I cried tonight at Jake’s. Jake’s, how does one describe it? Up until the 1950s it was the corner candy store, one of those great corner locations that appear to be built in a triangle. During the 50’s the candy went away and the alcohol arrived becoming the corner bar. In fall of 2006 Jake’s received its first face-lift. In no means was this to be referred to as a remodel; it was simply a face-lift. Jake’s doesn’t serve food so dogs are allowed to join their masters at the corner pub; on a typical night customers have to step over the sleeping dog in the middle of the floor.
We discovered Jake’s shortly after moving into the city and have spent many wonderful afternoons and evenings there. Our Chicago neighborhood is very diverse not only in race but in age, income, family, single, straight, gay and Jake’s is the neighborhood hang out. When the kids returned home from traveling, Jakes is where we would sit and hear their stories. When friends come into the city, Jake’s is where we would end the evening. When family came to visit, Jake’s is where the deep philosophical discussions would run early into the next morning. If my phone rang earlier than usual on a Friday afternoon, I knew Jeff was sitting at Jake’s, his favorite way to end the week. Jake’s had become part of our lives.
There were many evenings that we would meet friends there. Jeff and I, forty-something with two grown children being invited to hang out with twenty-somethings who were trying to figure out life. I clearly recall a few nights as the conversations were flying across the table that I mentally took a step back to take it all in. Across from me was a young couple who were living together, next to me a gay couple that had just celebrated six months together which was the longest relationship that either of them had experienced and two or three college students. A few of them having no idea what they wanted to be when they “grew up.” How did I, a preacher’s kid from a small town in Wisconsin, come to be so honored as to be included in this circle of lives? The conversations always came around to relationships and spirituality. Those are evening and conversations I will cherish for the rest of my life.
So why was tonight so emotional? Austyn and I had been discussing our reception options. With a destination wedding it is common to have small receptions back home so those who cannot attend the wedding can still be a part. There was one planned for Wisconsin where most of our extended family still live and of course there would be one in Chicago.
Chicago has many options for such an event, but the Chicago reception needed to represent our life there. We had had dinner at one of our all-time favorite restaurants across just a block from our building. A Scottish Pub named Duke of Perth and the only Scottish pub in the city of Chicago. It has the most delightful beer garden, which is perfect for a July afternoon. As we ate our food and tried to imagine what it would be like, we both agreed that it could work. Duke of Perth would truly be a memorable location for the Chicago reception. Just across the street sat Jake’s. After we finished our dinner consisting of three different appetizers, we walked into Jake’s, headed to the back of the bar and looked around…but this is Jake’s.
It’s dark, it’s simple, it has one pool table, a dartboard that sits a little too close to the bar and bar stools. There are candles that line the bar and illuminate the 5 high-tops along the sidewall, but these do more for disguising the space opposed to creating atmosphere. We sat at the bar and discussed our options. We could serve good ol’ Chicago Dogs, those are famous; we could hire a caterer. We could have a table arrayed with flowers, incredible deserts and champagne. What a great contrast; elegance at Jake’s. The thought of it made us both laugh.
As we sat talking about our plans I fast forwarded to that day, imagining what it would be like. We might still be living around the corner come July or we could be traveling 2000 miles to get here, either way it would most likely be the last time that we would all be together at Jake’s. And when that evening would end we would all be walking away from a place that held so many memories. Jake’s is the place that taught us the importance of being open, honest and non-judgmental. A place that allowed us to rid ourselves of the Sunday morning ritual of serving fellow Christians and brought us face to face with the reality of day to day real lives. The lessons I learned at Jake’s will impact me for the rest of my life.
I don’t have to imagine that day much longer for that day is approaching quickly. This place will never be duplicated. We will never experience these discussions again because life will have changed. Children will have gotten married and the four years that we spent in East Lakeview will become history.
There will be new discussions however, and when those discussions begin to recall memories, just the mention of Jake’s will bring a flood of emotions. I love our corner bar.