First, Happy Valentine’s Day!
Do you binge watch Bridget Jones, while eating a tub full of sticky sweet Neapolitan ice cream, or go through the motions for your “Valentine”, with a sentimental card, expensive flowers, rich chocolates, dinner for two at a fancy bistro, a bottle (or bottles?) of wine, and then slipping into “something a little bit more comfortable”? Perhaps you’re among those “lucky ones” who happen to already be in love. In any case, Valentine’s Day has become . . . a complicated holiday, with lots of expectations, and the occasional disappointment.
Is the buildup, and the potential for letdown, on this holiday the result of great marketing, from such favorites as Hallmark, Fannie May, Harry & David, FTD, and Myers Jewelers? Or is our culture primed for a day like today, experiencing a longing for something it does not have, but believes is possible?
The heart is a funny thing, to be given away, and sometimes broken. Without warning it swells, or it beats a steady rhythm, it grows to enormous proportions or it shrivels and deeply yearns…… In the medical world, a struggling heart is revived with batteries and wires that regulate its rhythms, and the power with which it beats. No such luck in the world of relationships, partnership and love.
So. . . who do you love? How do you display your love? Is it S.W.A.K.? ( Do kids these days still say that? Am I showing my age, in the age of the emoji and Snapchat? (ROFLMAO) Well, S.W.A.K. = “Sealed with a Kiss”)
Hundreds of women have made their mark, boldly announced their presence, and occasionally declared their love. . . on the bathroom wall at Old Town Ale House, in Chicago’s “Old Town” neighborhood. Their big, bright red lips and heartfelf declarations adorn the wine-themed walls that arealready littered with the names of popular varietals – Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot and Shiraz. Is this suggestive marketing?
I’d say it’s brilliant! Already well into my 3rd drink of the night, I’m wishing I had lipstick tucked in my purse, so I could join in the fun. I’m not sure my medicated ChapStick, a bit more utilitarian, would leave much of an impression. The décor gives the place character! Who knew how diverse lip prints, and lipstick shades, could be?
From romance-filled Valentine’s Day to the stuffed bellies of Thanksgiving, family Christmas to milestone Birthdays, the holidays can be a challenge for many. One person struggles to keep her head up, while her neighbor relaxes into the comfort and warmth of the day, with a contented sigh. There’s not a thing wrong with seeking out a place that will show you a little love on such occasions, no matter what feelings you enter with.
When so many other spots are closing their doors, to surround themselves with family, the Old Town Ale House opens its doors to all on Christmas night, creating its own sense of connection. If you happen along, you’ll discover a substantial spread of comfort food – crock pots full of potatoes, warm rolls, and cheesy casseroles. That’s love, if ever I’ve see it! There’s no reason to go hungry under these circumstances, and there’s certainly no reason to be alone on any holiday!
You’ll find blues on the juke box, a provocative “caricature” of Trump hanging above the bar, and plenty of corners to cozy up in, with a favorite drink and great conversation. For the evening. . . this “cash only” establishment, which opened its doors in 1958, is home.
You’ll discover a fierce bar loyalty, as demonstrated by the constant presence of “regulars”, who spend hours at the bar, bending the ear of the owner. Is such loyalty a sign of Love? Why not?! It’s an environment as full of ongoing drama, occasional confrontation and deep emotion, as any relationship I’ve know.
Or, maybe this cozy scene is better described as comfortable, familiar, and secure, in a world that is undergoing recent (and regular) upheaval. Yep, sounds like a lot of human relationships! At least the ones we stay in.
The declarations of love on the bathroom wall might be the spontaneous silliness of drunken twenty-somethings. But I suspect there’s more behind it. One scribble on the wall declares “I love Chicago”! Can there be Love for a city – this city – Chicago?
What’s not to love. . . ?
Are the feelings of a Chigago native the same as those of a newcomer, or a girl from the suburbs? Imagine that your heart races at the city’s mention, and thumps a bit louder at the suggestion of a spontaneous trip to visit downtown. That’s more than casual fondness. That’s something deeper!
Those newly relocated to the city see it with new eyes, and perhaps appreciate it more for what it is now, rather than what it has been. But there are decades, even centuries, of rich history. It might turn out that new residents see the city the way they do because of, and not in spite of, its reputation, its past, its stories. . . its character.
Aren’t relationships with people subject to similar perceptions, or misperceptions? As I mentioned earlier, Love is complicated, as is this holiday that is meant to represent it. Driven by the tradition of St. Valentine, or the efforts of the Hallmark empire, there has to be some good in it. Go ahead – go out and find it!
Whoever you love, love them fiercely, not just today, but every day. There’s still time to buy a valentine, pick a handful of flowers, or write a love poem. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Join me on my next adventure,
Old Towne Ale House: http://www.theoldtownalehouse.com/
Saint Valentine: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=159
Fannie May Chocolates: https://www.fanniemay.com/?flws_rd=1
Harry & David: https://www.fanniemay.com/harryanddavid-home
FTD Florists: https://www.ftd.com/2675/catalog/category.epl?index_id=product_flowers_bestsellers&noparent_bread=1&external=2675&campaign_id=DESKTOP_FTD_TXT_GGL_US_Flowers_Alone_Exact&adgroup_id=DESKTOP_FTD_TXT_GGL_US_Flowers_Alone_Exact%3EFlowers_Alone&KW_ID=flowers&sikeywordid=43700008337640066&gclid=CjwKEAiArIDFBRCe_9DJi6Or0UcSJAAK1nFv4loc08MceqkWjYz5yZ71-NQFX6sxmB7xErCb27FGWBoCzovw_wcB