1619 Project - Part 2
Bustin' Loose in Birmingham
It’s that time of year in New York City when it’s still spring but at any moment you could get the most wretched and humid conditions one day and a freeze warning the next. And then, as if the great switch in the sky is flipped, it will be summer. It just happens like that; everyone is suddenly scrambling to install air conditioners and eyeing their bank accounts for AirBnB rentals outside the city limits.
Since our last meeting, I had a gastronomically challenged run in southern Ohio that featured some of the worst Asian-inspired food I’ve ever had, I got to run up and down the field during an XFL game, went back to Indianapolis for the NFL draft and recorded some of the deepest conversations about Buddhist philosophy. I also edited and mixed another feature documentary. And, of course, everyone knows it’s now pretty slow out there in production-land. And there’s a strike.
But the biggest news around here is that my short documentary film “American Santa” is premiering at the Provincetown International Film Festival next month. This will be the start of what I hope is a solid festival run and the prelude to a wider release come the holiday season. I’m finishing up the sound mix and am very proud of the film. It’s an indictment of racism in America wrapped in a Christmas movie. You will see it soon!
And now back to more fun south of the Mason-Dixon line…
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Project: 1619 Project
Cast of Characters:
Nikole - Creator / EP
Shoshana - EP
Christine - Director
Tony - Director of Photography
Yusuke - Camera
Cesar - Gaffer
Naimah - Producer
Quinton - Producer
September 07, 2021
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity
Well, labor day had most places around the hotel closed, so last night's dinner was an experience in Southern hospitality. Mugshots had all the ambiance of an airport sports bar with none of the convenience you'd expect from a beer-and-burger joint. I didn't go inside, but my sense was there was lots of shouting into mobile phones and a general atmosphere of a pharmacy. Upon asking about the local draft beer selection, I was informed that one was "sweet" and the other was "sour." Oh, okay. When further prodded for information, our server, who was also training someone, let us know that she didn't know much about beer because liquor was her "thing." She was also flummoxed by Yusuke's and mine order of seltzer because I guess around here that just means White Claw. And Anyhoo, they were also out of mushrooms, but not the kind that goes on the mushroom burger, swiss cheese, turkey burgers and well, food, because there was a football game - in the stadium next door - and everyone was taken by surprise that the fans were hungry?
But I digress. Christine and I went for the patty melt, which was an insult to that most basic of diner orders. Alas, apparently they were also out of sourdough bread because they tried to fake it by slicing the tops off some buns to make it look like... bread. Nice try. Naimah's turkey club was the platonic inverse of what she was expecting, of what anyone ought to expect. There was no thickly sliced fresh roasted turkey, no hint of cranberry and mayo... No, that turkey club sandwich was a walking apology, an anguished country ballad, a heartbroken '60s croon, the smell of someone's breath, a loogie on your shoe. Which is to say, it looked like straight school lunch. She did not finish it. Meanwhile, Cesar at his whole meal, as did I for that matter. Because while it was all kinds of wrongly made, it still was tasty and we were hungry. And the salsa tasted like it was straight from the "Tostitos" jar. Just like home? Tony said it all was "worse than expected." So, here's to overdelivering!
Today we rose early and by the time I got to the lobby, Billy Joel was once again singing "Movin' Out" over the speakers. The chai was warm and the croissant-wich was tasty, and I continued the hotel elevator security discussion with Naimah and Christine. Is it better to have elevators that require a key card to operate thereby keeping out unwanted intruders or ones that can close their doors quickly and get a person out of harm's way?
Out in Pratt City, at the end of the road, down the path, we set up for our scene with Doug. A pop-up tent went up as the yellow butterflies danced, the cicadas laughed and the gigantic spiders marched across the grass. A moth landed on my boom pole as I recorded the ambient sound. I shooed it away but it came back and so I watched it while listening to the insects and the train in the distance. It was small, its color almost translucent, like an image seen through black-and-white film. And I knew it was a moth and not a butterfly because moths keep their wings upright while butterflies spread them out while at rest.
Doug then gave us a master class in American corporate history and its capital roots in the antebellum convict leasing of labor. Truly a horrific landscape of the past, leading up to our very present. All those Carnegie libraries. Pittsburgh. New York. It's all built on top of this. All the systems, the criminal statutes, the private industry, the state, all interlocked in a terrible jigsaw. And of course, it was devilishly hot. The air was thick with humidity, and the sun rose and rose and rose as if it wanted to burn off the world. Sweat collected on Doug's brow, the heat poured from his body through his shirt. Oh man, it was hot, the humidity like the veins of the dead animal, plump, turgid, broken. We were all feeling it and did our best to continue with the discussion, and I imagined what it would have been like in one of those terrible labor camps.
And then, lunch in Birmingham. Urban Cookhouse is a head fake. What does "Shop Local, Eat Urban" even mean? What was local? What was urban? After the heat and the filming... it was too much to ponder. I got the most anodyne meal - a "local" wrap which in this case means greens, chicken, and egg. Totally forgettable. Tony said his mushrooms were good and that it was "better than last night" but then confessed to liking the salsa. Yusuke got the most popular dish and reported it to be "the driest chicken ever." Cesar's berry salad with shrimp was "not bad." The bathroom was in a bank vault and Shoshana does not like Dallas, Texas at all.
After all that we headed to Bessmer for B-Roll and portraiture. Somehow, even after having a discussion with Christine and Yusuke about not pressing the record button, I managed to NOT record the train barreling by the old station. Mea Culpa. I scrambled to get up and running and yet... there I was, staring at the record button after the train had left the station. I felt the shame on the roof of my mouth, like a heavy and cold stone, a terrible and cold regret. The cardinal sin. So ring the shame bell for me. Later, downtown, I did record some train sounds. Redemption.
Nikole then walked back and forth and got up and sat down enough times to make it a thing to talk about and then we were done. I got a shot of Willie on the bench. Yusuke checked out Air Jordans at Memory Lane.
Rodney Scott's BBQ renewed my faith in barbecue. Best I've had in years and although I was feeling badly about not having my mother's brisket for the Jewish New Year, Rodney's set me straight. Shoshana should have gotten an extra bag of pork rinds.
Quinton is our Crew Dad. Nikole is Bird. See you in the morning!
Will you be in Provincetown on June 16th?
Oblique Strategy Of The Day
“Is there something missing?”
All good thoughts,