Chicago and The Navy

Every trip, unlike many of the vagaries of life, ultimately has a nice clear beginning, middle, and end. I am reading a book about the calamitous 1996 Mt. Everest expedition, and even a chaotic and bizarre adventure like that has a beginning, middle, and a conclusion, even if it is the death of the protagonists. It is probably best to tell this story in that same, useful sequence. And though there are no fatalities in my tale, there are enough ups and downs to make each portion worth a little attention. However, if the attention requested exceeds your desire to respond, you can always skip ahead. I'll never know.

Selecting the hotel

Llywelyn sent us some information about a travel agency that seems to do nothing but book people into these Great Lakes Naval base weekends. There is at least one graduation every week, many times two, and occasionally more, as 55,000 naval recruits have no way to become sailors but to complete this program at this location. The travel people have a nice map, good information, and agreeable prices, so I called and booked a room for 4 nights (a request that excluded several of the choices) at the Hotel Moraine in Highwood. Besides price, this place was south of the camp, and I thought that as we would be going into Chicago, possibly several times, south would be the preferred place to be. Their pool and restaurant were closed, which did not bother us as we were unlikely to eat or swim there. A week later, when my sister Julie attempted reservations at the same establishment, she was firmly rebuffed. They said, "We no longer deal with that hotel". She replied, "My brother made reservations with you just a little while ago." "Their pool is closed, their restaurant is closed and they have been losing a lot of business." With more coaxing, he finally said something like "You don't want to know what happened" And she couldn't get any more out of him. When she shared this warm and encouraging story with me, my brain of course started roaring through possibilities. Plague? Bodies found under the beds? A rapist among their staff? But as our reservations were paid for in advance, we had little choice but to go onward, risking life and limb (rather than $250) in quest of a good night's sleep.

The night before.

For me, packing is not much of a deal. I can't imagine why some people have such a hard time. If it takes 30 seconds to select and find my clothes every morning, four days' clothes means four times 30 seconds, or two minutes. And that's what it took. Not so fast...we had one other task to complete. We had purchased a computer for Llywelyn and Rachelle as a "graduation/starting their real life together" gift. (After a grueling debate on whether to get a Windows or Linux box...attempting to balance my proselytizing, evangelical spirit with the recognition that two non-computer folks were going to be its owners, we semi-reluctantly opted for Windows, thinking that if they get to the point where Linux is a good option, they can do it themselves. How's that for a run-on sentence!) I wanted a photo to include in the card we had for him, as we could not lug it up there nor could he receive it. Remember, his underwear had been sent home in a box upon his arrival--no personal possessions of any kind. This meant assembling it now, even though they wouldn't be using it for weeks.. Not that big a deal. But I then decided to load some software on it, make sure the browser was configured, melt down some of the MS lard, and generally prepare it for delivery. After two hours, it was ready for the photo, and I took as many as necessary to finish the roll. And I was ready for bed, which took but one attempt.

The start.

Since I began my new job in January, I have not accumulated many vacation days. With the end of my work day at 6:00 and a flight at 7:45, I had to hustle. I skipped lunch on that Thursday so I could leave a little early. But I had dropped the computer photos off for developing, and needed to pick that up on the way home. Those of you who have experienced Metcalf Avenue at rush hour know this was a dangerous decision, but as the developer was only two short blocks from the highway, I thought it would not be a problem. Exiting I-435 was a challenge, making a right turn took several minutes, making another right turn several more, and then, the nearly impossible daring maneuver known as a left turn! to get back on to Metcalf. Yikes! I left work 20 minutes early, and used all 20 of those minutes traveling 300 yards up and down Metcalf Avenue. I should have just parked on 435 and walked. But at least the photos were in hand.

