This post is a week or two overdue, so apologies in advance for its tardiness. As I’ve mentioned already in this space, I took to the road in the middle of July for some much-needed R&R. Destination: Chicago, Illinois.
I’ve been to Chicago twice before which gave this trip a very different feel. Once you’ve been to a big spot a few times, you’re able to scratch off some of the more touristy activities (in Chicago’s case, The Sears Tower, The Miracle Mile, Millennium Park). That’s not to say that these things aren’t worth seeing – they are, it’s just that there’s so much more to a place than it’s biggest landmarks. Staying in an apartment in a vibrant neighbourhood this time, rather than a typical downtown hotel, already got me into the right headspace for this particular trip.
Top priority for the trip was to catch some baseball, but running a wickedly close second was to put some faces with some names. This website has allowed me to become part of a greater community of people. In my hometown, a lot of these people have unexpectedly become close friends, even though I’m at an age when one doesn’t really make new BFF’s. In the grander scheme of things, this community has allowed me to pass notes back and forth with people all over the world. Because of our common interest, there are people who have enlightened me in all sorts of ways, despite their living in England, New Zealand, Sweden, Trinidad, Australia, Ukraine, Montreal, Los Angeles, New York…and Chicago.
When I realized I knew a sizeable handful of movie lovers all from the Chicago area, I knew I had to see as many of them as possible. So I put forth the word through emails and blog comments, hoping to be able to sit down with at least three or four of them. Despite the fact that we’re now in a Web 2.0 world, I worried that many of them wouldn’t want to find the time to meet “some guy from the internet”, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. Getting actual phone calls from some of these people who up until now were only avatars gave me a slight smile knowing that this was all coming together.
So with a time and place determined, I arrived early (as I am known to do) and was instantly greeted by Sam Fragoso from Duke & The Movies. Sam was probably the invitee I knew the best, so it was good to catch up before the rest of the gang showed up. The other good thing about Sam being the first friendly face, was that his was a friendly face I knew at a glance – guessing who was who as they walked in would permeate the rest of the night (shoulda told ‘em to wear name tags).
Fredo from Film Yarn arrived next, and happily he looks a lot like his avatar. With three of us there, the movie talk began in earnest, and this was what made me happiest. Even through we were largely strangers to one another, we all had our cinematic passion in common. So you know those sometimes awkward moments where you run out of things to say to a person you just met? We never had that problem.
Then at almost timed intervals, Helen from The Commentary Track, Nick from Cinema Romantico, Kristin from All Eyes on Screen, and Eric from The Warning Sign arrived. Since all were welcome to this little drink-up, Nick brought with him his Friend Darryl (a big-time Verhoeven fan), and Eric brought with him his lovely girlfriend, Carlene. Helen actually should get bonus points, not only for agreeing to come on very short notice, but also since a happy co-incidence had her coming from slightly out-of-town.
By the time the dust settled there were nine of us at the table, and the discussion was lively. I got a bit of a smile as I saw each person come in a little bit timidly – I don’t know how often these folks read each others’ work, and I know for sure they’d never met. However, to a man the timidness fell away quickly and the laughs, theories, disagreements, and jokes were flying around the table.
That night I learned…
- That almost none of these fine folks dig on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
- That Fredo considers Woody Allen to be “Very First Year Film School” – and that Sam disagrees
- That Helen has a wicked taste for the classics
- That Kristin once had to smuggle dvd’s like contraband
- That the flash on my camera can be blinding
- That American bars ask for ID if you look under 31 (and that apparently I look under 31)
- That Kristin loves to joke about Canadian stereotypes
- That I can be horrible at remembering names (Darryl!)
- And that sitting amongst a bunch of film geeks in a bar can make me homesick awful fast.
Helen had to cut out early, but the rest of us settled up and headed next door to The Music Box for a midnight showing of ROBOCOP. The Music Box is a gem of a theatre (Toronto folk, think Uptown 1 before it closed), and one I’ve heard a lot about as a faithful Filmspotting listener. Seeing anything there would have been worth the effort, but seeing such a cult classic was a howl. The amusing thing was that I’d only seen ROBOCOP in slivers, so I was essentially watching it for the first time. With that in mind, I was seated in the right spot – next to Kristin and Sam who were also experiencing it for the first time…somewhat to Kristin’s chagrin from what I could tell. Still, for all its schlockiness and violence, ROBOCOP was the perfect film to watch with this newfound circle of friends.
As we stood on North Southport Street in the dead of Friday night/Saturday morning, I felt a small bit of sadness. I wasn’t sure when I’d be back in Chicago, so who knew when I’d be face-to-face with any of these newfound friends again (except Sam, he’s Toronto-bound and I’ll see him next month). Not really fair is it? Have a great time with a whole bunch of like-minded folk and then have to say “See ya when I see ya”? I did encourage them all to make this sort of gathering a usual thing, but for all I know it was a one-shot-deal.
If that’s the case, I’m happy I could bring them all together for one night of laughs.
Note - There were a few other bloggers and podcasters I invited who couldn’t make it, and a few who were likely within driving distance that I wasn’t sure wanted to make the trip. Apologies to anyone who I might have forgotten/feel left out.