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Gerry Fialka in Venice

LA Land

On LAX arrival from Korea, the previous 4 and a half years in Seoul (mostly) vanished in an instant, and former “home” of Los Angeles immediately became, once again, if briefly,  “home.”    Couch accommodation from friends Ryan and Tiffany in quiet Silver Lake.  Recovered from jet-lag in LA following screenings with the LA Film Forum, the Echo Park Film Coop and Cinefamily, all of which went nicely.  Saw friends, made new ones, acclimated to the laid-back world of palm trees, Mexican food,  and the tone of SoCal.   Despite the superficial shifts of graphics on the signage, and the new buildings, and the constant flush of wealth and accompanying new “hip” neighborhoods, LA was essentially the same place, with the same a weird concentration on looks, fashion, the movie biz, being “hip” LA style:  things changed and didn’t really change at all.

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Alenka in Venice

Ryan GraySilver Lake

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Took Amtrak to Portland for $80, thanks to too much luggage to fly it – brought to deal with the next 18 months on the American road.   To take it likely would have added $300 to the airfare given America’s airlines’ draconian profit-minded gouging policies on extra bags – or even one.   I went coach, and once the sun settled before coming into Oakland, it was the question of trying to sleep.  Dawn saw us in Klamath, Oregon, on the high plateau east of the Cascades which was still graced with snow.  Just as the train was coming down off the Cascades into the Willamette Valley above Eugene a large Douglas fir fell down, derailing the baggage car.  Our 29 hour long journey turned into 38 hours and ended on a bus in a snowstorm in the valley, a very unusual occurrence there.

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Had a nice stay in Portland with friends, Mark and Jane, though thanks to the lengthened train ride I seemed to acquire a terrestrial form of jet-lag taking another few days to get back on the local clock.  Real fun sleeping in upright chairs.  Portland was itself:  laid back, rainy, full of young people sitting in cafe’s buried in their notebooks, good micro-brews and Powell’s.  If I were going to live in a city in the USA I think it would be Portland.  But that’s not in the cards.  Took a ride up the Columbia River Gorge and a bit of eastern Oregon with Mark, a little hint of the coming year and more or travels to come.

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Mark Eifert

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From Portland it was on to Nashville and Vanderbilt University, with a screening, a quick look around and a short night of honky-tonk cruising.  As it turns out the strip of clubs with all-night music cranking out golden C&W oldies has, in my view, descended into something akin to Disneyland, with the clubs and the music aping the good old days about as successfully as the original Disneyland evoked “Main Street.”  Plastic.   Of course Disneyland is enormously popular and surely so is this strip of erstaz “country,”  which saw many a cowboy hat and what amount to “country” costumes.   I was somewhat taken aback by the evident epidemic of obesity, sometimes in the form of two-stepping lady couples emulating the manatees I’d see some days later.   Except they weren’t waterborne and gravity was working triple time.

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The Parthenon in Nashville

Former home of the Grand Old OpryHatch’s Print ShopThe King

Lacking time, and somewhat allergic to the tacky nature of all things Elvis, I skipped the pilgrimage to Graceland, which, I suppose shall be mandatory should life let me return for shooting the upcoming long essay on America.  Nothing can be more American than Elvis.

From Nashville I took a Megabus, for $9, to Knoxville.  2:30 am departure, which had  I been able to book earlier would have cost a mere $1.   The fellow passengers inverted the national figures and I was, along with one other light-skinned soul, the 12% minority.   Arrived at 7:30 and after a breakfast was whisked to a morning classroom presentation at the University of Tennessee, followed a day later with a public screening and a dinner at Calhoun’s, a famous eatery on the river, and an evening at the Preservation Saloon with good beer and music.  Great time, and I happily recommend both joints.   As with many other smaller American cities and towns, the center’s of which had been let go to seed, Knoxville in the last decade has seen a renewal, with old factory and office spaces turned into the ever-hip “lofts” for sale and lease, and an attempt to revivify the area with boutiques and such.   There it appears to be partially working, though many an empty store space suggested there wasn’t really enough wealth around to ape, say, New York’s Soho.    But still far more welcoming and livable than 10 or 20 years ago.

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Kelley McRae at the Preservation

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After workshop and screening at UT, had a few fallow days with my sister Jolly and husband Bob down near Louisville, some 30 miles or so south of Knoxville.  Gorgeous countryside with river meandering through, in foothills of the Smokey Mountains.  They have a lovely house and garden, and some acres surrounding them to fend off impending housing tracts.   A nice relaxing time for me before I headed south to Tampa.

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Bob’s vineyardBob & Jolly

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Flew to Tampa where Charles Lyman put me up in studio space next to his house on river there.   Though nestled in a suburban housing area, the side facing the river plunges one into seeming jungle Florida – a manatee grazes near by with its back a slash of white diagonal lines thanks to the prop of a speeding boat, birds paddle off with their young, and an alligator trolls across a little lagoon.   A dense canopy of trees and moss hang overhead, offering quiet and shade.  I took a little paddle upstream in a kayak, relaxed, and had a nice time lazing in the local manner.   Next day at the University of Tampa I seemed to step into the kind of internecine warfare that academia seems to foster – perhaps more so these days as faculties shrivel, “adjuncts” dangle on their personal tight-ropes, and the fiscal noose engenders ever more draconian save-yourself behaviors out of the usually erstwhile “liberal” persons championing whichever ethnic/gender or theoretical models of the moment (for a full treatment of this see this.)   Per usual, the faculty avoided meeting me, and one got the sense that only the person who invited me, Tom Garrett, wished to have me there.  He informed that thanks to the bloodletting he was, after a few decades, moving on to Texas the next term.   I was glad to see my friend Eli show up, and we decamped the campus (with a lovely old hotel transformed into cultural locus) and had a pretty good Mexican meal nearby.   He’s been wandering America’s back roads the last year or so, in a converted emergency medical truck, making his rather insane YouTube pieces.   Next morning I was off for next leg of this journey – Chicago and friends.  Of which, more later.

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Eli Elliot

Moving too fast and falling behind.  The hazards of such journey’s as this, which largely mirrors a lifetime of being uprooted, sent to a new place to meet new souls, is that the past is instantly erased, and that old ’60’s mantra becomes a living axiom:  be here now.   I’ve never been one for nostalgia, and in this time of less than a month of travels the trail of faces and places already smudges into a strange scrapbook of the past conjunct with present:  here today, gone tomorrow.

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Jon, Great visuals. The past we remember, the present we perceive, and the future we can only imagine. Hope to see you in June.

    • I’ll get to Portland May 15. There to early July, then on Olympic Peninsula, Seattle June 12 or so and then head to Montana slowly. I think.

  2. May have a screening opportunity in Butte in a couple of weeks if you’re available, Jon. Tag-team Bell Diamond with something going on now. Could bring in some of the folks involved. Details to follow. If not, I hope to see you mid-June or later. Mid-July’s perfect. –Marshall

    • Hi
      No way I can be there in a few weeks – I am tied up in Oregon and WA until mid-June, then figure to wander your way and be there by mid-July. If shoot in Anaconda (or nearby) maybe can do screening then? Or since I have a seeming offer for something in Missoula (UM) and perhaps now also in Bozeman, might linger on in Sept and could do then. More later as things clarify! C U soon.


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