February 2nd, 2016
|01:06 pm - B-Fest 2016 Recap|
As has been documented many times in the past, I go every January to a film festival called B-Fest which is held on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. B-Fest runs for 24 hours straight, during which attendees are subjected to some of the best of the worst films ever made. It's not everybody's cup of tea, but it's fun if you like that sort of thing--which I do.
So, this year I was picked up by my friends Jim and Staci, and we returned to Jim's house where we met up with our driver, Sarah, who took us down to the Chicago area. There, we stopped for lunch at Mitsuwa Marketplace, a Japanese mall in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Mitsuwa has changed quite a bit in the twelve years that I've been attending B-Fest, and since I only make it down there once a year it's not unusual for the offerings in the food court to change substantially between my visits. One of our favorite eateries had been replaced, but we all managed to find something to eat. I had katsudon, which is a bowl of rice topped with onions, eggs, and pork. After the meal, we visited the grocery store to stock up on provisions (i.e., weird Pocky and Asian candies) before the final leg of the trip to the university.
4:00 pm Doors open
B-Fest is held at the in the McCormick Auditorium in the Norris Center on the campus of Northwestern University. Parking rules are enforced until 4:00pm, so we try not to arrive early enough to be ticketed. The walk to and from the auditorium always seems unreasonably long, but of course, it isn't. A line into the auditorium had formed by the time we arrived, but we went in the back door to drop off our stuff first. That seems like the sort of thing they'd want to prevent people from doing but it's fine--nobody attends without a ticket. Sometimes they make us stand for a long time, but this year they began taking tickets almost immediately after we got back in line. We staked out three rows of seats but ultimately allowed one of them to be filled out by strangers. The downside of this is that I was largely sequestered from my friends, but it was fine. Maybe it's just as well; I thought I was getting over a cold when B-Fest began, but I'm still suffering from it more than a week later.
Norris Center houses the campus food court which has changed drastically in the years I've attended B-Fest, but there's usually some place to get a sandwich to save for late night, and I ran downstairs to purchase a sub before the show started. When Telstar showed up with his annual B-Fest mix CD, I snagged one of the first copies he handed out. Apparently he set up a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of burning a stack of CDs, but I was unaware of it. I gave him a couple of bucks (literally, the only two small bills I had on me), but if he does it again I should probably kick him a bit more dough.
5:50 pm Introduction
This was on the schedule, but it didn't take ten minutes. It was just a "hello and welcome, we're going to get started in a couple of minutes. Please be courteous and the exits are over there and in the back" sort of thing.
6:00 pm The Adventures of Hercules (1985)
I don't think anyone had any idea what was going on in this movie.
Well, that's not entirely true. The second-tier gods have stolen Zeus's seven
horcruxes lightning bolts and hidden them inside monsters scattered around creation. Without his lightning bolts, Zeus is powerless to stop the moon from crashing into the earth. Who can save us? Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Ian Holm Lou Ferrigno reprising his role as Hercules. Also appearing is the previously-defeated King Minos, Hercules' arch-enemy, who has just been resurrected by the second-tier gods. Yes, this apparently is a sequel, but I'm not sure that matters unless the details of the plot are important to you.
Unfortunately, the plot details of the first movie at B-Fest are drowned out by the rowdy crowd who are still full of energy and spend the entire movie shouting at the screen. Sometimes I bring earplugs to B-Fest, and that helps; you can hear the movie over the people shouting.
Anyway, I'm not sure the plot matters. The Adventures of Hercules was a good start to the festival, in that it was full of cheap spectacle--visually interesting, but also ridiculous. Lots of monsters, slime people, and a forest filled with hanged statues. This is definitely not a good film, but they were clearly aiming to make a Ray Harryhausen-style mythology epic. It's an Italian production from a time when Italian studios were making a lot of Conan the Barbarian knockoffs (which we call "spaghetti barbarian" movies, incidentally). Cannon Film Group made and distributed a lot of these, and I've always had an indefensible soft spot for them. I'd like to watch this one again.