I arrived home at my usual time, and we departed instantly for the airport. Uneventful drive, though that 7:45 departure time crept closer and closer. I dropped Cindy at the airport and went back to the long term parking lot. Found a spot quickly, and waited for the bus. And waited. And waited. And waited. Time marched away, and I began to really worry. I ate a Subway sandwich Cindy had purchased for my dinner. I probably could have eaten two or three in the time I spend standing there. The bus finally arrived, and took a leisurely trip to the terminal, while I got to listen to several fatuous recent KU grads discussing their various interviews and how much they expected to earn. The only question was whether living in San Francisco or Atlanta would be the better choice. We pulled up to the door and I sprinted in only to find my gate was far, far away. Another sprint, another line (a common theme of this trip) to get through the metal detector and then could not find Cindy. It was 7:45, departure time, but the waiting area was packed. I looked at the display, and saw that a 8:50 flight was beginning to distribute boarding passes. Still no Cindy. Then I saw her, far away, looking quite relaxed. She came over and told me that we were delayed. Oh my, how delayed. Our plane was coming from Phoenix and was not only not here yet but they weren't exactly sure when it would arrive. We finally boarded at 8:30, had to sit separately as we were among the last to get on, and left well after 8:45. We arrived in Chicago to the warm words of the pilot telling us "Sorry about the delay. We hope to make it up to you next time." How, I wondered, possibly arrive an hour early?

We had a pre-paid car rental, found the Avis counter, and waited in a very slow moving line, shuffling up a few feet every few minutes, before gaining permission to relocate to another line forming outside. This line was for the bus to the parking lot. This too was a lengthy wait. We watched the crowd eagerly hovering, no one wanting to be left behind. When the bus ultimately arrived, the jockeying was fierce, but we held our ground and managed to secure a spot--in fact 2 spots. The driver was a personable chap, welcoming us to Chicago and offering advice as to potential routes to potential destinations. Calm and relaxed, he continued driving through the congested airport traffic at a rate that made it hard to listen to what he was saying. An Avis customer walked down the middle of the street towards us, flagging the bus, but unconcerned, the bus came within a few inches before casually swerving around him. He certainly proved who the chicken was in that exchange. We got to the parking lot, misread the sign, selected the wrong car and had to struggle mightily before we got our car and began on our way (almost leaving my wallet in the first/wrong car). The trip to the hotel was uneventful, other than missing our exit, paying way too many tolls, and marveling at the carefree attitude of Chicago drivers, especially those towing huge loads. We ultimately arrived at about 12:45.

When I registered, the clerk asked me if I were James Clark, the famous philosopher. I was tempted to reply, "Of course!" After all, every one I know describes me as such, but I was slightly startled that my fame has extended as far as Chicago. If the clerk had been female I would have been suspicious, but this fellow obviously saw me as a fellow scholar. I denied the identity, and had to painfully confess my ignorance, though curious who he was, as all famous James Clarks are related to me, at least spiritually. While doing the necessary check-in paperwork, I learned that this earnest young man was a Philosophy of Theology student nearby, a graduate of a Bible College in Springfield, though originally from Oklahoma, and very interested in Christian apologetics. The aforesaid Mr. Clark was among his most treasured writers. Interested, but way too tired to continue, I turned to go out to the car. One final warning: "The pool is closed, the restaurant is closed, and the cable went out today." We trudged upstairs, though a lovely, old-fashioned lobby, into a hefty and attractive elevator, and off to bed, where we fell asleep instantly. A wanted, but unfortunately unwelcome, phone call from Rachelle's grandmother about 45 minutes later assured us they too had arrived a little later than anticipated.

Pass and Review

We arranged to meet at the entrance to the base at 8:15 AM. The hotel had a very nice continental breakfast and we revived a bit before heading out. They had no tea, but I wisely brought some very nice tea Cindy's sister Donna had given us at Christmas, and used the coffee machine in our room to satisfy this urge no one else seems to have. We arrived at the base a few minutes before our program. rendezvous; Rachelle, her mom, grandma and Cyrus appeared just a few minutes later. I pulled out my camera, which had worked two days before to take the computer picture, and had dead batteries. No photography from me today! We had been warned that a large crowd made an early arrival necessary, but there was no need. We were in the building at 8:25 and had a frisky 20 month boy not eager to be confined any more. So Cyrus and I went for a walk and blundered around the base. We crossed the street without the permission or guidance of the road guards, walked the wrong way on the wrong side of the street, shook a big chain, stepped on grass (though I retrieved him within moments each time), played chase around a shiny torpedo and enjoyed a beautiful Chicago spring morning. We returned to the hall, and the ceremony began promptly at 9:00 AM. .

