“We’re taking a detour,” I said, turning south onto Cicero Avenue from 55th Street. “Five minutes.”
7 a.m. Sunday. We had just dropped off our oldest at Midway for the flight back to college. A half-hour beyond O’Hare, as I pointed out hurtling past its runways on the Tri-State Tollway. “If your flight were from O’Hare, we’d be there.”
But he pays for his own tickets now, and the $50 saved is worth it, to him and, I suppose, me. Fifty dollars for driving an hour on a Sunday morning seems smart. Besides, I had a plan to offset the melancholy of his departure.
My wife came along to say good-bye at the airport. It wasn’t exactly the same teary farewell had he been, say 3, with his name on a big tag pinned to his coat. But close.
She had no idea where we were going, but she’s sharp and solved the mystery before 67th Street.
“Doughnuts!” she cried.
Yes, doughnuts. A few years ago, she waxed nostalgic about Dunkin’ Donuts, how they used to have this plain doughnut with a tab to hold while dunking. A cake doughnut. Crunchy outside, soft within. They got rid of those and she missed them.
She did not demand that I begin seeking out this doughnut of yore. But I’m that kind of guy. I like a quest.
How hard could it be? We are living in a doughnut renaissance, with the Doughnut Vault and Do-Rite Donuts and Glazed and Infused and Stan’s and more. I approached them all, searching for the Lost Doughnut. All disappointed. You can get any doughnut you want so long as it is the size of a tire, puffy with yeast, and Maple Bacon Sriracha flavored.
Then I passed the Huck Finn at 3414 S. Archer. I know the exact date, June 3, because I was returning from a prisoner drum circle at the Cook County Jail. Went inside, and there it was, shimmering like Excalibur: the “Old Fashioned.” Deep brown, with crags and fissures. If a pre-historic doughnut were discovered in a peat bog in Scotland, it would look like this.
I conveyed the doughnut home to my bride. She took a bite, and said . . . well, I can’t tell you what she said, a string of happy expletives.
“Let’s sit at the counter,” I said. Six seats, five empty, one guy to the far right, reading the Sunday Sun-Times. We took a pair of stools two away from him, to give him space, ordered our coffee and doughnut breakfast.
Another customer plopped down on the seat to my left, setting his Sun-Times on the counter.
“We’re in Sun-Times territory,” my wife said. I considered throwing off my cloak of anonymity and engaging my readers. But that seemed, oh, needy. Let them enjoy breakfast.
“Mornin’ Jenn,” the guy to my left said to the waitress.
“What’s goin’ on Ron?” she asked.
“Still wakin’ up. How about you?”
I communed with my breakfast — one Old-Fashioned, one Devil’s Food. The diner to our right paid and exited and the guy to our left jumped up, scooped his paper and moved to where the first guy had been sitting.
Create a little breathing room. The most natural instinct in the world. I get that. But I also felt the tiniest ruffle of indignation. A slight.
That neatly breaks down two types of people in the world. There’s the Chatty Cathy type, like me, who have to resist making conversation with utter strangers. And there’s the Ron type, who just wants a little room. We see it reflected in the election — those who want to clear the country of immigrants, seal the border, cancel our trade agreements. And those who like the idea of an interconnected world.
While we sat there, we watched the food come out of the kitchen, and those pancakes, well. The plan is, next time, order pancakes and get the doughnuts to go. Though my luck, the kid will find a deal out of O’Hare.Tweets by @neilsteinberg