Northwest Indiana is famous for some things. Well, on second thought, it’s not really famous for anything.
The mishmash of small working-class suburbs encrusted by lead smelters, railroad tracks, and oil refineries — mostly filled with people with unpronouncable last names that don’t contain a single vowel — is utterly indescript. Gary and Hammond and East Chicago and Highland and Hessville and Munster and Calumet City and all these places in between are to greater Chicagoland what North Jersey is to New York City — little more than a warehouse and freightyard to a far more vibrant place. It’s bascially like a giant Self Storage unit the size of a county, with plumbing pipes and electrical wires running along every roadway, railroad track, and field. That’s the picture I see when now think of Northwest Indiana.
Indeed, Gary and Hammond — where I’m staying and working over the next few weeks — are nestled right across the Illinois-Indiana state line. These are old industrial cities that pretty much look unchanged since the post-WW2 boom. Red brick buidings. Cracked sidewalks. Old storefronts littered with faded out “For Lease” signs that more symbolize a loss of hope rather than any possible prospects of gaining a tenant. As the great writer-biographer Robert Caro would more eloquently write of another time and place, this is where “windows, glassless except for the jagged edges around their frames, stared out on the street like sightless eyes.” (Footnote 1)
How do you go out to two seperate dinners at two different restaurants and still end up starving at night’s end?
Well, it happened to me tonight in the industrial garden spot of Hammond, Indiana — which is right cross the Illinois-Indiana border, outside of Chicago.
First, a few words about Chicago — the city I’m visiting over the next nine days. It’s basically a city of trains, truckers, tolls, and traffic. Ranks right up there with Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit, only with more people, and apparently far worse food. What would you expect from a city made up mostly of Eastern Europeans? World class cuisine? What’s the only thing worse than spending nine days in Chicago. Answer — spending ten days in Chicago. Not a fan.
But I’m here.
Here’s the story. Last time I was in Chicago, I stayed here two weeks. During that entire time, I don’t remember having one memorable meal, unless one considered shocking disappointment to be a virtue. I’m sure there are some great restaurants in this city. There has to be. I just haven’t experienced one yet. I’m zero for 20. I’m the Chicago Cubs of snob diners. In all fairness, most of the restauants I’ve tried have been either around O’Hare Airport or over in Gary-Hammond — which is kinda’ like saying you hate New York’s food because you spent most of your time in Flushing or Newark. I realize Hammond is not the charming neighborhood of the northside.
I do remember one thing. Last time I was here, I had a horrible meal at some Italian place on Calumet Road. So, where did I chose to go for dinner tonight?
You guessed it — the same Italian restaurant. The place couldn’t be that bad twice, could it?
A few days ago, I lost everything I have ever written.
Every article — gone.
Every draft — gone.
Two half-completed books — gone.
Hundreds of World Series of Poker official reports — gone.
Thousands of personal photographs — gone.
Basically, everything I’m now working on or have nearly completed as a writer — gone.
So, what happened?
My laptop was stolen.
After spending 24 hours crying and another 48 hours throwing up, my next instinct was to write about the pain this has caused. Even as I sit here now, three days removed from the loss, words cannot express what comes from being severed forever from the emotional reactions I had to different things over the years that were reflected in those very heartfelt writings.
When I felt happy, I usually wrote about it. When I felt sad, I usually wrote about it. And, when I felt angry, I almost always wrote about it. That laptop was a basket case of emotional bedlam.
And now, it’s gone, likely transformed into little more than back-alley barter for the next $50 fix.
The following interview was conducted on September 30, 2012 in front of the Hotel La Majestic Barriere in Cannes, France. Swedish writer and journalist Rikard Aberg is one of the game’s most inquisitive interviewers, as can be seen in this exchange.
I like Aberg’s style which is largely conversational. He asks about several subjects — including health and fitness, goals and aspirations, Stu Ungar, and of course — the future of WSOP Europe.
These videos — of myself, Jennifer Tilly, Phil Hellmuth, Steve Dannenman, Brandon Cantu and others are posted at a Swedish-language site. They will also be available at PokerTube shortly.