The Porter: A 12-Piece Visual and Written Narrative

 

I

Departure

You see, when you go to the movies, when you watch a blockbuster, when you pour and gossip and flirt over a movie that just blew your mind at the theater but that you forget about by dinner because you didn’t really care about it in the first place, or rather, you just use it as fodder for conversation to better get to know who it is that’s sitting across from you and who it was you went to the movies with, well, they never tell you — not the people who show movies or the people who make them — or maybe you just never listen because directors always seem a bit pretentious — especially on T.V. — but they never tell you what they actually did to make that digital book, those one billion frames of one billion pixels that appear on that screen in that theater at the same time that you’re trying to impress someone you barely even knew. No. They don’t. Not a word or a blubber or blabber or blabberyblubber. They don’t talk about how much work it took. How much passion. How much heart. How much energy and obsession and self-mutilation they put themselves through just to make a movie….A movie of all things. How pretentious is that? And they can’t complain. Who’d empathize? Not me. Not my mom. Not that guy on the street selling hot dogs at the corner of Barkley and 5th while his whole family is staying home in the pandemic, relying on the money he’ll make despite running the risk of contraction while the numbers keep climbing. No. Who wants to hear about how much self-selling and annoying emails and friendly relationships directors turn business-like in the hope of spreading hope for their idea with the hope that it might actually become a reality. Or about how many times they fought with their parents, or lovers or children because they were more passionate about a film than they were about the real world, and how many times those parents, lovers and children had to ignore them for fear of setting them off and into the edge of oblivion beyond. No. No one wants to hear that. And so, it’s not spoken. Not a word about the people who dropped out a few days before filming. About the company they were supposed to join but didn’t because they’re wasn’t actually a company to join in the first place. And the splitting headache they got when they didn’t have enough money to get the job done that they told everyone on the internet for the past two months that they'd accomplish no matter what – NO MATTER WHAT! - but that in reality, they had no idea what on earth they were actually doing. No. The movie makers and show people and stewards at the theatre, they never tell you when you go to the movies what it takes. What it actually takes. and they probably shouldn’t. Because, honestly, who really cares.

I landed in Nepal with a few thousand dollars. $5,500 dollars to be exact, and I’m pretty sure only a fraction of that was accessible at the time, because I’d bought the ticket to Nepal before I received it all and was still processing the rest of the payments through Zelle and Venmo. Though they weren’t actual payments, but rather gifts and loans from friends and a doctor that I begged or offered me cash because they thought I was nuts and for some strange reason “believed in me.”  So, that’s how much I had. A few thousand. Not much. But enough to start. Right? I mean, it’s just a film, right? Just a camera?  Right? The idea is what matters. Right? Wrong. Right? Ahh who cares, it was enough to take a risk. Enough to go. Enough to ignore everything I hadn’t researched anyway, because I was too shortsighted to ever do that in the first place, despite the money. So screw it.

3.50 cents a night. That’s how much I paid for a hostel that I’d stayed in twice before. My bed was in the side room. In the back corner of the side room, with my head nearest the wall. That’s where I could hide and that’s where I liked it. And there were two others staying in the room. Maybe a few others that trickled in too – there musta been 10 beds - but two beds with two guys in particular ran the joint. And had been for months. One was at the bed to your right, right when you walked in, and the other was on the bed to your left, right when you walked on.

The guy on the right, who’s name I didn’t know for a few weeks but who’s name I might be able to find if I wasn’t too lazy to pick up my phone to check, well, he had this whole setup around his bed. A babylon of hanging blankets and towels as curtains and a suitcase that he used as a desk, which I could see from the doorway and which he’d put his phone on to watch Netflix in English even though he was from India. But he was fluent in English, proper English, probably better than myself, so he watched it in English instead of Hindi. And the other guy, on the bed to his left, right when you walked in, was his brother, who always cooked for his brother on the right despite the fact that his brother was older. But he cooked anyway. And every meal too. Used to hand deliver them right up to his brother on the right. Right to his bed. I don’t know why, but that was they’re agreement.

One cooked and the other stayed in bed. I lay in the back.

I had two months before my plane ticket home, which meant I had one month to organize everything I organized beforehand. And a few weeks to fix everything I hadn’t. But when you add in the need to fix everything I had organized, ontop of what I hadn’t organized, well now you’re looking at a real cluster-f**k of undone-organization. So, if that happened, if everything did fall through, I’d really be screwed. But it couldn’t. Wasn’t even a thought. Or at least it wouldn’t be for another three weeks which was fortunate but also unfortunate, because when it did happen, I only had a week to get my s**t together, but when it hadn’t yet happened, I had more time to stress about stress that hadn’t even stressed me out yet. 

