Sunday, February 2, 2014

prognosticator of prognosticators

Woke well before six, local time. The prognostication was scheduled for 7:07 AM.

Drove into town and made my way to Starbucks to a) caffeinate (Phil couldn't get an espresso in Punxsutawney but I could get a shot of espresso in my Chai) and b) use some wifi before the square started crowding with people. Learned that Punxsutawney Phil had seen his shadow already (different time zones and all).

Out in the square, as the crowd gathered, I found a nice spot near the war memorial (the big square column seen fairly well in the snowball fight scene (more on that scene later)). A song sheet was passed around--it will be scanned and shared later this week. Notably, before it was time for Woodstock Willie to emerge (as Danny Rubin would say, while basically reciting the same spiel as from the movie, "particularly reluctantly"--the New York Times reporter, Mike, told me that when they tried to get the groundhog out the first time, it made a screeching sound, but I couldn't hear that over the people around me), the crowd was led in singing "Take Me Out to the Tree Stump" and the leader of the polka band sang "The Pennsylvanian Polka" with the lyrics changed.

Richard Henzel (DJ one in the movie) and Danny Rubin went through the DJ bit, and finally Willie was brought out much like in the movie, held up so the audience could see then they did the whispering bit and unrolled a scroll. Like Phil a few states over, Willie saw his shadow.

Then, it was off to the VFW for the Offical Breakfast. Craig Krandel, co-chair of the committee--amusingly, it's the Inner Square Committee in Woodstock--announced my presence early on. And, after a local high school girls a cappella group called "Premium Blend" sang a few songs while we all ate, after a 3rd grader got a prize for winning a Groundhog Day poster contest, Krandel took a survey...

It went like this: first he asked who had seen the movie, raise your hand. Almost all the hands in the room went up. Who had seen it more than five times. Some hands went down. Who had seen it more than 10. More hands dropped. More than 20. More hands down. I think he got to 40 before jumping to "who here has seen the movie more than 183 times?" (today was day 185 but I met him yesterday morning before the 10 AM screening made 184 in a row... and to be fair, I've seen the movie most years on Groundhog Day for a while, so it's probably somewhere at or above 200, but no need to nitpick). Anyway, all hands went down but mine. So, he calls me up on stage and I get to kick off the trivia portion of the event.

My question: how much did Phil go for at the auction and who bought him?

My answer: Rita bought him for $339.88. Krandel thought I might be off by a penny but Guy (who I bowled with yesterday morning) yelled from the back of the room that I was right.

And the trivia went on with other folks.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting at a table with Richard Henzel (and he had some stories I will share later this week) and his wife Jennie, Rick Bellaris and Tony Casalino (both members of the committee), and Bob Hudgins, location manager for the film (and currently Chicago Fire) and leader of the walking tours. I took a moment to tell him I had a correction for the tour, even offered a screencap to show the problem...

See, they've got pylon markers around town with labels for locations--for folk who want to see the sites without going on the walking tour, I suppose--and there's one for the snowball fight. And, they put in the southeast quadrant of the square. Rick Bellaris speaks up to confirm they've got the right location, so after breakfast, I went and got a photo to match the screencap, taken from the northeast quadrant because I'm obsessive and a little petty sometimes. If they had filmed from where the marker was, the gazebo would have been in the shot, and the Opera House (Pennsylvanian Hotel) could not have been.

The scene:

My corresponding shot (which I showed Bob while on the walking tour):

I didn't win any of the raffles, but breakfast was fun. Walking back to the square after, a couple people asked me about the blog. I made my way to a bookstore, Read Between the Lynes, to get a souvenir glass (the souvenir table at the breakfast had run out).

Next was a free screening of Groundhog Day at the Woodstock Theatre. (I will compile my notes from during the two screenings--yes, I was scribbling things in the dark--later this week). Briefly beforehand and for a bit just after I talked to a nice old couple--John and Virginia Peplinsky--about the blog (and about the movie).

Special note: with this screening, day 185, the second half of this project is underway.

