Mondays have this rotten reputation for being the worst day of the work week. DON’T TALK TO ME UNTIL I’VE HAD MY COFFEE. I’m still recovering from my weekend bender or holiday vacation or lousy round of golf… Or something like that. But Mondays never bothered me more than any other day. It might take an additional tap of the snooze button to get moving and I probably didn’t sleep well following Sunday Night Pizza. It’s likely that I’ll have a mountain of email piled up waiting for me. The best part about Monday is the hangover from before and all of the tasks that await upon sitting on my desk to begin the week anew. After checking messages and returning emails and catching up, it’s lunch time before I have even had a chance to realize how miserable Monday is supposed to be.
The morning of Monday, August 11th was different from any other Monday, however. I was called into my boss’s office for a brief closed-door meeting, and what happened during that session altered the path my life had been wandering home in Illinois.
(Blogger’s Note: Tuesday’s entry is the first in an upcoming series where I will write from memory and embellish the events leading up to my transition to California. Stay tuned for future updates describing what life is like for a confused, overwhelmed, stressed Midwesterner contemplating an upcoming life-changing move to the West Coast. Hashtag Sentimental.)
I sat down with my boss and we made small talk about the weekend and each others’ respective recent golf performances. He offered me four tickets for that night’s Cubs game against the Brewers. Of course, the Cubs are lousy and these tickets typically cannot be given away, despite their prime location down the third base line near the home team bullpen. I accepted all four tickets knowing I would ask my girlfriend and try to convince another couple to complete the foursome.
And as exciting as non-pennant affecting Cubs/Brewers baseball is, it wasnt the most important part of the conversation. After giving some stipulations that what he was about to say was informal and not yet discussed with all of the appropriate personnel, he asked if I was INTERESTED IN A TRANSFER TO CALIFORNIA. After nearly falling out of my chair, then regaining my breath and reapplying a stoic poker face, I expressed that I was interested in the possibility, but needed to sleep on it before giving a realistic initial response. Even after moving outta my parents’ house, I still lived walking distance away. My folks had been through some pretty serious health issues over the previous 18 months and I needed to be sure they were willing to support such a drastic change. I was apprehensive about moving into Chicago. How would I possibly comfortably move 2000 miles away?
I stepped out of his office and back to my cubicle with a tummy full of butterflies, but couldn’t yet let on to the others in the workplace what I was just asked. My first mission was to fill the four seats at the Cubs game. I messaged back and forth with my girlfriend. Of course, I don’t really think she wanted to see me Monday night, let alone go to a baseball game. We never typically argued, I was always afraid of confrontation. But this Monday was different as we bickered about various social obligations and how to properly celebrate family members’ birthdays. We went down a bit of a rabbit hole about how each other was feeling and why such-and-such made one another upset. We shook it off, but there was still some tension for the duration of the evening. We were at least able to come to an agreement of how the logistics would work with me driving from the suburbs and her commuting from her Michigan Avenue office. And I would coordinate with the other couple about meeting for a pregame beer. But I couldn’t yet tell the news of the California possibility.
I fought the miserable Chicago traffic and made it to the ballpark neighborhood without too many additional gray hairs. I found a
great parking spot at Wrigleyville Dogs, but ignored the urge for a Chicago-style hot dog. I hoofed it over to Goose Island Brewing to meet the rest of the crew who had beaten me there. We caught up, we exchanged some repeat stories, we consumed a beer or two and communal nachos before heading into the ballpark. The tension remained on my side of the table, but I kept my happy face on since we were with company, and I withheld the information of a chance to move to the West Coast.
The game was relatively uneventful, even if we did luck out seeing an Arrieta vs Gallardo pitching matchup. We left before the conclusion and missed the Brewers tacking on a late insurance run. It had been a long day for both of us, rushing from home to work to the ballpark, and we wanted to beat traffic getting back to the suburbs. We said goodbye and exchanged hugs and left open the chance for future plans and went our separate ways.
We returned to Wrigleyville Dogs to find my car… Totally buried in the lot and parked in on all sides. No EZ access to Clark street after all. I laughed it off and was encouraged by the sign that ALL cars must exit the lot within 30 minutes of the games conclusion. We stood silently in the parking lot. No small talk for nearly an hour. No “how was your day.” No mention of my morning meeting. We watched a Jeep attempt to leave the lot, but not before it backed into a light pole. They scurried to put the bumper in the rear hatch and left the City. Our drive home wasnt nearly as eventful, and the silence was deafening as we drove on the Kennedy back to Arlington Heights.
I went to sleep Monday night/Tuesday morning with plenty weighing on my mind. The conversation I had earlier in the day truly had not yet left the room and I did not yet know how to share the exciting possibility with the people I cared for most. It was a day I will always remember because of its influence on many more days in the near future…
Cracker Jack is an American brand of snack consisting of molasses-flavored caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, well-known for being packaged with a prize of trivial value inside. The Cracker Jack name was registered in 1896. The slogan “The More You Eat The More You Want” was also registered that year. Some food historians consider it the first junk food. Cracker Jack is famous for its connection to baseball lore. The Cracker Jack brand has been owned and marketed by Frito-Lay since 1997
Frederick William Rueckheim—a German immigrant known informally as “Fritz”—sold popcorn at 113 Fourth Avenue, now known as Federal Street, in Chicago beginning in 1871. The popcorn was made by hand using steam equipment. In 1873, Fritz bought out his partner, Brinkmeyer, and brought his brother Louis Rueckheim over from Germany to join in his venture, forming the company F.W. Rueckheim & Bro. According to legend—an urban myth propagated to promote the brand by Borden Foods—states that Rueckheim produced a popcorn confection and presented it to the public at the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago’s first world’s fair) in 1893. No evidence is known, however, that Rueckheim had an exhibit at the Columbian Exposition. In 1896, Louis discovered a method to separate the kernels of molasses coated popcorn during the manufacturing process. As each batch was mixed in a cement-mixer-like drum, a small quantity of oil was added—a closely guarded trade secret. Before this change, the mixture had been difficult to handle, as it stuck together in chunks.
In 1896, the first lot of Cracker Jack was produced, the same year the name was registered. It was named by an enthusiastic sampler who remarked: “That’s a crackerjack!” (a colloquialism meaning “of excellent quality”). In 1899, Henry Gottlieb Eckstein developed the “waxed sealed package” for freshness, known then as the “Eckstein Triple Proof Package”, a dust-, germ-, and moisture-proof paper package. In 1902, the company was reorganized as Rueckheim Bros. & Eckstein. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game“, a song written by lyricist Jack Norworth and composer Albert Von Tilzer, gave Cracker Jack free publicity when it was released in 1908 with the line: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!” In 1922, the name of the Chicago company was changed to The Cracker Jack Company.
Cracker Jack is known for being commonly sold at baseball games and is even mentioned by name in the American standard “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”. On June 16, 1993, the 100th anniversary of Cracker Jack was celebrated at Wrigley Field during the game between the Cubs and the expansion Florida Marlins. Before the game, Sailor Jack, the company’s mascot, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
In 2004, the New York Yankees baseball team replaced Cracker Jack with the milder, sweet butter toffee flavored Crunch ‘n Munch at home games. After a public outcry, the club immediately switched back to Cracker Jack.