7:35 pm Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)
Caltiki is another Italian production, this time from Mario Bava, the king of mid-20th century, Italian horror films. I'd actually seen this one before, so I ducked out toward the end to call my wife and stock up on Starbucks for the long haul through the early morning hours. I also decided to watch the film standing up, since I wouldn't be doing much standing for the rest of the festival. I headed to the back of the auditorium and discovered that in fact, there were quite a few people standing up. Some were simply watching the movie, others were having conversations. Space is at a premium once the auditorium begins to fill, so a lot of people had claimed chairs but found it more comfortable to sit against the wall in the back or lean Kilroy was here-style against the partial wall in the back.
Caltiki follows a team of archaeologists who are studying the Mayan civilization. Deep underground, they discover a pool of water beside an idol of the goddess Caltiki. The bottom of the pool is littered with the skeletons of ancient human sacrifices, and since these are movie archeologists rather than real ones, they decide to retrieve the jewelry from the bodies. The diver's cable starts moving erratically, so the team on the surface pulls him up, but by the time he reaches the surface he is dead, and his body strangely decayed. A moment later a giant blob emerges from the pool and attacks the group who flee. As it emerges from the cave, they destroy it by setting fire to it.
Back in the city, small remnants of the blob are studied and it is discovered to be a single-celled organism that grows when exposed to radiation, which would be fine if not for the fact that we're due for a flyby by a radioactive comet which last visited earth 850 years ago--which is about when the Mayan civilization died out. Coincidence?
I can't remember how the movie ends, and I missed it because I was on the phone, but I remember multiple blobs and a lot of fire. Honestly, I tend to confuse this movie with From Hell It Came, which is about a tree monster, and that's the movie I was expecting to watch. Doesn't matter though--Caltiki's kind of fun.
9:00 pm Americathon (1979)
Americathon was the first disappointment of B-Fest '16, though honestly, I'm not sure why I'd have expected it to be any good.
The year is 1998 and the United States is out of money. Really, we're broke and have thirty days to pay off a loan to NIKE (that's the National Indian Knitting Enterprise, not the shoe company). People are living out of their cars which never move because we're out of oil. The office of the president has been relocated to a condo in southern California, and President Chet Roosevelt (John Ritter) has come up with the brilliant idea of running a month-long telethon hosted by Monty Rushmore (Harvey Corman), who in the movie's 1998 is basically what Regis Philbin was in the real 1998. Meanwhile, the an advisor played by Fred Willard is plotting with foreign interests to sell off the U.S. when we default on the loan.
From the movie poster, I was expecting Americathon to be closer to an Airplane!-style screwball comedy, but it moved much more slowly than that and wasn't as densely packed with jokes. The other problem with a movie like this is that its best political jokes are so dated that they don't register as jokes to me; I don't know the people and events they're referencing. Still, it's interesting to see an early performance from Fred Willard, and it's interesting to reflect that a lot of the movie's "jokes" about capitalism and the privatization of government functions have become unfunny realities in the last couple of decades. I can't recommend it, though.
10:30 pm Calling Dr. Death (1943)
I was wide awake for this one but (embarrassingly) my recollection is foggy; from Wikipedia's summary I can see that I remember it, but it didn't make much of an impression.
Calling Dr. Death is a thriller that probably came across as more thrilling and less lukewarm when it was made in 1943. Lon Chaney, Jr. plays a neurologist whose cheating wife refuses to give him a divorce. One Monday morning he awakens with no memory of the weekend and learns that she has been murdered. The police become involved and are reasonably suspicious, so the doctor decides to undergo hypnosis to see if any facts about the weekend can be brought to light.
