Peace, Love, and Sue was performed at Shenanigans Comedy Theater on Friday, November 17, 2023

This last summer I had the opportunity to take my family to Chicago. It was for a work event called ALA. Any librarians in the audience know what ALA is, but for everyone else ALA stands for the American Library Association, and this was their big show or as my 11-year-old Henry says, Halloween for Librarians. You get to walk around different booths while vendors and publishers fill up your tote bags with pens, journals, and new books.  

ALA is host to several speakers related to librarianship and this year was no different. Author Judy freakin’ Blume was the keynote speaker. The poet Amanda S. Gorman was a major draw, as were several other well-known writers and creators that we wanted to see. Unfortunately, there wouldb be time to see them all. 

Aside from this nerdy work convention, this was all our first visits to Chicago. I had down time away from work and we wanted to make the most of what we could do with the five days we’d be there. We knew we couldn’t do everything, so we had to do the thing I was really bad at and that was to MAKE A PLAN. So, I did, but in pencil as to keep things flexible.

Cubs Baseball, The Bean, Boat Tours, The Art Institute, The Field Museum. A friend mentioned that one of my favorite musicians, Elvis Costello, would be playing nearby while we were there. We had decided before we left that this would mostly be a trip about museums and native Chicago attractions as my wife and I both wanted Henry to experience as much of the Windy City as we could fit in, but… If I could convince Henry that seeing Elvis Costello was something he’d be interested in, perhaps we might all go.  

Henry, do you want to go see one of my favorite musicians?

I dunno.

He’s got lots of great songs. Allison, Pump It Up, Watching the Detectives, What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding. He even was kicked off of SNL for playing one of his songs.


He’s the guy whose album is hanging up in my office, the autographed one. People used to tease me that Elvis Costello was my real dad because we kinda look alike.

It was true. There was a time that I was teased by my friends that I shared a likeness to him simply because of my glasses and penchant for wearing non baseball style hats. They said he could be my biological father despite knowing my dad.

My skills of persuasion did not pass muster. What I consider enticing was not necessarily motivators to my 6th grader.

I was of course disappointed to not see one of my favorite singers, but I honestly couldn’t see dragging my 11-year-old to a show at The Horseshoe Casino and Lounge… until midnight. Chicago would be full of firsts, but not this one.

Luckily, I had seen Elvis Costello years earlier.  

In my twenties, my friend and I arrived early at The Tabernacle in Atlanta and waited for three and a half hours outside of Elvis’ tour bus in hopes of meeting him and getting our CDs signed. He finally made his way out of the tour bus. There he was in the flesh. Punk Rock Buddy Holly. He had his pork-pie hat, skinny tie, and oversized signature black prescription glasses like mine. His security came over to shoo us mortals away, but he let them know that it was cool and took the time to speak with us in earnest. What’s cooler is that he did sign our CDs, but he didn’t sign it, Elvis Costello, he signed it… Well, I couldn’t tell what he signed. When I got home, I did some internet sleuthing and learned that he had signed it, Declan MacManus. His REAL name was Declan McManus. The stage name, Costello, was his mother’s maiden name and the name Elvis, chosen as a challenge to the record companies to promote another artist named Elvis. YOU can have Presley, I’ll take McManus.

We finally make a list of what we’re going to see. The first night, we get our boat tour on The Chicago River.  We see the former Chicago Post Office filmed in the movie The Dark Knight, Henry’s favorite and we see the Michigan Avenue Tower from Adventures in Babysitting, my favorite.

Image from Adventures in Babbysitting

Our next stop was to the Field Museum of Natural History. The big draw at the Field Museum was the fossilized remains of the world’s most complete and largest T-Rex called Sue. I immediately hit the docent up with a series of questions like how can you tell the sex of a dinosaur? The docent then explains you can’t, to which I feel silly. Sue Hendrickson is the name of the fossil collector who found the remains, of course. 

The story she relates to us about Sue’s discovery of Sue went like this: In 1990, a group had discovered Edmontosaurus bones in western South Dakota. As they were about to leave, they realized their truck had a flat tire. Everyone in the group goes to work replacing the tire with the spare, all except Sue Hendrickson who decides to explore the nearby cliffs that they had not checked. She then sees a small piece of dinosaur sticking out and BAM, the rest is history.

After we gawk at Sue for a few moments, we thank the docent for her paleontology lesson. At this point Chicago was living up to its reputation and everything after our plan to see The Art Institute would be gravy.

We leave the Field Museum and rush to the Art Institute with only two hours left before it closes. I am stoked, but Henry is ready to leave shortly after we arrive. I don’t know if he’s just bored (which I can’t imagine) or tired from walking everywhere. It’s one of those moments where you feel your age, you feel that you are the parent, and you feel like maybe you should cut your losses and leave. I cave and we begin to leave after only being there an hour. As we near the exit towards the direction of our hotel I spin around and slightly scream WAIT! We haven’t seen the Impressionism exhibit. We must see the Seurat from Ferris Beuller.

You know the painting if you’ve seen Ferris Beuller. Henry has seen Ferris Beuller. I even imagined that perhaps we’d recreate the scene in the movie as a family photo/Christmas card because y’know, no one has ever done that.

Image from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

As we’re racing up the steps to the Impressionism Gallery, I pass a man on my left who is leaving the same exhibit. He’s a little shorter than me, late sixties, pork-pie hat, and oversized black prescription glasses.

My head and body quickly jerk around with reflexes of a fan in his twenties to stop this man.

Excuse me. Are you Elvis Costello?

Why yes, I am, he replied.

I then proceed to tell him in no cool manner how important his music has been to me, and I usher Henry over to join me. 

Henry, this is the guy I was telling you about. The musician who has written so many amazing songs. 

Elvis then takes the time to address Henry telling him that it is a pleasure to meet him and how much he likes the name Henry as it’s the name of one of his sons.

Like before, those many years ago, Elvis Costello could have told me not to bother, to walk on or to eff off. And that would have been ok. He owes me, nor the public anything… but he didn’t.

After this random encounter, we see the Impressionists. We see Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte. I’m in front of some of the most famous pieces of Impressionism in the world and I can only float around the room in disbelief as I had just casually met Elvis Costello in a city of almost 3 million people. This time it was unplanned and by chance. Like explorer Sue Hendrickson, I had taken a last-minute detour and made a significant discovery of my own. It was a full circle moment.

And for the rest of my trip, I tell anyone that will listen that I ran into my biological father at the museum and then I show them this picture.

Three Generations