15 May 2009

Chicago breakfast bum

Posted by Teapots Happen

January 12, 2007

I was in downtown Chicago with the rest of my small company, for our annual meeting.

On the final morning, with two or three hours before the train back to Minneapolis departed, four of us went out seeking some breakfast. The day before, the owner of the company had recommended that we eat at a place near the hotel – but in our hungover states none of us could remember its name.

So I suggested that we should just head out walking in a randomized direction – determined by asking a coworker (who was not coming along) to point in a direction of his choosing. He pointed, and that’s the way we walked off, our bags in tow, all smiles and openness to whatever goodness the universe and Chicago wanted to float our way.

But after we’d gone a couple blocks, it was clear that wherever the breakfast cafe was, it wasn’t this way. We pressed on anyway, hoping, trusting that some other good option would come along. We passed a McDonald’s on Chicago Street, we voted it down.

Just then, I made eye contact with a ragged guy as we passed on the sidewalk. He introduced himself to me – he was Andre, he was homeless, and he could use some help. I tend to give anyone who asks for money whatever change I have on me at the time, so I reached into my coat pocket and found that I had a fistful of quarters, which I dropped into his fingerless gloves.

Andre thanked me, and we continued on our separate ways.

A block or two later, my co-workers and I turned onto State Street, and saw a small place called Deangelos Deli down the road. They were hungry and fast losing faith in finding a good place to eat in this random manner, so we opted to just try the deli … although it really didn’t look promising.

As we crossed the street and started walking through the door, I heard Andre the homeless guy urgently shouting behind me – “Hey! Hey!!” I looked back and he was jogging down the block towards me.

I waited for him to catch up, as the others went inside.

Andre shook my hand and told me his name again, and then said “I apologize. What are you guys looking for?”

I told him we were going to get some breakfast.

“Oh no, no – don’t eat here – this place is always in the paper, it’s nasty,” he exclaimed.

“Do you have someplace else in mind?” I asked. Andre said he did. I asked him where it was (although not really worried about it, I didn’t want us to be led down a dark alley and robbed).

He assured me that it was just a couple blocks ahead – he could see the sign from where he stood.

The others were inside looking at the menu behind the deli counter, but no one had ordered anything yet, so I banged on the glass and beckoned everyone back out. When they emerged I told them that we were following Andre, who knew of a better place to eat.

While we walked down the street, Andre repeatedly explained that the deli we’d almost eaten at was ‘always in the paper’ – for failed health code inspections.

(I didn’t really get it then, but apparently in Chicago surprise health code inspections are a really big deal.)

So we walked down the road – and it quickly became apparent that the place Andre was bringing us to was in fact ‘Tempo Cafe ‘ – the very place that our boss had recommended and that we’d been hoping to random into.


My co-workers were amazed at the way intention plus being open to randomness had so perfectly & coincidentally brought us to our goal – I felt so ‘in the flow’ that I was barely even surprised – it felt inevitable.  “See? Teapots!” I laughed.

The others gladly ‘tipped” Andre for his help, and we went inside. The breakfast was excellent, and we were grateful we hadn’t settled for the questionable deli.

After breakfast was done we went up to the counter to pay. The man working the register was beaming and chatty – super happy.

It turned out he was the owner of Tempo Cafe.

Behind him, another guy was hanging a piece of paper up on the wall next to the register – and I was delighted to discover that the synchronicity wasn’t over yet.

The owner was so happy because while we’d been eating, Tempo had been having their annual surprise health inspection, and had passed with flying colors. (remember Andre warning us about how the place we’d tried to go was always failing inspections?)

The paper being hung up before us was their certificate from the Chicago Health Department.

Tempo Cafe Health Inspection Certificate - 1/12/07

Tempo Cafe Health Inspection Certificate - 1/12/07

(I got the city of Chicago to mail me a copy)


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No Responses to “Chicago breakfast bum”

  1. Another great story from you, Bro.

    You know me from “A Journey of the Mind” but I have started a new blog called “The Third Eye” at http://www.thethirdeye2.blogspot.com.

    I wanted to start another blog along these lines without having to deal with my fundamentalist Christian brother, who wants to quote scripture at me and argue with everything.

    I have linked you at my new site.



  2. neat stuff

    people gotta know!






  4. Sometimes taking advice from others can lead to interesting consequences.

    I had just started working for a small firm. My stomach began acting up with the stress of the job.

    One morning I called in sick to see my doctor. I received some sample pills tp take before meals.

    Upon returning home a friend called and I told her I was “officially home sick.” She said, “It’s such a beautiful June day, you can’t just stay home.” What you need is a nice lunch.

    When I protested with the “home sick” argument she said “No wonder your stomach is in knots, you worry too much!”

    I gave in but ruled out several places where co-workers might lurk. The last thing I wanted was to be found lunching after calling in sick on my new job.

    She named several places, one of which was the firm’s client Are you crazy, I said! She then mention a quaint restaurant nearly 30 miles away. Fine.

    Upon arrival the hostess asked us to wait. I remembered my pills and entered the rest room off the lobby. I was in there a few minutes, and realized how foolish I would be to stay home on such a nice day. My stomach was feeling better.

    I stepped into lobby and sat next to my friend just in time to see my BOSS coming toward us. I froze. Had I stayed in the rest room two minutes longer, I’d have missed him.

    He seemed puzzled, said hello, met my friend, and left. That’s it. My friend was beet red and apologizing all over the place.

    In the end we had a nice lunch. We agreed that if I lost my job, it was in the cards. I didn’t. My boss never mentioned it.

    Just goes to show, you can go 30 miles or 3,000 miles, but you can’t escape your fate, or what you fear may happen. I might have had a premonition for the event, or it was in fact synchronicity.



  5. there it is (partially)!! barb’s last paragraph is agreeing with my some of my feelings on “teapots.” finally, someone said what I was thinking!



  6. […] discuss my teapots, my encounter with a homeless man in Chicago, and the tale of Jim’s giant rattlesnake […]


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