Note: I’m visiting South Lake Tahoe for the next two weeks. It’s going to be a busy weekend with the World Series of Poker Circuit in town. The Heavenly Ski Resort is also opening up sometime next week. So let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects — great food!
South Lake Tahoe is blessed to offer many outstanding dining options. Moreover, the area offers an extraordinary number of excellent ethnic restaurants, especially for a small town of only about 60,000 residents.
Here’s a short list of my personal favorites. Having spent perhaps 150 or so days and nights staying at South Lake Tahoe over the past eight years, I’ve dined out at all of these places numerous times. I’ve posted my favorite restaurants where anyone can come and enjoy a good meal, either dining alone or with a group. So, most of these places are not fancy, but more casual.
Listed in no particular order, here are my personal favorites:
In few more years, they’ll all be gone.
Every one of them.
The millions who marched on foot across a continent and who sailed the high seas some 70 years ago are slowly but surely leaving us. They pass away at the rate of thousands per year, which will gradually come to a few hundred, and then to a trickle. In another decade or so, they will be no more.
They are what has been called “the Greatest Generation.”
When times were the toughest, they endured it. When duty called and the bell of national service rang, they answered it. When our way of life and liberty was at stake, they defended it. And when it was all over and some came home, they honored and remembered those who didn’t.
They are our heroes.
Indeed, most aren’t young anymore. Most have seen and suffered far more than any human should endure. They don’t play on sports fields. They aren’t moviestars. They aren’t rich or famous. But they are far more special than any of those superficial icons with fleeting illusions of accomplishment. They are the survivors and the victors of the last century’s most trying test. They are the champions. The champions of the world.
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.