Monday, April 18, 2016

Extreme Neighborhood-Hopping

The other day, a friend and I explored The 606, a 2.7-mile elevated walkway (somewhat like New York City's High Line) that opened last June and connects several neighborhoods northwest of Chicago's Loop. We entered at an eastern point in Wicker Park/Bucktown and walked for a bit and then took a bus to Logan Square, where we entered the trail again from the western side. Quite pleasant, this trail - walkers, joggers, bikers, dogs, and children moved along with no altercations, and pretty (albeit stinky) Callery pears lined the route while other landscaping held the promise of blooms in the coming months. It was fun to look down at the streets as we passed above and to see the residences abutting the trail. I also appreciated the clear signage. I'm a big fan of this attention to detail which, when absent or incompetently done, can make for a frustrating experience. Though not without controversy, I think The 606 is a good use of an abandoned rail line.

We took another bus or two for 14 miles down to the Seminary Co-op in Hyde Park to listen to Michael Phillips (film critic of the Chicago Tribune) and A.O. Scott (film critic for The New York Times) discuss the latter's book, Better Living Through Criticism. Topics included the difference between opinion and criticism, the Disney film Ratatouille, film festivals, and the importance/relevance of film critics today amidst so much amateur criticism via social media, and the pressure to review films and other art quickly. Phillips and Scott agreed that restaurant and theater critics wield more power than film critics do insofar as "making or breaking" a new venture are concerned, whereas people will see a film (or not) irrespective of criticism.

Yet another bus + train combination (the Brown Line, one of my favorites because instead of being underground, you ride several stories above the world, moving through an Escher painting of buildings) to another destination 15 miles away - this time, all the way up to the Music Box theater in Wrigleyville to see The Invitation, one of the best, scariest films I've seen in a while. The sound editing and set design in particular were superb, but the acting and pacing of the story made for an edge-of-your seat thrilling escape. My seat neighbor had his T shirt pulled up to cover the lower half of his face for much of the film and it alleviated the tension somewhat to count the number of times people jumped or gasped throughout our 99 minutes together in the dark. I admit to being among those spooked.

On the Brown Line again south to Printer's Row and Cafe Meli for a hamburger and glass of red wine, a good way to end a day of intense neighborhood-hopping.