I know I just did a 10 Word Review about Roger Ebert‘s Film Festival otherwise known as Ebertfest, but even though I put down those words I still feel there’s more to say. Now, sitting here, it’s sort of tough to put what I think I want to say in words so bear with me.
Attending this festival for the second time was even more amazing than the first. It’s not just seeing these films, most of which I’ve never seen before, that challenge the edges of what I would normally watch. It’s the atmosphere. It’s being in the company of people who are of like mind about art and film and community. It’s feeling like you are a lucky participant in something very very special.
This year, given the fact Roger passed away only a couple of weeks before the festival, it was an even more humbled and emotional experience. Every person who spoke on stage said how much this man was obviously not only a great writer, but so generous of spirit, so kind to new film makers and old alike, so enthusiastic about the meaning of film and the way a film should be watched. Each told stories about Roger and mentioned, in some way, his impact on their lives and careers. There were wonderful tributes to him told in words and fittingly, in film. Chaz, his wife of many many years, was there. A woman full of heart and grace, much like her husband.
I loved this experience, as I did last year, and I loved the films as well. As I said earlier, they pushed the boundaries of what I would normally choose to watch, which is a wonderful thing. There’s no way, under the normal circumstances of my life, I would’ve chosen to see a movie like The Ballad of Narayama (1958), yet there I was, watching it and more than that, enjoying it for the shocking story, the color, for the Kabuki style I’m not all that familiar with. It’s the beauty of this festival for me and so many others I’m sure. This seeing something I wouldn’t normally see, or even know about. This pushing my own viewer boundaries. And I think, without being presumptuous, it’s what Roger probably intended when he created this festival in the first place. To have a festival of overlooked films. Films that because of their beauty, or story, or style, or imagination, or brashness shouldn’t have been overlooked. There’s no buying or selling or submissions for this festival. It’s a festival purely for the love and joy of film. Which I think adds to the festivals character and feeling of community. People come because they love film, they love their community, and they love the experience of it. They come because they love stepping into the beautiful world Ebertfest creates.
I loved this experience. Loved it. At the end of the day it’s exhausting, seeing so many films in so many days, but I loved it. I loved having to stand in line early so that when the doors opened the 1000 pass holders could all rush in and try to find the perfect seats. I loved the restoration of the Virginia, which is where Roger used to see movies as a kid. I loved sitting near people I don’t know and chatting with them about film and park district stuff and popcorn. I loved watching and listening to people interact and commune. I loved getting my Virginia Theater travel mug that I could then bring every day to get however much coffee I wanted, free refills are always good. And this was good coffee, from the roasting house we frequent normally who also happens to be a sponsor of the festival. I loved the dance along, the sing a long, and just plain going along on this rid of a fest. I loved hearing and reading Roger’s words and listening to the panel discussions, those we attended but also online for those we didn’t, after the films. I loved being in the company of my honey and of Ann. I loved the salads and eggplant fries we had each evening during our dinner break at Guidos. I loved how good this festival was for the community given all the people that descend to participate and then spend money at restaurants and hotels, etc. I loved the beauty of the surroundings of the lovely lovely park district owned Virginia Theater. What a gorgeous building and so big with it’s 1600 seats, an organ that descends into the orchestra pit when the organist is done playing, lovely plaster work, stained glass, and an enormous screen that really does a film justice.
I guess, not having had the words in the beginning, I found them. This experience, without sounding trite, is transcendent. It inspires and makes the world larger. Which, to me, is the best of what can and should happen. It connects and brings joy. It expands ones mind and consequently, ones heart.
Lastly, and less emotionally, I guess I should let everyone know which films we enjoyed the most as, after all, it was a film festival… Tam loved In The Family, a film that hit close to home and was so beautifully and sweetly done it exuded a warmth and light that was wonderful to feel and behold. Karen loved Julia, a movie so hard hitting and raw it gripped you from the beginning and never let you go. We both didn’t like Escape From Tomorrow, a strange and uncomfortable film we didn’t understand, nor did we really want to understand. As honorable mention for a film I liked I’d like to add the short I Remember, which I found to be full of beautiful images and emotion.
I’m so glad we attended the festival again this year and I hope, even with Roger’s passing, this festival continues and we can go again next year. I’m already looking forward to it.
We’ve been back home now for a few days, but before we actually arrived here, on the last day of our anniversary road trip, Karen and I made a little list of stuff as we were driving. Notes about things we saw, stuff we did, people we met, etc. So without further ado, here it is… our notes from the road.
Alright, maybe not just yet… before I unleash the rest of this post I just want to say that having Karen in my life has been a miraculous thing. We are so lucky to have found each other. It’s a beautiful thing to have been together for 10 years and still feel, and in fact feel more strongly, such a huge love for each other. It’s also a lovely thing to be “married” to your best friend. There’s no one either of us would rather hang out with, and amazingly we both feel that way and want to share everything. It’s wonderful and amazing. I am beyond lucky, and I know it.
OK… here we go… some notes from the road…
2795.6 miles travelled.
“I bet this would be really pretty if the trees were leafed out”
Favorite coffee: Comet Coffee in Ann Arbor… Pour over, so good.
Favorite City: Portland, ME with Toronto a close second.
Favorite public transport: the Red Rocket in Toronto.
Favorite fish and chips: Susan’s in Portland. A place that was once a gas station.
Favorite beach: Kennebunkport (heart rock beach).
Favorite countryside: Coast of Maine, Vermont‘s Green Mountains, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
Favorite meal Tam: Montpelier at the Three Penny Taproom… chicken stew with pastry.
Favorite meal Karen: Hot Suppa! in Portland, Maine… fried chicken and sweet potatoes.
Favorite little town: Bath, Maine.