The ceremony was well done, efficient, crisp, with good marching, skillfully played music, including a sensational piccolo solo in "The Stars and Stripes Forever", and relatively short speeches. We spent the entire time trying to see which of those crisp young men was ours. We whispered back and forth, pointing, squinting, attempting to decipher the features we recognized. So was everyone else around us. "That's him!" "Which one?" Third from the left" "Which row?" I don't suppose much attention was paid to any of the words by the audience, so busy were they attempting to pick their needle out of a very uniform haystack. At one point, in honor of "Armed Services Month" the choir sang the official service song of all the armed forces. All current and former members of these services were asked to rise during their song. The Army, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard all had ten or so people stand up in this crowd of 1000 or so. Of course the Navy was last, and I expected a huge wave of people leaping up when they began to play Anchors Aweigh, but there were probably only 20, and many of those looked old enough to be grandparents. What a surprise, far fewer than 10% of this crowd were military people. One wonders...were all these children rebelling against their non-military parents? I took several pictures with Llywelyn's camera. Then his batteries died. Not a good day to commemorate with pictures.

The sailors marched around a bit on the floor, displaying the spiffy moves they had learned, and we finally located Llywelyn. He had been in the far right row, completely obscured from our vision, and we finally agreed that the fellow we saw was the one we were looking for. As the ceremony concluded, we were asked to order the sailors to go on liberty, with the exhortation that we should as this was quite possibly the last order we would give them that they would obey. So we shouted liberty and everyone rushed down on to the floor. We found him, hugged, kissed, (some of us), commented on how trim and fit he looked, and agreed upon a plan. Llywelyn's biggest desire (at least that he would voice to us) was to take a shower without anyone else. We walked to our cars and agreed to meet at Rachelle's hotel in an hour for lunch.

We were not there in an hour, but did eventually arrive and enjoyed a delightful lunch with Rachelle's mom, Patti, and grandmother, Gayle. There is an Italian restaurant adjacent to the hotel, and though we were the only customers, we were relaxed and had a great time. Llywelyn, Rachelle and Cyrus came about an hour later, and they ate lunch. He began the telling of the bizarre and amusing experiences of boot camp, where there truly is a mixture of the very best and the very worst (or at least the very worst that scores above a 31 on the ASVAB) of American youth culture. We laughed, asked a million questions, and had a great time. They did not want to go anywhere that night, and we decided to return to our hotel and let the five of them visit together.

We weren't up to a drive to the city, thought about some local jazz clubs, but feeling pretty tired we made the easy choice and opted to see "My Dog Skip" that night. It was showing at a local dollar theater, and we could get there if we left immediately. Quick directions from the clerk, off we went. And never found it. We prowled up and down Milwaukee Avenue between Highway 60 and nearly all the way to Wisconsin. We missed that show, and decided to look for a camera store to get some batteries. Never found one of those either, but stopped in to an Osco and bought two magazines, a gallon of bottled water, and two packs of batteries. Total cost $43.00. I gasped. The batteries, which I had priced here a couple of months ago when I thought they had failed, were over $4.00 more per pack. Ah, but the quest for art can have no price tag! For our $43.00 though, they did tell us where the theater was. When we had turned from Highway 60 on to Milwaukee, we had, per instructions, turned right. If we had turned left, we would have seen the theater on our right at that intersection. So we returned to the hotel, where a very rambunctious wedding was occurring, and read magazines. When we went to get ready for bed, we saw the maids had taken our towels but left none to replace them. I went to the front desk and asked for replacements. I was told there weren't any. Aha! The solution to the mystery: stinky guests who couldn't bathe because they did not have any towels! Another guest appeared with the same complaint, and the clerk went to find some, muttering "They do this to me all the time!" She returned with two bath towels and one hand towel. I asked if she wanted us to fight over these, or share them. She left again, and this time returned laden with nice clean towels, which we were quite glad to receive. Cindy thought I had joined the reception. However, I wasn't tempted. The groom came out and brusquely ordered several tuxedoed chaps into position for a photo, then insulted their poses and smiles. This definitely was a reception I wouldn't have wanted to join. However, the noise never made it to our room, and the hotel itself was very nice. All that fear for naught.


