Among the more interesting things I’ve written in my life is a post for Punching a Jayhawk, the blog I write with my sister, entitled “A Review of Drinking a Non-Alcoholic Beverage in the Palmer House Lobby.” This isn’t so much interesting because of what I wrote about, but what occurred the night I went to the Palmer House and had the drink featured in the review.
On that particular evening I was supposed to review the tour of “La Cage Aux Folles” at the Bank of America Theater a block away. There was a mix up with my press confirmation and as a result I could only see the show if I bought a ticket. Although I enjoy “La Cage Aux Folles,” I felt better enjoying the original Broadway cast recording with George Hearn in my apartment for free than coughing up the money to see the tour. Dejected, I decided to walk to the Palmer House, which I had every intention of going to after the show.
For those who have never been to the Palmer House, the lobby is incredibly exquisite, featuring a stunningly decorated ceiling I could stare at for hours. It is built in such a way that when I walked into the lobby for the first time while wearing a suit I felt underdressed. Because of the beauty of the lobby and the tranquility I tend to feel when I sit there, it is one of my favorite places in Chicago. (The first Palmer House was built as a wedding present from Potter Palmer to Bertha, his bride, but it burned down in the Great Chicago Fire. Still, lucky woman.)
I walked down Monroe and through a door held open by one of the doormen at the hotel’s entrance. Up the stairs I went before I plopped down in one of the yellow fabric and wood chairs in the lobby. A waiter walked over and I ordered a pomegranate lemon drop because the basil lemonade was unavailable. I also informed the waiter I might consider an appetizer or the creme brulee from Lockwood while I sat there.
At that particular moment, I was feeling a bit bluer than usual. This was likely the result of having recently gone through a mutual break-up with my boyfriend at the time, a sweet Libertarian who worked in PR, and being in that weird purgatory of being between semesters at Columbia College Chicago. It also possibly didn’t help at the time I was all dressed up with nowhere to go. The Palmer House lobby felt like the only place to go since I was 19 at the time. I couldn’t go to a bar and have an actual drink and I didn’t want to go straight to my apartment. So I decided to savor my drink and occasionally stare up at the ceiling.
While I was doing this a man in his early 30s wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, that morning’s New York Times and the previous week’s Chicago Reader walked up the stairs and sat down across from me. He greeted me and we began talking.
I learned he was a lawyer in I believe business law and studied at University of Chicago, having grown up in Highland Park. We talked about the papers he had and various other topics before he asked me if I wanted to have dinner.
Let it be known that most men do not ask me, “Care for a drink?” or “Would you like to have dinner with me?” and mean “I’m buying.” In fact, only twice in my life has that happen and once was with my ex, the other with the lawyer I met that night in the Palmer House lobby. Coincidentally, both are from Lake Country in Illinois. As a result of me rarely being asked this, I was caught off guard but accepted. Rather than staying at the Palmer House, we left the hotel and went around the corner to Miller’s Pub.
Miller’s Pub is an old-school Chicago bar. The lighting is dim, the walls covered in wood. It has a cozy feeling that makes you immediately think, “I’ve been here before” even if you’ve never been there before. It’s a place I immediately felt comfortable in because I felt like I’m not the person who wants to go to bars that scream “Pick up place!” or somewhere with blaring dance remixes which result in my eardrums feeling like they’re about to burst. I’ve been to the latter in East Lansing, Mich. and it was deeply unpleasant. Unfortunately, I don’t think the owners of such establishments are listed among the damned in Inferno.
We took a seat and looked at the menu. Miller’s happens to be known for its ribs and other meat, which I could have tried. However, I happen to be the weird person who will order one of the cheaper items on the menu even though someone is paying, so I ordered the Cobb Salad, which is fantastic. My companion ordered a sandwich and we continued to talk, largely about politics. Although there is the saying that you should never talk about politics, sex and religion in polite company, it is inevitable people will talk about politics with me because I write about politics.
The only specific thing I remember being said while we were in Miller’s Pub was he asked me, “Do you ever wonder if you think too much?” I responded with, “Yes, largely because I’ve been told I think too much since I was seven.”
After we finished eating, we walked out of the restaurant and he asked if I wanted to go anywhere else that night. I said I felt like I needed to go home because I was tired and had to be at work at 8 a.m., but thanked him for the evening. And so I walked up the stairs to hop on the Brown Line, which I would eventually get off of at either Belmont or Fullerton.
I failed to get the lawyer’s number and I don’t remember his name. This was probably because I did not go to the Palmer House to pick someone up, but to enjoy a nice drink. I ended up having a better night than planned because the lawyer sat down across from me and began talking to me before taking me to dinner at Miller’s Pub.
As I sat on the train I made a mental note to one day return to Miller’s Pub as it was a place I felt comfortable in. However, I moved to Michigan in August of 2012 to finish my journalism degree and I haven’t had the chance to venture back to the bar on the days I’m in Chicago. I have made a note that after I move back in May I will have to go to Miller’s Pub before starting to write my review of the drink at the Palmer House lobby in my head.
Even though I only went there once, it was one of those places that left an impression on me. When people were discussing on Twitter what could possibly replace the Billy Goat on Michigan Avenue as the place for journalists, someone mentioned Miller’s and I chimed in saying it’s a good place.
I don’t go to bars or restaurant to be picked up by some guy because most guys will eventually have to reckon with the fact I’m a journalist and my profession tends to make people uncomfortable. I go to any place to enjoy myself, be it a library, restaurant, bar or store. I happened to enjoy myself that night and anywhere I enjoy myself is worth revisiting again.
I do apologize to the lawyer for not remembering his name since he bought me dinner.