Not long ago, I had the chance to visit Phoenix, Arizona for the premier of a movie directed by a documentary film maker whose acquaintance I’d recently made.
It was a great trip, overall, it really was. I had the chance to actually hang out with a friend of a friend of mine, with whom I almost immediately fell in love. In the five minutes between the airport and her house I had ascertained that we must have been separated at birth and would hereto-after be nothing less than soul sisters.
She took me to some amazing places; the Superstition Wilderness in the Tonto National Forest, and the Botanical Gardens. I took her to the Phoenix Art Museum and the Hotel San Carlos where she’d agreed to stay with me the night of the premier. I’d meet up with her afterward.
That’s where everything started to go south. Or, at least, where it got weird.
I probably should have known it was going to go that way when my Uber driver dropped me off at what appeared to have once been a drive through fast-food restaurant. Now it was bar. A dive bar. Turned super-dive movie theater.
Not one to judge, I wrote it off as part of the whole “indie-experience”. After all, even I know it’s hard to get a documentary film premiered anywhere. Hell, it’s hard to get a documentary film made. So I went in. Without tempering my expectations.
I got a glass of wine at the cash-register-turned-bar-turned ticket-window-AND-bar… and proceeded to wander around the space. Almost immediately I noticed I was overdressed. WAY overdressed – in my pinstriped pants and tshirt. Jeans and sweats would have done just as well. But, again, I don’t really care what people wear, so… no big deal. We’re a casual culture.
My friend’s two-week-old-relationship-turned-engagement was on parade, and the fiance -when not attached to this soon-to-be-bride, was interacting with me questionably. But, whatever. I could handle myself. I had years of practice dealing with the awkward flirtations of older (MUCH older) men.
I dodged him by wandering the perimeter of the space to engage with the incredible artist featured, in conjunction with the film, I presumed. (Spoiler alert: I presumed wrong.) As I wandered I stumbled across the back room where it appeared they were still making EDITS to the film.
That should have been my second clue. (Or 5th, but who’s counting?)
I thought my luck had finally turned when the most well dressed (he was wearing a sport coat!) and – for me – age appropriate man in the place struck up a conversation with me. Until the woman standing with him castrated me with her eyes. And jockeyed between us. And interrupted me so often I stopped trying to participate in the conversation. And then the Sport Coat’s old-man-friend came back from the bar-turned-ticket-window-AND-bar to thrust a drink into Sport Coat’s hand, and proceed to tell me that he’d been up for several days on an illicit drug and inform me that if I’d just come to his car, I could have anything I wanted.
I thanked him for the offer and went back to the art.
Which, after viewing the movie, turned out to be the only well-done element of the experience. The ONLY well done element. The volume was either too high or too low throughout, the lighting was terrible, and at one point in the movie, the lapel mic was rubbed so loudly by the shirt of the speaker I couldn’t understand what he’d said. For, like, two full minutes. Worst of all, the information itself was so confusing I didn’t really get the point of the thing at all. But, then, that might not be the fault of the filmmakers.
Yikes. (And this is the short version of the whole story. The VERY short version).
After the premier, I gave my film-producer-acquaintance a quick hug, and in an effort to dodge any questions about how much I had or hadn’t enjoyed the film, I cut in before she could ask and commented instead on how much I enjoyed the art, how clever it was of her to include such a dichotomous and at the same time synonymous medium and subject. She told me she had no idea who the artist was, but thank you. I nearly ran out of the fast-food-restaurant-turned-bar-turned-theater.
When I finally met up with my soul-sister and her work buddy, and told them the story, they both laughed heartily… to begin with. But as the story progressed, and got weirder and weirder… their collective response became more of a… guffaw, perhaps. It seemed as though while they were laughing harder, they were also believing less and less of what I was saying. By the time I got to the part of the story with the lapel mic, I realized it; I was the weird, out-of-town-stranger with the unbelievable stories.
I’d met people like this through the course of my life. People who seem almost delirious from months or years of solitary travel, people whose stories sound so wild, so unlikely that I can’t help but wonder if those things really happened to them, or if they let their imaginations run wild as a sort of coping mechanism, the stories growing and expanding in their desperately wandering minds over miles and months.
Now I know. Weird stuff really does happen to people. Kind of a lot. For some people, it happens a WHOLE lot. I happen to be one of the weird ones. Unusual stuff happens to me an unusual amount of the time. So much, so often, that I can sense the sense of disbelief in my new friends’ eyes and smiles and laughter.
It’s ok. I’ve accepted it now. I am at peace with my weirdness and the weirdness it attracts. I understand that people probably won’t believe half of what I tell them. But, then, half the reason I’m compelled to write is because I’m afraid I’ll forget – or that when I finally do remember, I won’t believe it myself.