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Telluride Film Festival Day One

When you commit to the Telluride Film Festival you do so not knowing what films will play here. That’s sort of like marrying someone without sleeping with them first. You commit and that is all. This is my second year covering the fest, and the thing that pulls me back here isn’t really the films at all. There is some kind of magic in the place that can’t really be upstaged; no matter how magnetic the stars are on the ground they can’t equal the stars in the black-clear sky. Even when it rains, as it’s been doing on and off for a couple of days, Telluride’s beauty is all.

That said, I almost gave up this time after having missed the only flight out of LA to Durango on Thursday morning. (This year’s lineup was announced that afternoon). A whole day later of waiting to get on standby convinced me that if I wanted to get to Telluride, I’d have to buy a whole other plane ticket because the one I had wasn’t going to get me there. I took a loss on one ticket, purchased another one after the airline assured me they’d sent my bag to Denver. I trusted them. I flew to Denver but I was told that my bag had actually been sent to Durango. So not only was I going to have to drive six hours to Durango (they couldn’t send my bag to Telluride until late the next day) but then two more hours to Telluride.

I did it, though. I did it because I knew sooner or later I was going to be here. Yeah, I had to read the tweetgasms on the first who saw Argo, and then miss the outdoor screening of Hyde Park on Hudson. I was rushing in the faint hope that I could still squeeze out something from that first night. A word of advice: if you are going to drive six hours through the entire state of Colorado and you’re in a rush? You’re doing it wrong.

What I wanted to do was stop my car and take pictures of the lush green panoramas, the wind-whipped hay fields, the cows grazing peacefully. I wanted to capture it, all of that space. But what I did was drive.

The first town I drove through out of Denver was Aurora, Colorado. Its welcome sign had a US flag that said “America’s Best City.” It was so homogenous how would you even know you were living the American dream? The stores were mostly chains. The buildings kind of ordinary. Maybe it was more distinguished off the freeway but the only remarkable thing about it was how unremarkable it was. That, and the names I recognized from the news.

But once out of the flatlands and up into the mountains the real Colorado emerges. Medium-sized ranch homes on vast acreage, the occasional Romney sign, four wheel trucks parked out front. As beautiful as it is, this is a place that plays mostly country western songs and God radio. I listened to a little of the God channel when the radio kept coming up blank. It was a q&a about Catholicism. “Do you believe in speaking in tongues?” One caller asked. “Yes, we do.” I wondered if I kept listening would something engage? Would I understand how anyone could spend their day listening to people talk about the Bible? I knew I shouldn’t stereotyping, because how “LA liberal” of me.

One thing that remained consistent about the people I met in Colorado, whether in the airport or at gas stations or at a Whole Foods I found in the middle of nowhere – they were a friendly bunch. At one point during my airport debacle, I got on the wrong shuttle to a rent-a-car place in Denver. When the driver found out about it he drove me to the right one, which was totally against his policy. When I stopped in Durango to buy Advil the cashier asked me about my headache and said he hoped I felt better. You don’t get that kind of thing in Los Angeles much. Too many people watching their own back.


I did finally see, though, what it must be like for someone who lives out here, takes care of their family and themselves who then must pay taxes to help work out the problems of other people they have nothing to do with way out in the big cities. I could understand it but two thoughts down I disagreed with it; if the situation were reversed, if they were struggling to keep food on the table, we in the city would likely care about them. But then again, we are living in now and have been living, since the Civil War, in a sharply divided country. Lincoln saved the Union but the division remains.

Sheriffs patrol the roads in SUVs and no one wants to test their patience by speeding so I had to keep it locked to around 65. That was making my trip longer and the Telluride Film Festival farther and farther away.

By the time I picked up my bag it was almost 7pm. I wouldn’t get into Telluride until around 10pm. I could feel my frustration beginning to mount as I got closer, thinking, why did I do this? Why did put myself in this position to be driving dark and twisty winding roads that late?

I’d forgotten, though, that a blue moon was going to make a rare appearance in the night sky. The moon in the sky shone so brightly that I forced myself to stop worrying about anything coming next. But to be there, right then, with a river next to the road – the water reflecting light like a silvery mirror — It was never going to get better than that. And still, I didn’t stop to get out and take pictures.

I hit the pillow hard when I finally arrived at the Mountainside Inn. Great Wi-Fi, a kitchen with coffee, and a meowing cat outside my door made me think this must be the place.