Tuesday, September 29, 2009

dear southern arts foundation,

i'm on a plane headed back to LA...can you please find a way to extend my tour immediately? perhaps through some sort of ponzi scheme or black market organ sales? or a combination of both? i don't want it to end!!

after jackson, MS, the home stretch of my tour took me to clemson university in clemson, SC. i met up with aga, the screening's organizer, and jeff, her fiance, and they took me out for tasty, tasty bbq ribs... oh how i will miss you, Southern Cuisine...

the screening that night was one of the best attended on the whole tour, which was impressive since we were apparently competing with some sort of christian revival just upstairs. almost the entire crowd stuck around for the q&a and asked some interesting questions. clemson university: takin' it over in the '09!

aga and jeff thanked me and suggested they might even try to have me back at clemson for future events, which i told them i'd do in a heartbeat. they turned in for the night but turned me over to aga's colleague, johnathan, and jessica, one of her students, and they took me to a local bar, where we met up with a handful of other people who had been at the screening. we talked about johnathan's involvement in the late-'80s boston punk scene and jessica's filmmaking aspirations and one of the other student's troubles with the police and around midnight johnathan gave me a ride back to my hotel. the next morning i headed to western carolina university in cullowhee, NC, stopping for lunch along the way.

dear waffle house,

look...we've had some good times...but this is just not a healthy relationship. when we don't see each other for a while, we get excited and we have a lot of fun together, but it always quickly turns into...regret... i think we need to spend some time apart. it's for the best...

the drive to cullowhee was probably the most scenic of the whole tour. i took smaller roads through the mountains and passed by some quaint little towns and gorgeous waterfalls along the way. upon arriving at western carolina university, i met up with my local contact, lori davis, who showed me to the university's guest house. pretty cool: i'd have a whole house to myself for the evening! one with paisleys on the wallpaper and everything...

a warning to my fellow southern circuit filmmakers, though: lori davis is a cauldron of LIES! believe not a word she says, for it will spell your doom.

actually, she was a really wonderful host and a lot of fun to talk to and hang out with. but i have to give her shit... it started at the guest house: she had picked up the wrong key. so we had to drive back down to campus to get the right one. then she told me they had set up a wi-fi connection at the house for me to use...but when i tried to connect it wouldn't work. then at dinner, she and professor elizabeth heffelfinger (also in charge of the screening, also a wonderful host, and also a fan of Ultravox!) told me not to expect too many students at the screening, and yet the theater was packed and i even sold out of the remaining box sets i had with me afterwards!

so clearly nothing lori davis says can ever be trusted...

kidding aside, the screening was a very memorable one, with a great q&a afterwards and a post-screening reception with coffee and cookies and lots of people not only buying box sets but also requesting autographs and photos with me, which was immensely flattering.

i helped lori clean up after the reception and she offered to take me out on the town afterwards. the only problem is there isn't much of a "town" out on which to be taken in cullowhee, so she suggested driving to nearby asheville, which she claimed was only 40 minutes away.

and this is where my joke about lori davis being a huge liar was born.

asheville is, in fact, OVER ONE HOUR away. but somehow lori had never clocked it, despite the fact that she commutes between asheville and cullowhee each day. by the time i realized her error in distance judgement, we were already past the point of no return, so we continued on and i gave her a mountain of grief upon our arrival, which she took very good-naturedly. she was incredibly embarrassed and i told her i would blog all about it. she begged me not to, but THE TRUTH MUST BE TOLD, LORI!

despite the inconvenience, i was glad i got a chance to check out asheville a bit. lots of independent shops and clean streets and stuff to see. but since the drive took so long and since i had to get some sleep for my long drive the next day, we really only had time for a quick walk around town and one drink and then i headed all the way back to cullowhee.

the next day i drove past asheville (again) on my way to durham, NC and the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies. there i met professor lynn mcknight, who welcomed me and drew a map of the surrounding area so i could check it out in the remaining couple of hours before the screening. i didn't have time to see much, but i zipped through campus and had my final, genuine southern meal at nearby Bullock's BBQ. i had my first taste of brunswick stew, my first taste of carolina bbq, my first piece of fried chicken on the whole trip, and my first experience with all-you-can-eat complimentary hush puppies! (upon returning home i would discover that i had gained about 4.5 pounds on this trip. totally worth it...)

i returned to the CDS for a nice pre-screening reception on the building's porch and we screened the film to a crowd of just over a dozen people who stuck around for a pleasantly lengthy q&a. i wanted to make the most of my last night on the road, so mark, the projectionist, offered to show me around town and guided me to a nearby bar. we sat on the patio and talked about the south and los angeles and filmmaking and such and he checked out after one drink. i decided to stick around and thankfully happened upon some other people that i had met at the screening and the reception and ended up hanging out and dancing to a mix of michael jackson's greatest hits, reggae, and '90s hip hop until closing time. definitely a great way to say farewell.

you know a tour is the perfect length when you're caught between equal feelings of wanting to go home and wanting to stay on the road...i boarded my flight home with a strange balance of sadness and relief. and exhaustion, of course, from only getting 4 hours of sleep...

the southern circuit tour was truly an amazing experience and something that i hope to be a part of again in the future. it was educational, entertaining, exciting, humbling, inspiring, and tasty. i want more of all of it.

dear everyone who organized the tour, organized the screenings, fed me, sheltered me, gave me tours, loaned me umbrellas, showed me record stores, bought me drinks, changed my tires, invited me to their classrooms, drew me maps, lied to me about the location of asheville, danced with me, attended the screenings, asked me questions, and generally showed me a fucking awesome time on the road,

thank you all.