Calling Dr. Death was tied in with the Inner Sanctum radio show, and Wikipedia tells me that it's the first of six low-budget Inner Sanctum movies, all starring Lon Chaney, Jr. (who I happen to like, in spite of his reputation as an alcoholic who couldn't act). It's fairly representative of the sort of stories that squeezed into 24-minute episodes of the radio show, and at 63 minutes I found it to be pleasant if unremarkable. There's an undefinable threshold between "pleasant diversion" and "annoying waste of time" which has to do with budget and duration, and I tend to be much more forgiving of short, cheap films than I am of lackluster studio productions.
11:45 pm The Wizard of Speed and Time (1979)
What more can be said about The Wizard of Speed and Time? Short, stop-motion animated film about a green-robed wizard who runs around and sings a song. It plays every B-Fest at 11:45, and people crowd up to the front to lay down on the stage and drum their feet along with the running wizard. I tried it once, didn't see the appeal. There is a certain novelty to projecting a film these days, so I'm sure they won't stop playing their original, celluloid copy until it wears out. I do wish, though, that they'd start using a digital copy because there are nicer, cleaner copies available online.
In fact, what I'd really like is for B-Fest to show the feature-length version of The Wizard of Speed and Time which was made about five years later. Sure, it's a self-indulgent, right-wing, anti-union screed, but it's just so darn much fun! I'm sure they'll never be able to secure the rights to show it.
12:00 am Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
...and following WoSaT, the always play Plan 9 From Outer Space at midnight. Widely considered to be the worst film ever made, Plan 9 is only the worst film most people have the patience to sit through. It's an alien/zombie movie which is considerably more watchable than, say, Teenage Zombies (which is also not the worst movie ever--but close). At B-Fest, people bring paper plates to throw at the screen whenever the UFOs are onscreen, and I like to catch as many as I can, take them home, and scan them. Unfortunately, I've discovered that I *really* like sitting next to the wall because you can sleep on the floor and probably not get stepped on by people climbing over the seats. The way most people throw their plates sends them toward the front, stage right and I was on stage left, so I didn't catch very many. All in all, I think I value the wall seat more than I value the paper plates, no matter how clever they are.
I did return a couple of plates into circulation that I've been holding on to. One had a glow-in-the-dark stencil of Ed Wood's face, and the other had a nicely done stencil of GlaDOS as a potato from the video game Portal 2. Somebody else deserves to enjoy them. I also returned one that said "Put your penis in my butt, now you're eating a coconut." I couldn't find an actual joke on that plate, so I assume it's just too droll for me.
1:35 am The Human Tornado (1976)
This one was my second favorite movie of the festival, which is kind of what I expected. Apparently it's a sequel to Dolemite, a classic blaxploitation film which, embarrassingly, I have not seen.
Prior knowledge of Dolemite is not necessary, though, and The Human Tornado is pretty much exactly what I was hoping it would be. Rudy Ray Moore plays a pimp/standup comedian who throws a party to unwind after returning home from a tour. Unfortunately, a hillbilly and his elderly mother happen to notice Folks With Darker Skin Than Their Own (that's not the nomenclature they use) and make a call to the local sheriff who shows up with a posse of gun-totin' good ol' boys. The sheriff's wife, unbeknownst to him, has been paying Dolemite for uh, Things Her Husband Won't Do, and when the sheriff discovers this he attempts to shoot Dolemite but kills his wife instead. It is time to get out of town, and Dolemite wastes no time in doing so.
He goes west to see Queen Bee, the proprietor of a brothel and costar of the first movie, but learns that she's being forced out of business by the local mob boss. Dolemite pledges his Sweet Nunchuck Skills against the mobster.
Look, I like blaxploitation movies. They're modern enough not to get boring (unlike, say, the "suspenseful thriller" Calling Dr. Death which plods along like a dirge), and they revel in a certain amount of excess because they were made on the cheap to provide a good time. In fact, I think these movies work largely because they deliberately traded plausibility and respectability for crowd-pleasing scenes.
