Saturday, November 14, 2009

Some Glimpses in No particular Order


We left London early, by car with yellow gray windows that perfectly suited the windy, rainy city, lightening and rolling past. The roundness of London streets gave me the feeling of viewing all through a wide-angle lens -the gleaming dark cabs; the endless march of people on their way to work, grim faced under umbrellas - a sad parade for a sure. Broad chestnut leaves spun up and over the car, the pedestrians, clinging to building and billboards before wind snagged and gone. This image, especially tinted by filtered glass, gave me that pure tourist pleasure when the predetermined image of a destination matched exactly what the eye receives, - living cinema I suppose, but totally satisfactory. Sad as it may be London’s bloody, ghostly history, and its pop history is dearer to my imagination at the moment that the city's vast historical importance. We spent a blustery eve in White Chapel. Outside the windows of the bustling curry house, I kept picturing Long Liz and her ill fated sisters shivering at the cold and rain but more so at thoughts of the Ripper...


We’d been told that Sheffeild was very grim and industrial – we expected sulfur belching factories and beggers in half fingered gloves belching consumptive blood. Instead it was a nice town, on it’s way to being post industrial - the consequences of which went unseen by those of us in the film festival bubble. My liver however is seriously a dirty ol’ town now, and my ass is just recovering from an attempt at rollerskating. Here though we moved among the big powers of the Doc world, and I felt more than a bit Daisy Miller, or a character from Christina Stead’s sharp social novels about travelers learning their way in the hard edge world where business, idealism, and drink meet. The antidote, of course, came from seeing old friends (strange now to have pals that meet everywhere, regardless of country), general drinking madness, and dancing to sweet rock steady at the Brit-doc bar. Of course, the head and lung cold known as the Sheffeild Lurgy (sp?) is my new travel companion…


Florence was a constant negotiation with iconic faces, bodies and monuments to both God and Commerce. In that sense I suppose, the spirit of the Renaissance is alive here. For an American, history comes down hard on the senses here - above, around, everywhere, waking to cathedral bells and viewing lushly sensual statues and high, ornate towers from every window and terrace. The streets however are pure contemporary consumer temples where floodlit clothes seems to have transcended the need of bodies to wear them and the grossly enlarged faces of models cast hard judgments on those passing by. Backlit lips, larger than my torso, should have given me the fear of being eaten fairy tale style, except that their monstrous pouts were completely self satisfied and devoid of any exterior appetite. Luckily there were of saints and angels, here and there in crevices and above doorways, to smile down and reassure that a life of transcendent consumption – all the golden goods of heaven await… Our guides to all of this, festival folk and a few new friends (all leftist thinkers) seemed caught between the warmest hospitality and gusto for sensual life and the darkness that hung over them at the political and even moral state of the their country. More than one bitter toast was raised before plunging into the best of meals.


Leipzig was a funny place – Not the grim post GDR city I expected but another consumer capital. A lovely town actually that kept pre cold war essence and plunged straight into capitalist slickness. It would have been a predominately sober, intellectual festival experience except that luck brought us the Finns- Sami and Jukka, who made the wonderful Living Room of the Nation, and whose mix of dada absurdity and optimistic loopiness turned every day into a delight of deliberate cultural misunderstanding (and occasional nudity). We left on Halloween night, feeling homesick for all the American blood, guts, and monsters of the holiday till the weary faced bartender at the train station turned to me and said, “Hey American – HALLOWEEN!” and raised her hands into claws and made a werewolf face that broke into a broad smile.

My suitcase, my little travel house, bounced in the back of the cab. We hit the airport with passports and sleeping pills in hand. The U.S. Is waiting...