Needless to say no one in our room managed to make it to the 10 am rendezvous on Saturday to go into the city by train. But Christina and I went in later and picked up Mike. The three of us took an hour to wander Michigan Avenue, even taking a stroll through the American Girl store which I'd never been in before. And out onto the amazing little balcony at Crate and Barrel that is hiding right in plain view.
We got back just in time to head over to the restaurant for dinner and the movie showing. The popular pizza and beer joint has two separate rooms available for parties, and both were being used this evening. A few more people had arrived on Saturday, so more greetings ensued. Many of us had copies of the book and we spent much of the evening signing each others' books. The goodie bags were distributed. These were assembled by an amazingly spontaneous process of folks volunteering to contribute items that had significance to various stories. It was very much fun to riffle through them.
Tables were pushed out of the way and chairs, quilts and pillows were arranged for the movie showing. Before we started, however, Trish read aloud a message from one of our active members who lives in Australia who couldn't attend. (One of our Brits, however did join us!) Then we had a door prize drawing. Melissa's (the other principle organizer) and John's names were pulled out of the hat, and each received a wrapped box. Opening them they found a photograph of another forum member, Jim, who could not make it to Chicago, taken at the location of the final scene with Jack and Ennis in the movie. (Jim had highly entertained us all in his tour of many of the filming sites in Alberta just a few weeks ago) Also in the box, though, was a rock taken from that stone beach.
That we were all already in a state of high emotion by the time the movie started was made very evident in the initial scenes -- the tension in the room was palpable. An amused chuckle swept through the group when we realized the scenes playing were just those to get the DVD menu up and we weren't actually watching the movie yet. Ai-yi-yi.
So what was it like to watch the movie in the company of these folks with whom I've discussed and analyzed many minute details as well as overriding themes over the past 6 months? It was surreal. We've got so much of the movie down that tiny inflections of a line, or a brief glance between characters carry a wagon load of meaning that all of us automatically understand. Like the days-long discussion we had recently about Jack's motivation in his stance at the beginning of the movie when he's not yet met Ennis but knows he's to be working with him for the next few months. I figured that discussion was much too recent to not be commented upon, even though we had all agreed to not talk during the movie. Sure enough Mike's comment: "Nice", was instantly translated into a one-word summary of the discussion that constituted thousands of words. I would really be curious to see what Dave's impression would have been -- so many of the responses being so automatic to us that I'm sure I failed to note most of them. Ah well, perhaps he will have the opportunity to join us one of these times.
As expected the ending hit harder than ever. We do wonder why we torture ourselves to watch this movie again and again. The party broke up quickly after the lights came back up, once we'd gotten our fill of hugs all around. And no, it was not embarrassing at all to have to leave the restaurant via the dance floor and immediately in front of the band all carrying pillows and puffy-eyed. Not awkward what so ever.
Sunday of course most of us had to pack up and check out. We'd had a reservation for the back room at a local breakfast place, only to arrive and find out that they actually don't take reservations for Sunday. Grrr, would have been nice to have been told that when we made the reservation! After that, more pandemonium arose as we tried to schedule airport trips, train station trips, who was going into the city early, who was going back to the remaining few rooms at the hotel, etc. Suddenly I figured out that I would be saying goodbye to Christina and Mike there instead of accompanying them back to the city. Boo. Folks were slowly filtering away, amid many hugs and kisses and promises to see each other online again soon.
The rest of our visit in the hotel would not have been worth a mention, except that Lydia had the brilliant idea that the dozen or so of us should write a round robin story. Much silliness ensued over the next few hours as absurd line after absurd line was thrown out. In the end we had a short but coherent spoof of a story written, chock full of movie references twisted just enough to make them hilarious. Then we created a new fictional user account to post the story under, and then proceeded to log in as our regular accounts and leave comments on the story spoofing all of the clichés surrounding story comments. We had several tongue in cheek messages of glowing accolades, and then tossed in a couple of anonymous flames just for kicks. Our moderator, who by principle never comments on stories in order to maintain her allusion of neutrality posted for the first time. Before we were done getting all our set-up comments in, a couple of other folks out there on the web had discovered the story and joined in the game. I can't wait, now, to get home and check in on things -- I think we're bound to generate more comment traffic on this one entry than the majority of other, legitimate postings. (By this morning we had 66 comments.)
Finally it was time to head for the airport. Dean was dropping me off. I probably could have finagled a ride with someone else, but it felt appropriate that we end the trip as we began, just he and I in the car. The trip isn't really over; Dean is headed on to Ohio for a few days and then will be stopping by our place on his way back to L.A. And of course we're all only as distant as the nearest internet connection. But it's been a momentous week and we were saddened for it to be over. Without a doubt this has been a trip never to be forgotten, and many good friends have been transformed into very dear friends.