A proposal in Lincoln Park, Chicago

I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. – Algernon: The importance of being earnest

My friend Vikrant shared this on Facebook and it triggered a 20 year old memory.

First of all, I don’t entirely agree with Algernon. I’m in vehement agreement with his last sentence for sure. Nothing romantic about proposing? Now that’s a bit unfair.

American men have a fine tradition of proposing to (and often surprising the living daylights outta) their better halves. I happen to know two such proposals.

My ex-colleague and friend Laurie was ambushed at the finish line of her first marathon. Soon after her fiancé hugged and congratulated her, he quietly muttered “Are you ready?” to his buddy and, upon getting confirmation, went down on his knees and proposed. Laurie, already flush with post-race endorphins, would have one more memory attached to an already momentous day. And there was no need for a payment to Marathon Photos.

Our friends Jason and Julie had a long relationship before they tied the knot. Along the way, Jason did a 6-month teaching-English-in-China gig. Along the way, they did TWO around-the-world backpacking vacations. During their second soirée (chronicled beautifully here), against a picturesque backdrop in some exotic island, Jason proposed to Julie. There were no selfie sticks back then and no friend in tow but I’m sure that moment is forever etched in their memories.

My story is a bit different.

How I recall Lincoln Park ‘hood

Met this gorgeous girl on Jun 15 at a networking event in an art gallery in Chicago. I was deeply smitten. By the end of the evening I had made enough of an impression for her to acquiesce when I casually closed with “Hey,  I enjoyed talking to you. Could you share your email address so we can catch up sometime?”

Six weeks later we were on our first date. Later that month (after date #10 or so), I was announcing to my Evanston friend “she is the ONE and I would propose to her one of these days”.

My friend predictably responded with “What’s the hurry? Take some time before you pop the question.”

Of course I ignored him. Which is not to say I proposed to her on date #11.

Dinner at Copper Chimney. Nicholas Payton concert at the Jazz Showcase. Dinner at Shrees in Downers Grove. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan concert in Downtown. Dinner at the Indian Monsoon. Fareed Haq and Rudresh Mahattappa concerts at the Green Mill. Bike rides down Lake Shore Drive on the GS-700ES. Walk from Grant Park to Field Museum of Natural History to catch R. Carlos Nakai in action. Chicago city orchestra. Dave Brubeck with Bobby Militello. An all-night road trip to Wisconsin punctuated by a 4 am stop at Denny’s.

At some point the biweekly trysts turned into daily sojourns. We couldn’t spend enough time with each other apparently.

Having a 700cc Suzuki bike as the sole form of transportation added to my courtship cool quotient (I reckon). My Evanston friend’s Saturn and my Park Ridge friend’s Accord came in handy for some planned dates. Chicago’s public transit network bailed us out rest of the time.

But winter was approaching and I wanted 4 wheels.

Oct 11 dawned. I bought a Saturn SL2.

That was the evening I would propose to my girlfriend but even I didn’t know it until the precise moment.

It was a Friday evening and we were watching an 80’s era Hindi movie in my apartment.

I wish I remembered at which point in the movie it happened. All I recall was that there was some kind of whitespace (it was a VHS tape so couldn’t have been a commercial). A rare flash of deep certitude overcame me and I knew it was time.

I popped the question.

The beautiful face with perfect eyes and exquisite nose became suffused with incredulity and spoke.

“Oh my God! Are you sure?”

“Yes”

“Can you give me some time to think about it?”

“Of course. Take your time.”

(A few minutes later)

“Yes!”

Bingo Little had found his Rosie M Banks.

P.S. For the next few days, she’d keep asking me “Are you sure you meant it? Because if you aren’t.. or have any second thoughts, I won’t hold it against you.”

To which I’d keep replying “I couldn’t be surer.”

P.S (2). So there you have it Vikrant.

