i left my house after 3:30pm and headed into boston. everywhere were groups of young people dressed in green, going into the city to get drunk on the eve of st.patrick's day. i got off the green line at kenmore and walked to the theatre. when eliza arrived, i waited at the concession stand while she bought her ticket. eliza later joined me in line. although there were only 2 people in front of us, we waited in line for about 20 minutes. the first group wanted a complicated order, and the mother kept on smiling to everyone behind her in line, as if the fact that she was holding up everyone would somehow be funny to us. the next group, their credit card didn't work and the manager had to be called in order to clear up the problem. people were mumbling stuff like, "okay, i'm just going to pay for her stuff, just so we can get the line moving." eliza and i both decided it wasn't worth the extra minutes of wait and got out of line. besides, i already had a drink in my pocket, a grape soda i'd bought from the store 24. when we got into the screening room, the trailers had already started. surprisingly, it was pretty full of people for a movie that's been out for over a month now, perhaps the pre-oscar hype has something to do with it. most of the upper seats were already taken and instead of jostling already-settled theatre patrons in order to get more central seatings, eliza and i grabbed a pair of seats at the bottom, the silver screen towering over our heads.
in high school spanish class we'd used to watch this movie called el norte about the plight of mexican illegal immigrants sneaking into the US. the movie was great because anything was better than regular classes and we could also learn useful mexican swear words which we took great pride in using on one another afterwards. anyway, there's a scene in the end when enrique, after his sister rosa dies from rabid rat bites, decides to seek his fortune further north, with these unforgettable lines, "i take the job, i go to chicago." ever since watching el norte, everytime i hear the word "chicago," i can hear enrique saying "i take the job, i go to chicago."
chicago is one of the few broadway plays i've seen in the theatre (the only one was roy rogers' follies). eliza had seen the show as well, and like me, she didn't completely catch on to the plot when she watched it performed live. after seeing chicago the movie though, a light has been turned on and now many years later i finally know what's going on in the story. the film, because i knew the story, i watched and enjoyed it from a more technical perspective. the splicing of imaginary musical acts with real life drama was a pretty inventive way of presenting the movie. chicago is definitely a sexy film, guys can go watch it for the girls, and girls can go watch it for all the guys (although i saw more girls than guys, but this is a woman in prison movie, so you kind of expect a more feminine ratio). catherine zeta-jones is very dynamic as velma kelly and she wears her character well, although for my money, i still think bebe neuwirth was a lot better as velma in the show version. renée zellweger, although a nice well-toned dancer's body, just doesn't do it for me in the face department. her features always seemed to be perpetually scrunched up, small eyes, small lips, small nose, she needs something bigger to anchor everything on that pudgy melon of hers. maybe it was the hairstyle, 1920's bouffant just doesn't do it for me. now that i think about it though, i think her lack of sophistication works for her character. while zeta-jones has the look of european aristocracy, zellweger has a certain plain jane appeal of the midwest. richard gere, who i normally find to be a one-trick-pony of an actor (he's more famous to me as a dalai lama lover than an actor), actually shows some surprising range in his portrayal of billy flynn. i didn't like lucy liu's brief cameo as a thunder-stealing heiress murderess. she is my least favorite actress and i think it's her extremely slanty eyes plus the fact i think she's a bitch based on her ally mcbeal character. i think this version of chicago will have a place in the pantheon of great movie musicals, amongst the ranks of grease and annie and the more recent moulin rouge.
after the movie, eliza was kind enough to drive me to central square so i wouldn't have to take the green and then transfer to the red line. it was a surreal movie viewing experience since we hardly talked, and once the movie started, we sat for two hours in the dark watching musical color blobs dancing on the screen. the car ride back to cambridge was the only time we really had a chance to talk, but the clock was ticking as we approached our destination. i got out of the car with this unsatisfied feeling. who was that blonde stranger we sat next to me in the theatre and who just gave me a ride?
i went underground to grab the red line two stops to porter. the train look a long time coming, three trains had already came on the other side before our outbound train finally arrived, heavily packed with returning st.patrick's day party goers. i was able to find a seat at the end of the train. a minute later somebody tapped me on the shoulder. "do you have any smokes?" this southie looking guy asked me. "sorry, i don't smoke," i said. he then asked a few other people nearby, all nonsmokers. he continued fishing in his bag, looking for cigarettes. he tapped me again. "do you know what's the next stop?" he asked. "oh, harvard square," i told him. i turned away, but then a few seconds later i turned back and asked, "how come you don't know the stops? you new in town?" what compelled me to do that i don't know, but i had a feeling he had a story to tell. "nah," he said, "just that i don't usually ride the train here." we arrived at harvard square, people got off, people got on. this young stranger then told me the most amazing story. "yeah, i just got back from a fight in south boston," he revealed to me very matter-of-factly. i studied him, trying to see where he might've gotten hit. "i was at this bar, and some black guy took a swung at me because he said i said something racial to him. i love black people! one of my best friend is black, and i have a baby, and she's mulatto." i played the outraged citizen at whoever could've cast such dispersions on someone who's so obviously colorblind. "i wasn't even drinking! one drink! just one!" he exclaimed. "the cops threw me out, but they let the black guy stay, and the cops took my jacket, it was one of those sherbourne(?) jackets, really expensive." i expressed outrage over the insensitivity of boston's finest. "hey, what're you? you chinese?" he squinted and pointed. i told him my nationality. "china? how is it over there?" he asked. "poor," i said. "oh, it's not that place where...," he paused, glancing embarrassingly at the trio of girls sitting across from us (who by the way could hear everything and was riveted with coy attention). he got closer and whispered into my ear loudly, "...the place where they give you blowjobs?" "oh, i wouldn't know anything about that," i replied. he thought about it for a second, then said, "oh no, not china...thailand! yeah, thailand!" he got close again and whispered once more, "yeah, that place, you put your dick in your drink and..." he leaned back, nodding and smiling. "is chinese hard to write? you guys draw all these pictures, right? damn! i got a white friend who speaks vietnamese. he used to be in a vietnamese gang, that's where he learned it," he added. the really nice thing was every few sentences he'd spit while he was talking. being a cool cucumber that i am, i just ignored the spittle falling on my glasses, praying that he doesn't have any kind of disease i could catch. after what seemed like minutes, we arrived at porter square. "oh man, here's my stop, i gotta split, hope you get back your jacket, dude." he gave me a silent wave with one hand and slouched back into his seat.