From Newport Beach to the Alien Cemetery

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I spent four days in Newport Beach, California. No one should ever be forced to spend four days in Newport Beach. It was like living in La Cantera (for those not from San Antonio, think of your most tony shopping mall). I was there for the NALIP annual conference. This was their 10th anniversary. And as much as I might bitch about the aesthetic paucity of a four or five star resort hotel in the US, I did have a nice time. There were great people, some useful panels, and wonderful speakers.

The San Antonio contingency was impressive. We were about ten. Veronica, Dora, Manuel, Jaime, Patty, Yolanda, Joe, Raemelle, Francis, and myself. We should be able to claim Sandy. Though she’s from Dallas, she comes down to visit us every so often. Also, Drew and Janet from the film commission were there. Call it thirteen. Why not.

Thursday morning I made it to the airport two hours before my flight. Just like I was told. Now keep in mind, the last time I was on a plane was five years ago … and before that, maybe twenty years ago.

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Don’t get me wrong. I love the concept of flight. But I dig traveling on the surface, and meeting the people who live there. Anyway, my trip almost turned to shit before I had really woken up. The woman working the check-in desk looked at the receipt I had printed up from the online purchase I had made.

“You’re already changed this flight from Friday to today?” she asked.

I looked closer. The paper said I was booked for an outbound Friday flight. God dammit! I hate buying stuff online!

Noticing my distress, the woman looked up with a smile. “We have one seat left. I can put you on board for only an additional 260 dollars.”

I had bought the round trip — San Antonio; Orange County; San Antonio — for about 260.

I mumbled “too rich for me,” and walked away. I guess I’d just have to leave on Friday.

On my way back to the parking-lot I made a phone call to another person going to the conference. I won’t give out a name because this person said, with true insider confidence: “Don’t leave. I might be able to work this out. Give me the confirmation number.” I was then instructed to return to the terminal and wait for further instructions.

Maybe ten minutes later my problems were no more. My angel had interceded. I was saved! Now all I had to do was empty my pockets, take off my shoes, walk through a metal detector, and say “thank you” to the geriatric uniformed guard keeping America’s sky’s safe from … whatever. But, dammit, I was IN!

Note to self: if you ever again travel by plane, lose fifty pounds.

When I checked into the Island Hotel in Newport Beach all I did was give them my credit card. A smiling young woman gave me my plastic keycard. I picked up my bags and headed to the elevator. Veronica, walking beside me, asked me about the rate. I confessed I never asked. I was working on the notion that I would be sharing a room with three others. This would take my nightly rate down to maybe a hundred dollars. And of the three nights, NALIP would pay for one night. I think Veronica said something like, “Dude, you should make sure.” She, of course, was right. But I never did.

When I got into my room, I saw one double bed and one rolling cot which had been installed near the windows and made up with sheets. There was a suitcase on the double bed. Fine. I placed my luggage on the cot. I wouldn’t have to worry about sharing with a stranger. But I was taken with this nagging notion that the room was set up for only three people. My understanding was that I would be sharing with three others. But, well, I decided to go with the flow. To be honest, I was probably going to pay that extra 260 at the airport if I hadn’t been rescued.

This roommate situation is one of the more amusing things about the conference. I stayed three nights in a hotel room with just this one other guy (there were no other roommates), and we never met. It’s true. If he walked up to me right now, I’d be clueless. Each night I went to bed around midnight. I kept to Texas time. Midnight was two in the morning. The roommate never came in earlier than two. I’m not a deep sleeper when I travel. So I was awake when he quietly (and drunkenly?) entered. Were he louder, I would have gotten up and talked with him. But he was tip-toeing as he used the bathroom, undressed (or not), and fell into bed. I was amazed in that he fell asleep and began snoring in under 20 seconds every night. And in the morning, I would get up with the sun.

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Six am. That’s eight, Texas time. No problem. What I usually do. And so I was up, showered, dressed, and out of the room before the guy ever stopped his soft gentle snoring. Now, I’m sure he’s a great guy, and I’m sure we’d have got along famously, but, in a sense, I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate. And my hotel bill was exactly what I budgeted it to be.

