Notes from the road — the P(x) digital diaries
Day 15: Saturday, August 28th
Next morning up and at 'em — interviews at the local Farmers Market. It was that or the speed walkers at the mall and the mall was kind of far away. Plus interviewing at the Farmers Market would allow us to shop for our lunch while collecting footage. This would be considered "anti-dicking." As we neared the market place Chris expressed an increasing concern she had been having for the wearing on the front tire (see Arkansas). She agreed to go and take care of it while we finished our business in Pocatello. Tired and groggy form from body's ban on coffee, we wove thru the locals looking for interviews — possibly on the other side of the spectrum from the crowd last night?? What criteria were we using to determine this you might ask? Gut instinct. Nothing else works anymore.
The vendors were great to talk to. A boy in his late teens selling greens and herbs talked about farming and taking on the family business. A doll and puppet maker didn't have much to say, she didn't see that there were any problems with the environment. This too aids us in fulfilling our goal — the goal of representing all perspectives. In over 150 interviews this was the first of this kind. It was eye opening.
An organic farmer with his 2 adorable children talked about efforts and progress to educate his colleagues. When asked where he first learned about organic farming he quickly stated "books, in school I read about it in books." Good to know our universities are effective. Later on we filmed him playing violin at the center of the market. His wife and daughter danced together in circles nearby and other parents and children joined in. The organizer for the market approached us inquiring about what we were doing with all this gear. I explained the project and he asked us to keep up the good work — this surely ain't Las Vegas.
Having a fair number of voices from Pocatello, we loaded up on warm fresh-baked 7-grain honey bread, fresh corn, green peas in the pod, and the best root beer ever made from fresh sarsaparilla juice. A little disappointed about not getting any responses on the millennium or the wrath of God (perhaps they're trying to keep it a secret) we set our course for Salt Lake City, Utah.
Leaving Pocatello, we experienced more endless driving with nothing of interest in sight. Fields and fields of grain everywhere, so much grain that you have to wonder how can anyone go hungry? Eventually the grain fades and you find yourself in the middle of a great barren land with mountains to the east. A lake creeps into view and we find ourselves near on the many miles of shoreline on the Great Salt Lake.
Wanting to get a closer look and feel for the Great Salt Lake, April pulls into Willard Bay State Park. There is a five-dollar entrance fee (wow, huh, must be a recreation fee) and a cute fireman at the gate requesting donations for something. Up to this point Chris had been asleep in the tomb. The trip was starting to take its toll on her — stress, lack of sleep, Taco Bell and cheese sandwiches. Sick and exhausted, for the first time on the trip she was able to sleep while we were on the road.
Has anyone noticed that I haven't mentioned an alarm clock during this adventure? I don't know about you, but I would find that awfully strange. You see, during the entire trip we didn't have one. Or need one for that matter. Who needs an alarm clock when you have Chris and April alternating on popping out of bed as chipper as can be at 6am every morning. If it were up to Kelli and me to wake us up we'd still be snoozing in Kingman, AZ. The only days we slept in were because the places where we stayed had curtains so thick with rubberized backing that while inside day and night were indistinguishable. There was also a day when both April and Chris were sick and exhausted. Unfortunately there weren't many of them, but what fond memories I have of those mornings.
Back to the main story: Pulling into a parking spot on the edge of the Great Salt Lake, we find the lake surrounded by families picnicking in bathing suits, playing games in the warm sunlight and creating quite a commotion with Jet Skis all over the expansive flat surface of the lake. For a girl who grew up next to the Pacific Ocean her whole life this all seemed very surreal. Where are the waves? What's that land doing out there in the distance and why does there have to be so much noise in this seemly serene environment? It is an entirely different world in the land-locked areas. I often question my ability to happily survive in an area more than half an hour's drive from the beach — I suppose I'll have to try it someday. You see its not that going to the beach is so very important to me — its about knowing that its there. I love to hear other people's perspectives on this. Is this a common coastal feeling? I'm really getting off track today, aren't I?
So we stopped and got out of the car — whoopee! Moving right along with the story…
April wanted to set up George in a secluded spot near a spit, facing the lake to record Chris and Kelli's interviews. Chris wasn't so sure about the location so they took a walk down the shore (some people call this a beach, I call them crazy. Where's the waves?) trying to get away from all the people. After 10-15 minutes they return, engaged in a bit of a discussion. Chris doesn't want to stay here — she cant stand the Skidoos and doesn't want them in the interview shots. April suggests focusing George towards the mountains in the east. Chris isn't happy with that either. Surveying the atmosphere Chris decides we should leave to try to find a more secluded spot without Jet Skis. GOOD LUCK! On this sunny cloudless Saturday? Not knowing quite what Chris is thinking we all suggest that she drive. With her behind the wheel we can go wherever her vision takes us without the frustration of trying to read each other's minds, follow weird directions, or argue logic and realism with the Director.
