Archive for August, 2010

#47 – Experience the Chicago Fire


The aftermath of the World Cup left me sadly without soccer that I had waited for in two years since EuroCup 2008. Sad and with vuvuzela but no where to play, I turned my attentions to the domestic game. What was I going to do? Was it time to start becoming a fan of the Chicago Fire? I hadn’t really thought about attending since I hadn’t gone before and never got a big pack of friends to go, but that was all about to change.

The opportunity to watch some Major League Soccer presented itself when it was soon announced that one of my favorite players, Thierry Henry signed for the New York Red Bulls and he was coming to Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire on August 20th. I really didn’t hesitate to scoop up a ticket on Section 8 Chicago since I had friends who went to the games often and also the ticket was so cheap. After watching so much soccer over the past month, it was just a logical decision. Fortunately for me, I had some friends who knew the ropes.

Spending time now talking about Chicago Fire games with friends, the entire scene seemed frightening but an adventure all the same. Standing room only with chanting and singing all game? It sounded dreadful but the comforts of a $10 round-trip beer bus sounded even better and the price was right! I knew that I was rooting for the Chicago Fire, but I also wanted to see Thierry Henry have a good game! It was a situation that soon resolved itself quickly.

The beer bus at Small Bar Fullerton was waiting and I rushed from yet another Cubs defeat and barely made the bus. On the bus, Pabst Blue Ribbon flowed like chi and we were starting off the evening right. I was joined by @zorandra and two other friends and we all cracked open our beers like kids opening their Halloween candy. Two guys next to me found out it was my first game and pulled out a small flask of Smirnoff and I drank some to celebrate. With everyone drinking on the bus, it made the traffic on the expressway fade away and a short time later we made it to Toyota Park.

Getting off the bus, the first thing I noticed was the army of kids running in the parking lot playing soccer games. The games were well organized and we walked by game after game to the ticket booth. There were cars with their trunks open and people sitting in chairs grilling food and drinking beer. Unlike Cubs games, there was no line at the ticket booth and I quickly snatched up my ticket to the game.

Not too far away, we found the Section 8 Tailgate which featured a big crowd of people gathered around for some serious tailgate action. For a $5 donation, you could have a drink from the keg and there were guys busy grilling up burgers and dogs for all to eat. It really was cool, tons of people standing around talking about soccer and forgetting about the mugginess for awhile. @raulito brought some chairs and we were all able to hang out as @greenmind0428 appeared along with @alabenheim and the mister.

After the tailgate, there was a stream of red shirts beginning to gather to march into the stadium. The overhead clapping and yelling of, “Chicago Fire!” became the only sound that existed. People were marching with their flags, scarves, and all yelling, “Chicago Fire!” It was awesome and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any fans so dedicated to their team, surely not the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, or White Sox!

We got to our section and everyone was standing on the riser. I heard a snare drum along with a bass drum non-stop beating. Two guys near the bottom of the section were leading on the chanting, cheering, and singing while everyone joined in. I started joining in since it was easy enough to pick up and no one cared if I messed up. The flags and scarves started breaking out as the crowd kept coming in. The Fire picked up Nery Castillo and Freddy Ljungberg so there was heightened anticipation along with Thierry Henry’s showing.

The Red Bulls cranked it up a notch and were going past Chicago’s defenders, I couldn’t believe how many wide open shots they were getting. Thierry Henry got free but lucky young Sean Johnson held down the fort and had a steady game all night with a dizzying nine saves! New York’s attack was relentless and I couldn’t see any way how the Fire would win, let alone tie – but I was also yelling and chanting all game along with everyone else in Section 8. I stopped caring what Thierry Henry did and it didn’t matter after half time since he injured his groin, but Johnson continued stymying the Red Bulls at every opportunity.

Sometime after half time, someone decided to let out flares which sent a cloud of smoke and red light into the crowd. It looked like some kind of crazed cult and I was in the heart of Section 8 singing and yelling like everyone else. The game ended with a 0-0 draw, but I was happy we averted a grand disaster as Sean Johnson’s steady goalkeeping was impressive enough to warrant Man of the Match. My first Chicago Fire game was over, and it was awesome!!! Section 8 is a great organization and make the whole stadium atmosphere one that is festive but also great for the family. When you’re out there with everyone else in Section 8, the noise makes the game that much more intense. If you haven’t grabbed tickets to go see the Chicago Fire left, there are still seats for the rest of the season. Maybe you’ll be lucky and see me amongst the mob yelling, “CHICAGO FIRE!” For $25-$35 you won’t want to miss it!

#46 – Attend Yelp Summerfest


A few years ago a friend told me about some group that threw lots of parties with complimentary food and drink a few times a month and that all I had to do is write some reviews on businesses. I remember the first party I went to was called Yelp Around the World at the German Cultural Center at Dankhaus and it was fantastic. Food galore from all over the city and beer, liquor, and a full house to complement the free for all feeding frenzy made for a tantalizing introduction to the Yelp universe.

Three years later, I’m still writing on Yelp, happy to share my thoughts and ideas on all of the places I go while enjoying Chicago. Yelp is one of the main reasons I started the Chicago Bucket List, since people always ask the same questions about Chicago, so a visit to one of their biggest bashes of the year was well warranted. Me and another Yelp friend arrived to the Irish American Heritage Center on the deep northwest side to check out the latest event. We were greeted by Amp energy drink girls who were giving away free cans and a long line of folks ready to open up the party.

Checking in the signup desk and always greeting the ubiquitous Colleen C., I am always amazed by her encyclopedic memory of the thousands of people who come to these epic parties. We navigated through the maze of desserts and headed out to the back lot and were greeted by beer, more beer, and MORE beer! I took a quick liking to the Half Acre Daisy Cutters and donated to the charity tip jar. ┬áThe Daisy Cutters featured the rich flavor of Half Acre and there’s nothing better than drinking a cold fine Chicago microbrew on a sultry evening. There were nearly 20 beers, with cider, vodka, tea and all sorts of drinks everywhere. As was the usual case when going to a Yelp party, I made sure to bring plenty of friends to try out everything and they fit right in with the rest of the organized chaos.

Foodwise, I made a great discovery of rice and lumpia from Isla Filipina which is less than a mile from me! I let them know that I thought their food was great and so awesome and the one guy working yelled back,”We are the best!” Nothing like great attitude to go along with delicious bites. I am definitely putting Isla Filipina high on my to-eat list. Next to Isla Filipina was a long line for sushi from Mio Bento, but by the time I got to the front there was only seaweed salad! Around the corner we found local entrepreneur @Ramon_DeLeon feeding everyone with the new delicious Domino’s Pizza and a sign showcasing all of his locations. I grabbed a few slices and I noticed he had a spot right in Lincoln Park where we would grab $5 pizzas for lunch and eat them in Oz Park – small world in a crowd of thousands of people! He had his Twitter handle on his sign so I made quick note to check it out later after the party.

There was a dunk tank going on for charity and one friend shaved Elite ’10 on his chest. Another friend had floaties so he wouldn’t get into too much trouble at the dunk tank. It was 2 throws for $1 or 2 throws at closer range for $1, but I saw lots of misses and no hits. There was a live band, action photo, and a lot more food that I skipped over since I had my fill from Domino’s and Isla Filipina. Everything got more crowded but I had time to smoke a fine Bolivan cigar that warded off some of the mosquitoes and helped myself to more Daisy Cutters. It got really crowded, but everyone was behaving and all the hard work paid off. Inside we found burlesque dancers, photobooth, and great people all around. Yelp Summerfest is one of the best parties around time and I can only imagine that they get better.