We had agreed to meet in the morning and go to the Field Museum to see the extraordinarily well-publicized Sue. There was an article in our paper extolling its wonders. Julie and Emily had arrived Friday night, and agreed to join us on our expedition. We met at McDonald's where those who had not eaten did, and agreed to drive there in two cars and join up at the museum. Driving in to the city was no problem, though it was a drizzly, dank morning, and the skyline was absolutely invisible. We found our way in and then began the standing in line. We had to get in line to turn into the street from which we could enter the parking lot, then wait in line (or ON line, for those of you from Nutley) to get into the parking lot, then park at the far end of Soldier Field, and walk through the mist to the museum. Here we stood in line again to get into the door, stood in line to buy our tickets, and suddenly it's been a very long time since we've seen the other half of our party. We waited, visiting the other entrances, waited some more, and finally gave up to go see the museum's treasures. Sue was impressive, but hardly overwhelming...as if the hall was just too large for the skeleton. Maybe we're too jaded, maybe we had been squished and stood around for too long, but somehow the beautiful fossil was little more than a beautiful fossil. We have seen so many images of Miss Rex that we could not see the majesty the paleontologist would see. Every other exhibit was packed...wall to wall crowds squeezing the pleasure out of every artifact we looked at.

We returned to the door and to Sue several times to see if we could sight the Llywelyn crew, but never did. Cindy and I had lunch in the museum, after standing in line for 35 minutes. In our five hours in and near the museum, at least three of them were stationary, waiting for our line to move. Whatever they spent to acquire that skeleton was worth it. The clearly paid for it alone on that Saturday morning. At about 2:30, as the crowd finally took our supply of oxygen, we oozed towards the door. Our later afternoon plan was to meet Jim Horan and his family at Navy Pier for the annual fireworks display. The meeting was scheduled for 5:00. Until then, what? A quick dip into the aquarium? Spin through the planetarium? A cab down to the pier? As we wrestled our way through the door we felt like the crew of an injured submarine scrambling for the hatch as it surfaced. Those first deep inhalations of Chicago air, damp and cigarette-laden though they were, were golden.

The walk down the lake front was a delight. The rain had stopped, the air crisp, and, with the exception of a few decomposing fish smells, the stroll was perfect. We chatted amiably with Julie and Emily, both of whom were funny, fun, and charming, after what could have been a fairly unpleasant day, enjoyed the famous fountain and eventually the sculpture garden outside the pier. As we entered, though, we received yet another disappointment. Due to the bad weather, the fireworks were cancelled. Now we wondered if the Horans would come after all, as the purpose of their trip was gone. Not being much of a shopper, there wasn't much there to interest me, but we did take a spin (or some of us took a spin) in their Ferris Wheel.

The view was obscured by the fog, though still lovely, and the trip itself was a pleasure; the wheel does not stop but just rotates so slowly that the cars can be emptied and loaded as it turns. We met the Horans in the Crystal Garden, where Emily enjoyed interrupting the fountains and we all enjoyed the horticulture. It was a tropical garden that made us oblivious to the gray gloom outside. A bit of discussion followed as to the best place for dinner. We bandied the possibilities and decided to go to a Middle-Eastern restaurant at the pier. Expensive, not wonderful, but suitable for all. We forced our way through the crowds, always seeming to be going upstream, (Jim remarked that he had never seen Navy Pier so crowded) and learned that this was not the place they had had in mind. Ultimately, we all ate, chatted, enjoyed the time. All the kids seemed to enjoy each other as they scooted around looking and exploring. Cindy and Ellen discussed quilting, which Ellen appears to have mastered,

