While I do feel in body and brain that I was indeed zapped down this black hole (this is a long-ago train tunnel which intersects with the former World Trade Center site, and was visible on the huge concrete restraining wall at Ground Zero), instead I was on USA tour, a grinding journey as I had predicted to myself.
It started off dubiously 12 days ago, with my flight from Seoul (to Vancouver to NYC to Chicago to Omaha) canceled owing to mechanical problems on the Air Canada jet. Impressing on them that I could not wait 18 hours for the replacement flight to meet my Lincoln NE obligations, they booked a Korean Air flight direct to Chicago the next day, and put me – and all the other disgruntled passengers – up in an opulent Hyatt hotel near the airport, with a food coupon. So it was a little silver lining in a schedule change, a more merciful itinerary deleting the expected midnight to 7 am sleep-on-chairs in NYC plan. On getting picked up in Omaha Dan Ladely drove me to Lincoln, though his State owned car crapped out about a mile from our destination and I waited an hour by the highway while he went into town to get a tow-truck. I thought, hmmm this trip is looking kinda jinxed. In Lincoln my screening was in autumn break, so the campus was nearly empty and my audience was minimal – mostly people I knew and who were involved in the films I was showing – PARABLE and a rough very unfinished version of SWIMMING IN NEBRASKA. However as I had set up the trip to fit the mid-term exam week here in Seoul, but also to see Leighton Pierce’s installation at the Sheldon Museum in Lincoln, it was half my fault. Though frankly I doubt the numbers would have shifted significantly had school been in session. They would have all been doing something to prepare for the Big Game, with whomever. But Lincoln was a pleasure with 2 nights in a lovely B&B, which in its former life had been a judge’s house, a sprawling mid-western item from early 1900’s. And I got to see a few friends, and Leighton’s stunning piece, of which I will write in the next days over at www.jonjost.wordpress.com.
Then it was to Chicago, and visiting friends there, crammed into which possible hour they could manage (a 7 am breakfast at Marilyn’s where I was staying). FACETS screening was OK, though their projector is an old LCD one that makes for a washed out and digitally artifacted image. Thin audience again. One local culture rag had it pick of the week, which tells you all about the impact of such things. Went out for a beer with a few of those there. And then it was off to Philadelphia via Newark NJ flight and Amtrak on down. Bored in the little waiting room of Amtrak with an hour to eat up, I took out the camera and shot about 20+ minutes of interesting footage which I think will make for a nice short, before having a young security guard come up to inquire what I was doing, and telling me shooting was not permitted. America, Land of the Free, where there are now Free Speech Zones. I haven’t looked at the footage yet to see if I was still recording while he spoke. Hope so. Then got on train (Business Class – ordered by the place I was going to talk), and was shooting when guy in front of me, doing biz, cell-phoned an associate and described the process of terminating a woman from her job. So goes business in America these days. Arrived in Philadelphia where I was picked up, checked into hotel – very classy older one right near Independence Hall – and then taken out to an Italian restaurant. Next morning, after the you-pay-for-it hotel breakfast at $25, was taken out to Rowan State Univ across the river in New Jersey, there to meet the faculty and then do a one hour talk for students. The room was packed, though with students who looked like players in a live version of the Simpsons. We were prepared for projecting some things, but the talk went too quickly and we got caught up short and after 60 minutes it was over. Everyone was very pleased and then it was off for an afternoon of lunch, visiting museum and getting a by-car quickie look at architectural things. Central Philadelphia, the old part, is lovely, and there are many nice older buildings. Next morning I checked out, noting the 2 night tab at the hotel was $750+. And I thought, as I always do in such places, who the hell stays here? I wish they’d put me in a Motel 6 and given me the surplus. Aside from not feeling comfortable in such places, I could use the money.
Then on to NY on Amtrak, and a rush of things before the next night’s screening at the Walter Reade Cinema, for the Lincoln Center Film Society. On arrival in NYC, to stay with friend Jane, she had just been informed by her roommate (rents out a room for the $) that she’d just been terminated at work. I felt like I was getting the pulse of the nation in some way.
Friday night in the heart of “culture” at the premiere cinema for artsy work, in a city of 9 million, screening noted on the mailing list, internet website, etc. etc. (but not, because the corporate powers no longer permit plugs for one-off showings, and basically do no coverage unless it is a theatrical release in a commercial cinema, in the papers), the audience was under 30, and half were friends and acquaintances. Just like Lincoln NE !!! Which is a dismal signal about which I will scriven over on the blog as soon as time allows. Next day did a workshop at Millennium, down on 4th Street, and showed film in the evening to a thin audience. Workshop went well with 11 people, which covered Howard’s costs and more for me, so maybe he made a dime. And then went out with Matthew to burn up time until 2:30 a.m. and went via subway out to JFK to catch 7 a.m. flight back to Seoul via Vancouver. Up now at 5 in the morning, unable to sleep though being exhausted from the cumulative trip.
The US didn’t yet seem to be showing so much on the streets the economic squeeze in play, though little signs pointed to it. Fewer people out for Friday night fun, jobs being shed, and a vague aura of gloom pervading the atmosphere. Meantime in the last 4 months, but most of it in the last 4 weeks, my earnings here in Seoul shriveled drastically: 6 months ago 98 won = one buck; now it is 142. Meaning if I go out of Korea to USA, I lost 40% of the value of my pay. Compelling reason to stay here, or to shop around for some place in which the currency exchange loss hasn’t been so drastic. So no USA, no Japan. Didn’t collapse so much against Euro. I must research other places and think about moving there. Argentina? Chile? Or….
As imagined, the stock market continued to fluctuate wildly, though the downs always exceeding the subsequent ups, and I think it will do so down to 5000 Dow points, or even lower. Governments have been printing wildly, while Central Banks keep dropping interest rates, looking to grease the wheels of commerce (spelled c-o-r-r-u-p-t-i-o-n), as the big investment banks, now flush with new greenbacks, still intend to give bonuses for the alleged “good performance” of the top honchos, etc. Over in the political spectrum McCain persists in stabbing himself, with his lovely VP choice appearing to twist the blade a bit, just in case he feels an itch. On the other hand, in hotel looking briefly at TV, I saw a little note on Fox or maybe it was CNN, saying the police departments (cut to shots of riot squad black uniformed and shielded goons, still bearing such quaint phrases as “To Serve and Protect” and not quite yet bearing the Blackwater logo) around the country are beefing up for the election just in case Obama loses and voters are disgruntled. This went by casually, but reading between the lines one could see FIX in the works. Given the transparent vote suppression, electronic vote machine “glitches” and courtroom maneuvers already in play by our troglodyte Right, it would seem they are trying like hell, same time as Bush cranks up the bomb Syria Iran Pakistan meter, hoping to provoke some kind of game-changer response. However I think they lost, and were such an attempt made, there would indeed be some mayhem on the streets, which would rapidly escalate if the “police” or the US battalion brought in for domestic disturbances were indeed brought into play. To coup or not to coup, that is the question.
UP and DOW(n) JONES
Chart for last month.