Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thursday, 2 October 1997

Raleigh, NC

Caught in a whirlwind of activity since I got off the train in Raleigh. I didn't carry my notebook with me, have time to jot anything down, or have a chance to read Moby-Dick in what seems like several weeks, but in fact is just a day or two. I changed trains in Washington DC, and had a couple hours to walk around. Their station is huge, very fancy, and full of activity. It's right in the middle of everything, it seems. I went walking down the street and was within sight of several huge monuments that are overly familiar, but which, of course, I've never been very interested in. It was all very creepy in person—and overly quiet, very weird—the sound of a guy playing Jimi Hendrix songs near the strain station was very welcome. I sat by a reflecting pool—I almost always like fountains—and smoked a cigarette, taking care to not even leave my matches on the ground when I left, for fear of arrest.

The train down to Raleigh, then, was a bit of a drag, being a smaller, less spacious variety, and after being on the train a full three days I had about had enough. The smoking lounge here was really funny, being part of the cafe car with certain, designated smoking TIMES—like half hour periods every two or three hours—so I sat in for a couple of smoking times and listened to everyone talk—about smoking, of course, and also various tragedies, maladies, revenge, and hospitalization.

When I reached Raleigh, at least seven cab drivers descended on me, and wouldn't leave me alone until I explained, to each of them, that I was waiting for someone to pick me up, and if I had them drive me to where I was going, even if I knew where that was, when the person came to pick me up I wouldn't be there. This explanation seemed to satisfy none of them—they must have thought money was an issue and I was bidding for the lowest offer, or perhaps I was waiting for some regular, favorite cab driver—some despised rival of theirs.

Jim arrived before too long—we had never met, but we were the only two there besides cab drivers, so we had no mix-up. We went back to his apartment and talked—Joyce was meeting Sarah at the airport—Sarah had missed her first plane. Finally, they showed up. Sarah had picked up the mini-van at the airport. There was some kind of mix-up, naturally.

The next day, Sarah, Joyce, and I went to breakfast at Watkins Grill, a good ole' country diner, and a good way to start off any stay somewhere new. I got a good feeling, and a cheap breakfast steak, and some fine grits. I strained myself from making any jokes about “Does Dale Earnhardt drink coffee here,” etc. as Joyce said it was a NASCAR hangout. I didn't want anyone to misinterpret my sense of humor, me being a yankee and all.

Later we met Steve from the CLC film group—he's going on the tour, and we had to drive out to the airport car rental place to get his and my personal information recorded on the database. Naturally it was a hassle. Then we started countless journeys back and forth from the theater where the films would be, then to the bar in Chapel Hill, 30 minutes away, making arrangements for the opening night party. In the meantime, we kept ourselves occupied speculating, wondering, and talking about people behind their backs. It would prove to be one of the primary diversions of a shindig such as this.

The preparations consisted mostly of putting up a huge banner in the theater, and one in the bar. The banners announce the “Fuel Film Tour” and some of the sponsors. Later, there promised to be more banners with more sponsors. Putting up banners is harder and more time-consuming than it would seem. Later, a representative from Conde Nast, one of the sponsors, a pleasant woman named Despina, showed up to make sure things were running smoothly. She got to see that the banner in the theater was up, and also see two of the three people who attended with opening showing of American Job leave the theater after about a half hour. Two nice southern ladies in their eighties. They saw me and recognized me and said, “You're beautiful—but that movie is terrible.” I guess if I was taking the role of the traditional actor, hearing that they thought I was beautiful would probably be enough—but as it is, I'm not that concerned with my beauty. I was considering giving them a pep talk, but I thought there is no reason they shouldn't hate the movie—me being here to encourage them shouldn't change their minds. I hate the art business. Anyway, once you start getting into the habit of trying to explain everything, the next thing you know, you're old.

Later we saw Delicate Art of the Rifle, the CLC movie, and I met the rest of their core group: Dante, Todd, and Alicia. I guess Alicia had designed the T-shirts and posters we will be taking with us to sell in each city, and I must say, as a not-fan of posters and T-shirts, these are quite nice. If there is anything left of them by the time we get to Portland, I'll probably have developed some kind of uncontrollable fondness for them and choose to own a few. As far as the movie goes, I liked it quite a bit—it's very unusual in pacing and style—I won't go into it now, but I think we'll all have a lot of explaining to do. I don't want to come off as pretentious, but when I consider this whole thing, it could appear that what we are doing is taking difficult art to the strip-malls of America, and it could turn out to be a folly of the highest order. We'll see.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tuesday, 30 September 1997

On the Train – Cumberland, MD

Now on the 2nd train of my trip – the “Capitol Limited” – it's another big “Superliner” train, but I had to sit next to someone, so less room to sleep. Cumberland looks like a nice town from the train. I'm always attracted to these old, brick, small towns where the church steeples are the tallest structures. It makes you think about how arrogant and un-Godlike it is to build skyscrapers. It's like just coming out and saying, “Business and money is more important than God.” You would think the Christians would have put up a good fight—maybe they did—but I guess they got rolled over on that one. Now it's to the point that when someone builds a skyscraper, Christians don't even twinge. Hell, they're the ones building them!

