Thursday, March 24, 2011





The Midwest rolls past the car window.  Sunlight bouncing off snow gives a pristine,  white-wash glow to the clapboard churches, the farmhouses. Even the endless anti-abortion signs look wholesome in this light. The radio waves oscillate between classic metal and a preacher listing the signs apocalypse in a mellow, unnervingly satisfied voice. We are leaving the True/False festival, talking of how green and nervous we were there two years ago, and how much we were helped (and continue to be) by David, Paul, Mark, Ingrid, AJ, Steve and Julia, Esther, Debra, Basil, Brian… What a pleasure it was to be there with Danny playing the music that has stayed between over the years. I watch Mike at the wheel, thinking how he gave me filmmaking and the life I have now. Feeling happy and full of luck, music rises in my mind, drowning the radio. It’s the waltz we wrote for my sad, unlucky family.


In Iowa City with Andy – a young Iraqi vet and anti-war activist. I’m running sound as we film him shooting. I forget to turn down the headphones. As he fires the sound is like a solid plane of metal vibrating and ringing between my ears.  It passes leaving memories my grandfather’s earth red finger on a trigger; the scent of tobacco, gun oil, and birch bark in my nose; the taste of venison, rabbit, and squirrel in my mouth.

Andy holds my arm down and places the 14-gauge needle against the vein. He explains in a clinical voice that this large sized needle was used to inflict extra pain prisoners at Abu Graib – whether administering Insulin to diabetics or water to those who were on hunger strike, the idea was to break resistance even during treatment.  To show this on film, I’ve volunteered my arm. The needle slides in, feeling like a leather worker’s awl in my vein. It’s painful, yes, but I’m relaxed.   Andy says,“ The prisoners would be fighting, tensed all up, clenched- not understanding what you were saying – imagine how this would feel then.”  He removes the needle and lifts my arm over my head. With our faces close, I ask him how he feels doing this.  He joined the national guard all gung-ho, but became a medic hoping he could be in the war and do no harm. He says, “A lot of bad memories are happening right now, there is no good reason to use a needle like this on anyone.”

V.A antidepressants  and picture from inside Abu Graib


Filming the Protest over collective bargaining in Madison, I can’t believe the cheerful but determined focus of the crowds here. People here are finding their political identity rather than marking those identities with the kaleidoscope of issues and indignation typical of typical of actions in SF and NY.  I watch Mike turn his camera to the rippling flag, to the bright, wind chilled faces. He’s all eye, all strong and restless arms as he works. He’s so lost in it, so compelling to watch when he’s shooting. 

With A. once again. It doesn’t seem long since we last saw each other but we’ve both travelled so far since then. We talk city after city, country after country, places we’ve been, places we want to go – the world spins around the restaurant table, around the rim of our glasses, round his bed and his body.   


In Rochester Minnesota, Jordan stomps through the wet streets and walkways that connect the downtown shops and hotels to the sprawling Mayo Clinic.  He talks of all those in the city in pain and illness, all those who come there to cheat death.  Under the night lit signs for adult bookstores and tattoo parlors he tells of how he’s learning survivalist skills for when “ all comes apart.” 


... Stephen's big eyes, Andria's NC smile, Colter's voice, Amy sighing in the kitchen, and the rain soaking everything.


Mike watches endless amounts tsunami footage. His mechanically calculating eye is attempting do to something mine cannot - trying through repetition to grasp the scale of the disaster. The radiation plume spreads across the screen – a digital blue stain swelling across the Atlantic.  The Archangel Gabriel comes to my mind –the angel of the waters– plume and wave, a great wing above the sea, from the trumpet raised to perfect lips - a wave of sound announcing the end of days.