(Because the bellboy slid a note under the door, I have to assume that my roommate was filmmaker Darryl Deloach of New Mexico. Sorry I missed meeting you, Darryl!)

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One of the great surprises of the conference was when I learned that Juan Gonzales, who participated in two of the panels, was actually THE Juan Gonzales, powerful journalist as well as the co-host of Democracy Now! I was too timid and star-struck to approach him. But he was great in the two panels.

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Also, Ela Troyano was in attendance. She was on a panel about music rights. I met Ela last year during the Creative Capital workshop. I was impressed that she remembered me. She’s quite an accomplished filmmaker with a lot of helpful hints. And she’s also kinda cute.

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One of the nights at the conference several of us from San Antonio headed out to a restaurant in Laguna Beach. I suspect that there had already been some drinking. The taxi ride out was filled with rather salty talk — mainly from the women. Veronica was talking to the Armenian driver in Russian. Francis began talking about her love of the novel Moby Dick. At the point, it all fell into dick jokes … but strangely the two males (me and Joe) stayed silent. This helps to reinforce my notion that women are much more likely to sexualize their conversation than men.

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My initial plan was to have a few projects in stages well developed enough so that I would be conformable pitching them. I was supposed to have my script finished for my feature, “Tunnels Under the Tower;” my treatment for my TV show, “The Cucuy Club;” ditto on my treatment for my feature documentary, “The Jumanos People;” and a show bible for my playful and rather asinine reality TV show, “American Mayor.”

But I got sidetracked by other projects and did my best to network, collect business cards, and learn from the panels and workshops.

I was impressed by the high quality of some of the works samples these people were attaching to their pitches.

Maybe later I’ll give more of a run-down of the panelists and filmmakers I met. It was really an impressive group.

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The trip back to Texas was more grueling. Perhaps I’d gotten fatter. Other than the tight fit in the seats of Southwest Airlines, I found myself with five hours to kill at the John Wayne Airport. This after a twenty dollar limo ride from the hotel. Once inside the security region, I treated myself to a nine dollar sandwich, the cheapest I could find. Man, I guess I’m a bit out of touch with the real world. In defense of John Wayne Airport, they do have free WiFi and plenty of AC stations to plug in your laptops and phones free of charge.

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Than, I found myself with a two-hour lay-over in Phoenix, a pathetic excuse for a city, thanks in large part to that asshole Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Phoenixites (or whatever you call yourselves), clean that shit up!

I made it to the San Antonio airport a little after one a.m.

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Monday was a scramble for support material for a project grant I was trying to push through the San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs. It’s an experimental film tentatively entitled “River Quartet;” however, after I posted (via Twitter) this photo of one of my locations, Dago Patlan asked if the location was supposed to be an alien cemetery.

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And, of course, he was on to something. Who wouldn’t fund a project with the name of “Alien Cemetery”? (Were Philip Jose Farmer still alive, I can imagine him writing an Allan Quaretmain pastiche adventure: “Exhuming the Alien Cemetery.”)

But I digress.

I was able to wrangle all my support material and deliver it to the City Clerk’s Office by the 4 p.m. deadline with about ten minutes to spare. I wasn’t the only one coming in just under the wire. I also saw Gabe Vasquez, Marisela Barrera, and Veronica Hernandez.

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As I was enjoying celebratory cheese enchiladas at Tito’s, Victor Payan called me up and suggested I should apply for a NALAC conference grant. He explained that NALIP-SA members were all NALAC members. The deadline was midnight. That midnight. So, I went home and pushed another application through. This one, conveniently on-line.

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Monday I also learned that the funding request to pay the conference registration fees for all San Antonio NALIP members attending the national event had gone through. Great news. One of my nights at the hotel had been comped. I’d received a travel stipend in the form of a check at the registration table (which paid almost all of my plane flight). And now I learned I’d get a check for the registration fee. Not bad.

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