So….i did some whirlwind traveling in September and was very intent on throwing together a couple of hilarious travel diaries to amuse and delight all of you. Unfortunately, nothing especially funny happened, nor was I entertainingly miserable. However, i did spend a characteristically inordinate amount of time trapped in my goddamn stupid head and had a number of massive epiphanies about my life that I have predictably failed to internalize or act upon. And i intend to write about all of them…someday.
Unfortunately, I’ve been simultaneously too busy and too lazy to organize my hard-won wisdom into something entertaining and readable. However, I did keep a very comprehensive Toronto Film Fest diary during the period in question and i was re-reading it this week and thought some of it was amusingly bitchy and worth sharing. Here is an excerpt from that as a teaser for my imminent, more substantial, and massively revelatory future communique. At the very least, claiming that it is a teaser will make me more likely to write about the other stuff soon.
I took a Greyhound out of Syracuse at 3am and was immediately greeted by a smiling Asian man in a pink Margaret Cho t-shirt who wanted to know if he could use the outlet in my seat to charge his iPhone. Though I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t just move to a seat with an outlet himself (the bus was empty), i allowed it. As we waited to depart, he stood with his back to the window, surveying the bus and smiling broadly to no one in particular. It was clear that he was an extrovert desperately looking for any excuse to talk to someone, but my instincts told me to avoid encouraging him in any way. I was not going to be his victim. I immediately put my headphones on and closed my eyes.
Several hours later, the bus stopped in Buffalo and my Asian buddy was joined by two other Asians that had an almost identical “gay nerd” aesthetic (stylish glasses, purposely dorky tight-fitting clothes, sculpted hair, etc.). They were apparently old friends of some kind (I eavesdropped!) and they were all on their way to the film festival (just like me!). The bulk of their conversation centered around how cold it was and I inwardly marveled at how people so fucking boring could possibly have friends. Eventually, however, i grew weary of marveling and sought my entertainment elsewhere. I surveyed the bus station for other options and was not disappointed: to my surprise and delight, there were a number of improbable freaks milling around, presumably hoping to catch my eye. One fellow looked like he had just returned from performing as a clown at Burning Man, while another weirdly lumpy, malformed fellow looked like he was ineptly trying to pass himself off as Aaron Neville. I was not fooled.
Time passed. We got back on the bus.
When we reached the border station, I wound up behind behind a middle-aged Vietnamese couple with a ton of luggage. They spoke no English at all and no translator was available. That situation turned out to be both amusing and tragic, as it was clear that the husband did not quite understand why everyone was shouting and pointing at him and forcing him to carry all of his luggage into the building. The fiasco ultimately ended up sucking in every single employee, as well as the bus driver, and lasted for almost ten minutes before the border guard finally admitted defeat and just waved them through.
When I got to the counter, the officer jokingly told his coworker that he was quitting and going to the film festival with me. Then he turned to me and said “Why the hell are you doing this to yourself? Don’t take buses. It’s so easy to avoid all this- just fly next time. Seriously.” It was pretty funny and unexpected, as I’d never had any kind of law enforcement officer talk to me like I was an actual person before. Of course, he also made several jokes to his coworker about the hapless Vietnamese man smuggling cigars to his illegal grocery store, so I did not experience any cognitive dissonance in which I briefly considered that cops could actually be genuinely empathic humans. On my way out, I made a point of holding the door for the Vietnamese man and his teetering pile of luggage and fleetingly felt like a good person.
That (of course) passed quickly, as I immediately found myself eavesdropping upon the Margaret Cho superfan again once we got back on the bus. He was now sitting next to some foreign woman and they were discussing the film festival. As it turns out, he was going to see Derek Cianfrance’s A Place Beyond The Pines, a film that I maddeningly got closed out of (along with pretty much every other filmgoer who was not a wealthy donor or industry person). He managed to get a ticket because he actually worked on the film (as did his two absurd little buddies), but I never got to figure out what they exactly did. Regardless, he and the woman had possibly the most infuriatingly inane conversation that I have ever overheard. He just kept talking about how Pines was the only film that he was going to see, because he doesn’t like the chaos of the festival. On her end, she offered such trenchant bon mots as “All of zis chaos is just for zum silly movies? Zat is crazy!” and “I do not watch ze movies but I know who Eva Mendes is because I love to read ze People magazine.” Later, Asian Man asked his two little friends if they were 21 yet because he wanted to go out “somewhere dirty” that night.
All of that became much more amusing to me when we actually entered downtown Toronto and got stuck in traffic, as Asian Man got very excited every time we passed a Scotia Bank, telling everyone around him about how he has a Bank of America ATM card, which enables him to use Scotia Bank ATMs without any extra charges(!). He would not fucking shut up about it and there is probably a Scotia Bank on every single fucking block in Toronto. It was analogous to being in NYC with someone who exclaimed “Oooh- there’s another Starbucks! They have the best coffee!” every thirty seconds. I couldn’t believe it and actually found myself mouthing “I am going to kill you. I am literally going to fucking kill you” at one point. Then my mind thankfully switched gears and I amused myself by thinking about how his hapless little friends would probably be stuck at a gay strip club tonight endlessly hearing him expound on ATM fee avoidance strategies and how cold it was in the Buffalo bus station. I also hoped that he was involved in A Place Beyond the Pines in some sort of creative capacity and that the film would just be Ryan Gosling endlessly talking about his favorite bank and debating about whether or not it was cold enough to wear socks with his sandals.