3:20 am The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)
Considered by many to be one of the worst films ever made, I was very upset when it came out that my parents wouldn't let me watch it. Like many parents in the late '80s, mine wouldn't let me have Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, which made them seem so much more attractive. At time time, I imagined an adulthood where I lived in something along the lines of Pee-Wee's playhouse, and had regular, private screenings of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and Ghoulies, which is the first horror movie for which I recall seeing a preview on TV.
Years later in my early 20s, I was hanging out with some friends, one of whom brought over The Garbage Pail Kids Movie after his shift at Movie Gallery. He put it on, and in fewer than five minutes everyone else had forced him to turn it off. Nothing offensive happens in those first five minutes. I shrugged and figured I'd rent it myself sometime. I did download the movie in 2003 or so, but I never actually got around to watching it, so I was excited when it showed up on the B-Fest 2016 lineup. The rest of the group planned on sleeping through it.
The film opens as a rocket-powered garbage can propels itself toward the planet earth. Cut to the same can in an antique shop owned by Captain Manzini. It is never clear where Manzini comes from or what he is the captain of, but he is clearly a man of the world full of wise proverbs which are mostly ignored by Dodger, a young boy in his employ. Dodger is routinely menaced by a group of 20ish-looking high school dropouts who apparently have nothing better to do than pick on a kid who looks to be nearly a decade their junior. Dodger has a crush on a girl named Tangerine who hangs out with the thugs and is sympathetic to him, but does little to prevent her friends from beating him up. After the bullies leave, Dodger sees that they've knocked over the garbage can and released The Garbage Pail Kids--a group of diminutive adults with disgusting habits and weird deformities. There's Greaser Greg, Valerie Vomit, Ali Gator, and Messy Tessie, who all look and act pretty much as you'd expect from their names. They are joined by Foul Phil (a baby with halitosis), Nat Nerd (an acne-blasted comic book geek), and the flatulent Windy Winston. Manzini sadly laments that it'll take magic to get them back into the can, and warns them not to go out in public because Normal People Just Wouldn't Understand. There's a badly executed message about not judging a book by its cover in there somewhere.
The next night, the GPKs get out, steal a truck, and go on a small rampage which ends the next morning in a hangover. They make a jacket for Dodger as an apology, and the jacket impresses Tangerine who is a budding fashion designer. Thinking not-quite-quickly enough on his feet, Dodger claims to have made the jacket himself, and Tangerine orders more. Dodger sets up a sweatshop in the basement of the Captain Manzini's antique shop and forces the GPKs to produce clothes.
I'm not sure what anybody expected from The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, but nobody expected it to climax with a daring escape from the State Home for the Ugly in order to attend a fashion show.
The general consensus after the The Garbage Pail Kids Movie ended was that it was much better than anticipated, but still is not a good movie. I can't say that I was disappointed, but that's only because my expectations were so low; as much as I wanted to watch it when I was a kid, I remember being annoyed that they'd picked the least visually interesting characters to carry the story. In retrospect, I can see that those characters were probably chosen in order to keep the budget low and to steer clear of a parental boycott (which happened anyway). I'm glad to scratch a 29-year-old item off my to-do list, but this is a movie that--in spite of being better than expected--had zero real entertainment value. Apparently Michael Eisner's studio obtained the film rights to GPK in 2012 and scrapped their plans to make a new movie a year later. I doubt anyone is upset about that, but somewhere in the back of my mind I'm still hoping for a GPK movie that fulfills the promise of underground cartoonist John Pound's original artwork (which, once you get past the snot and the gore, was really excellent). I have no idea how all of those characters could be wedged into a story that would be any good.
5:05 am Blood Mania (1970)
Early reports online called Blood Mania "this year's porno movie", and while it is not literally pornography, that's a pretty apt description. I tried to stay awake, but I couldn't. What I do remember is that it involves wealthy doctors having affairs and blackmailing each other. I actually watched about 2/3 of this one before giving up on it, and none of it stuck with me. I can tell you that I witnessed no blood or mania or any kind. People tell me that someone eventually got murdered. I won't bother hunting this one down.
