Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Thursday, October 28, 2004
The Annual Question

The festival director gave it to me, the question she asks every year: "So when are you moving here?"

The unspoken final clause in the question is "... so you can come work at the Institute full time?"

I hate that question. I enjoy it, too -- it's nice to know that one is appreciated so much that there are job offers on the table -- but it's so hard to answer. I have to admit that there's a small part of my mind that thinks a steady paycheck would be awfully nice, even if only for a year or so... I could probably swing $24K a year, which would provide a reasonably comfortable life for a twenty-something woman in this town. I could have a nice apartment, I could get a different car, I could finally afford a laptop... so many things I could do. And I'd be doing it while doing a job I could reasonably expect to like, a job that would probably further my career (even if only in a small way), in a field I love (even if in not quite my ideal capacity.) And the only price is, I have to live in this town to do it. Sounds like a great deal, yes?

The problem is, I hate this town. As it happens, I have some good reasons for hating this town; I lived here for something like two-and-a-half years (with a break in there somewhere) during one of the more difficult periods of my life. A lot of bad shit went down in this town, and I have a lot of intense memories attached to a great many places here.

I saw my first dead body in this town; it belonged to the man I consider to be my first step-father. Although we lived in the same house, I hadn't seen him for a long time... I had locked myself in my room and refused to come out when he was around. Anyone who knows me well will know that I must have had a damn good reason, because I don't hold grudges easily... and I did indeed have a damn good reason; many of them, in fact. His funeral was the first time I'd seen his face in a number of months. At that funeral I saw my little step-brother Travis for the last time (sometimes I still wonder where he is, how he's doing), and then I went home and fed soup to my mother and tried to brush the tangles and a little dried blood out of her hair. She probably doesn't remember that. I was sixteen at the time.

It wasn't all bad. I fell in love for the first time in this town, and had my first kiss here. But both he and I wanted nothing but to leave (preferrably together). The point is, I could not possibly live here happily full time. Returning to this town from Memphis would be like traveling even further back into my own personal history, and into a particularly painful time. Apart from my annual quietly-angst-ridden visits to work this festival, I am done with this place.

I can hardly explain all that to the festival director, though... she barely has time to sit and ask, much less listen to the full answer. And I always worry that telling these stories sounds to others like a plea for sympathy, which is the LAST thing I'm looking for. Even when it all happened I couldn't stomach the pity of others. I remember my first day back at school after my step-father's death; all of the teachers and a few students had quiet, sympathetic platitudes for me. They'd all read of the accident in the newspaper, although none of them could know the real scope of the story behind it, and how the accident was a tragic but much-needed relief for me. The guy who was on the other side of that first love and first kiss was the only one who dared to cross the sentimental divide that day, saying to me, "I heard he got run over by a train." I appreciated that a lot more than the card signed by all the kids who could barely remember my name, much less have any real feelings toward me or my situation.

So, my answer this year is the same as the previous two years: I love this festival, but I will not be moving here to work for the Institute. There are some demands that not even film can make upon me.
6:59 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Don't shut me out!

Did you know that the Bush campaign has blocked access to its official website for anyone trying to access it from Australia? (Other countries too, apparently, but I can't confirm that...)

Anyway, this is all that the Bush crowd are prepared to let the likes of me see:

Not that I've ever really wanted to read his shite, but now I feel hurt ... shunned ... cut out ...

Oh yeah, and do you see the helpful suggestion that I call someone about this: the goddamn phone number is listed on the website - which they WON'T LET ME SEE!
8:04 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Wednesday, October 27, 2004
This Morning's Dream

I only have one recurring dream; it's about tornadoes. I've had it most of my life. It has gradually lessened in intensity since I first began having it, but early on it was absolutely terrifying. The intensity of the dreams has always closely mirrored that of my emotions regarding my dad, which has also slowly waned with time and distance.

I've always connected the tornado dream to my father. It crops up the most when he's around, or when stuff is going on that relates to him in some way. In early versions of the dream, I was always trying to round up a number of kittens and get them to safety; I don't think I ever managed it. In later versions, the kittens disappeared and it became a stressful but less frantic search for cover, usually in a basement somewhere. During this stage, tornadoes would come in groups, images of three or four approaching on the horizon.

In this morning's dream, I was in the town where I'm currently working, and the weather turned bad; we were told a tornado was on its way. We made our way casually to the basement of the building where I'm working to wait for the storm to pass so we could get on with things. After it was over we emerged and went out onto the street. While we were standing out there, a courier (like the UPS guy or something) approached me.

"Are you A__?"


He handed me a couple of boxes and said, "these are your last two packages," and walked back to his truck. And that's where the dream ends.

All day I have had the unshakeable feeling that there's something important in that, something about "the last two" in connection to a dream that I regard as being about my father.
7:38 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Get Yer Fresh Blog Here

Anybody still out there?

This film festival thing is hard; I always forget how much work is involved in an event of this scale. I've managed to survive two days of workshop co-ordination -- thank god, most of them have been pretty self-sufficient so far -- but I'm dreading tomorrow. I had to set up 18 interviews for workshop attendees; we had a facilitator drop out at the last minute; we had a panel moderator cancel; and people keep coming up with stuff they forgot to tell me to do, changes they forgot to inform me about. I'm starting to feel like the fire department... rushing from emergency to emergency, beating back the flames and restoring order just as the next alarm goes off.