On the way out of the theater, a couple more people asked about the blog. I didn't give away all of the postcards I printed but I definitely handed out a good number since getting into town Friday night.

Then came the second walking tour. Notes on the specific content of the two tours will be compiled later this week. Notes for now, aside from the bit I already mentioned about the snowball fight scene marker:

Talked to Bob Hudgins throughout the tour (basically, whenever we were walking between locations).

Talked to some people who asked about the blog.

When someone asked where one scene was filmed (Phil reading at the counter and hearing piano music on the radio, whether that was at the Tip Top) Bob saw me nodding and gestured to me, said if anyone would know, it would be me. Told the question guy about the blog and gave him a postcard.

Then we all headed on the long march to the Cherry Street Inn. Yesterday, we couldn't go out there because of the snow on the sidewalks.

On the way up Madison, I told Bob about the one location I still hadn't figured out--the shot of Phil checking his watch just before he saves Zacchaeus.

(my nickname for the kid who falls from the tree, for anyone checking out this blog for the first time)

Bob was sure it wasn't the end of the block north of the tree because, interestingly, it was too far up and they tended to localize filming to particular zones for crew ease, but he wasn't sure where it was. Alas, the mystery was not solved.

Outside Mary's House--

(Mary is the piano teacher's name for you newbies--she's named in the script even though her name is never said in the film)

--a girl who lives there was waiting with hot chocolate. Since I was trying to get people's names more today, I asked hers and coincidentally, it was Kate... I should explain the "coincidentally." Like I use character's names from the screenplay(s)--I call the French Maid date Laraine, I occasionally call Mrs. Lancaster Florence, I refer to the Old Man as O'Reilly--I've nicknamed a lot of extras to make it easier to note things about them. The piano student--I nicknamed her Katie. I told this to Kate and she seemed amused. On the way back by, I gave her a postcard and told her I'd mention her in the blog.

Got a good shot of the tree from which the boy fell, got some shots of Cherry Street, and the tour was over.

And, really, the festivities were over at that point. By the time I was back at the square, it was only a little after 2 PM. But, I found other things to do to amuse myself rather than head back to the motel to toss playing cards again. I headed over to the library and got a bunch of photos of the Groundhog Day stuff they've got on display (those will come later, like so many photos). I went in search of batteries for my camera (the previous pair had died at Cherry Street) and found the local Buddhist Blue Lotus Temple. I actually talked to a woman there named Joan about the movie and Buddhism for a bit, it was one of the more strange and unexpected portions of the weekend, but it was fun.

I went back to Starbucks to get online for a bit, thought of writing this blog entry there but decided to put it off a while longer, until after the day was more... over.

Got some more photos around the square (to be sure I've got a lot to pick from to find the best), and then headed over to Calogeros for an early dinner of pizza, the Pour House for a shot, then was about to head out when I noticed that Labor Day was about to start at the Woodstock Theatre. So, I saw two "holiday" movies there today.

Finally, I went into the square one last time, then walked to the car and said goodbye to Woodstock (well, technically, I'm still in Woodstock, but I'm out on the edge of town and my route back to Chicago tomorrow is a different direction the center of town).

Anyway, it was a good weekend, a nice marker for the halfway point of this project. And, like Phil getting to know people in Punxsutawney, I was already starting to recognize people around Woodstock, talked to a few, some more than once. They were all some very nice people and they have a nice setup here. I think I will miss it... until I get too busy, of course. Midterm Tuesday night and we're hosting a two-day speech tournament this coming weekend, so life will be right back to the normal pace in no time. Plus, I miss my kids (and wish I could have afforded to bring them) more than I will miss Woodstock--no offense to Woodstock.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever (and I'm surprised that I haven't used this one... I don't think so, anyway): to get to know everyone, what they want, what they like, what they think about, what kind of men or women they are interested in, what they do for fun.

P.S. The Groundhog Day Project has a Twitter and a Facebook page. Follow and like them respectively and help spread the word.

(My personal twitter: @robertegblack and email: robertegblack@hotmail.com)

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