While we're packing up April reassures us all that this a common phenomenon in film making. The technical term for it is a "Directors Wedgie." Knowing this makes dealing with it much easier. Whenever Chris makes a seemingly unreasonable demand we all shrug, acknowledge the "Director's Wedgie," nod to one another and follow our fearless leader wherever she may want to take us, except into the woods. You see the trick to becoming a cohesive crew is communication — and knowing when your director has gone off the deep end, yet going with her anyway. I guess you can call the going any way creative trust and patience — something we all learned more of than we liked.
Departing Willard Bay State Park with a refund in hand (sorry Utah, if we should have desecrated your sacred lake we would have let you keep the money) we headed back on the highway towards Salt Lake City. April explained to me the cattle gratings at the on and off ramps of the highway. I thought they were a way of closing off the road, but they're just there to deter cows. I never knew that April was so knowledgeable about cows until this trip. If you ever have any cow questions, just ask April!
Now, I don't know if I just didn't notice it before, but everywhere I looked I saw military vehicles. On the side roads, exits and highways. Parked and moving were camouflaged Jeeps and Humvees. There were several other kinds too, but I don't know their names, I'm sure one of my friends does though. Its nice having an eclectic group of friends — some can answer cow questions and others military. But in both directions they came and went. I had no idea the Salt Lake area was such a huge military spot. For a moment it was a little spooky — what are all the Mormons up to? Just kidding —separation of church and state, right? How many of us believe that actually exists?
Chris never could find the type of spot she was looking for along the road. The Great Salt Lake is just too populated with personal watercraft, so we ended up in SLC sooner than we expected. For those of your who have never been there, it is a dense cluster of buildings tucked into a pocket between the Rockies and the Great Salt Lake. The sliver of pocket extends for miles north and south of the downtown area and construction is plentiful in all areas. In the residential areas dozens of pre-fab houses were popping up simultaneously and in the business district entire blocks were excavated in prep for high-rises.
The famous Mormon Temple stood witness to it all at the heart of the city. Its gold roof caught the sun as we drove in and glimmered a bright welcome to us newcomers. Driving past it we could see a wedding party emerging and behind it a huge ditch carved into the blvd, surrounded by fencing. The main streets in town are named West and East Temple street — I guess the temple is a big focus in the community. I wonder what it would be like to grow up atheist in Utah? Anything like growing up liberal in Orange County?
Stopping at a downtown park for a picnic of — cheese sandwiches again, sigh — we again reassessed our plan. The key to this trip is flexibility!!
April livened up our eating time by grabbing chocolate shakes from Burger King across the street from the park. This park would have been a great site for interviews if there weren't so much noise form the cars rushing past and construction sites a-plenty. Finishing our delicious sandwiches Kelli and I run across the street to pee. As we cross the street I find myself surprises to see an African American man walking down the East Temple St and a Latino man hanging out reading a book on a bench. This is the first sign of ethnic diversity I have seen in several states. Does this mean were getting close to San Francisco?
Upon returning we find April and Chris feverishly planning our journey home. The time table seems quick — the end of the trip is drawing near so very fast. A few days ago I was dying to be home sprawled out across my own bed with my kitty purring in my ear. Today I have a longing to cultivate a nomadic life of film and social revolution — this constant movement from place to place has become a reflective journey for me. Out here there is no past, future is irrelevant. The only time is the present time.
Jolted back into reality by this new yet old perspective of anticipating the future, I begin to think of what I will return to in 2 days. My home, my kitty, my friends my work and intriguing new person in my life who left a voicemail last week ...
Home — the word itself sounds strange. Comforting yet confining — a joy and a burden. These thoughts and perspectives would evolve over the new few days. A wide range of emotions would follow and the distance between me and home grew shorter.
The suburbs of Salt Lake City seemed a much more appealing place to get interviews. Perhaps we could find a few parks with families huddled around a baseball diamond cheering on their youngsters. Or picnickers enjoying a tranquil park away from mass construction. We jumped on the freeway planning to hit the next residential exit, but ended finding ourselves getting wet. What started as a trickle took no time at all in turning into large droplets or rain and the clouds on the horizon didn't show any signs of letting up. A breeze was pushing it in our direction and there was nowhere to go but into it. Perhaps this was a sign that SLC did not want to play a role in our pivotal film. Well even if their people won't their urban sprawl will.
