Monday, December 17, 2007

A holiday party and a winter's day

There's something about spending a single night away from home that makes me feel more disoriented than returning after a week-long trip. J. and I went to the last Hyatt party Friday night, and it was Monday before my sense of strangeness started to dissipate.

On Friday at about 6:00 p.m., I met J. at Moonstruck, one of my favorite places downtown. We started the evening with cing, which become less coordinated and more creative as the night wore on. As I stood on the second level, I couldn't help thinking of ballroom dancing in 1930s movies and how much has changed in what is a relatively short period of time. For a moment, I could imagine the sweep of tuxedos and gowns.

When most attendees were at their happiest and most uninhibited, Exhibit A shows me nursing a midnight coffee—proof that I am old or dull or both. For the first time at this event, I could not be persuaded to dance, although I am not sure what held me back.

On Saturday, after substituting breakfast for a swim in the pool that no longer existed, J. and I headed to the Rosemont elevated stop, where we saw a flock of perhaps 80 Canada geese divided into four parts nibbling on the small islands of grass along the Kennedy Expressway. It struck me as an odd sight, a glimpse of nature adapting to the unnatural and unpleasant speed and noise of the expressway.

The weather was perfect for spending an hour and a half at the outdoor Christkindlmarket—a little below freezing, not too cold, no wind, and with a steady flurry of snow coating everything. While J. shopped, I found myself fascinated by the snow-covered model train as it made its monotonous rounds. A few boys watched the train for a bit, then commented in a deprecatory tone of voice to prove that they were too old for such toys. I envision them in 20–25 years, telling their children about the model train at the Christkindlmarket, even if it is by then more of a feeling than a memory.

Near the train tracks we came upon a snow-covered bench occupied by tiny snow people, made of regular-sized snowballs with evergreen twigs for arms. I named them Peter and Héloise, as doomed lovers. They were such a charming couple that almost everyone who spotted them did a double take, then snapped a photo of them. One woman even looked at us strangely as though we were the responsible parties. I wish I were that imaginative! It was with great reluctance that I left Peter and Héloise behind.

When all I could feel of my hands was pain, I dragged J. away on the bus and home with me, where a well-fed Hodge greeted us. I lit candles, plied J. with Holiday Dream tea and a Homemade pizza and cookie, and put on the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen so J. could sleep through it. Fortunately, the pizza and cookie revived him in time for a second showing.

In the meantime, the weather had become truly frightful. At 8:00 p.m., when we went downstairs to wait for the cab that never arrived, the wind was whipping The Flamingo's awning furiously, and snow was coming down heavily and even less realistically than in a Hollywood movie. Since J. had to wait another two hours for the next train, I plied him with fair trade hot cocoa while we watched a Judy Garland, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra TV concert. I told J. that times have changed; today, Judy Garland couldn't get away with a bare stage, a simple dress, and pumps. She would have to have a full band onstage, scantily clad chorus girls and dancers, a light show, and fireworks. During this performance, though, the stage, lights, and outfit didn't matter. All attention was on that tragic face and that remarkable voice. You don't need to distract your audience when you have talent.

J. finally arrived at the train station, after a 20-mph taxi ride in blizzard-like conditions. I couldn't see Lake Shore Drive from my bedroom window. When I called him at 2:00 a.m. to see if he'd gotten home in one piece, the weather was still howling and blowing. Yet by 8:00 a.m. Sunday, it was sunny, clear, and calm, with the new coating of snow the only evidence of the previous long winter's night.

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