I imagine living in Cumberland—it's easy to imagine living places you see from the train, and most likely everything you think is wrong. It looks like a place where I could get around without a car pretty well—live and work downtown. Could I find a job—maybe at a department store? Are there any department stores left? I bet there's some good breakfast places, somewhere I could find a bearable job, and a cheap place to live, above a store or something. Not cheap enough, but with some distinguishing aspect like a good window or a large bathtub or a skylight.

I guess I could go to anywhere in the country on the Amtrak train since it stops here. Three hours to DC, 15 to Chicago—I could get anywhere in the country I wanted to go without flying or even getting in a car. I guess the first big drawback I can think of about living in a place like Cumberland is no movies. Not the ones I want to see. Jim Carrey, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford. Then start the cycle over. “We show four kinds of movies here—Jim Carrey...” That is always the big thing—movies—that decides where I can and can't live. I'm sure other small factors—such as people—could possibly come into play, but we needn't ever even think that far.

Somehow things like skyscrapers never bother me in New York, but I guess in general New York is a place where very few rules hold true. It seems like it could be the one place I move back to. Plenty of reasons not to, but plenty of reasons TO. It's the city of plenty. The fact that it's hard to despise an enormous shrine to an automobile like the Chrysler Building is a good example of the contradictions of NYC. It's a Godless place, but then it's not either. Not that I care one way or another about a place being Godless or not, it's just that New York can be so many things at once.

Chicago, however, never should try to compete with New York—they should never have built anything taller than a church, and just let it be a rambling, dense, old-fashioned brick metropolis. Skyscrapers don't have anything to do with wise use of space and density—not when so much space on the ground goes dilapidated and unused within such a short distance to the skyscraper. Skyscrapers are about power, only, and that's it. In Chicago they built a skyscraper church—an interesting though misguided idea. Would it be something God would approve of? And anyway, it's still lorded over by the cheesy, ugly Sears Tower.

The train got into Chicago just around after work rush hour—especially for offices downtown—5 PM on a Monday. No worse time can you imagine to step into the hub of downtown—people leaving their offices with lifeless faces of death. They're like zombies, but never have you seen zombies, or people, move so fast. From the elevator to the revolving door to the choice of transit—single-minded, every day, it's the most horrible sight I've ever seen. And those are the good jobs! Certainly it's better to work downtown than in some horrible office park somewhere, but I guess the commute is the thing that makes either one what they are. It looks like Chicago is putting in high-priced downtown residences like every other city, but still, this would be no place to live. I walked around looking for the old-time, slightly run-down restaurant I ate in before, but I can't find it. I don't know if it's gone, but I see nothing but fast-food places and expensive restaurants—nothing in between. I'm sure if you lived or worked down here, you'd discover something—and I've known from visiting other times there are really good neighborhoods in Chicago. And almost every big city has a lifeless, cold downtown hub—but this has got to be the worst. By 6 PM the streets are empty. The only one left is me and a guy trying to ask me for money—for a bus back to his home—and he even shows me the note from his loved one. It's as windy as any place I've ever been. People think that Chicago was named “The Windy City” because of its wind, but it was named that by some New Yorker making fun of Chicago's constantly trying to compete with New York, and talking itself up. Part of that included trying to beat out New York in the skyscraper derby. So they cut down all the trees and built concrete wind tunnels on the edge of Lake Michigan. Anyone will tell you that's a bad idea. Now, “Windy City” had a duel meaning, but they are connected.

The only other person on the street now, as it gets dark—besides me and another guy with a handful of dimes who needs 40 more cents for bus fare—is a woman who is leaning out of her car door—her “Club” firmly in place on the steering wheel—a white, middle-aged, middle class woman—what's she doing? Oh, she's tying on roller blades, and now locks her car, and with a big smile she's off down the street. Who would pick the downtown business district of Chicago just after dark to go roller blading? HER—I guess—and, oh, now it occurs to me what she's doing. She rules Chicago.