Noir City Daydreaming: On The Road

chicago - music box -

Maybe your daydream is striking it rich with a Lotto ticket. Maybe it’s just being able to turn on a cable news show without wondering if the world’s gone completely mad.

Mine? Sounds silly, but I think mine would be to do a noir film fest version of ‘Deadheading’. You know, ‘Deadheads’: The caravans of post-hippies that travelled from one Grateful Dead concert to another, long after real hippies became grandparents out in the suburbs. But no tie-dye and bellbottoms for me, because I’d be travelling from city to city to take in each of the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City Film Festivals. Start at The Music Box Theatre in Chicago, then the Balboa Theater in San Francisco, The Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, the Redford Theatre in Detroit, then all the way back to the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, and on and on…

3 noir city posters

But it’d have to be done right.

I’d start at one of those specialty auto rental agencies that supply vehicles for film and TV productions, wanting something postwar but pre-tailfins, and absolutely enormous with big fat fenders. Maybe for one of the cross-country treks I might swap the wheels for a train, Union Station in Chicago to Union Station in Los Angeles (think how many flicks we’ve watched with scenes shot there). It’d only be Amtrak, of course, not the Santa Fe Super Chief, but still. Advance research online could take care of lodging, pinpointing some aging hotels that haven’t turned into crack dens or SRO’s yet, and then locate piano bars and all-nite diners (I said it’s a daydream, didn’t I?) Imagine: Getting all duked up, hit the festival to see some genre classics, restorations and little-known’s on the big screen instead of a TV, or worse, a laptop. Cocktails after, like a Rob Roy or Ramos Gin Fizz at a jazz lounge where the music’s as smoky as the atmosphere (smoking would not only be legal, but insisted on in this mythical trip, though of course, not a health hazard), followed by a wee hours bite in a period-perfect greasy spoon before turning in. Then up at noon the next day, pack up the land cruiser and hit the highway for the next burg.


Daydream with me here, noir fans. Now I’m no Cosplay fan, but proper attire would be essential. For the fellows? Suits: mandatory, along with those ridiculously short, stubby ties so popular in the late forties. A full brimmed fedora on top, and depending on the weather, one of those huge topcoats a person can almost get lost in. Bonus points for a monogrammed white handkerchief always at the ready, a plain silver Zippo lighter, and a billfold (not a wallet, a billfold) with actual paper money inside, even if you normally pay with your phone or a swipe of a chip card.

san francisco 2009

For the gals: Pleated slacks may be fine for the long city-to-city drives, but it’s strictly padded shoulder dresses for the theatres and after, hats encouraged if you can figure out where to buy one, wide brims and netting a plus. Sorry, but bare-legged is out, hose a must, and be sure to tote around a clutch whether you need it or not, though there’d be no point in packing a lighter because you’d just dangle your cigarette between the very tips of your red-nailed fingers (that match your red lipstick) till someone lit you up.

san francisco 2011

Obviously, it’s never gonna happen. Even if there was some way to take off work for days and weeks at a time, I suspect there’d be a few calls from the credit card companies, somewhere between the train tickets and the reservations at the seedy hotels. And really, just where do you even buy monogrammed white handkerchiefs or fancy hats with netting today? I said it was a daydream, albeit ‘Noir Daydreaming’. But these utterly gorgeous Film Noir Foundation Noir City Film Festival posters sure can make a person fantasize, can’t they?

san francisco 2018

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