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1619 Project - Part 1
Iowa Is For American History
Spring is in the air. Time for new projects, new ideas, planting seeds, and tending to growth. I've been deep in post-production on my short documentary, which is nearing completion. By the time the next edition of this newsletter comes out, I'll hopefully have a whole lot more to say about the film.
On the production front last month, let's see, I found myself in Las Vegas and on a stage with Billy Gibbons, Stephen Stills, Kevin Cronin, and Vince Gill. Then I had my mind blown apart over and over again for a week trying to grok some of the deepest thinkers on subjects ranging from Hinduism to transhumanism to the nature of consciousness. Rounding it out, I joined some excellent filmmaker friends on their food documentary, communing with Nick Offerman on a farm in Kentucky.
Back at home, I'm also sound editing and mixing a music-related feature doc, and as expected AI is eating the world.
Moving ahead, I thought that it was time to jump off the spaceship (although that'll get revisited at a later date), and move to a project that was most meaningful, now streaming on Hulu - The 1619 Project. Last month I went to The Apollo for a screening of the Music episode and got to catch up with some of the awesome people I worked with on it. American history is not what you learned in school.
PS - We shot a lot of days, so these will be long. Savor the experience!
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Project: 1619 Project
Cast of Characters:
Nikole - Creator / EP
Shoshana - EP
Jerry - Director of Photography
Coleman - Camera
Bety - Producer
Catie - Producer
August 30, 2021
America Is Ranch Dressing
The dawn of Iowa shone upon us as we got ready and loaded into the vehicles outside our former John Deere factory hotel. The quiche was cold and dry, but the chai latte was warm and sweet and like a comforting hug in a tall paper cup. I felt the golden window of the day begin to open, and after a brief meeting, we split up and B-Rolled the town.
My team went to the old soldier's memorial/veteran's memorial hall. We found the brick, and the flags were at half-mast. Then we went down to the river. The water was brown and churning, bisecting the city with the dexterity of a dancer, shuddering and furled like a snake. And it was high, lapping the stairs of the fishing area. I wondered what could be caught in such a place, seemingly filled with sulfurous rot and decay. And then Coleman saw it - a man walking along the bank, fishing rod in hand, seemingly trolling the waterway. For what, we could not discern; he spoke no English. A woman was camped beneath the overpass. Back up top, the fountain was turned on and the marble lions once again spewed forth their liquid quarry.
Downtown, all was quiet, even for a Monday. Which day is the busy day? Outside the courthouse, a patch of giant white mushrooms was blooming while American flags flapped in the occasional breeze. I thought about how once upon a time, the Earth was covered in giant fungi and no flags at all. Further down the road, the church bells rang and I saw how one could go directly from the house of worship to the courthouse, the lawyer's office, the bank, and then to the bail bond store. Respectfully, the Human Rights office is also on the way.
And then, lunch. We ordered in from Cottonwood Canyon, and I went for the Jerk Chicken Salad. Coleman was dismayed by the unavailability of the bean burger, but he seemed satisfied with his second choice. The Jerk Chicken could have been spicier, in my opinion, but with the fresh greens, it worked and was plenty juicy. Jerry had the same and seemed to concur. Points off for including ranch dressing. I mean, I know we're in Iowa, and ranch is America's number one condiment, but it really has no place in Jamaican food. Full disclosure, I took the "up for grabs" curry rice bowl to my room, which I just ate for dinner. Solid meal, no complaints. Jerry observed that the plants in the courtyard are fake and yet appear to be watered, like soldiers in the foxholes of a lost war, beautiful but abandoned.
After lunch, we headed out to meet the uncles. The sun was a problem, so many silks were assembled and raised. Jerry beat Coleman in a knot-tying competition. And then, everyone sat down for some real family talk. There was discussion about the house, life in Mississippi, and life in Waterloo. Then there was a car accident right on the corner. All I heard was a massive concussive sound. What I saw were two cars that had certainly collided. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. But who has an intersection with no stop signs next to a playground? What kind of local government is this? Thanks, America.
After the fire department, police, towing company, and everyone else came to help clear the scene, we sat down again. We learned about time in the Military, what it's like to work at Deere and Tyson, and how Bosnians got ahead, while black folks still can't get a loan. The sun set, the silks came down, and we closed out the conversation with a wide shot.
September 1, 2021
Dog Shank Afternoon
Before we get to the day, there was a request that I include the fact that some of us ate dinner at Incredible India last night. True to its name, it was actually incredible. The Chicken Vindaloo was tangy and spicy and well balanced. Ditto for the garlic naan. What shot us over the Iowa moon, though, was the dessert - Gulab Jamun. Warm balls of smooth lightly spiced dough stuffed with a wonderfully rich, gooey molasses-like filling that leaves a long, sweet aftertaste. It was so so so good we couldn't understand it, but just kept eating it all the while wondering what was sold across the street at "Cartridge World."
Back to today. We got tested in the gear room and then breakfasted in the cool morning air. The chai was extra sweet this morning and I was reminded that Fall is just around the corner now that we've broached September. Meanwhile, in the lobby, America grabbed and go'd their breakfasts under the baleful stares and gaping, riotous mouths of Fox News on the monitors. The woman behind the counter cautioned several guests not to microwave their breakfast sandwiches more than two minutes or "the cheese goes boom.”
When we got to the apartment complex, two white ladies exiting the elevator looked up at us and said "you're here already?" Noting that Donna Summers lives down the hall, we set up in Ms. D'arcie's apartment and sat down with Nikole and Shimere. The tears came early and were expected. Very real talk about real people. About the wages for a lifetime of hard work. About getting ahead. About caring for each other and those around you and living the best you can. The pandemic opened people's eyes. The house is at risk.
Then we headed to El Patron for a "light" lunch that I knew wouldn't end well. I do like Mexican food very much, but it's often hit-or-miss on the road. I'm putting this one --
Okay, just got back from the dinner party. Let's just forget about lunch. It was basic and Jerry wasn't having it with the no substitutions or choices. His quesadilla was as big as a large pizza, my fajitas were meh, and yet for hours afterward, I felt like I had eaten a goat. Anyway, as Nikole said, it's been the longest three days of her life, and today her uncle almost had to shank her mom's dog. And that's a sentence I've never written before. So, fast forward to Larry talking about fishing, Bety probing for details, Shoshana loving talking to lawyers, there was a basketball on the court, Catie made some half-court throws, Jerry was Hercules, I did my bloated best and then we were done for the day.
Back at the dinner, we were reminded of our bond and gave thanks for the food and fellowship in the room. The food was delicious. I especially loved the dry ribs, the mac and cheese, and the potato salad. Everyone at my table had seconds. Nikole learned that Maker's Mark comes in a family-sized bottle. So while "Oh Honey" and "Last Two Dollars" played, the spirit was in the room and we were all lifted away, into the cool Iowa night.
Oblique Strategy Of The Day
All good thoughts,