Tonight at about 1am I decided to watch Slacker by Richard Linklater. I’d first heard of it years ago and have had my eye on it for a while. It was damn good: funny, riveting, and just plain smart throughout. It was set in Austin, where I visited this past March for SXSW Interactive, so it was neat to have a smidgen of context for the landscape of the film. Yeah, I was on South Congress that one time!
At some point when I was a teenager I found Bravo on TV. This was way before Top Chef and The Real Housewives series. This was back when Bravo was more like the IFC. Or maybe it was the IFC that I actually found. The point being, this channel, whichever it was, showed tons of independent films all day and all night, and it was awesome.
One of the first movies I remember seeing on this channel was Salmonberries. I remember being in my computer room and it coming on the TV that was in there; it started late at night and I stayed up til the wee hours watching the whole damn thing. It was a strange move that starred k.d. lang as some sort of butch/genderqueer person living in the middle of nowhere Alaska and having an affair with a much older European woman. At some point I think they actually ended up in Europe together for a time, though I have no idea how. The soundtrack consisted primarily of Beethoven’s “Spring” sonata for violin and piano and k.d. singing this song that went “I’d walk through the snow barefoot if you’d open up your door, I’d walk through the snow barefoot.” In retrospect I think the movie was probably not so good, but back then, it totally had me hooked.
After that I was “into” independent film. As with most things I got “into” when I was younger, this primarily consisted of me reading a lot about independent film on the still-nascent World Wide Web and getting my Dad to buy me books and magazines about it at the Barnes & Noble on Route 22.
One such book was Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema. I bought it because it seemed like some sort of authoritative bible of independent film history. I never actually read it, though I flipped through it often. I think that was around the time I was also really “into” the Beat Generation too, so my attentions were divided. But what mattered to my 15-year-old-self was not whether I’d read the book so much as that it was on my bookshelf, clearly demonstrating my dedication, rebellious nature, and good taste to all.
When I packed for college a while later, Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes was one of the books I packed to take with me, along with a bunch of the queer books that I’d managed to acquire through friends’ smuggling and sneaky Barnes & Noble purchases. These, plus my books on and by the Beats, seemed like Appropriate Books to Take With One to a Liberal Arts College (my extensive collection of fantasy books, not so much.) Into boxes they all went, and most of those boxes stayed behind while I headed to school a week early for a Tri-College Institute for new students of color starting at Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr. Only the books I was currently reading and the ones I couldn’t bear to be parted from (probably 5-10 books all told) came with me for that first trip.
My parents drove down to Swarthmore a week later with all the rest of my stuff, including the boxes of books I’d packed before I left. After they saw me settled in and headed out, I was unpacking my boxes and realized that certain books were missing: to be precise, all the queer ones plus one — Spike, Mike, Slackers, & Dykes, which was in fact not particularly queer, but one can understand the mistake. At the time, though, that just pissed me off even more. Also missing — my blue velvet cloak made especially for me by my high school friend (and first major queer crush.) Clearly, someone had edited my college packing choices.
I never saw those books, or that cloak, again. But every time I visit my mom in Florida these days, I spend some time going through the boxes upon boxes of old stuff and reminiscing about what I find with her. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to find all that stuff in one of those boxes one of these days. When I do, I’ll reclaim the cloak for future ren faires, I’ll probably tease my mom about the now fourteen-year-old confiscation, and I’ll finally read that damn book.