Friday, September 21, 2007

farewell, florida

I've come to the end of the road--at least as far as the Southern Circuit is concerned (although I've got another 5 1/2 weeks of tour to follow). It's been a busy last few days with little time or opportunity to post, so we'll have to get in the Way-Back Machine in order to fill you in on what you missed. So, turning back the clock:

I pulled into Baton Rouge in the early afternoon & went straight to my hotel. Because of a snafu with hotels.com, my original reservation at La Quinta was cancelled (or actually erased from their memory banks), so I ended up at a slightly dicey Days Inn on an unpromising strip in Port Allen, across the river from downtown Baton Rouge. I thought $70 would buy you at least a functional bathroom, a clean carpet & a fully painted room, but I didn't get any of that at the Days Inn. Considering that I waited to confirm my reservation at the last minute, I guess this is what I should've expected.

Anyway, instead of staying in my hotel room (where I also didn't have internet access), I decided to go wander around downtown. It's another formerly abandoned downtown area where there's been a big recent push to reoccupy the city's center. Right now, it looks like they've definitely got the buildings in place, but there's not quite the hustle & bustle you'd expect from a state capital. The state house grounds are sprawling & nicely manicured & the capitol building itself is interesting, a tall central structure towering above the rest of the downtown. A statue of Huey Long looms in the middle of the garden & his legacy seems to loom over all of the history of the state still today.

Anyway, after killing a little time in the public library, where I struggled with their sluggish wireless, I made my way over to the Manship Theatre, where I was taken out to a dee-luxe meal of gumbo & crawfish etoufee. The show was in a three-tiered theater space & it went as many of the other shows have--a nice crowd with an interesting mix of people, some of whom seemed to have little idea of what awaited them, others of whom knew precisely what they'd be getting. There was a nice little reception afterwards, where I got to talk to a handful of interesting locals before heading back to my hotel room & crashing from exhaustion.

In the a.m., I got up at the crack of dawn to catch my flight to Palm Beach, FL. I got in around 2 & had time to float around the pool for a bit before the clouds rolled in. The landscape here is really astonishingly soulless--everything is shiny & new & most of it seems directly shipped from some corporate HQ hundreds of miles away. It's like one long strip mall stretching from Miami up the coast. The skies were beautiful & floating around the pool was nice, but the terrain was definitely a bit of a shock.

Given my reservations about the landscape, the show was actually great. They really loaded 'em in at the Duncan Theatre (Stage West) & most of the people (with the exception of a couple of seniors) stayed around for a pretty lively Q&A. The crew at the Duncan were all really welcoming & it was a pretty great way to wrap up my tour. A former student of mine led me down I-95 to a hip restaurant afterwards & I filled my stomach with a pork chop & apple-cranberry compote before returning to the hotel to crash.

Overall the Circuit has really exceeded my expectations. With all the new venues on the tour this year, I was worried that they wouldn't have the time to build up an audience. The contrary may have been true--being the first person on a new tour, I may have had the benefit of novelty, so I may have gotten a little extra attention from the local press than I would have if the Circuit were more established here. The audiences were really interesting--definitely more diverse than the ones I've seen on my own tours; often challenging in ways I hadn't anticipated. I'm really heartened to discover the potential that exists in all of these cities that I've never vistied before (and the few that I have), and I just hope that the crowds will keep coming back for the rest of the filmmakers on the Circuit.

Thanks to all of you who had a hand in making this such a great experience.

Until next time...
R.