Wednesday, January 29, 2014

B-Fest 2014 Part 1: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with hypertension and had to start blood pressure medication. I also cut even more sodium out of my already not particularly salty diet (I prefer pepper as a seasoning), and started exercising for the first time since I was in college. I'm not horribly out of shape or anything, I work outside at an ethanol plant so it's not like I'm a total slug, but beyond work I didn't do much in the way of activity. I don't have a lot of free time and work and kids and life tend to make one tired. But I'm glad I finally got the motivation again, because it really does make you feel better. It also gave all my old VHS tapes a second life, with an old tube TV and the VCR downstairs I've been working my way through piles of MST3K bootlegs and Doctor Who serials that I haven't updated to DVD yet, and stacks of movies as well. Yet, even with all that, I never could get it down any further than the very highest end of normal.

The point is, from Tuesday the 21st until Sunday the 26th, Malorie and I were in Chicago for B-Fest, so it's been almost a week of no exercise and not even remotely watching what I eat. Seafood pot pies, gigantic hamburgers with gravy and fried cornbread on them, hotdogs, onion rings, chocolate malts...hell, the food we took into the theater for B-Fest with us was probably the healthiest thing I ate the whole trip. And yet, I read my blood pressure tonight for the first time since we got back, and it was 111/81! That's as low as it's probably ever been. B-Fest isn't just fun, it saves lives. Ask your doctor if B-Fest is right for you. Side effects include sleep deprivation, kissed thumb, not Bela, doubled invincibility, moose yell, forgetting Mercy Humppe, electric boogaloo, and black widow.

We arrived Tuesday around 1:30, and since Tim Lehnerer was delayed in a massive traffic kerfuck, no one else was coming til the next day, and we'd been up since 5am, we figured it would be a good time to take a couple hours' nap and then head into Kuma's Corner for a heavy metal hamburger. Tim finally rolled in and gave me yet another great looking box of books, as well as the traditional B-Fest mix CD and a flash drive with all of the Joe Meek music he has on it, which is probably all of the Joe Meek music in existence plus a couple of tracks he willed into being with his fandom. We watched Streets of Fire and called it a night.

Wednesday morning saw us make a rather expensive trip to Half Price Books, then it was off to the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Mal didn't have any interest and opted to stay in the hotel to read and nap some more, so it was Tim and I experimenting with taking the L for the first time. Considering how much we all hate driving, and what a pain in the ass parking in Chicago is, it's kind of amazing none of us ever thought to do this before. It worked out well, but the museum was a bit on the meh side. I mostly wanted to go there because Svengoolie's old coffin was supposed to go there when he got a new one last year, but for some reason it never happened. It was interesting enough that I don't regret the time spent, but I think it's definitely a one-and-done thing. After that, we had a quick burger at the Billy Goat Tavern, famous as the “Cheezeborger cheezeborger cheezeborger!” place from Saturday Night Live. It's a fast and tasty burger, and they also have some really good house beer.

I'm not entirely positive that we didn't die on the train ride back. After the correct train at our last transfer blew past without stopping, another train with OUT OF SERVICE on all the digital signs stopped, insisting it was the one we needed to get home. Everything after stepping on that train may be some kind of bizarre afterlife hallucination. Are you real? Can you prove it? Didn't think so. Not convinced.

By the time we were either mulched into Soylent Green or got back to the hotel, Jacob Smith had arrived, and he and Tim watched Gymkata while I took Malorie to TJ Maxx. Then it was off to a new place Tim discovered online for supper. Gavin Smith joined us at Circa '57, which is a 50's diner with several themed rooms. The drive-in room, similar to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Disney World, wasn't open yet, but it should be by the time we go back next year. Sitting in a vintage land yacht eating spectacular food and watching b-movie trailers is a little slice of heaven. The owner overheard us gushing about the place to the waiter, and came over to talk with us for a bit, and they're not only looking to do trailers, but licensing full movies as well. I hope it works out for them.