6:40 am Moon Zero Two (1969)
I also slept through 2/3 of Moon Zero Two, and cannot accurately describe the plot. I had assumed that this would be a tedious eastern-European space exploration movie, but it turned out a British production by Hammer Studios and was roundly enjoyed by people who were awake for it. I'd been sleeping on the floor of the auditorium, and when I was conscious enough to peer over the seat in front of me I didn't understand what was going on, so lay back down until it was over. During that time, I heard two shouted comments which stuck with me: "Man, the sequel to Ocean's Eleven took a really weird direction!" and "I'm going to shoot you, but I want you to hold really still because I only have four bullets left." My friends liked it and Mystery Science Theater 3000 tackled this one in its first season, so I think I'll track that version down.
8:25 am Low Blow (1986)
I did not dislike Low Blow, but I wasn't really awake enough for it, and I think it would have been a fine film to sleep through.
Leo Fong plays Joe Wong, a down-on-his-luck private investigator who occasionally leaves his pig sty office to dispense vigilante justice to strangers. He drives a ridiculously broken-down car which won't start unless he opens it up and fiddles around under the hood. It also appears not to have working breaks. One assumes that he likes it that way because he eats a lot of meals out, which (presumably) he wouldn't do if he were actively trying to replace the car.
One day he is hired by a member of the 1% whose daughter has joined a Jonestown-esque new-age cult. Wong sneaks around the compound where the cult conducts its business and finds that it is being run by Cameron Mitchel under a long, black robe, various pieces of religious jewelry, and dark sunglasses. The compound is ostensibly a farm, but it's the brownest farm I've ever seen; they don't even seem to have grass.
Anyway, Wong's investigation eventually leads him to recruit an unlikely team to infiltrate the compound and liberate the cultists. There's kung fu and musclebound blondes and a pre-Tae Bo Billy Blanks. In the end Joe Wong stomps on somebody's head which pops like a balloon filled with oatmeal and hamburger, because the prop happens to be a balloon filled with oatmeal and hamburger.
Low Blow is the kind of movie that's hilariously bad when you're alert, and annoyingly bad when you're not, but I remember it being enjoyably stupid. It reminded me a little of the Death Wish movies, but a little less racist. Only a little, though.
10:05 am Breakfast Break
During the breakfast break, I got another latte and talked to Mitch O'Connell who sat in the same row as I did. Mitch designs the annual B-Fest poster, and a few years ago he released a coffee table book called Mitch O'Connell, the World's Best Artist. My wife got me a copy for my birthday almost immediately after its release, and I have consistently forgotten for the last few years to bring it to B-Fest to get it signed--but this time I managed to remember. Mitch was pretty cool about it--I always worry about approaching people for autographs, but he was gracious and even gave me a custom sketch.
Another guy sat between Mitch and me--I can't remember his name, but apparently he's a fixture of B-Fest. He talked at length about his own movies and told me that he's been featured on The Jon Stewart Show (the one from the mid-'90s, not The Daily Show) and appears regularly on WGN on Halloween. He heavily implied that his films are available on his YouTube channel, but it appears that his YouTube channel features (literally) 3,000 short clips about his movies, not the movies themselves. The big one, apparently, is called Devil Ant, and costs $22 on DVD. I'm not sure that I feel like taking a $22 gamble on someone who describes himself as the next Ed Wood. Anyway, I don't remember his name, but if you're actually interested I've given you enough information to look him up yourself. I suspect that you are not.
