Back to IndieWire

Four days. Three nights. Two thousand five hundred sixteen miles.

Four days. Three nights. Two thousand five hundred sixteen miles.

This is how I spent the week leading up to Toronto. While watching films here, meeting folks and participating in all the amazing activities the festival offers, drifting in and out of the medative space of screenings and the social space of meetings and parties, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lines between what is real and what is imagined.

Roadtrips in the movies are always filled with wacky characters, mishaps and off-beat adventures. Think of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE or TRANSAMERICA or even PUFFY CHAIR.

In real life, while relocating from California to Atlanta to start as Executive Director of IMAGE, the roadtrip is a monotonous (albeit also meditative and cathartic) affair. Driving cross country is a necessary step in getting from there to here.

I spent much time on my roadtrip scanning the radio dial in search of music, listening to books on CD, or grooving to the cadences of evangelical radio preachers. (Biggest disappointment: I couldn’t listen to satellite radio as my Siruis radio receiver has a warranty issue, and the repacement unit is on backorder.)

Rest stops feature the same assortment of gas stations and restaurants, both fast food and family style. Hotel options, the usual line-up of predicable chains, clustered in mini-villages every sixty or a hundred miles. Each night, the big decision: stop here, or power on for another hour til the next oasis of Best Westerns, Red Roof Inns, Motel Sixes, Denny’s, Taco Bells, and Subways.

Some may find the idea of the Wal-Martization of America depressing, but there is also something reassuring about the predictability (and consistant uniformity) of the American landscape. I can’t express how happy I was when we FINALLY stopped at a Starbucks on the third day.

For those with extra time on their hands, in search of cinematic roadtrip-style adventures, there remains a multitude of quirky, homespun, decidedly non-corporate alternatives.

But I’m convinced that the quirky concept road movie is spawned from the boredom of cross country driving. The daydreaming one engages in while hauling ass across a barren landscape, the driver catches a glimpse of something odd, and begins to imagine:


Barren landscape of Arizona highway at dusk, setting sun reflects off the auburn layercake rock formations that populate the otherwise still and spikey desert, whose cacti cast long shadows which seem to stretch and yawn before the cool restful slumber that awaits them once the sun finally sets.

The lonely and desolate scene is interrupted by the approaching lights of an automobile, it is a vintage Thunderbird convertible…and we hear the unmistable sounds of Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo eminating from its bombastic sound system. Behind the wheel sits TEX, an Elvis impersonator, singing along to the title track of Graceland. Indeed, he is going to Graceland.”

Or some such nonsense…

In reality, the essence of the journey is the journey. Motion, direction, monotonous, unyielding process of progress, clocking miles and making time. There is no need to justify the journey, or muddy it up with a narrative or characters, diversions and detours.

It is an abstract film. A four day tracking shot. Something Ernie Gehr or Andy Warhol might have delighted in. Even Godard’s Weekend traffic jam only lasted ten-minutes. Capturing a roadtrip on film would look more like Chantel Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman. Each day, wake up. Drive. Eat. Stop to go to the bathroom. Drive. Stop for gas. Eat. Drive. Stop for Gas. Book a hotel. Sleep. Wake up. Begin again.

Like Sisyphus.

What follows is photo album chronicling my journey from behind the wheel.

Day 1
1 man on a trike CA
a motorcycle with training wheels

california mountain 2
a moutnain

california hill 3
a hill

rearview 4

Day 2
day 2 califnornia morning 5
my final california morning

by the time i get to arizona 6
by the time i get to arizona

day 2 arizona under god 7
one nation

arizona hill 8
hills like layer cakes

az, day 2 dead bug 9
the last thing that went through this insect’s mind

az rain sky 10
someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets

az sky 11
big cloud country

az meteor city 12
meteor city!!!

az rte 66 here it is 13
jackrabbit, slim.
(thoughts of the lonely route 66 strip in pixar’s cars resonated at this lonely roadside stop, a sometime ago hopping burrow.)

new mexico 14
shocked by lack of “new” border control, i slipped into “new” mexico without completely uncontested

new mexico rd 15
random thought: maybe life really is a highway?

new mexico rte 66 gas 16
kicks on 66

new mexioco night 17
night traffic

new mexico mc d night 18
where’s ronald? golden arches illuminate the night sky

Day 3
day 3 cst 19
what time looks like

day 3 texas 20
out of the frying pan, into the panhandle

tx starbucks 21
winter was here

tx big cross 22
everything really is bigger in texas

day 3 oklahoma 23
i’ve now officially completed the reverse joad journey

ok wind mill 24
location scouts note: perfect location for the american remake of volver

ok water slide 25
slip slindin’ away

ok rearview truck 27
object on truck may be larger than it appears: a massive prop stone building facade

ok like mike 28
like mike

ok bush:rebel 29
rebel with a cause

ok american idol 30
hometown of ai winner carrie underwood…

arkansas 31
…she’s a little country, here’s the way to little rock

Day 4
ar to tn bridge 32
the bridge to tennessee

tennessee 33
an inconvenient truth

graceland sign 32
a hero to most

mississippi river
the mighty

mississippi miss 35
putting the “miss” in “mississippi”, the only state sign i missed, but what a lovely roadside landscape it is

mississippi clown 36
life in turnaround–in mississippi, the fatigue took its toll, and i made a wrong turn, taking us about an hour off course. the drown the clown truck mocks me.

albama 38
roll tide: back on course

al rain 39
panic on the streets of birmingham

ga state line
georgia on my mind

atlanta sky--at night at 75mph
first glimpse of the atlanta skyline at 75 mph–home at last

This Article is related to: Uncategorized and tagged