The mornings are the worst. It's like everybody wants everything first thing, and they want it done right now! The phone rings and rings and rings and rings... people call up, and they want us to explain every single f-ing film we're showing. We call it Moviefone duty. I know the old platitude about there not being any dumb questions... but trust me, there are some dumb, dumb questions floating around in the collective unsconscious, just waiting for somebody to part their lips and take a breath.

We had a minor drama yesterday. A woman -- who shall remain nameless, but who happens to be the executive director of Women Make Movies -- led a workshop, and before I begin, let me say that it was a good and worthy workshop. The problem was that she said something rather impolitic during it. She had sent us a number of handouts she wanted copied in advance, which we did, with one exception: a list of film festivals which neglected to include this one. Since that smacks of promoting other festivals without promoting the host festival, it was requested that the handout be altered to include us. This was done, the handout was copied, and all seemed well with the world.

At least until Ms. Zimm... er... the workshop leader... protested. She said that including our festival on the handout would "negatively impact the integrity" of said handout.

Now, don't get me wrong: I understand her reasoning. But the way she went about expressing it kinda caught in the craw of the festival director. The handout was changed back and replaced; as a compromise, a second list of genre-specific festivals (including this one) was also included. Nobody was exactly thrilled, but everyone was satisfied. Peace reigned again.

Until Ms. Zimmerma... I mean, the workshop leader... opened her cake-hole during the workshop.

She was speaking of festivals. She had a funny anecdote to tell. The anecdote, it turned out, was about the hilarious attempt of this festival to have itself listed on her handout. The audience couldn't have been a more sensitive one for the festival -- it was predominantly made up of visiting filmmakers and a couple of press people. Everyone laughed -- the ridiculousness of it, this festival wanting to be acknowledged! Ha! Hilarious!

She ended her amusing tale by saying it was "nothing against the festival" which was "great," but "just not that kind of festival." (Sort of a New York version of "bless her heart" as a way to dull the edge of a particularly catty insult.)

And she was right. It's not that kind of festival.

But she didn't have to say it that way.

It added nothing to the conversation. We had accomodated her, we had given her what she wanted, she should have left it at that. She said she was "just being honest," which wasn't untrue, but we all knew there was more to it than that: we were being put in our place. We knew it and resented it; I'm certain she knew it too, on some level, even if she didn't acknowledge it as such.

How dare we reach above our station? How do we have the chutzpah to even suggest such a thing?

Anyway, the festival director was less than pleased. Nothing was made of it, but it was noted. She won; we were gently bitch-slapped; that's the way things work. Thus endeth the lesson.

But it's still an ugly thing.
8:11 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Sunday, October 24, 2004
Things I Bring Upon Myself

This morning I am obsessed with chairs. Not just any chairs, either, but portable folding chairs that have to be borrowed from other sources. Chairs that, if I had my shit even remotely together, I'd have realized needed to be dealt with long before 4 AM this morning, which is when I awoke to find the sudden realization that I need 40 folding chairs by 9 AM tomorrow buzzing around inside my head.

40 folding chairs have already been lined up; it's the dates that fell by the wayside. I was supposed to contact the man about the chairs and confirm the dates. And I hadn't forgotten -- I had it down in my notebook and everything -- it was just that I forgot about Sunday.

Sunday has always been a concept with which I am less than completely comfortable. It probably has something to do with the fact that I'm not a church-goer or a sabbath-keeper, combined with the fact that I'm not an office-hours job-worker. The whole weekend thing just isn't a major concept for me... I live and subsist day-to-day, I take a day off when I want one, and usually it's no big deal. In a city like Memphis, as sucky as it is, one can find just about anything one needs at any time of the day or night... at least as long as one doesn't mind driving 15 or 20 miles (at worst) to get it.

But, if you didn't know already... I ain't in Memphis.

In this small-ish southern town, I can in no way rely upon anything at all being available on a Sunday. Nobody will be in their offices to help me with my pathetic little emergency today. The guy I needed to call about the chairs will probably be at home watching a football game or something. And who can blame him?

But the fact remains that at 10 AM tomorrow morning, 30-some-odd lazy festival-goers will be coming to a workshop and looking for a place to set their butts down, and it seems that much of the rest of my day will be spent trying to accomodate them and their weary asses.

It's really only my own fault. I brought this on myself.

Where the fuck do I find 40 free folding chairs on a Sunday?

I was hoping to sleep in a little this morning -- it's the last day in which I can conceivably get more than, oh, six hours of sleep per night for the next week, and I wanted to make use of it -- but once I awoke at 4 AM and thought about the goddamn chairs, and realized that if I was to have any chance at all of success I'd need to start first fucking thing (anybody whom I do manage to contact will almost certainly leave their offices by noon), and it wasn't like I was going to get any more sleep last night. So I'm running on three hours of sleep today.

Why do I do this?

Anyway, it's 8 AM... time to get started.

Update: In the end, it turned out to be just one of those things. Yesterday the Chair Crisis seemed like a manageable task; at 4 AM it suddenly looked more like my certain doom. This morning it was a major stress-inducer, and by this afternoon I'm wondering why I was so worried. I forgot about the counter-balance to small-town Sundays: in small towns, everyone knows everyone else. The volunteer co-ordinator is friends with the convention center head of security; I called him and he called the general manager; the general manager called the office and said we could come over in the morning and pick up the chairs anytime it was convenient for us.

So, crisis averted, along with a few other fires that seemed terrfying at first and eventually proved to be utterly harmless. This is how film festivals always go, I guess.
7:40 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink