopped by Trader Vic’s – you could’ve had my Mai-Tai. I’ve been told that Trader Vic’s Mai-Tais aren’t quite like other ones, so maybe the kind you’ve always had taste better.
    Jen – It’s the New Kids kid. And you don’t even want to know how long that song has been running through my head. Owwwwoooooo Werewolves of London!
    TheScarlett – That’s my new husband. He was seriously the most adorable man I’ve ever met, and he wisely advised another friend of mine NOT to drink what turned out to be the 2nd strongest drink on the menu. “Oh, you don’t want that. Very strong! 151 rum! Headache like you not believe, and put hair on you chest!”

  5. Jessica Says:

    Jen, this is hysterical, my dear….”excoskeleton” – *snicker*!
    I had the BEST time with you! Will let you know when I get my account of our evenings posted – no one will know WHAT to believe.

  6. Kevin Says:

    I saw the displays on Black Friday and thought they were horrific. I looked at two windows and said “forget it.” Usually, I love looking at the windows and taking photographs, but I just couldn’t do that to my camera. I like it too much.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    I’m confused. Did you see Joey from NKOTB??? I’m so jealous! He’s so pretty! And what a good dancer! Did you see over the summer when he was on that TV show and dressed like a sailor and did some move where he slid on his knees all the while never losing his perfect jazz hands? I wish all sailors were dancers.

  8. shari Says:

    You and Don Ho and Jessica all look so, so, so…. well, kinda like hope and fortune with a mai-tai in the middle. But what a great tale! Meeting one of “the others” — it’s a good thing.

  9. jenny Says:

    J: Ha! Whoever posts first is clearly the honest one – no time to make up lies!
    K: Your camera thanks you. I was actually a little embarrassed taking those pictures. Didn’t want anyone to think I actually liked the display.
    V: I wish I had met Joey from NKOTB! Hubba hubba! C’mere sailor boy…
    S: It is a good thing. Are you going all Martha Stewart on us now?

  10. teahouseblossom Says:

    Sounds like you guys had fun.
    And I’m totally bummed about Marshal Field’s. When I was in Chicago in October, I bought a bunch of Frango. I can’t believe evil Macy’s is taking them over. I’m sure they’ll keep Frango around, but still.

  11. romy Says:

    i’m sorry about the broken dreams and all, but that picture of you guys with don ho’s son, the new kid on the block, is SO. AWESOME. you look wonderful (and happy despite the sourbelly thing).

  12. trisha Says:

    I love you both and I am totally not jealous at all.
    Awesome post, Jenny. Don’t tell Jessica, but I love you just a little bit more than I love her.

  13. Jessica Says:

    Trisha! I read that!

  14. jenny Says:

    THB: The Frango mints were a great topic of controversy, but I think the final outcome is that they will still make them. Phew!
    Romy: Yeah, isn’t Don Ho Jr. a doll?
    Trisha: Ha – thanks! I won’t tell Jess… oh shoot, looks like I’m too late!
    Jessica: There’s enough Don Ho to go around – no need to fight over him.

  15. nina Says:

    These days, when shit happens, I think: awesome. Something to blog about.
    A splendid tale made even more so by the stale, the macabre, the bitter.

  16. shari Says:

    Oh, I get it! THAT’s why his last name is “Ho.” B/c there’s enough to go around. Thanks for clearing that up for us.

  17. roy Says:

    I think there’s something deeply creepy about that “Madame” puppet. I’ll just stop now before someone runs a Jungian analysis on that.

  18. Hip Liz Says:

    You are VERY funny, this is great stuff, you should write a book. And I never mentioned it before but your caricature has great legs!

  19. jenny Says:

    Nina: We’re cut from the same cloth. The sad thing is, sometimes I almost hope for weird things to happen to me, just so I’ll have something to write about.
    Shari: I told the waiter you called him a Ho, and oooh, girl! He’s pissed!
    Roy: I’d be more concerned if you weren’t disturbed by Madame. [shudder]
    Hip Liz: Wow – thanks so much! And I wish I could say the legs were even remotely based on reality, but I just paid off the artist in scotch.