and another batch of folks took a spin on the Ferris Wheel. As we were about to leave, we learned there was a stained glass museum there, which was an odd thing to locate in such a commercial, tawdry kind of beach place. It was exquisite. Several delightful older windows, and a few modern pieces that were breath-taking. I remember viewing windows in European churches and marveling at them far more than the architecture. At Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, the guide told us that few windows from that era survived Cromwell's attentions, which is an extra pity as they made a blue that cannot be replicated today. So, I am a long-time admirer of stained glass, and these made an unexpected and peaceful conclusion to the trip. One of the travails in going in groups is that you have to look at things as long as others want to look, and I certainly kept everyone there a lot longer than they would have liked while I leaving way before I would have preferred. (Family members will be able to relate episodes from my childhood where they were required to loiter interminably while I read every display.) But a little taste is way better than none at all. We survived a precarious trip back to Soldier Field where we enjoyed a little Chicago road rage, a little reckless and feckless driving, mobs of teens out in formal attire, squealing tires harmonizing with squealing kids, shrieking wives and shrieking brakes. At the parking lot, there was no entrance; though we could see our parking place we could not get close. Jim was willing to hop the fence with his van, but timidity prevailed and he allowed us the walk. A long drive home and a bunch of tired people went to bed that night.


Sunday morning Susan and Willie came down from Madison to join us. I scoured the Yellow Pages for the perfect place for brunch for 10 and found The Chicago Diner, a Highland Park joint that serves vegetarian food, and has done so to the acclaim of Oprah! and Roger Ebert and some other Chicago celebrities. I called to get specific directions, and got a friendly recorded message informing me they were closed for the Memorial Day weekend. Out of options, I went down to the front desk clerk, who could not offer much, but a very nice lady standing there recommended Egg Harbor, and we jumped. Off to meet the others and drive back, where they accommodated a party of ten quite nicely. The food was good, the tea hot, the conversation, warm and friendly. A rectangular table presents different problems for those in the middle than for those on the ends, but basically the breakfast worked quite well.

We struggled for something for 10 people of different tastes to do, and eventually decided to go to Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall. As it was another drizzly, chilly day, indoors sounded good. However, the mall was crowded with at least 15% of the Chicago metropolitan area's population, and we could not speak, walk or look. Eventually, some of us stayed in a cafe while others walked, and the conversation flowed nicely. Sailors were all over the mall, some walking in small groups, and some, as ours was, on the arm of a partner who looked very pleased to see him or her.

The Madison contingent departed from the mall, Rachelle and Patti left for the airport, and Llywelyn, Julie, Emily and we went to Waukegan. I'm not sure why we were there, but we were looking for a restaurant somewhere near the base. The sailors had originally been granted a 9:30 curfew, but it was rescinded to 9:00 as one of the recruits had decided liberty was much more enticing than base and not returned on Friday night. Llywelyn did not want to be late so we ventured none too far from home. Waukegan is the current home of Shimer College, a fact Llywelyn had noted on his drive to the mall. There was a sign pointing right from the Interstate, saying, clear and crisp "Shimer College" just as if it were a real school. He asked if this were indeed the same school. So we drove past it that night, and while Waukegan has the appearance of a town that has been in steady decline for a long, long time, the campus looked wonderful. Llywelyn had actually been there before, as we visited in 1979 on a trip through the Midwest. However his memory was a little hazy (though mine was too) and we abandoned reminiscing for sustenance. We found, and enjoyed authentic (Midwestern-style) Mexican food, at an authentic (Midwestern-style) Mexican restaurant. The chips were exquisite, fresh, hot, salty with savory salsa. Julie ordered chile rellenos, a favorite of mine, but they had been warmed in grease rather than fried, and were mostly inedible. The rest of us ate well, had another delightful chat (I suppose every kid just out of boot camp has an endless supply of stories on the foolishness of the military and stupidity of their mates). We got him back on time, returned Julie to her hotel, and again collapsed. It was as if we were at high altitude we were just exhausted all the time.