The drive out was intriguing. I never know land could get so flat and desolate. I never knew animals could live in an area so saturated by salt. And in my awestruck state I watched a large structure gain height and clarity and found myself dwarfed in the presence of the Morton Salt Girl — raincoat, umbrella and all. Wow! It was like meeting a movie star or something, except she didn't have an opportunity to be a bitch. She just stood there staring right back as we drove off into the distance.
Hoping the rain would subside we decided to push on to a town called Dell for interviews. We got to Dell to find that there was nothing there except a gas station. We all think, let just pass it by and head onto the next town — Knolls. 20 miles later we get to Knolls to find that there is absolutely nothing there, including no gas station. Passing Knolls, April glances down at the gas gauge. Much to our surprise we are on empty and the map tells us the nearest gas station on our path is 30 miles away. Wendover. Holy shit! Giggling and fretting we all made bets on how far can we get before the "need gas" light comes on. April's guess was 15 miles, Cynthia being the optimist and having an impending need for the restroom guessed 20 miles, Kelli makes a price-is-right stab with 10 miles and Chris knowing her car flatly states 3 miles. No sooner did we make our bets than the light came on — 2 miles.
We all thought it best to pull over and call AAA while we still had a little gas for any electrical needs (i.e. this update — I'm actually writing it as it happens, and it is a very strange way to experience life) Not too far up the road we could see a large unnatural sculpture protruding from the earth. It was topped with large green balls sticking out in all directions and at the base sat 3 melon-colored concrete canoes. FYI it's a great landmark for a tow truck when you're in the middle of nowhere. Can you imagine, "Yeah, we're stranded by the big ball sculpture on I-80 between SLC and the Nevada border." Tow truck: "Great, we'll be there in an hour." Well if you can I'm about it spell it out for your.
As we pull off the road the rain starts up again adding a little thunder to its repertoire. Under most circumstances I hate cell phones and every thing they stand for, but on this occasion I was happy we had Kelli, the LA-freeway-driving, cell-phone-carrying, accustomed-to-car -issues gal! In a flash she had her AAA card and phone in hand and dialed the service # for "outside CA." The recorded voice says "Sorry, that number cannot be reached from this calling area." What? Since when did Utah become a part of CA and why weren't we informed? She tries the CA number. What can it hurt? Again the voice: "not a valid number in this area." Huh?? About this time the cell phone began to lose power. Did I mention the car power adaptor doesn't work with Kelli's phone?
By this time April and I are belly down in the back of the truck. Belly down to listen to every beep of the phone and half conversation piece we can. The seriousness of the situation was starting to settle in and our best response to it was to giggle.
With the last bit of power she tries 411. Perhaps they will have a local number for AAA. The local operator refers us to the 800 directory. The 800 director says "Thank you, the number is ..." the same frikkin' number we have on the back of the card. SHIT!
With the power fading fast so is our hope for a speedy rescue. Kelli's cell phone is close to death, but she is determined to reach AAA. Giving it one more shot she tries the "outside CA" number again. April and I have become a huge distraction for her. We've found a way to take everything she says and turn it into an LA or a blonde joke. At the point where we manage to regain control of our laughter, Kelli connects with AAA. Wow! We're saved! "Yes, we would like roadside service," Kelli yells into the phone. "We are on a cell phone that is losing power." "What? Huh. I'm sorry you've got bad reception." April and I lose it at this point. We are laughing hysterically rolling around the back of the truck grabbing our tummies in pain. Chris shuts the dividing window so Kelli can hear. April and I regain our composure with the help of a pillow to the face.
Kelli starts up again, "Let me try and walk around to see if I can get better reception." She exits the cab and begins slowly circling the truck. Stopping near the antenna on the passenger side she begins to switch the phone from one ear to the other. "I think the reception is better on this side on my head." April and I explode into another long fit of laughter. We know Kelli is an incredibly talented and intelligent woman, but the blondness of her hair, the SoCal-isms and the ridiculousness of the situation bring to the surface all stereotypes ingrained in us. Really, we were lucky we weren't left to my devices or we'd still be out in the middle of nowhere. Once we knew the rescue truck was on its way we relaxed and enjoyed the crazy situation we had managed to get ourselves into.