Most comfy bed: Marriott in Portland Maine.
Favorite zen moment: marina in Portland, sitting on a bench, chatting, looking at the water, 65 degrees and sunny.
Biggest disappoinent: Niagara Falls… Ghetto. Should’ve gone to the Canadian side.
Most interesting fact: ice wine made from grapes that have gone through first freeze… sold in Canada.
Best breakfast: The Senator in Toronto… both food and atmosphere.
Most authentic eating experience: House of Gourmet in Chinatown, Toronto with it’s all Asian crowd, huge menu in Chinese, and hanging meat.
Bump in the road: rental car malfunction in Albany Ny resulting in car exchange at Albany International Airport.
Best fast food: Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs in Meadville, PA.
Noisiest hotel: The Stockdale Inn, Schenectady, NY due to wedding party.
My honey’s big disappointment: not getting a green rock from Vermont.
Interesting natural wonder: rock by lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth, Maine… it looked like wood (we took some).
Life changing moment during trip: sale of Scappoose house.
Personal family moment: driving by the home in Jackson, Michigan where my great grandparents lived when my grandma was born and driving by the memorial site of the hospital where she was born.
Finding great heart rock.
The accent of toll booth guy in N.H.
Coffee at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport (if driving by while drinking coffee counts).
Conversing with people at bed and breakfast who lived in India for a time.
States and Countries visited: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Michigan
Coffee shops visited: 14.
Number of rude people met along the way: 2. Woman at some gas station in Maine who was terse about bathroom facilities and man at rental car place in Savoy when we picked up the car for the trip.
Favorite souvenirs: raven lunatic t-shirt and huge red lobster.
First drink in three years: strawberry mojito at Hot Suppa! on our anniversary.
Signs for moose, bear, and Amish seen… No actual moose, bear or Amish spotted.
Wildlife spotted: flock of wild turkeys in Maine, sea birds.
Worst weather: Lake Placid… cold and a tad snowy.
“Ride the Red Rocket”
Laughs out loud: too many to count.
Music: 936 songs on shuffle… No repeats… Maine and Back Again Playlist. Awesomeness.
Reminiscing about 10 years together… Priceless.
On routes (Canada’s much nicer version of the rest area).
Nicest person: VIA rail employee in Toronto who walked us a couple of blocks to Union Station and then to where we needed to go inside the station… We told him we wished we could’ve taken him home as souvenir!
Honorable mentions for nicest person: Jimmy’s coffee barista who gave us free croissants, girl at on route stop who talked to us about the toll, red rocket driver, the hotel dude who pointed toward good ice cream in Schenectady, hotel guy in Portland Maine who answered our questions, rental car guy, Steve, at Albany Imternational Airport, also guy in Albany rental car park who let us store our belongings in little locked kiosk while we walked in to get our new rental car. Lots of nice people along the way.
Biggest panic moment: when my honey thought she lost her wallet in Lake Placid… It was not lost.
Second biggest panic moment: not having any money for toll to get back into U.S. over Ambassador Bridge and first ATM didn’t work. Thought we might have to learn to speak French.
Frozen Lake Erie was amazing.
Largest Globe we’ve ever seen: Eartha at Delorme.
I’d never owned a house. I was, until I met Karen, a gypsy of sorts. I moved and moved all up and down the valley, over to the beach, down to Southern Oregon, and back to the valley. When a person moves so much they tend to pare down. Meaning I also didn’t have much in the way of stuff. Some books and music, of course, and same old boxes of papers and some memorabilia from childhood, but otherwise not much. What I owned fit into a small Uhaul.
My life was, to a certain point, about movement, change, experience. The places I lived were weigh stations and spots to put my head at night, places to keep my CD’s and my stereo. They were not home.
Then she walked in. She walked in and some months later we bought a house. We owned a house. It was my first one. More than that though, we made a life there. The house was home for me, really, from the moment I stood on the front deck that hot summer day, wind moving through the trees, peace… quiet. I can’t explain that feeling, though I’m sure many reading this have had it. It felt right. Puzzle pieces moving, click, into place. The sound of that wind in the trees, a bit like the sound of the ocean, eyes closed listening, and instantly a house suddenly became a home.
We moved each of our things in, things that had been separate but were then combined. Things which had been mine and hers, but were then ours. We bought furniture together to fill the rooms and pots and pans and silverware to fill the kitchen. We bought art, oh how we love our art, and TV’s, cool bookends, and shampoo. We worked on the yard, planting flowers we chose, and putting up hanging baskets. We got wind chimes and hand blown glass hummingbird feeders, had decks, a paved driveway, and fences put in. Karen built tables and things in the shop, I took photo after photo after photo of the flowers in the yard. I trimmed trees, she weeded, I worked on the Japanese Garden, she mowed. We hauled in loads of topsoil, spread a bit of bark dust, and moved tons of rainbow rock. We lived.
Karen and I both got sick in the house, but we also recovered there. We added on a master bathroom and painted some of the rooms. Mom got married there, we threw big and small get togethers, we brought home both our babies, Weston and Riley, who loved it and called it there own, relishing the use of their doggie door and playing Chuckie in the yard. We sat in the hot tub at night, stars all around, and listened to the deer walking on the hillside. We even had a mountain lion living at the house for a time.
In our house we laughed, and danced, and cried, and hugged, and sometimes yelled. In our house we ate, watched TV, played cards, got snowed in, had visits from mostly everyone we love, watched the deer, and tasted good wine. In our house we loved each other.
A house is just a house, until suddenly it becomes a home. We poured our lives and love and heart and our souls into it and it gave back in kind. It is a reflection of the life being lived in it and ours was beautiful. That house, our first house, was not just a house to us, it was our home. A home we both loved… and love still.