Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Shock at "Bottle Shock": Mother Nature Wreaks Havoc

Last night I went to a screening of Bottle Shock, a film that was apparently a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival. It's the true story of how California wines gained their reputation as some of the best wines in the world in the 1970s, and has a pretty decent cast, including Bill Pullman and Alan "Professor Snape" Rickman.

Here's the trailer if you're interested:

The screening was at 7, so after nabbing the LAST People from the nearby magazine vendor to read while waiting (my thoughts on the Jolie-Pitt twins spread are in the comments section of yesterday's post), I got in line at 6 PM.

Let me tell you, this screening was doomed from the very beginning. Usually you are let in to the theater about a half-hour before the movie is set to start. Last night, however, 7 PM came and went and we were all still snaked across the Piper's Alley theater lobby. Finally, a woman came out and said that there was a delay (duh), but that we'd be seated in five minutes and then they'd give us time to get snacks and whatnot.

We were indeed let in five minutes later, but then we sat and sat and SAT. A woman in front of us went to see what in the heck was going on, and came back to report that the screening version of the film had arrived on site just as we were let in to the theater, and it takes about 45 minutes to load it into the projector. ?!?!

Finally, nearly an hour late, the movie started.

About five minutes later, it stopped. It sounded like the film just snapped in the projector. Everyone let out a huge groan and then several people bailed from the theater. The woman in front of us leaned back to tell us that the movie was almost two full hours--the longer the delay, the later we'd be at the theater that night.

My husband and I figured we'd wait it out for at least a few minutes, and sure enough, the lights dimmed again shortly thereafter and the movie began again. At several points over the next 15 minutes or so, we heard extremely loud thunder--at first I thought it was in the film, but then I realized it must be outside. When we had entered the building, it was a nice, sunny 85-degree day.

I had been growing increasingly uncomfortable at the high level of air conditioning in the theater, to the point where I didn't think I could take another hour and a half of being frozen. I glanced around and saw that everyone was huddled in their seat or had draped coats over themselves, so I whispered to my husband that I was going to try and find someone to turn off the A/C.

As I stepped out into the concession area, I was surprised to find it completely deserted. NO ONE was around. In addition, people from The Second City's studio next door were literally running down the stairs and out of the complex, several with huge garbage bags over their body. Was this part of some weird skit they were practicing?

Then there was a flash of light and I realized that the roof of the building was glass, and what I had just observed was lightning. I peered down into the lobby to see through the street-level windows and was shocked to realize that the sky was totally black, gusts of wind were blowing down North Avenue and it looked like everyone around was in a panic.

Suddenly I saw one of the managers of the theater who had let us into the screening. He was muttering to another employee about how he was going to "inform theater four first." I ran up to him and said, "Excuse me, but I'm in theater three... what's going on?" He replied that there was a tornado warning for the southern part of the county, and that he was told he had to get everyone into the lobby, and that he'd probably be shutting down the movie shortly. He said that if they downgraded it to a thunderstorm, they would start up the show again after that. He ended with, "Your show is totally cursed!"

There was no way I was going to wait around to see if the situation got any better. I crept back into the theater, whispered again to my husband, and we were outta there. Miraculously, we got a cab within minutes--I could not believe it. Usually when it even starts lightly raining outside, cabs seem to disappear or stream by you one after the other, filled to capacity. But we lucked out this time.

We told the driver not to take Lake Shore Drive, because I was worried it might be flooded, or at least the underpass at the exit near our place would be overrun with water. Instead, we went through "the park," meaning Stockton Drive near the Lincoln Park Zoo, for those of you familiar with the city. As we made our way there, I was absolutely stunned by the damage around us. At LaSalle and Clark (near the Chicago History Museum), the traffic light pole was knocked over and thrown into the middle of the street, meaning that all lights at that already-usually-confusing intersection were out. Buses were idling curbside... garbage cans and their contents were strewn everywhere.

We pulled onto the road in the park, and it was just covered with tree branches. Near the Zoo, Channel 5 (NBC) was filming at the location of what looked to be at least a century-old tree (I'm not good at guessing tree ages, but this thing was MASSIVE) that had been completely uprooted and tossed on its side. That sort of thing makes me cry, seriously. At that point, I said to the cab driver, "What happened???" We told him that when we went inside the theater it had been completely nice out.

He reported that from 8 - 8:25 PM, it was like all hell broke loose. "Everywhere I drove, there was the wind. The wind followed me, I could not escape it. I started praying, I thought I was going to die." By the looks of the destruction around us, I knew he wasn't lying. He still seemed shaken and nervous.

My next thoughts were of my poor doggy, who HATES storms, and of our basement, which as you may remember, flooded almost exactly 13 months ago during torrential rains.

Recently the city's crews have been doing major construction on the street in front of our condo, supposedly to fix our crappy sewer system. Their work was being put to the test.

Amazingly, we had no water damage. My dog was safe in his crate, though he seemed very glad to see us. I woke up again in the middle of the night as the storm raged on and my dog paced, just to ensure the sewers weren't backing up. All remained well--we dodged the bullet this time.

Others weren't so lucky... 238,000 people were still without power this morning (we didn't lose ours, though the Walgreens at our corner and other stores did). The roof was torn off of a suburban high school. Fires sprang up across the city and thousands of trees have been damaged or uprooted. Power lines are down, anyone at either Chicago airport was out of luck, and the Cubs game was called off.

The lesson of the night: Mother Nature likes to make sure we remember who's the boss. That, and you might not want to go see Bottle Shock, it seems to be cursed!

- e


Anonymous said...

that sounds like a terrible, no good day! i'm so glad you survived the storm.
but i must say that one thing in your blog stood out to me: the fact that you saw a movie next to second city! that share a city with second city improv makes me oh-so-jealous. i don't know if you like improv shows, but if there's ever a night without a concert or a movie, you should check out second city. i hear their dinner show is the best.

Erika (aka "e") said...

Yes, I've been to Second City, both the main stage and the "second" stage, a few different times, including the dinner show. I always have a blast. I should go more often, I just realized!

- e