For those of you who think we ran out of gas on purpose — you are wrong. For those of you who think we don't regret running out of gas — you couldn't be any more right. It was a great spontaneous experience. When you find yourself in a situation where you have absolutely no control over what is happening to you the best thing to do is ENJOY IT, laugh at I and find a way to write a book about it later. Be an opportunist!
And opportunists we were. We started off by attempting to attract attention. Project #1 included pulling out the gaffers tape and writing "GOT GAS?" on the side of the truck. April, Chris and I posed next to our work of art while watching cars ad trucks whiz by. Was no one even interested in stopping?? Project #2 was setting George up next to the melon boats to shoot Chris and Kelli's personal interviews. What they didn't notice until later was that the melon boats had been used as port-a-potties by other guests to the site. Pretty yucky, huh. Only you and I will know what is really going on when we watch the film. My personal challenge was that I really had to pee at this point and didn't want to follow the lead of the other guests, but what do you do when there are no bushes or visual block from the road? You can find your own personal answer to this dilemma. I know mine.
Project #3 is entitled the Charlie's Angels photos. With two days left we had photo film to burn and this seemed like a great place to do it. April and Kelli set the still cameras up and armed the timer on the shutter. We each chose a piece of equipment signifying our role in the project and struck a pose. April sported George (big surprise there), Kelli grabbed the clapboard, I juggled the laptop and clipboard, and Chris found her persona in her black cowboy hat and a finger stretched our with discovery in an en garde position. After a couple of shots like that with the moist sand in the foreground and cloud-scattered blue sky in the distance we jumped on top of the truck for some sillier, more personal shots. Our hope was that they would come out the way we imagined them and make for great promo shots. I guess we'll all see what ends up on the movie box and book cover.
In the midst of this spontaneous fun Chris managed to nab an interview with a guy from Palo Alto, CA. Again I ask, what are all these Californians doing in the middle of nowhere or more specifically the nowhere of Salt Flats of Utah? Californians are everywhere! Mr. Tow Guy was also sweet enough to let us interview him while he filled our ever so empty tank. We ended up running into him on the next town we hit — at a gas station.
With two hours of "lost" time on our hands we needed to get back on track. We drove thru a Subway shop in Wendover, UT/NV for dinner and with the crew's inspiration Kelli interviewed the drive thru clerk while I manned Oscar in the passenger's seat. He had a perspective you might not expect coming from a man wearing two pounds of gold chains around his neck and a backdrop of a football jersey. Every town has its own surprise for us.
Having what we needed from Wendover we pushed on to the next big town. The last late night of driving — chasing the swiftly setting sun through the hills and valleys of Nevada. It managed to lose us at a golden ridge top leaving behind a beautiful glow. We were in darkness rising and falling with the landscape — never knowing what the next mile would bring. The speckled lights of civilization greeted us around 9pm — Elko, NV. I had heard many tales of Elko from a rough BLM ranger, but never did I expect myself anticipating my arrival there.
Coming down from one of my many Dr Pepper highs of the day, I found myself exhausted and irritable. April had been doing the driving for quite some time but I had fired up the laptop and tried to catch up on our adventures for you. Honestly, I could have used two days of writing for every day on the road. I guess brevity it not my forte.
Pulling into Elko we saw the main strip, a mini Las Vegas in the midst of a cowboy town. And would you believe that every room in town was booked? I don't mean there were two motels with five rooms each and they were booked, I'm talking tons of motels with a shitload of rooms and they were packed full. Full of cowboys! If Chris and Kelli hadn't been so exhausted it might have been a dream come true! It seems we were just in time for the BIG RODEO of the year. Everyone in the surrounding states was in town to see who was the best roper, jumper, broncoer and whatever else they compete about at rodeos.
Sitting on the cold dawn lawn of a Motel 6, the smokers smoked and again we reassessed. The next town was 50 miles away — fortunately we had gas this time — but the rodeo would be an awesome place for interviews. A difficult decision, to rodeo or not to rodeo. Do we drive on and stay in the next town, backtracking in the morning to get the footage? Or just say fuck it? So far the trip had been pretty haphazard, whatever happened happened and if it didn't work out we moved on. This was a time to move on and we did.
An hour later we were comfortably settled in a very nice and mostly empty hotel in Carlton, NV. April set George up to record our pre-bedtime activities and we just about forgot he was there. Suffice to say the footage from that evening it a bit on the risqué side. There is still a bit of debate on how much of it will actually make it into the film.
Snuggling under my last pair of hotel sheets for a while I watched "Back to the Future" for the first time and dozed off.