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70 Years Ago Today

Mercedes Padro


Brief description of my dad’s personality – he is a completely endearing 70-year-old with the heart of a young man. I mean that he loves watching cartoons with my niece, rides a Harley while blasting salsa music, and peels ripened mangoes in our backyard while watching the plants grow. He’s probably the fittest person in our house and get’s well over 10,000 steps a day. He has a garden each year filled with tomatoes, watermelon, corn, bell peppers, an apple tree, you name it! He’s got a green thumb with a Puerto Rican twist.

My dad, Pedro Juan Padro, was born on a coffee farm in Fronton Altura de Ciales, Puerto Rico. It took his father (my grandpa) two days to travel down the mountain and officially register Pedrito’s birth. We joke about how my dad is a jibaro, or a mountain-man, and we celebrate his birthday on both the 18th and 20th of May. A lot of my recent poetry is inspired by his life.

Today we celebrated phase one of his birthday by going to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. My father lived in Chicago for the majority of his life and my parents met at a steel foundry in the heart of the city. Driving through Chicago brought back a lot of memories for our family and especially my parents. When my mom moved to Chicago her first apartment was in Wrigleyville, right by the train tracks – imagine the scene in Blues Brothers where John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are talking casually in a messy apartment with the train rumbling outside their window. My sister and I were both born in this neighborhood just a stone’s throw away from Wrigley Field. So naturally, our whole family is huge Cubs fans. Today was my sister and I’s first Cubs game and it was my dad’s second Cubs game.

What a great way to celebrate and honor my dad’s 70th birthday by enjoying a Cub’s win against Cincinnati 9 - 5 !!! Every second of today was a blast for our entire family. We had a nice drive to Chicago and went straight to Wrigleyville, found excellent parking, and walked around the stadium perusing stores for new Cub’s gear. In exact midwest fashion, the weather went from 50 degrees and cloudy to 80 and blazing. Hot dogs and pommes frites in hand, we had amazing seats and watched the game from left field. The stadium is surprisingly small on the inside, but it has a great Chicago red-brick character to it. There’s something about sports, where a mass amount of people are gathered, that brings about pure camaraderie and fun. Everyone wanted the Cubs to win. For the icing on the cake to a great game (complete with a Baez grand-slam), Jim Belushi sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and the crowd cheered for our common love of Chicago and of the Cubbies.

Post-game fans lounged on the green outside Wrigley and took in the heat of the day. We wandered around Wrigleyville for a while, then left to cap off the day with Cuban food. “90 Miles from Cuba” is a colorful restaurant with the scent of sweet plantains and beef filling the space with a pleasant aroma. Their slogan is taste the forbidden. The hostess greeted us and took us to our seats in the outdoor patio space. After briefly looking through the menu, I ordered a shot of Cuban espresso that had a hint of cane sugar. The coffee’s sweet undertone complemented the dark Cuban espresso – it was delicious. Next on the menu was empanadas, we ordered chicken, mozzarella, and goat cheese and chorizo. I’d recommend the chicken empanadas, they were definitely a fan favorite. For the entree, I ate the Guajirito sandwich that consisted of pounded steak, lettuce, tomato, and swiss cheese, on a green plantain. This is similar to the Puerto Rican Jibaro sandwich. The steak had a lime taste to it and was well-seasoned, but a tad dry. I’ve had better Jibaro sandwiches before, but it was still satisfying and the waiter / environment was great. I’d consider going again because it was a good experience, however the food wasn’t wholly authentic Cuban food. I’d give this restaurant a 7 out of 10.

After today’s festivities we decided not to stay in the city and drove home completely happy, and a little crisp, from the day’s adventures.