This past Shabbat, Tuvia and I were in Chicago staying in Lincoln Park, just a short schlep south of my old shul. On Friday, after a lengthy (read: 4-mile nonstop) trek in Skokie* to search out Zelda's kosher sweets, Ken's (kosher) diner (which was closed) and as a result Breadsmith (a delicious kosher bakery), we headed back to our hotel to get cleaned up and head off to shul.
We arrived almost at the end of mincha, but in time for evening services. They were being held downstairs, and the place was packed and became more packed as the services went on. I saw plenty of familiar faces, as well as a lot of unfamiliar faces. The rabbi wasn't there (which bummed me out), but the usual crowd was enough to make me feel at home. We went into the evening not knowing where we'd eat Shabbos dinner, but hoping for the kindness of others to fall upon us. Luckily, the hostess with the mostest, Miriam (one-half of the outstanding musical duo Stereo Sinai) invited us over to dine. I'll admit I've always loathed tofu, outside of the tofu I've had in an old friend's vegan lasagna, but after our Shabbos dinner, I'm sold. It was a vegetarian feast paired with conversation running the gamut of conversion, observance, movies, and our great (and sometimes irrational) fears. The next day, thanks to exhaustion and a great deal of pain (I have the knees of an 80 year old, I can't lie), we slept in and enjoyed the Chocolate Chip Challah Muffins for lunch. Shabbat sort of came and went, quite quickly, but the experience over all was incredibly restful, and it was nice to be home back in a place that made me quite happy for a time.
* = As an aside, our time in Skokie was pretty interesting. The 4-mile trek was absolutely painstaking, as the weather was pretty darn warm, and my knees are in really, really horrible shape. The buses don't run in any convenient way near the locations where we were going, so we had to walk and walk and walk. It was a silent, grumpy trip that sort of ruined my day (sorry, Tuvia). We arrived at Ken's, only to find out it was closed, but I did find this HILARIOUS poster in the window that I can't help but share. We went next door to a Judaica shop where a nice frum guy attempted to help us figure out a place to eat and even offered us a ride if we'd wait around an hour till he closed up. Tuvia ended up buying me a nice pair of Jewish star earrings from the fellow, too, while I hit up Breadsmith for some challah and peanut butter (which is so rich I'll only be using it for COOKIES). After there we schlepped off to find Zelda's, a store I've purchased from frequently online but never in-person. It wasn't that impressive of a store, and I much prefer the mystique of the online business. We left there and walked -- MORE -- to a place described to us by one of Zelda's shop girls donning a cross (ironic, if you ask me) that led us a bit astray. Finally? We found a bus and headed back toward the city. My knees were never happier. And all the while, we never once got our kosher meal up in Skokie. What a bummer!