A question came up on Quora asking for favorite Northwestern/Evanston places that no longer exist. Never missing an opportunity to wax flowery and nostalgic, I posted my response:
Jim’s Char Broil. When we’d had our fill (for a time) of Buffalo Joe’s, or just really wanted some gyros, it was Jim we turned to. When we despaired during midterms or finals, Jim’s gave us recourse. We always thought Jim would marry off one of his daughters (we assumed he had daughters) to our buddy Chad, who would then inherit the Char-Broil when Jim decided it was time to retire. Chad would keep the name Jim’s, of course, out of respect. In fact, it wasn’t off the table that he’d BECOME Jim. Chad would hire the rest of us, and we’d live simple but full lives, telling tales, frying fries, and using too much tzatziki. But it wasn’t meant to be. We all graduated, found jobs in our fields, and Jim… disappeared. We never got to meet his daughters.
Today, more than two decades after those days at Jim’s, a woman sent me a lovely note through LinkedIn.
I saw your comment on Quora. My dad is Jim from Jim’s Char Broil. I just wanted to reach out to you and say thank you for your kind words. You’re right, he does have two daughters 🙂 He is enjoying retired life. I will pass along your quote, I’m sure it will put a smile on his face.
What is the German word for delighted, embarrassed, and astonished, all at once?
In the forlorn bloggy reaches of the internet are pages visited only by mindless things that crawl the Web. In this virtual twilight, where sadness hangs like mist, there are still voices. In brighter days, there were ears to listen. And those that remember, agree: nobody wailed online like Evie O’Grady.
Evie’s marriage endured three years. Hearing that relationships were mourned at least as long as they lasted, she made grief a habit to replace the habits Richie stuffed into a suitcase and took to Los Angeles with someone named Lana. Evie returned every evening to the apartment, declining happy hour invitations until they stopped. Some weekends she didn’t change out of pajamas or even leave the bed. Her phone became her world.
At three in the morning, she could post a digital howl, and online arms would comfort her. Souls she hadn’t met in the flesh would proffer virtual shoulders. Even seeing her words “Liked” comforted her. The tendons of her thumbs spasmed, but through the months of typing on the tiny keyboard, she mastered sculpting dirges into written art, her pain a bottomless well of inspiration.
But appreciation for her beautiful melancholy soon waned. “Friends” vanished with each lamentation, and Evie mourned them as she mourned all loss, wailing in the digital dusk. Some posted from their distant, sunny haze. Evie sometimes caught their eyes with a tag or mention. But after a few times they too would wink out, one by one, like stars behind a fog.
Harry awoke in the night and began deciding if it was worth it to use the restroom. His hand dropped from the recliner’s armrest and he was surprised to feel soft, warm fur. He shifted, turned his neck, and saw a big dog lying against the recliner, its legs stretching under the bed where Sabrina slept. Somehow, he wasn’t alarmed. Harry’s fingers scratched its shoulder. The dog pawed the air.
He hoisted himself into his walker, making it to the toilet and back. The dog lifted its head. Its eyes shone like moons. Its tail thumped, and Harry motioned for it to hush. He fell back to sleep stroking its fur.
In the morning, after Sabrina fed him with a funnel through the tube in his stomach, Harry wrote on his notepad, “WHEN GET DOG?”
Sabrina shook her head. “I don’t want a dog,” she said.
The black dog was rolling on the living room carpet, snorting happily. Harry shrugged.
In the evening, Harry sat with Sabrina on the sofa and they listened to Mozart, the black dog curled against his legs. Sabrina’s eyes closed. Suddenly, the dog rose to its feet, ears perked. It was tall enough to look Harry in the eyes with an unmistakable expression of eagerness.
“A walk? All right. I feel like stretching my legs too.” Harry rose from the sofa effortlessly, silent so not to wake Sabrina. “Let’s both of us have a cookie on the way out.”