Memories of an American Life – 4 years in Chicago

Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive between Diversey & Fullerton – part of my fave running stretch — till Navy Pier (Pic: courtesy flickr.com)

I originally wanted to start a post called “Ten little things I miss about America” and then realized it should more on the lines of ‘memories that I treasure’ (true true!) rather than a life that I miss and crave (at least not yet!). Sixteen years of American life were spent in 3 cities (Houston, Chicago and San Francisco Bay Area) so this is going to become a three-part series. I’m going to allow my stream of consciousness to flow with little filtering (P often wonders whether I have ‘any’ filters) – the only exclusions would be grand tourist sights like Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. So here I go in no particular order…

  • Running along Lake Shore Drive between Diversey and Navy Pier often times at 10pm and not being the only soul on that stretch
  • Dining in umpteen multi-ethnic restaurants in Lake View/Lincoln Park neighborhoods
  • Riding the different L trains between Lake View, Downtown, Belmont, Park Ridge, and Evanston
  • Driving north on Lake Shore Drive and continuing on Sheridan Avenue through Evanston, Wilmette, Highland Park all the way to the Wisconsin border
  • Walking on Michigan Avenue (aka “The Magnificent Mile”) during festive Christmas time and in sub-zero bone-chilling wind chill conditions (ducking in and out of stores)
  • Summers in Grant Park (Taste of Chicago, concerts, jazz festival, oh.. so many events)
  • Listening to Fareed Haque mesmerize the audience at The Green Mill with a custom-built guitar-sitar
  • Experiencing the young trumpet genius Nicholas Payton at The Jazz Showcase
  • Watching Jethro Tull at Tinley Park following a loud warmup session from Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • (Dating days with P) Watching R. Carlos Nakai perform the native American flute at the Field Museum of Natural History
  • Zipping around Greater Chicago on my rocket (ahem, 1985 Suzuki GS-700ES) – thanks for protecting me, oh guardian angel
  • (Dating days with P) Out of the world performance by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – the pride of Pakistan
  • (Dating days with P) First Dave Brubeck concert at the Orchestra Hall (I think)
  • Riding my Suzuki from Chicago to Omaha with a gas tank cap held tight with tape. This is a blog post all by itself (maybe someday after I retire)
  • Returning to Chicago and getting caught in a thunderstorm. Riding an hour in soaking rain before stopping at a motel close to Des Moines, Iowa
  • Bungie jumping in Wisconsin along with Ganesh – childhood buddy who intersects three of my place circles (Bokaro Steel City, BIT Ranchi, and Chicago)
  • (Dating days with P) After training for a Chicago-area Half Marathon for 3 months, woke up late on race day and missed the start (by one hour). Oh well! apparently the auspicious time hadn’t arrived for me to run marathons
  • My first Starbucks coffee – in an obscure Dominicks location – next to the Park Ridge offices of SEI Information Technology
  • Meeting P for the first time in a Chicago art gallery. What on earth was I doing in an art gallery?? As the wise old men say “it was meant to be”
  • Watching Big Daddy Kinsey, Junior Wells, and a host of blues luminaries in Blues Etc and Blues Chicago (didn’t mind the smoke-filled ambience those days)
  • Playing disc golf during lunch time with a group of like-minded fanatics at an ‘object’ course in Park Ridge
  • My first winter morning in Chicago. Icicles formed on my wet hair as I vigorously scraped the ice off my 1984 Volkswagon Jetta
  • Watching Jean Luc Ponty perform at Navy Pier
  • (Dating days with P) Watching Ian Anderson perform, as a guest artist, at the National Flute Convention in downtown Chicago (Grant Park? I think). He had the cheek to poke fun at the flautists’ “puckered lips”
  • A glorious year at Old Town School of Folk Music (on Armitage Ave). They made me feel special even though I had little talent for playing the silver flute. Thank you Judith Johnson Brown.
  • Watching Ulele at their CD release party on Morse Ave (North Shore) with Michael and Marilyn and two of their friends (Deidre and Ms. X).
  • My first veggie Thanksgiving at Anthony Clarke’s Arlington Heights apartment. Anthony & wife were fellow bikers (from Maryland) who took my apartment sub-lease (while I moved to my Lake View apartment).