Hopleaf, Lo Rez, and Musicbox of Horrors 2020: An Odd Halloween Season’s Night Out.

I had been working from home since March and we had twin babies in June.

Like a chestburster from Alien, I cracked open the ribcage of my home office, and shot out of the house in an oozing rage just as soon as I physically could. This would have been in October. Besides Ripley, no body in physical space could have ever held me back.

My sister-in-law came over to help my wife with the babies, and for all intents, we slapped hi-five as I exited the ring to applause and jeers, dodging flying folding chairs. I hit the road because I had no time to hit the showers. Like Big Boss Man or Doink the Clown – I was in no mode for working within the boundaries of polite society.

On the walk through the alley toward my car, my trick or treat bucket began to fill with locally crafted beers and yummy cigars, bratwurst and visions of the drive-in horror films that were on my horizon.

Like a jack-o-lantern, I lit up a Partagas Black Label and with eyes aglow, puffed to the eerily calm sound of silence that still, fall afternoon. I leisurely cruised over to Andersonville, actively wishing the drive were a bit further than it was. My spicy chocolate soldier taking the heat as luxurious billows pillowed my car while parallel parking over crinkly, crunchy leaves.

My friend drove in from Fort Wayne, Indiana and checked in to a downtown hotel. I had sixty minutes before we were to meet at Hopleaf.

Walking around Andersonville with my cigar, everyone was wearing masks. Not fun, ghoulish hockey masks or Chucky masks. No it was a bit scarier – surgical face coverings recommended by medical institutions, and mandated by agencies. Even just outdoors on the sidewalks. I felt it a bit dramatic, but alas; relegated to the lonely alleyways, once again the monster was I. Kicking through fallen foliage of orange and brown, I peeked about like Michael Meyers in the gangways.  

Ushered through Hopleaf, the gleaming bastion of hope, like Henry Hill in one, continuous Scorsese themed shot, we panned and saw the place at about 20% capacity due to depressing Covid restriction. At the back patio we sat in an autumn drizzle – not rainy enough to force us indoors, but still weird enough to feel the invisible hand of Covid oppression guilt keeping us seated outside.

We chose Hopleaf upon the news that Fountainhead closed its doors due to economic forces spurred by the pandemic. A grisly true crime horror story in my book of shadows. My friend had never been to either iconic location so we decided Hopleaf would be the destination in an act of civility and salvation.

We sat there in chilly weather amidst a mist of falling autumnal dew amongst the vintage German and Belgian beer tins. Broo Doo fresh from the tap, steins of Dovetail Lager, mussels and frites under a blanket of grey skies. It truly felt glorious to be back.

Lo Rez Brewing in Pilsen, a far cry from Andersonville, still maintained a rendered list of rules in attempt for people to not get got by the windborne biohazard.

Like The Blob we solemnly merged with other friends at an outdoor picnic table. It was entirely too cold to be outside and we were spaced apart within a dark creepshow zombie flick.

Heaters purchased to compete with regulation.

A learning curve over paying by phone app.

Wet hopped harvest ales, and stories of yore – nostalgic recollection of free Halloweens of olde.

We had some time to kill before our drive-in horror movie fest, down the street so I sort of kept going pint over fist. I tend to always forget that beer and late night movies never really mesh. To Freddy Kruger’s glee, something about that blend of depressant and bedtime does not bode well for paying attention to a film and not dozing off. No matter how many Sta-Awake pills I pop, I end up on Elm Street.

Musicbox Theatre was not able to have the yearly twenty-four hour horror film marathon that I had bought tickets to for the last lucky thirteen years. Instead they rented out a drive-in movie lot in Pilsen and projected slasher bloodbaths and creature features through flashing rays of overhead trope in Technicolor

The massive screen glowed bright with grit and grain every night of October 2020.

Our friend who brews and makes cider for Eris gifted me a howler of Stones’ Throw IPA, a collaboration with Revolution, which I packed in my napsack for our final destination: Musicbox of Horrors – Clint Howard double feature: Evilspeak (1981), and Ice Cream Man (1995).

Nodding off in the passenger seat, I felt the warmth of the big screen and the candy buzz of my red Twizzlers. There is just something about waking up from those little slices of death, under a sleep-induced veil, confused, and seeing something horrible happening on the giant screen.

Under the comfort of my city as a quilt of nightfall, and the surroundings of fellow horror fans, I went back to visit the cousin of death in a ceremonious slumber.

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