“Ew, no. Too much cheese.”
“What?! That’s the best part. You’re not a real Chicagoan if you’ve never choked on Giordano’s deep dish cheese!”
“That’s not even right. You’re not a real Chicagoan if you’ve haven’t had Lou Malnati’s.”
“Now, that is gross. For that, you might as well say UNO’s is the best and we both know that lying is just, plain… WRONG!”
“Hey, hey, now. UNO’s isn’t bad. I do prefer Pequod’s over UNO’s though. No lie.”
“The pizza place on the corner is better than UNO’s…”
The classic Chicago debate would have continued had they not seen a band walking out and into a venue.
“Wonder what’s going on there tonight,” asked Sam, the Classic Lou fan. His taste in food was extremely picky. His taste in music worse.
“Let’s go check it out. I’d be down to see some music tonight if you are,” said Mac, the Giordano’s supporter. He was a foodie, loved to taste a bit of everything and had a pristine sense of musical taste. His choice in friends– questionable.
“Only if it’s some rock shit. I can’t take that indie pop that’s going on nowadays,” said Sam. “Or EDM. Who invented that?”
“Dude, I keep telling you,” began Mac, “you have to open up your musical horizons and interests. It makes you a more well-rounded person.”
“Blah, blah, blah. As true as that sounds, in the end, I know what I like.”
“Fine,” said Mac. He learned when to stop.
The duo walked into the bar where the musicians were setting up. Musical instruments native to Latin American countries could be seen all over the floor getting their mics added on and getting hooked up to the sound system. The musicians shook hands with others in the venue, smiled, laughed, chatted.
Mac felt like he was walking in at a personal moment. One of the artists with a hat on came up to him and shook his hand. The hat he wore was a traditional Colombian piece called a sombrero vueltiao that Mac recognized from his excursion to Ecuador, a bordering country to Colombia.
“Rey Márquez,” said the musician.
“Macorís Rojas,” said Mac.
“¡O! ¿Dominicano?” asked Rey.
“Mis padres, si. Yo nací aquí,” said Mac, who didn’t really speak Spanish most of the time but did only because the conversation started that way. Sam didn’t speak Spanish either, even though his family was Puerto Rican.
“Hola, Samuel Ramírez,” said Sam, in his butchered Spanish accent.
“¿A que hora van a tocar y que tipo de música?” Mac asked what time and type of music they were going to play.
“A las 9. Regresen para escuchar vallenato. Aquí estarémos,” said Rey. Vallenato, along with Cumbia, were the most popular and native types of music originating in Colombia– hence the hat.
“OK. Luego volvemos,” said Mac, promising to come back.
“Hasta pronto, entonces,” said Rey.
The friends walked out and decided to get some pizza from the local spot. It was better than they expected.
“Do we really have to go back?” asked Sam. “I don’t even know what valle… valleviejo is. Is it like tribal music?”
“Vallenato. Vallenato. Vallenato,” said Mac. “And no, it’s very similar to Cumbia. I actually kinda like it. It’s chill.”
“More crap I can’t stand,” said Sam. ” You might be going back alone.”
It was 7:30 and they were venturing around the neighborhood, so calling other friends and letting this guy wallow in his Latin ignorance wouldn’t be a problem.
“That’s cool. I actually might just go back alone. It’s not too often that you get this type of music in a Mexican-identified city, you know?”
Sam ended up walking home and Mac texted one person– a girl he’s had a thing for for the past couple of years. They were friends but she never picked up on his good intentions. He wondered if she’d be interested in the show.
“Hey, Sara, what are you up to tonight?” He texted.
He started walking around the small neighborhood he lived in. The air was warm and the sun was setting– almost too romantic, he thought, that he’d might just say hi to Sara instead of actually asking her to come out. He didn’t want to scare her away.
His phone buzzed: “Hey Mac! Not too much. Just hanging out with my brother and sister. What’s going on?”
Should he ask? He was going to bite the bullet. The worst that could happen was getting a no and if there was anything Mac was used to, it was getting rejected– from girls, schools, jobs, sometimes life– but it was good for growth. At least, that’s what his mentor said.
“There’s a Vallenato show happening on 19th. We were walking by and met the band. Would you like to check it out with me?” He sent it.
His stomach turned a bit and he was already thinking of “cool” ways to accept the rejection text message. “Oh, no problem. Maybe next time.” Or how about, “Oh! That’s cool. No worries. We’ll chat later.”
Buzz. Buzz. It was her.
“Sure! What time? And where do you want to meet?” He smiled wide.
“I’ll swing by to get you,” he texted back.
By that time it was already 8:30. He took the walk to her place. By the time they’d get back to the bar, it would be around show time.
His arrival to the house was not a secret one. The giant pitbull next door started barking as soon as he turned the corner. With that, there was no need to knock on the door, since Sara came out before he could get to the stoop.
“Hey!” she said, giving him a hug. “How’s it going?”
“Not to bad,” said Mac. “Ready to get going?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
As they walked they talked about Sam’s lack of culture, the pizza battle and music.
“Oh, I’m so down with a classic Lou Malnati’s pizza,” she said. “My uncle took us there for the first time. It’s like a Chicago staple. You have to have Lou’s. But we get the thin crust.”
“Hey! Me, too!” said Mac, a little too excitedly. “I love it and although there are a lot of places that give it a run for its money, it’s still my favorite.”
“Plus,” she added, “real Chicagoans don’t even eat deep dish all the time! Thin is the way to go.”
They arrived at the bar and upon walking in, Rey came up to greet them.
“¡Hola! ¿La bonita es tu novia?” he said asking if Sara was Mac’s girlfriend.
“No, no. Solamente una amiga,” Mac said nervously.
“Pues, hombre. ¿Qué te pasa?” Rey asked what his problem was– basically egging him on.
“Soy Rey Márquez, mucho gusto,” he said extending his hand to Sara.
“Hablo un poquito de español,” Sara smiled shyly. “Soy Sara Pérez.”
They sat down and ordered mojitos waiting for the music to begin, carrying on a conversation about how they’d never been to that bar for as long as they’d lived in the neighborhood.
As the music started, the night crept up on them. The music was calm, the storytelling was impeccable and the essence took Mac back to his excursion to Ecuador.
“This is great,” said Sara. “Thanks for inviting me.”
“Anytime,” Mac said.
It was the perfect way to end the day.