I had my falling down water (a 12-year old, peat-tasting islay malt), my bagpipe mp3 collection, my tartan, one week until Burns night, and no haggis. Ordering from Scotland or even Toronto would take too long, and I quickly realised if I didn't find some underground haggis connection soon, i'd have 20-some irate, drunken Scots on my hands, quite willing to substitute me for a caber.
My lead came from a bookstore clerk around campus, while buying a Burns concordance, who tells me there's an English professor who regularly shows up with some quality stuff, and nobody knows from where. I track him down in his office; he's nervous, but after I part with a bottle, he loosens his lips, and slides me a sheet of paper with a number and a scribbled address.
So that Friday, there I am, on the far West Side, with a trenchcoat and pork-pie hat pulled over my face, waiting for my man in a dark back alley underneath the flickering neon lights of a Schlitz ad. I'm sweating buckets, stepping back with the sound of every passing car, hoping I don't get caught by the fuzz with $150 cash in my pocket loitering near this shit-hole. But, waiting, I can almost taste the stuff, and my heart is pumping. 10, 15, 25, 45 minutes I'm waiting, when I see this super-fly hoopty cruise by and stop, Fuzzy dice still swinging. My hand trembles as I reach for the extended paper bag, and I slice it open for a quick taste to make sure it's real. I hand the guy the money, and the last thing I see is the flash of his gold teeth as his car jets off, his hat feather flapping in the breeze.
Yeah, I was in the middle of the ghetto, $150 bucks short, and I still had a long way to go before I got home; but I had my haggis, and I made it; now, several years later, the guy's my regular, and even does drop-offs. I know what it's like being new to a city without connections, so if y'all are around Chicago and need it, I'll hook you up.