Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Martin McCaffery’s tour of Montgomery raised my awareness about the history of the southeast region and after visiting Charleston, which is an utterly charming place to spend a couple of days, I read a little bit about the history of slavery there.  During slavery the city was an urban slave-trading center and the Civil War started at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, and .  http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/charleston/osm.htm

Scene from Downside UP
Scene from Downside UP
Last fall, when I noticed on the Southern Circuit schedule that TRUST would screen at the Halsey
Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston,  I mentioned to our host Lizz Biswell that Kenji and I had made a documentary about how the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) brought my dying home town back to life.  Lizz arranged for me and Kenji to speak to Assistant Professor Jeanette Wood Guinn’s Art Management class.  Apparently, Jeanette has used Downside UP in her courses for years, and all her students have seen the film.  Jeanette asked us some probing, thought-provoking questions and we spent an enjoyable hour and a half with her and her class.  www.downsideupthemovie.org

Exhibit at the Halsey
The next day, Kenji and I were essentially free from any obligations, and we really enjoyed walking around the city, it was a great contrast with all the hours we spent on the plane and in the car.  Kenji and I stayed in an historic guest house on the College of Charleston campus, visited the Halsey's galleries, and walked around enjoying the beautiful buildings, the blooming rhododendron, azalea and magnolia, the pelicans diving into the harbor and the river flowing broad and fast.

Gwen Clancy and me, Surprise Valley, CA
When we were flying home to San Francisco, I raised the shade on the window and saw that we were flying over the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  The young, jagged ridges were covered in snow, the valleys were brown and bare, the area covered by the mountains was broad and long.  I fell in love with the western US in the 1970s, during a Sierra Club hike in the Idaho Primitive Area.  I was in my early 20s at the time, had just graduated from college, was working my first professional job as a health educator, paying off my one small college loan, figuring out life.  I loved those raw granite mountains, loved getting above tree line and seeing miles and miles of wild land, I loved the high elevations, the thin dry air, the way the stars and the sky sparkled through that aridity, I loved the independent self-sufficient attitude of the Western people I met, they seemed different in a basic way from the people I knew in working class Massachusetts where I grew up.  I loved the way their eyes seemed accustomed to looking out over vast distances.  I loved the way horses were a part of life there.

After those two weeks backpacking in the wilds of Idaho, I returned to Massachusetts and every morning, as I drove my car or rode my bicycle east from my house to my office, I said to myself, “I wish I was driving west.” 

Three years later, while editing our documentary A Cowhand's Song in San Francisco, I met my future husband, native Californian Kenji Yamamoto and get up into the Sierras as often as possible.

Although I had loved getting to know a bit about the southeastern region of the US and meeting so many wonderful people there as I traveled from city to city showing TRUST, I was very happy to get back to the region that spoke to me so many years ago and became my home.

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