The whole B-Fest Irregulars crew has been using the Morton Grove Best Western since 2010, and we've become known by faces if not names there. The desk clerk says she's going to try to make at least part of the Fest next year, and we're such groovy people she let us plug a Blu-ray player into the lobby TV so we could do our gatherings in a place where everyone would actually have a seat. The utterly baffling “Grow Up Little Turtle” episode of Ultra Q and Gamera 2: Advent of Legion rounded out the night.

The next day started off as I only wish every day could, with breakfast at the Omega Pancake Restaurant and Bakery. Then it was off once more to the Skokie L station to meet Gavin at the Art Institute. It's a place more suited to Malorie's tastes than mine, but they have a few things I really enjoy. The Hall of Arms and Armor was open this time, which it wasn't on our first visit in 2009, although the arms and armor weren't remotely as impressive as the collection of medieval jewelry at the back of the room. I also got to gander once more at a few Hubert Robert paintings I quite like, as well as Cornelius Saftleven's “Witch's Sabbath”, and discovered there's a picture of Dr. Freex in there as well.

From there it was back on the train to a place I'd been wanting to go to since I saw it on the Food Network a couple of years back. It's called Glen's Diner, and they specialize in fresh seafood, being located not far from the local fish market. It doesn't look like much from the outside (in fact we almost walked right past it), and it's not very big, but holy good goddamn is their food delicious. I think this has been the most successful B-Fest trip so far from a culinary standpoint. While there was no foreign food included this time, which I usually like to work in because Mason City's idea of culture is Mexican food made by Mexicans instead of surly teenagers in paper hats, I got to have things I can't get at home, and every one topped the last, culminating with the crab, shrimp and scallop pot pie at Glen's. I'm not a foodie, I don't pretend to know things about food, I just know that I like good food, and this year was some very, very good food.

By this time, the rest of the crew was staring to roll in to the hotel, so we headed back to meet up with the Nebraska Contingent; the mighty Chad Plambeck, who brought me a couple of wonderful books I had as a child, Mike Bockoven, and Bill Rinehart, plus a girl who I somehow never get introduced to. Also Paul, Lisa, the K.O. Brothers, Kelvin and Melissa, Tim's friend Dave, and later at the Hala Kahiki, the inimitable Mark Mitchell, Scott Ashlin, and Jessica Ritchey. You know, as much as I love everyone who comes to this thing, I think this may be my last year for the tiki bar. The drinks are overpriced, the staff tends to be a little prickly (hey, a whole bunch of friendly customers who drink a lot and tip well, let's ignore them!), and Hawaiian kitch is really not my thing. 

But before long we were heading back to the hotel lobby once more to watch the adorably racist Black Masai robot take on Super Robot Red Baron and progressively pay less and less attention to The Manitou as we drank more and more hooch. Paul brought a bottle of Wisconsin bourbon, and I brought a bottle of Iowa bourbon called Cedar Ridge to share around. Once everyone else cashed in their chips for the night, Scott and I went back to my room to visit quietly in a corner while Malorie slept, and we put away nearly the entire .750ml bottle of Cedar Ridge between the two of us, plus a couple of Bass pale ales and Old Rasputin Russian Imperial stouts. The night got away from us a bit, and before long, Malorie was looking up over the covers and informing us that it was 5:30a.m. At least no one wound up handcuffed to the drain with their clothes flushed down the toilet.

The next thing I knew, my phone was ringing, it was 11:00, and it was Malorie texting me a picture of me, asleep, with the caption, “WAKE UP, I'M HUNGRY!” Apparently she had been poking me for a while to no avail. We walked veeeeeeerrrrry sllllllooooowwwwwwwly over to Seven Brothers for lunch before trying to find a grocery store, since Dominick's near the hotel had closed. We happened upon a nice place called Super Tony's Finer Foods and stocked up before heading back to the hotel to meet Gavin and my partner in cine-crime since junior high, Matt Foy (known to some of you as Brother Fistula), and head to Northwestern to get settled in. And you know what? I was still fucking drunk.

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