Monday, Memorial day

We had agreed to meet Llywelyn at the front gate at 9:00. This was a bad decision, as we decided to sleep without a wake-up call, and slept in. Then the route we would have taken to the base was closed, so we were forced to go way out of our way. There was some sort of bicycling event occurring there that day, so bicyclists were all over the roads and we had to frequently slow. Rationalization, but as we're not in the military, it is permitted to us. We arrived about 9:40, and as Llywelyn had a muster call at 10:00 he was not there. So we went into the lounge/game room/snack bar building right at the entrance and decided to wait. This was among the most entertaining portions of our trip. There were two rooms, bleak, windowless cubicles with 40 or 50 chairs and a TV in the front that most of those in the room would not have been able to see. However, there was little watching going on in there. Llywelyn had told us how guys attempt to sneak a moment of sleep whenever they can, and here was a room full of (mostly) boys sprawled in chairs and asleep so soundly that nothing short of an earthquake could have roused them. They appeared to have been dropped from an airplane into their chairs, splattered and scattered akimbo as they landed. Heads back, mouths open, limbs askew. Slow, methodical breathing was the order of the day.

Llywelyn came up the street in a group of crisp sailors, crossed the street at the designated spot after looking both ways, walked conscientiously on the right side of the sidewalk, though no one else was competing for the territory, and joined us. The whole Navy thing is very troubling for me. I am a child of the 60s and 70s, and attended a Mennonite church in Boise. I have rather weak militaristic leanings, to say the least. In the early 70s, when it was suggested I might attempt to enroll at Annapolis, I smirked with hysterical derision. The military represented everything I thought evil in America, a killing machine hopped up on righteousness and fueled by a grandiose murderousness that made them the moral equivalent of the Brownshirts. I marched as best I could when I was 15 and living in the suburbs, wore my black arm band to school, and even went to New Hampshire to campaign for George McGovern in 1972, though I was not old enough to vote. So, a son joining the military-industrial complex is an emotional challenge for me. A base full of uniformed automatons, hoping to read the insignia of an officer walking towards them in time to offer the proper greeting, scared me. And yet, I think of how self-indulgent and self-absorbed I was at this age. My youthful activism, while able to spot and lampoon the less-committed than I, was still a fairly benign occupation. Not that I did not believe; I just did not much act. Shoveling snow for McGovern in 1972 was a tepid embrace of the anti-war movement, and since then I have comfortably and enthusiastically lived in and enjoyed the liberty bought with thousands of American corpses. So a life where teenagers, whose track record of thinking for themselves seems to consist of the endless quest for comfort and status, might benefit from a few years of learning to follow the rules of others and not wasting time asking questions seemed possibly a good place. I still struggle with a variety of ambivalences, but can at least acknowledge that there is a possibility that my son will leave the military without the hair-trigger temper and glazed look of the stereotypical, and highly inaccurate, Hollywood version.

So we chatted, toured the base, and sat in a park that was immaculately clean and tidy (certainly uncontaminated by cheeses immediately came to mind sailors never had the time to go there) and talked about the past, the present, and the future. A squirrel sprinted across near us, and I marveled at how fluffy it was. It looked as if it had a furry goiter, and then we realized it was a mother transporting a baby back to their nest. She was wary, but scrambled past us on the ground for one trip before deciding on an aerial transport for the second one. We watched, amazed, as this squirrel leapt from one branch to another, holding a ball 13 gray fluff as big as herself in her mouth. They disappeared into a cavity in one of the stately oaks, but gave me a condescending stare before she did. That mother protected her kids very nicely. If only we could do the same.

