Friday, December 19, 2008

Chicago Recap, Part II

Is it just me, or is time passing entirely too quickly? How is it that Christmas is just days away? Craziness. Well, I promised a second recap to my Chicago trip, and here it is for your reading pleasure!

I last left you with details of my delightful interview with Dr. Hickey on Friday, December 5th. That evening, Katie and Clayton took me to see more improv (specifically one of our friends from ComedyWorx, Jorin and his team). Without further ado, here's the rest of the weekend!

On Friday, my host and hostess spent some time with me chatting about what we would do with our free day. It was the last day I would be in town to do anything, and we could spend it anyway we wanted to have fun. We planned to spend some time improvising some short films, and possibly do some photo shoots. Two things I would have loved to do with them. Honestly, I had completed the major task, and was so blissfully free of worry that I was up for anything they offered.

But instead of filming short movies or shooting portraits, I slept away the majority of the day! Katie had an actor's workshop that morning, which lasted until early afternoon. By the time she returned to their apartment, I had only been out of bed for about 1/2 an hour! It's the first time I've done that in a really long time. It was much needed rest, I assure you of that!

The entire day was full of fun. Clayton took me to meet some of his friends, who lived just down the street. Lucy was one of our kind hostesses, and she made us freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. We sat together in the kitchen as she baked, and it reminded me of living with the Latta girls. Spontaneous gatherings that end up being unforgettable evenings. This was one of them.

After the cookies, we went back to Clayton's and met up with Katie. We got ready for the evening, and then went to meet Lucy and her group for a traditional Senegalese dinner. Her friends had studied abroad, and taught us the traditional dinner and the role played by the "mother" who helps everyone eat from the same plate. It was really fascinating to learn the cultural norms. They let me take a few pictures.

From dinner, we went on to see some more improv. It's amazing what improv has taught me: reading body language, the art of story telling, rules of comedy, subtext in conversations, and more. It's helped introduce me to so many amazing people. In a few's a very big part of who I am and what I enjoy.

That night Katie and I went to another theatre, a nonprofit. We saw three groups perform, two of which were musical acts. I rather enjoyed it, and saw so many familiar faces! After the show we joined up with Clayton at a party not too far away. What an incredible night. We headed home in the wee hours of the morning, and even stopped for a snow ball fight.

The entire day was unscripted, and delightfully so. So many aspects of my life are so planned and timed that the day was a much appreciated time for tagging along. Clayton and Katie were both very kind to let me join them, show me around the city, and introduce me to so many new friends.

I confess I was sad to see Sunday come around. I have loved Chicago for so long, and each time I visit I have more and more fun. But, I woke with purpose that morning, as there is much work to be done and what feels like very little time to complete it. With each month that passes, I grow more and more anxious to share this story with everyone.

Katie had a second day at her workshop, and left early that morning. We chatted a bit before she left, and laughed about the weekend. I packed my bags, hoping that they wouldn't be over the weight limit when I got to Midway. With two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, scarf, hat, new down coat, and ski gloves on I hugged Clayton good-bye and walked out into the brisk air.

With the two cases buckled together, I pulled them down the street a few blocks to the train station. With directions on my Blackberry, I easily found my way back to the airport, working up a sweat on the way from lugging the equipment.

With each step I took, I fell further and further into thoughts about the movie. What had Dr. Hickey shared that we had not previously filmed? In what order should I tell the story so that we can keep it moving along at a reasonable pace? Should it be told chronologically or start with present day? What images and graphics will I use to keep it visually interesting for our audiences?

I was so lost in thought that I got in the wrong line at the terminal. The Southwest Airlines woman looked at my ticket, frowned, and threw her index finger up to point me to another very long line. "You have to go to the back of that line," she growled.

Sighing, I smiled and walked away. While in the new line, I kept my head down, staring at my Blackberry (half embarrased that I had been in the wrong line, and half annoyed that I now had to be the last person to board the plane because I hadn't been paying attention).

A quiet and kind voice said, "I like your bottle opener."

I turned around to say thank you, and through polite conversation I found out that an NCSU professor of communications was standing behind me. The key chain bottle opener my friend Astra had given me years earlier proved to be quite a conversation starter. I confessed that I had been staying with Carolina fans all weekend, and she smirked.

"Did you tell them who won the last game?!" she grinned.

"No, I held my tongue and resisted shouting 41-10!" we both laughed a little too loud. The Southwest Airlines ticket taker frowned at me again, almost as if to tell me to get out of town. I smiled at her again. The weekend had been so fun, so full of friendly people, that she wasn't about to negatively affect my mood.

My new friend and I sat together through the flight, and shared many stories. We turned out to be kindred spirits, and I'm so thankful for her company. We sat on the tarmack for almost 45 minutes, and saw lots of smoke coming from the engines out the window. The smell of smoke filled the cabin, and led many of us to think the worst. I've been flying my entire life, and have never thought twice about any crash landings until that day. It made me realize how much I take safe travel for granted.

We skidded around so much in our landing at RDU that I thought I might not see the day this film reached completion. Thoughts of someone else debuting the film immediately rushed through my head, and angrily I decided that this was simply not going to happen because I was not giving it away that easily! This was my project to see through the end!

The second I had that thought, almost as if on cue, the plane righted itself on the tarmack. We taxied over to the terminal and were within moments walking through RDU. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief to have our feet safely on the floor of the terminal. My new friend and I parted ways, and a few moments later I made it to the baggage claim area. Spotting my two heavy pieces, I swiped them off the belt with ease. Finally! They seemed so light, having carried them around all weekend!

My smiling sister and brother-in-law walked towards me as I looked up. Warm hugs were shared, and my load immediately lightened. What a joy to have helping hands escort me home. They have been so kind and helpful with this project! When they delivered me to my little home, my dog was even there waiting for me.

All in all, the weekend could not have been more perfect. It was one of those weekends that you see from a film and think, "Does anyone really live that way?" Yes, indeed, folks. There are moments of one's life that are absolutely this dreamy.