10:30 am The Fifth Musketeer (1979)
Nobody could figure out why The Fifth Musketeer was included in the lineup. It's an adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask. It's a popcorn historical drama like the Antonio Banderas Zorro movies, and while it isn't a classic, it hasn't aged into so-bad-it's-good territory, either. If anything, it's remarkable for its cast, which includes Beau Bridges as in the dual role of Louis XIV and Philippe of Gascony, José Ferrer, Lloyd Bridges(!), and Alan Hale, Jr.(!) as Athos, Aramis, and Porthos (respectively), Rex Harrison, Ursula Andress and Olivia De Havilland in her last role before retirement. None of these people bothers to affect a French accent, but it's not the trainwreck you'd expect at B-Fest. The Fifth Musketeer is the kind of movie you would have watched in the days before Netflix when it was Sunday afternoon and there was nothing else on TV.
12:30 pm Lunch break
During the lunch break, I called my wife again and bought another latte. After lunch was over they held the annual drawing for door prizes. Over the years, I've donated at least a couple of dozen DVDs to B-Fest as door prizes, and it's always an annoyance that I've never won anything when everyone else in my group seems to have been won multiple times. I can stop complaining now because this year I walked off with three DVDs of movies you've never heard of and a copy of Lifeforce on VHS. Dreams really do come true, guys.
1:05 pm Roar (1981)
Roar is amazing. I don't even know where to start with Roar.
For a fee, B-Fest attendees can sponsor a film. Sponsorship gets you a ticket, a PowerPoint slide projected before your film, and the chance to make a spoken introduction beforehand. Last year, my group sponsored Village People's Can't Stop the Music under the name Drive-In Doghouse, which I disliked at the time but which has grown on me since. This year, we were a little late in applying for sponsorship, but we sent the organizers a list of possibilities anyway (they ask for a list of titles in case your ideal choice isn't available), and they enthusiastically greenlighted Roar.
Roar was not my first choice, but when it came up in our discussions a few months ago, I watched the trailer on YouTube and realized that I'd heard of it before. Initially unreleased, it was recently rediscovered and given a proper theatrical and home video release which quickly made it notorious. It has come up several times on the podcasts I listen to, and I didn't pay it much mind at the time. I wasn't very excited about Roar when the festival organizers selected it, but I'm glad I didn't put up a fight.
So, Roar is a film made by the actress Tippi Hedren and her former husband Noel Marshall. In real life, the two lived with their children in a home adjacent to the Shambala Nature Preserve in southern California. The Preserve is home to hundreds of imported animals including big cats and elephants. The movie, shot in the preserve, takes place in Africa and centers around a family living with these animals. Mom and kids are on their way home from a trip abroad, and Dad goes out to pick them up. A perfect storm of problems conspires to make him late, and Mom and kids arrive home without him. They've been living with these animals for years, but today for whatever reason, the animals attack, and the movie is mostly a series of action sequences wherein Mom, kids, and eventually Dad try to evade lions, tigers, and other undomesticated beasts.
My description does nothing to tell you why this movie is such a big deal. Over the course of production, 78 cast and crew sustained injuries inflicted by the animals which were untrained. The animal-on-animal violence is real, as are a couple of onscreen maulings of humans. Nobody died but frankly, everybody involved is lucky that this didn't turn into a snuff film; as it is, an actor injures his hand at one point, and it stays injured because it is real. Between the animal rights activism and the innate human sense of self-preservation, there's no way this movie could ever be made in 2016, and it drew the only two instances of profanity that I've ever heard from my friend Sarah.
Roar was very well received by the crowd. Somebody a few rows behind me got bored toward the end and started complaining, but he was in the minority; Roar is the movie everybody was still talking about after the festival. I've been campaigning for a "batshit musical" for two years now, and I think that's what we're going to do next year, but I don't see how we can possibly top Roar.