The Subway Shop on base struggled to open on time. It eventually did, but our former Sandwich Artist assured us we would not enjoy the sandwich made with their flat, crusty bread. We didn't. But the company was wonderful enough to compensate for any dismal food, though watching Llywelyn eat that slice of supreme pizza was another painful arrow. We met his friends from camp, asked hundreds of questions, and laughed at his tales of the confusion, dazed behavior, and bafflement recruits feel. He certainly had not been sheltered from the foolishness of human nature prior to this, but the education was still startling. For instance: His mates like sugar. At every meal, a restaurant container of sugar sits between every few recruits, and they use it on everything. In pop, on white bread and butter, on cake, on sweetened cereals. It was not surprising to see someone pour a half cup of sugar into a Coke. This certainly warmed me; the military is composed of sleep-deprived people who compensate for their exhaustion by loading up on caffeine and sugar. I believe any medical textbook would recommend that as the perfect way to perform optimally. We also shared his somberness as he related the despair he felt on many occasions, but never communicated. He described how he would start a letter one day and then return to it another day, where it would look like the ramblings of a deranged stranger, full of emotions he could not just not remember but could not even imagine. To which Cindy replied "Women feel like that all the time." Part of the process of acclimatization is to get the emotions seen as emotions, not thoughts, emotions that will change. And emotions are not worthy reasons for behavior. He had experienced lows so severe he contemplated going "over the fence". But he had tried to out-think his mates, making the best of the situation, and it was clear he came to the conclusion of his training having much more faith in thought than emotion. If he gets that alone, the experience will have been valuable.

We parted, tearful but ready to move along, and eager to give him a little time to read every word of the Car and Driver magazine we left for him. He had had nothing to read other than the letters and articles we sent. It was fortunate I had not sent an entire paper, which was prohibited, but merely articles I thought he might enjoy. One fellow received an entire paper and watched it be torn into quarters to be used for mirror cleaning in the bathrooms. Into our little Cavalier, and out the gate, never, we hoped to return. A twisted set of emotions: fear, worry, love, loss. All in one remarkably symbolic day on which we remember those who died in the service.

Julie had wanted to spend Sunday at the beach north of Waukegan, a state park on Lake Michigan, but the drizzle had precluded such outdoor activity (or at least did for us Southerners; Cindy remembers all too well wearing a winter coat in Fond du Lac while folks were swimming around her). We decided to examine this state park before leaving the Waukegan area. We headed there in the most inefficient manner imaginable *, driving on what must be the shortest piece of freeway in North America, finding every dead-end, wrong turn, and road that parallels one that is moving, and found the beach. How was it? The polite response would be, "If you've seen the ocean, it's not much." It's really not. A dirty, trash-strewn, beach with gray water gently lapping on it, a view of industrial stuff to the north, some rocks and trees and things that you would think would only barely qualify it for state-park status. We did not stay long.

It's a long drive from that beach to the airport, especially with the roads as torn as they were. Finally, other than the dreaded filling of the tank, where we attempted to balance how far away we could buy it with the gauge still showing full when we brought it in (especially at $1.96 a gallon) everything went well. No lines, no crowds (at least by Chicago standards). Everything went smoothly, and just a few hours after standing on the sand of Lake Michigan we were home. We even got to sit together on the return flight!

Llywelyn went to Charleston, South Carolina, to attend the first of several educational institutions. His original orders were to go to Pensacola, where nearly everyone goes upon leaving boot camp. He knew he wasn't supposed to go there, but questioning orders is not well received in boot camp, and he was struggling with the proper course of action. I suggested going to Pensacola and seeing some other place before getting to his final destination, but he was eager to start school, and not eager to annoy some officer who would be certain to say "Why did you go to Pensacola when you knew you were supposed to go to Charleston?!?!?!"

* Not the absolute worst. When we sayed at Dylan's lakefront apartment in Chicago in 1997 (on our way to his wedding in Detroit), I decided to take Eanna and Evan up to my alma mater in Waukegan. We drove for well over an hour, getting about fifteen blocks from where we started before giving up. And this was not during rush hour.