Public Transit

And in those weeks, I would lie in bed most days, just passing time, sneaking out to meet with a friend or a company owner, here and there, to spruce up a connection that would hopefully help me figure out the conundrum of the film that hadn’t even developed yet. I felt good. Free and open for the first time in weeks. Back in the chaos of a world away. But in truth, headed for a pretty bad decline. Not mentally or physically either, but aspirationally, I mean. The project was already heads down, turned up and destined to fail. But at the time, I didn’t even know it yet. And no amount of thinking would’ve revealed it so. I just kept relying on others, heavily on others who were so busy with their own stuff that they didn’t have enough time to deal with a crazy American who just flew in, was demanding attention and who was ludicrously claiming that he was going to shoot a movie — not even a film at the time — but that didn’t have a crew, or a real camera or anything that he actually needed to make that film apart from a GoPro and a solar Charger that his dad bought him as a going away gift. But why won’t they help me? I’m making a friggen movie! This is important. Don’t they understand? Everyone? Doesn’t everyone get that?! I mean, look! I’ve come all the way here from the states and slept on a floor in Turkey in the airport with money that I raised from a PA, teammate and former classmate and I’m still going? Isn’t that enough? Doesn’t that prove my commitment? Or do I need to show more? To do more? To be more? But I can’t. This has to be enough. It has to work. They have to help. And everything, I know, will be, o, k.

And so I thought, but it would take those first three weeks of brooding, just to weed through the weeds I hadn’t yet cut to discover the ruined ground beneath and the need for new soil immediately.

But in the meantime, I wrote. Every morning in a café. Used to do the same thing in Spain when I lived there and wrote at a café when I was trying to become a stripper. But that wasn’t the same, though, because in Spain, I was still trying to live out the fantasy of some famous writer. Of Hemmingway or whoever it was that got known for writing in a Spanish café. Or was it a French one? I don’t know. But I tried the same. Trust me, I tried to find a cool one. Some niche, corner-in-the-wall café that “I’d be known for visiting” later in life once the past five years of my life amounted to something tanugible. But truth is, if I ever did find one, a café — and I never looked that hard because like I said, I’m super lazy — I’d always hate it when I did. Partially because no one was there, and partially because in an empty cafe you have to keep buying things to keep your seat or else you feel this sensation in the middle-top of your stomach, like religious guilt or a bad set of eggs, so instead, you buy something more because you’re hoping an angel might walk in while you’re “working” and that you'll fall in love and live happily ever after in the Spanish countryside or the Italian one because the meadows are larger and the fruits more supple there, or, instead, since you’re pretty broke and don’t even like coffee to begin with and only came here to be famous and meet the love of your life, you just leave. Retreat. And go back to Starbucks for a few months of writing instead.

 

Ya, I know. It’s embarrassing. But it happened. That's what I did. A tea at 2.45 € euros every morning and a coffee cake if I splurged. Right In the back. Second floor. Against the wall and overlooking the door, where I could hide. And write. Not necessarily the stuff of legends. But, it happened. It did.

Anyways, in Nepal it was different. The cafe was where I kinda got my s**t together and organized things for the day. Movie wise. And ate breakfast too, with which, I admit, I was a bit frivolous. Not too frivolous, because I’m actually a pretty responsible guy and felt guilty about spending other people’s money, but much more frivolous than I would’ve had it been my own. $9 dollars a meal, and when I got the juice or brownie, or both, a bit more, which in Nepal is a pretty exorbitant amount. But to me, justifiable, because if I was a filmmaker, I needed to stay healthy and vigilant. And most of all well-fed. So it was okay. And plus, $10 dollars is what a meal costs in America, so technically, I'm almost under-spending, right? But then again, if it were my own money, maybe I would’ve skipped breakfast. Or maybe not. Sometimes, I have a tendency to blow money. Others, a tendency to starve. Either way, if I’m being honest, I kinda just wanted to be the rich filmmaker for once. So I bought an expensive meal. 

Dear Stella,

It’s not so much that this letter is to you. It’s just: I needed to address it to someone and you’re the first person on my mind. Strangely, you have been for quite some time now.

I’m back in this café. As I am every day, here is where I write. Is where I don’t think. It’s where I express myself. On the page.

I’m stressed. But stress is good for me. I need it to remain calm. That’s how my head works.

Lately, though, I’ve felt scared. Fear for the first time. I’ve even had doubts about this project. But perhaps that’s because it will only happen with you. 

Anyways, I didn’t go there to write. I went there to organize the film. But I always wrote after, just before leaving, to a girl about the project and how it was going. She was supposed to be the videographer. The one who inspired the debacle. And the only one I ever met who agreed to follow me on a journey and was actually crazy enough to last. She was, I thought, my knight in shining armor. My glorious Von-glorianstein. My steed of steeds. Is that a saying? Oh, who cares. But it was her, I wrote to. Several times. Often passionately too. In poetry and prose and everything in between — I had ever since I met her the year before. But she hadn’t arrived yet. She hadn’t responded much either — I hadn’t sent many letters — but she hadn’t arrived yet. Which was my fault, because I hadn’t bought her ticket because I didn’t have the money, so I was waiting and waiting and devising and waiting some more with the hope that I'd figure out a way to either get a few thousand to pay her what I promised or finally receive the 10 grand that a sponsor swore he'd donate. So I just waited. Writing and eating and resting and meeting and hoping, just hoping that I could finally figure it all out before the money I raised disappeared.