2:55 pm Kansas City Bomber (1972)
Kansas City Bomber stars Raquel Welch as a single mother and roller derby player who has just moved across the country to Portland, Oregon to start a new life. She joins the local team which is called the Loggers, and catches the eye of their manager who is played smarmily by Kevin McCarthy. The two get into a relationship, and McCarthy reveals himself to be a manipulative jerk as he trumps up the rivalry between Welch and the team's captain, trades Welch's best friend to another team, and turns the crowd against a nice guy who's been flirting with her. At the end, McCarthy tells her to take a dive which they will then parlay into the start of a new franchise in Chicago, and she betrays him by spoiling his plans.
So, 10/10 for Girl Power, but 5/10 for Entertainment Value. 5/10 Entertainment Value anywhere else is 2/10 Entertainment Value during the final hours of B-Fest. I don't have a great deal to say about Kansas City Bomber, but see if you can spot a 9-year-old Jodie Foster on the off chance that you watch it. You won't. Watch it, I mean.
4:40 pm The Super Inframan (1975)
B-Fest has an on-again-off-again tradition of ending with a kaiju (giant monster) movie. I don't usually care for them because I'm so restless by the end of the festival. I also sort of feel like "if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all", and that makes me feel vaguely like a bigot (which is silly). Nevertheless, The Super Inframan was a good end to this year's fest, and maybe a good choice for me because it was positively dripping with weird, interesting monsters.
The film takes place in The Futuristic Year of 2015. The Demon Princess who lives deep under China has amassed an army of ghosts and monsters and launches an attack on the surface of the planet. Luckily, a team of scientists is just finishing their top-secret project, Inframan: a bionic superhero outfitted with more gizmos than Inspector Gadget, and capable of astonishing feats of strength and kung fu.
Basically, this film is China's answer to Superman, and it's insane. There are so many monsters and so much action, and I assume there's probably a well-defined plot in there but I missed it because I was going stir-crazy by that point. Still, The Super Inframan held my attention better than most kaiju films. Between plant monsters and death rays and skeletons and rib-mounted missiles and Big Red Buttons and so on, the proceedings are amazingly bizarre, and that was a good thing.
After the festival, we packed up the area around where we'd been sitting. The Devil Ant guy left a bunch of garbage in his seat, which I had to pick up and then complain about passive aggressively in a livejournal post. Otherwise, though, it was the usual pack-up-and-head-out routine that we always go through, including a long trudge out into the lobby, downstairs, through another lobby, and then out to the hill up to the parking ramp. It's a short walk that seems so much longer when you're fatigued, and the proximity of Lake Michigan in January makes the wind bitingly cold, but this year wasn't too bad we made it to the car without too many complaints.
After a quick ride, we checked in to the Morton Grove Best Western and were dismayed to learn that the Mediterranean restaurant we've been patronizing for the last few years has closed. Luckily, we were staying at the same hotel as a number of other B-Fest attendees (including the aforementioned Telstar), and they were all going to Portillo's, so we decided to tag along.
Portillo's is a Chicago-area fast-food chain that serves all kinds of sandwiches, but the hot dogs are the reason to eat there. It's not the first time I've been. Anyway, the food is good and quick, and I ordered a lot of it because I was really, really hungry. Unfortunately, it was difficult to sit with the other group from the hotel because it's a busy place on a Saturday night, and doesn't exactly accommodate giant groups. No matter; it was what we needed.
Back at the hotel, we showered and tried to find Svengoolie on the TV in the hotel room, but no luck. I took some cold meds, zonked out around 10:30, and slept more or less like a baby. I have vague memories of stumbling around in the small hours of the morning for a drink of water, but I woke up refreshed and we got on the road around 9:00am. We stopped for breakfast at the Omega Restaurant in Niles, IL, where we got complimentary pieces of coffee cake, and I had a breakfast that initially looked too expensive on the menu, but turned out to be more food than I could handle. I did not save the pancakes. Finally, we headed back to Wisconsin and I was back home in time for a leisurely afternoon of unpacking. I used to engage in an annual post-B-Fest tradition of doing my taxes, but I no longer get all of my forms before B-Fest, so I did laundry instead.
I'm so exciting.