This past Saturday evening I was driving home to Des Moines from Fairfield. I had poorly stuffed my car with all the belongings that I normally travel with: one suitcase, a laptop, some records, and multiple grocery bags of important paper work that should be filed away. I am extremely unorganized with receipts down by feet that should have been inputed into Quickbooks for proper accounting. Gwar’s Live From Mount Fuji album is blasting through my speakers which means I am officially done with taking business phone calls for the day.
This journey I take every week and I have been making it consistently for nearly six months. I pack my things on Wednesday stay until Saturday and drive home in the evening. I haven’t put this many miles on a vehicle since 2011 when I was shooting the Templeton film. I know these Iowa roads very well and I have met some of the greatest individuals in world while on these trips. Most of these people live in small towns with populations of 5,000 or less.
Each trip is different. My drive to Fairfield is different than my drive back. The drive there I am taking business calls all the way there. I am thinking about all of the things I am going accomplish. I am anxious to see the people who work for me. I am excited to see what ideas or events will come my direction this trip. I am fueled by excitement, 80′s punk music, and cheap gas station coffee. I am the lord of fire (in my deep demon voice).
My visit goes like this: I show up and I am immediately hyperventilating. Here is a bill for $3k that needs to be paid to the electric company in a week. At least two movie studios say we owe them more money than what has been reported. Two employees turned in their two week resignation however they have shortened their countdown from 2 weeks to 3 days. Oh, and there is a list of messages from people on my desk that I have no intention on calling back. This is actually normal and after a few moments my nerves settle and I make myself some coffee.
I attempt numerous times to sit down and work, however working inside a store front has proven problematic for me. People walk by and see me inside. They knock on windows trying to get my attention. If I have forgotten to lock the door they just come in even if the sign says closed. I understand in small towns things like this don’t apply, however I sometimes have to remind people that the in order to keep the lights on I need this time alone. But, as per usual I give in and let folks come and chat at a table for an hour or two. I get the latest gossip of what is happening in town. I don’t really care, but it saves me time from having to read the newspaper. When it comes time for the place to open I realize that I haven’t done anything. I have wasted more time visiting with random pedestrians even if in the long run I have some political investment by lending an ear to those who want to be heard. It’s also easier to just not answer a phone call then it is to avoid someone after they have seen you.
Business kicks in at 7:00PM, movie patrons pour in three minutes before showtime. Most business owners would be loosing their minds at 7:15 when no one has arrived for the 7:30 show. We’re used to it. Customers arrive and the conversations begin. Most of them are pretty repetitive each week. I get similar questions about when might we be getting a certain title or when I am making another film. The second question is always the tough one. The only answer I can think of is: “This is my new film, I hope you are enjoying it.”
After hours can mean a couple of things, I can either go back to my apartment that sits above the Vegetarian Thai Deli (that serves chicken too) or a I can go pay some respect to a late night business owner. If I go back to the apartment my night is done. If I go back out, the night continues and I feel this desire to create and sometimes even sustain a build up of rage which keeps me up for the rest of the night. Social sacrifice is important, nobody knows who you are if you just sit in a dark room all the time.
The friends I have made in Fairfield are souls that I feel like I have met long before. I don’t get the feeling that I bring new ideas to the town, but more like I am restoring things. Des Moines is different, because I feel like it is my home and everyone is my neighbor. In Fairfield, it is like I am visiting old friends/family and there is a closeness to them that I very much enjoy every time I see them. In such a small community, people connect with each other in a strong way. I have traveled to many places and it feels that I always become closer to the people who I don’t live down the street from. This short paragraph doesn’t fit the flow with this essay, however I do feel it necessary to make note of it.
By the time Saturday hits I am spent. I realize how much of what I had planned to do didn’t happen but also how many other things I did that I wasn’t planning on. Sometimes I open more doors than I should have and new ideas come to my mind before I have a chance to complete the old ones. I stop and ask myself, “Was this trip worth it?”.
I hit the road by 6 or 6:30PM. It takes me six minutes to get from the theater to the highway. The sun is setting and hitting my eyes. My body is beat down and exhaustion settles in. Conversations are done and the warm air is forcing me to relax. I stair at the bugs on my windshield, they were there before but this is the only time I ever notice them.