Friday, September 17, 2010


first seen in Chicago, IL

I saw Face/Off when I was vacationing in Chicago in the summer of 1997. (I don't remember what theater it was in.) It was my first time in the Windy City, and I did most of the tourist-type things - a boat ride on Lake Michigan, a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, visiting the art museum, even eating at the original Pizzeria Uno's. (Love Uno's. Love it.) But I'm going to cheat a little bit and talk about the second time I went to Chi-town, because it's a much more interesting story.

This would've been in 1999, I believe. It was in March, and I was going to a comic book convention. In '97, I went by bus to Chicago, if you can believe that - 17 hours straight! So this time I decided to take Amtrak. I probably would've made better time, except I left in the middle of a snowstorm that ultimately turned into a blizzard! I distinctly remember looking out my window at night and seeing the snow fall through the pale yellow light of a track signal, piling up all around. It continued that way as we slowly trudged through Ohio and Indiana. Naturally, I was pissed, but I remained hopeful that we might arrive before the end of the Saturday portion of the show.

At least I was comfortable on the train. Take it from someone who has done his fair share of cross-country traveling: riding by train can be so relaxing. With a bus, you've got people packed in close together, in seats that sometimes have fixed armrests, with people yacking on their cellphones or scolding screaming babies, and if you're big like me there's never enough legroom, and getting enough sleep is always a tenuous proposition at best. I could do an entire post on this.

Train cars are wider, have plenty of legroom, you can lean back in your seat without bumping the legs of the guy behind you (and vice versa), there's food available, and they travel faster. Not to get too political, but the Obama administration supports high-speed rail in this country, and it's an idea whose time has long since come. More trains means fewer cars on the highways, and when you're talking high-speed, there's really no comparison when it comes to longer trips.

So back to my train ride. We made it into Chicago too late for the Saturday part of the show and I was pretty tired. I went to the hotel, checked in, and saw a bunch of my friends at the bar. I went over to them, we talked for a bit, I told them I'd join them shortly, and went to my room to set my bags down. Then I returned to the bar.

Someone bought me a drink and I started talking about my agonizing trip, saying something like, "Oh, man, it was horrible, I was on the train for 18 hours in a raging blizzard," and so on. Some other people join us and I get handed another beer, and I have to retell the story for the newcomers: "Yeah, man, I was on the train for 20 hours and I didn't think I'd ever get here," et cetera. Another beer and suddenly my ride lasted 21 hours. By this time I was feeling pretty good and it showed, if you know what I mean. The impromptu party soon retired upstairs where this one guy broke out a cooler of beer, and of course, I had another one and my trip was now up to 22 hours, and so on and so on all through the night! I don't recall how conscious I was of my ever-expanding fish tale; I don't think I was deliberately exaggerating in order to get more beer, but I might have. Regardless, it was just what I needed, so I didn't care.

The show itself was a bust. Very few people turned out on Saturday, from what I was told, and Sunday was worse. The less said, the better.

I spent Monday in the art museum before getting on my return train, but when I got out it snowed again, and hard. I thought I knew where the train station was, but the snow was coming down so hard I got lost. I remember walking up a bridge thinking I was going the right way, but after awhile it was clear I wasn't. In desperation, I asked a passerby where the train station was, and of course, it turned out I was going in the opposite direction, which is what I had suspected. My train was delayed, and I knew I'd miss a day of work.

I did share a nice conversation with a pregnant Chinese girl who was going to New York to be with her fiancee. She wasn't familiar with the city, so I made sure to tell her all the places to go. I remember playing Hangman with her to pass the time.

So that was the second and last time I've been to Chicago (so far). I don't recall much about seeing Face/Off during my first trip there (beyond the film itself), except that it was with a big, pumped-up audience (it was a big summer movie, after all) in a fairly largish theater. Of course, I've seen it plenty of times since then, on home video.

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