High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Angie's: A Reclamation Subplot

Chicagoans need pizza. I don't want to hear about how we're all fat motherfuckers to begin with and should place ourselves at the very end of the pizza-needing line. No one has attempted to determine how long a Chicagoan can actually go without pizza, because that shit would never get past the IRB.

When I was very young, our pizza place was Vito & Nick's: Ultra-thin crust pizza, turquoise and orange hanging lamps (it was the early 70s and you should know better), matching turquoise and orange vinyl booths. The longest we ever went without pizza would be in the summer when we'd take an entire month's vacation for my dad's furlough. (Pizza is not something you fuck around without outside of Chicago.)

So, within North America, I've pretty much been everywhere, our Olds Custom Cruiser (also turquoise) and our yellow and green Venture pop-up camper eating up highway in four-week chunks. Our dog was probably the most well-traveled miniature poodle in North America. On one occasion, she also nearly became the most dramatically dead miniature poodle in North America. We had stopped at a fast food place and left her in the van with her leash tied around the steering column and the windows rolled part way down. She somehow squeezed through the crack and dangled for a good 15 seconds before the entire family made the dash to save her as an entity.

We never meant to take her on vacation. Every year, it seemed, we'd set it up with a neighbor to come in and let her out a few times a day. Every year, we'd get a few miles from the house, the tears would set in, and we'd go back for her. I know this to be true, and yet it seems so very strange. My parents never gave into us on ANYTHING. I can only assume they wanted her along as much as we did.

Anyway, standard operating procedure upon return from vacation was to unload the car, leave the camper for the next day, and head out for pizza. For some reason, in 1978, Vito & Nick let us down. They were inexplicably closed for some feeble excuse like their own vacation. If someone had snapped a picture of the fam at that moment, they could've used it next to "dejection" in the dictionary.

Dejection bled into panic quite rapidly. Fortunately, someone noticed that there was a pizza place right across the street. We warily made our way in, noting with grudging respect that at least they had booths that could seat a family our size.

Vito & Nick lost a legacy of customers that night. Angie's pizza was not ultrathin crust. It's thinnish underneath the toppings, but rolled at the edges, leaving end pieces with a fabulously cruncher outerlayer enfolding soft deliciousness. It is, as all gods past and present intended, cut into squares. Corner pieces are most desirable. Although nowadays they do have ultrathin crust (which we accidentally got last night) and stuffed, the "regular crust" pizza remains the gold standards.

Angie's is really a bar that, as an afterthought, has added table seating. It's a long, narrow space, and I can almost envision them trying to decide if they should just put another bar along the south wall. They decided, instead, to toss up a hip-high brick wall down the center, top it with wrought iron railings, and put the crazy folk who like to sit facing someone who isn't in control of their liquor on the other side of it.

They've always had TVs at each end of the bar, and somewhere during the remodel in the 80s, they put another two TVs back to back on the ceiling over the dining area (because, let's face it, this is not the place the Cleavers would come for a nice family dinner). At some later date I can't name, they also added in a screen on the front of the place and a projection TV.

Despite the fact that it's most definitely a bar (and the idea of a nonsmoking section is to laugh), it's also a family place. Most patrons at the bar are off-duty cops, firemen, or blue collar workers of one type or another. Most patrons at the tables are the same guys with their families. It's the kind of place you take your team after a kickass victory or a heartbreaking loss.

It's the kind of place where my yuppified accountant sister would take her kids for a special treat, even though she'd never dream of exposing the little preciousssess to such influences in her own 'hood. In college, when my boyfriend's parents were visiting, the BF suggested we take him to Angie's. I was not very keen on this idea. These were the parents who did. not. like. me. first and foremost because I am White Trash, and secondarily because I am Not Jewish. They were not likely to enjoy soaking in the local White Trash culture. When trying to order a beer, his father actually asked the waitress to describe what kind of beer Old Style is. I could have died.

My state of mind when we moved into the house and I found out that Angie's delivered to it is quite indescribable.

L had made a late-in-the-day suggestion on Tuesday that we try out one of the bars on Western Avenue near our house. These are the places that had "Go Marlins!" signs up in 2003, bless their drunken hearts. ESPN radio has done recent broadcasts from Cork & Kerry. By the time I got home Tuesday, I wasn't really up for it (and, of course, given that we could have flown from Baltimore to Iceland during the course of that game, as the announcers cheerfully informed us, it was probably all for the best).

On possible clinch night, those places would have been way too crazy. I honestly didn't know how Angie's would be, but as L said, an Old Style at Angie's might be the best way to enjoy the game, so we decided to give it a shot. I sent off a "Nyah nyah" e-mail to my siblings and we were off. The Tattoo Parlor two doors down had a handwritten sign: "Closed at 5:30 on Wednesday. GO SOX!" When we to Angie's at 7, it was filling up, but there was still a booth with good viewing position. It would get to capacity before the night was out and there wasn't a single eye not glued to one of the sets.

The only downside to the night was the drunken youngsters at the big booth behind us, which contained the first Person of Color (not part of the downside because, although boisterous, he was not particularly drunk) I have ever seen in Angie's and a really annoying woman who, although she was definitely watching the game, spent three hours on her cell phone telling people she was at Angie's. Grown men wept openly, cats lay down with dogs, and we won the World Series.

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