The hotel room doesn’t have a view of Lake Superior, but then again with the rainy weather, the lake is lost in the fog. Everyone tells me how big the lake is, how it has it’s own weather, tides, ghost ships and spirits. Seeing the waves fading quickly into the mist adds to the stories, to the size of the lake – so large it becomes sky, no limiting horizon whatsoever.
In the Kozy bar (the bar with the most police calls per year on record) we meet a long haired, happy drunk guy who tells us how another patron threw him down in lip lock – an incident that took place over a girlfriend. The other culprit is a shaggy gremlin of a man, toothless, witch wild hair, a leather cowboy hat. When asked if he kissed the guy he says shyly but with a proud, semi-toothless grin, “ I was pretty fucked up at the time! Our storyteller laughs hard and slaps my back but then asks “no offense but have you always had that high, ladylike voice?” Personally I don't think my voice that high at least I’m ladylike – maybe that saved me a trouble.
In the theaters at the Sound/Unseen festival, Portland lights up on the screen in “Cold Weather” and “Some Days are Better than Others” – it’s so strange to see the home town here, caught bright and beautifully in this grey Midwestern place. Rounding out the northwest block the fabulous Jennifer Maas’s “Wheedle’s Groove won the jury prize for its story of Seattle soul music. Then, moving east, Mathew Porterfield’s “Putty Hill” blew me away with it’s tender, creepy, mournful vision of the American lost working class – the darkness held in homes, in the posture and unspoken words of young girls – the gruff but strangely gentle perseverance in all the characters that made me think of my own family and all their strengths and ghosts.
We spend the last night inside the old North Shore Theater, a movie palace turned punk/rock show venue, turned strip club, turned back to a theater. We drink, talk, watch a film about Low, win an award, and then celebrate, trolling the streets then returning to do half naked- strip routines on the tiled stage, to sprawl and sip among streamers and balloons. Afterwards, with whiskey spinning my head, I lay thinking of the huge dark lake and the wind blowing from it across the town. I imagine the North Shore theater when it was a strip joint – girls working the poles in the chilly rooms with men, smiling wet grins at them –a wendigo spirit* with a star on its brow and bone ragged body, strayed from the lake, stands there among the patrons, spreading meaty hunger. The drink-dream quiets and I picture the empty theater, abandoned streamers moving gently in some draft.
* a wendigo is a wind spirit which causes cannibalistic urges, the more it consumes the bigger it gets