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Anne Wallingford, WordSmith


Cinco de Mayo Celebration,
May 5, 2004

Although Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday for Americans, for those who have spent time with the Mexican American community it becomes a day of celebration by default.

As Cinco de Mayo neared, this year, I found myself reminiscing about past holiday dinners. I would usually take myself out to eat. The German restaurant, Heidelberg Fass was my favorite place for Thanksgiving dinner. Roast goose…mmm. For Christmas Eve, I would go to a Greek restaurant, Psistaria. The waiters there knew me and would seat me at a nice corner table. They would then bring me many goodies above and beyond what I'd ordered. I'd sit and listen to the live entertainment and feel that the waiters, at least, were like my family.

On New Years Eve I would go out for an early for dinner. Without fail, I would head to my favorite Mexican restaurant, El Tipico. Then sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas I would take one of my nieces to Di Leos, an Italian restaurant that filled the dining room with holiday decorations—all sorts of Santas and elves, a beautiful tree, and enough lights and garland to thrill even the youngest diner. And it didn't hurt that the restaurant served delicious filet mignon.

Finally, for a quick summer meal and mouth-watering ice cream desserts, I would stop at the Zephyr. Not only was the food good, but the ambience, for a single woman, was also very easy-going. I never felt out of place, and could sit at an outside table and people watch as I lingered over my coffee.

Thinking about these favorite haunts got me to wondering if there wasn't some way I could get myself to a Mexican restaurant again. Cinco de Mayo was the only excuse I needed. Besides, it was time to have a new adventure.

I recalled that about six years ago, when I still was driving, I had taken the middle niece to a Mexican restaurant, Don Juan's, which was about three miles from the house. I had never traveled that far in my power chair before, but I had gone in that direction to the post office, so I knew the route to take.

Cheerful Tu;ips May 5th dawned bright and sunny and the cheerful tulips in front of the house seemed to be waving at me as I started on my outing.

By now I knew the best way to cross Milwaukee Ave. There is an island between Elston Ave. and Milwaukee. If I cross Elston then take the circuitous route up and across the island I can cross Milwaukee with the light. Today, since I was making a photo record of my adventure, I snapped a picture of the motorcycle shop on the far side of Milwaukee. Although the outside of the store doesn't look like much, the store owner has often chatted with me as I go past, and has told me he can get me a new battery for my chair when I need one.

If you look carefully at the picture, you can also see one of the obstacles I face every time I go to the grocery store. There are two newspaper boxes chained to the traffic light pole. In order to change the light at this corner, a Motorcycle Shop pedestrian must push a button on the pole. But because of the newspaper boxes, it is impossible for me to reach the button without shoving one of the boxes out of the way with my chair. In bad weather I have to try to cross the street without pushing the button.

The next few blocks were easy riding, and as I headed west on Raven towards Northwest Hwy. the magnolias and other trees were showing off their spring greenery. Who wouldn't feel cheerful on a spring day like this?

Raven Raven

Next I traveled up Northwest Highway, heading towards the post office. Roadblock ahead! This section of the sidewalk on Northwest Hwy. has been barricaded for months, and the only way to get past this stretch is to go into the street then circle over to the driveway just on the other side of the roadblock. I hate doing this. Even with my orange bike flag on the back of my chair, most drivers don't see me. Northwest Hwy

After stopping at the post office, I was off to explore new territory. Although I knew the Mexican restaurant was a few blocks north of the post office, I didn't know how far it was or what kind of sidewalks there would be. Although I thought I would be passing out of the city limits into a suburb, I was surprised to find that this was still part of Chicago. Not only did I pass some interesting storefronts—great for window-shopping but not wheelchair accessible—I even passed an alderman's office. It took about a half hour to reach the restaurant. Don Juan sign

The last obstacle was entering the restaurant. After knocking at the door several times, a waiter answered and held the door open for me. It was a tight squeeze but I made it! All right! I was at a Mexican restaurant for the first time in six years, and I did it myself! This may not seem very exciting to most readers, but this Cinco de Mayo was a red-letter day for me.

Thankfully, it was early enough in the afternoon that the restaurant wasn't crowded. (I have to sit sideways at a restaurant table.) Staff people were putting up piñatas and other decorations for the evening's celebrations so I was able to watch and feel like I was part of the festivities. I took my time savoring every bite of my meal, and even had plenty to take home in a doggie bag.

Don Juan restaurant Don Juan restaurant
Don Juan meal  

My Mexican dinner. On the left is a plate of nachos. It came with guacamole, and a whole lot more—I know to make this my dinner next time, not the appetizer! On the right is what's left of my tostados. (I didn't think to take the pix until I'd started eating.)

I will admit that it would have been nice, at this point, to have company during the meal, or at least someone to share my success with. But nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

With tummy full and doggie bag hanging from the back of my chair, it was time to head home. Instead of retracing my route, though, I went south to Devon then east on Devon to Milwaukee. I didn't take any pictures on this part of the route because I was too busy concentrating on my path. It's not one I will take again because the sidewalk is in really bad condition and more than once I had to cross from the south side of the street then back again. By the time I had traveled the three miles to get back home, my Mexican dinner had been thoroughly bounced around and I was sure wishing there were shock absorbers on my chair. My rear end hurt from all the bouncing!

I may not make this trip again; the six miles was very tiring. But I am very glad I did it this time. Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

Copyright © 2004 Anne Wallingford All Rights Reserved

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060304 Saturday, June 05, 2004