When we finally arrived at the station, I figured it was too early to check into my hotel, so I dragged my suitcase a mile or so to the TIFF box office to pick up my tickets. There was a long line there that did not move, as it only took a few bumbling cretins and their cretinous problems to bring the whole line to a standstill for 20 minutes. I was stuck behind a chronically dissatisfied woman who kept leaving the line to pester some hapless volunteer about making the line move faster. Eventually, she triumphed, but it was a Pyrrhic victory, as she annoyed absolutely everyone she came in contact with.
As I was leaving, i overheard her arguing with the manager because the counter person did not know how to give her the vouchers she bought. This entertained me immensely, as it meant that she had not converted them to actual tickets for specific movies- she just bought a ticket package early to get a bargain and didn’t make any effort to actually choose any films. Since the festival had already started, there were no longer tickets left for anything that any normal person would want to see, meaning she was doomed to nothing but extremely violent cult films and impenetrable experimental work. Consequently, she was certain to hate every single fucking thing she saw. It is so nice when things go badly for pushy, obnoxious people. Instant karma is all too rare.
I then lugged my suitcase another mile to my hotel, because I am a fucking fool who tends to irrationally avoid subways when things are in walking distance. It was hot and I felt sweaty and gross, presumably because I was sweaty and gross. On the way, I saw an impossibly cool girl effortlessly cut through a mass of tourists on her skateboard. She was probably six feet tall and looked like a punked-out supermodel. She was even wearing long fingerless gloves. Soon after, I also saw a hipster guy with incredibly cool hair who did not seem like a posturing, vapid simpleton. Sights like those do not occur where I am from.
I got settled.
My first film was Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Love and he was not there to introduce it or take questions because he is not a pandering, attention-hungry little bitch. While I was waiting for the film the start, I chatted with a fellow from Saskatoon with a droopy mustache about volcanoes, Iceland, and Jack Kerouac. It was quite pleasant. So was the film, which was about a lonely middle-class Austrian women who goes to Kenya for sex tourism purposes and gets callously exploited by the men she is trying to callously exploit. It was like it was made just for me! Seidl may be the reigning champion at withering misanthropy. I can’t believe people are still giving him money to make films. Suckers.
My next film was Harmony Korine’s Springbreakers, which I almost didn’t go to because I hated Trash Humpers so much. The line was absolutely insane and was populated mostly by young women. Baffled, I chatted about this with an amiable hipster wearing a bow-tie and he explained that the line was because James Franco was in the film. He was dead-on, as the crowd erupted into shrieking chaos when Franco came out to introduce the film with his colleagues. I kind of wish I had stuck around for the Q&A after the film, as it would have been hilarious to watch Harmony Korine, Skrillex, and two hapless Disney TV chicks awkwardly stand around on stage while breathless twenty-something women endlessly grabbed the mic to tell James Franco that they loved him. Alas, I had burritos to consume.
In other news, I saw two separate people throw up on the sidewalk today.
Bought groceries. Failed to find a liquor store. Marveled at how many jaw-droppingly beautiful Indian & Middle-Eastern women there are here. Saw a homeless dude in wheelchair furiously wheeling away from Peruvian flute band playing at extreme volume.
Experienced the most insane line that i have ever been at the end of- I was even heckled by passing motorists (“you’ll never get innnnnn!”). Amusingly, the line eventually got so long that it wound down a residential street and some girl started selling wine from her porch. Inexplicably, said line was for Julien Temple’s new documentary on London. He introduced the film and seemed like a cool guy. Unfortunately, he is a terrible filmmaker and his movie was unwatchably boring, forcing me to leave early. The way i see it, actual Toronto is much more compelling than a hack’s vision of London. I walked home. It was a long walk. The streets were alive with bland, well-behaved college kids. Some chick was murdering Fleetwood Mac songs on a busy street corner. I thought it was charming the first time I passed her, but I wanted to break her guitar over her head when she butchered “Gypsy.”
On my way back, I walked though the shabbier, more unsavory stretch of Yonge Street. There were lots of strip clubs and porn shops, but no fucking liquor stores, inexplicably. I passed a bong shop, and briefly considered buying unregulated synthetic drugs from China and spending the night wandering the streets of Toronto shirtless and gibbering because it would be really fucking funny. Then I passed a Scientology center and considered becoming a Scientologist while I was in town because that would probably be even funnier. Ultimately I did neither, as I am still too weak-willed to fully make my life into prolonged tragicomic art project. I’ll get there though. Wait around.
My first film was at 9am and it was a documentary that i was super excited about (The Act of Killing). It was basically two hours of former Indonesian death squad members excitedly acting out their horrific war crimes in the style of their favorite Hollywood films. It was absolutely staggering and utterly insane.
Afterwards, I decided to take a lovely scenic stroll through the Philosopher’s Path near the Royal Music Conservatory. More bland young people, but at least some of them were wearing black here. Then i walked though Queens Park, which was massively underwhelming. i was still a bit shaken by the film, but was amused to realize that my thoughts about what a ridiculous and disturbing place the world is were rapidly being subsumed by an intense craving for coffee and breakfast. The human mind can adapt to anything, I guess. i quickly found a nearby place called Eggspectations that served breakfast all day and ordered pancakes. Unfortunately, i quickly ran out of coffee and my waitress was really busy so i sat beverageless for a tragically long time. To entertain myself, i tried to rewrite the lyrics to The Gaslight Anthem’s “Great Expectations” to reflect my plight, but couldn’t figure out how to detourn “I saw dead lights last night in a dream about my first wife” into something that movingly conveyed the bitterweet pain of having a plateful of delicious strawberry pancakes, but no coffee. My failure genuinely bothered me. I fear my mind is dulling with age.
(The promised sequel will come eventually….someday)