Ancient History

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We had been in Chicago for four hours when we met Mike Ditka.

Our hotel and his restaurant share a building. Aidan and I needed to recover from leaping on and off trains and pulling two suitcases around downtown Chicago. We were hungry. Mr. Ditka’s restaurant was very convenient.

Most of the patrons in the leather-splashed, sports-memorabilia encrusted interior were men in business suits. Aidan and I were seated in a corner booth, despite not wearing jaunty striped ties and Armani suits. All the tables were kept clean and warm by thick white tableclothes, candles, and flowers. A replica of Mr. Ditka’s Hall of Fame bust was in our line of view, along with various trophies. All were encased in glass with dim lighting. It is not a sports bar. It is more of a museum to his accomplishments which happens to have giant steak and french fry covered salads brought out of the back room occasionally.

I had the “Pittsburgh” Steak Salad—“sliced peppercorn crusted Angus sirlion over mixed greens, tomatoes, cheddar-jack cheese with Mike fries and ranch dressing.” It was massive and appropriate. I was in Chicago and steak + ranch dressing + french fries + salad all mixed together on a platter sounded like a tasty way to kick off the day. Aidan chose chicken strips off the children’s menu. They came with a cup of ketchup. She considered the ketchup for a moment.

“I think this year I am going to eat more ketchup and not as much ranch dressing.” She attacked the mounds of food on her plate like a left tackle attacks the guy on the other side of the line of scrimmage. If he’s good.

We toasted to our trip, planned our afternoon, and realized we would never clean our plates. An offer of a carry-out box was refused by explaining we were hotel guests and didn’t wish to store steak on the bedside table. The waiter, upon hearing this, said “you know, the coach is in the bar…” and walked away.

The coach? In the bar? The coach? All through lunch I had been explaining to Aidan who Mike Ditka is and what all the football stuff was about. When I told her that Mike Ditka himself was in da house, she squealed as if she was his biggest fan, ever, “Can we see him?”


we like mikeWe paid and strolled into the bar area. There he was, sitting with two other men who looked just as slick and important as him. Probably his attorneys. I approached him and he extended his hand and smiled when I told him how thrilled we were to meet him. We were from Denver. Then I realized Aidan was hanging back, being uncharacteristically shy. I waved my arm for her to come over. She nodded no. Oh well. Goodbye, Mike.

On our way to the door, I asked if she would like get her picture taken with Mr. Ditka—her daddy and Pop Pop (my dad) would be so amazed. That appealed to her sense of liking to amaze people, so she agreed. We went back into the bar. I asked Mr. Ditka if I could take a picture of him with my daughter and he said yes. I thanked him profusely and told him how jealous the men back home would be. He laughed. Goodbye again, Mike.

Once out on the sidewalk, we called hubby on my cell phone to tell him of our encounter. Then we called Pop Pop. Aidan talked first. She laughed, she glowed, she insisted it was true. I chatted with him for a few moments to confirm.

Now I post the promised proof and one of our best truly Chicago moments. Here you go, Pop Pop.

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