was trying to find the remote before my wife could see what was on the
TV. Alas, it was hidden in the folds of the comforter and she walked in
the bedroom to find me watching something I swore I would never be
interested in. And I had no way to shut it off. The TV was ablaze with
prone bodies in positions that boggled the mind. It was like a train
wreck of circumstances and I was tied to the tracks.
Yes, she caught me watching a program about yoga.
As old as the practice of yoga is, it is still strikes me as "New-Agey." New-agey is a term many of us who are less evolved paste to things of a spiritual bent, things that we do not understand. For me, that would include yoga. But here I was, sitting in the bed, rummaging around in the covers, hoping my wife didn't catch me watching it.
The films you see at the Darkside are usually 35mm film. This consists of a mile or two of film, broken down into 18-minute reels that are delivered in metal cans. The film cans usually weigh in at about 75 pounds. Since I'm scaring the hell out of 50 years old, 30 years of tossing these cans around has caught me watching TV shows with middle-aged people looking healthy and pain free. How nice for them. It is a tough call--I do not embrace ANYTHING that goes on about centering my Chacos. To put the sandal on the other foot, the folks on TV seem to be moving pretty well and seem unabashedly healthy.
While my wife stood in the doorway looking at me with her hands on her hips, I realized I was busted and would need to eventually admit that I am yoga-curious. Yes, this was the first step, but we're looking at a long road before I spring for the hemp mat and the namaste tattoo. I've been dealing with the pain for decades. It will be a while before I can admit that I really do want to feel better without a daily dosing of ibuprophen and denial.
The film is shipped in spectacularly unloved metal cans that have been in use for what seems like forever. They are hexagonal tins, each the size of a small car tire. These cans are held shut by a latching mechanism that eludes description. Suffice it to say that they are an über bitch to get to latch or to get open--though they seem quite able to open themselves while they are being lifted into the trunk of a car. At which point four reels of film spill from the cans and take off running away from the car, spooling out film behind them like a celluloid wake. If you grab the tail of the film and yank it back, it hastens the speed of the fleeing reel like pulling a string off a child's toy top. At this point you try to launch ahead of the film and stop its advance by providing some sort of barrier. The problem with this is, the reels diverge at some arcane algebraic rate. This means if you stop one, the others will be left to their own momentum until they come to rest on the sidewalk or in the undercarriage of some passing semi.
The other prickly pear of this fruit basket of movie media is that film is really pretty delicate. Through the benefit of technology, the filmstrip upon which the image is printed is quite strong, but the surface with the image scratches easily.
Back when my film projectors were manufactured, film was a little on the fragile side. It could snap cleanly in the projector. And there was the small matter of film being very flammable, but if it broke it stopped pulling undamaged film through the projector. Now, the film is so strong you could uproot a tree by tying a couple layers of modern movie film between the stump and the trailer hitch of your diesel 4x4. Well, not quite that strong, but you get the idea. As strong as the film is, the thin surface layer that holds the image is still very, very prone to scratching. We have all watched a film through the bars of emulsion scratches. When you see a movie (in another theater) with an hour or two of a green nasty stroke down the center of the image on the screen, you can bet it's because the film didn't break. Which means the rest of the movie got dragged through the same problem that is scratching the film--a problem that would have broken old-school film. Since it costs over $1000 to make a new print, admitting to the studio that you trashed a print is not high on the list of things to cop to. If you see a badly scratched film on the screen, there are usually only a few reasons: The projectionist is so into social networking or his iPod he hasn't noticed that hideous sound coming from the projector. Or, he knows the print is trashed and is too chicken/apathetic to ask for a new one. Or, which is often the case if you ever do see a bad print in our theater, the theater that had the print just before we got it was too chicken/apathetic to let us know the print was trashed.
There used to be accountability for the condition of the print as it went to the next theater. Because it came to and went from the film depot. Back in the day, every Friday we dropped off and/or got our film from Portland. We gathered there from across the land, and we'd drink coffee and talk while we waited for our prints to come in from another theater. It wasn't uncommon for prints to move from the hands of one exhibitor to the next. So if the print had the reels out of order or reel three looked like it had fallen out of the film can and got caught up in the undercarriage of a Peterbuilt, we knew who did it.
The guys who ran the depot had the power to make your life miserable. If you gave them a screwed up a print and they unknowingly handed it off to another theater, you could count on a word or two next time you popped into the depot. If you really pissed them off, it was within their power to put your print in the back of the warehouse and tell you to come back in a couple of hours and see if it arrived. Though they would never do this, they had the power to do so. Usually the film was turned over to the offender when he/she had only minutes to get it to the theater before the first show.
Like any good thing, the centralization of local film distribution came to an end. Now most film comes anonymously to our door in the hands of some dude/dudette in a brown outfit. However, there are still studios that use the Portland film depot. About a third of the time I drive to the Big City and collect my prints from a big warehouse. The guy who runs my depot is an unassuming "kid" (less than 30 years-old) who puts out that quiet air of someone doing a job that is well below his ability, but who likes it that way. Maybe he does yoga. The depot is now housed in an anonymous industrial complex rather than a bustling block off of Sandy Blvd. Now the closest place to get coffee is a ubiquitous Charbucks. It's comfortably familiar that my Friday coffee fix is still overcooked black water.
Throughout all of this runs the thread that hundreds of pounds of film must be hustled from one theater to the next. It has been this way for quite some time. And for that time, people like me have been lifting and carrying these cans of film from trunk to loading dock. I drive for two hours, often in hot gridlock on 205, get to the depot, leap from the car, then lean into the trunk of my car and lift--not with my legs--the 75 pound film cans. You do not see a lot of people stretching out in the parking lot before lifting out the prints. Perhaps if you did, you'd hear less groaning when we put the prints down on the concrete depot floor. There is a certain AARP-esque social networking around comparing the reasons we groan. To be pain-free might inhibit a goodly portion of my Friday-go-to-town visiting.
Before I head back to the Heart of the Valley from Portland, I have to lift the new films into the trunk, then remain sedentary for the next hundred miles. That is, unless I stop at the restaurant supply place and get a few hundred pounds of inventory. That sound you are hearing is my back shrieking.
Someday all our movies will come to us on hard drives and servers that weigh less than my coffee machine. The guy at the depot will have to do less lifting and we will probably do less driving. No longer will it be cussing out tardy print returns over coffee. We might still be in the coffee shop, but we will be socializing and bitching through IM, FaceBook, and Twitter--whatever the hell Twitter is.
I guess there is no iPhone app that allows me to virtually stretch out my back before hefting the latest cinematic gem into my trunk. Even if there was, I guess owning an iPhone, which I do not, would be a plus. It's really pathetic: I torture my back, wax grumpily about exercises that would help, and down the little brown pills like Gregory House M.D. downs Vicodin. I realize treating my back in this fashion makes about as much sense as treating nausea with pickle juice, but until the canonization goes through, I get to cling to some of my badder ideas.
The excuses why I have yet to move beyond my bad ideas are looking a little like last decade's laptops--quaint and of dubious value in the real world. I need to stop thinking of healthier alternatives as if they require wearing rose-coloured sunglasses and frolicking with unicorns. After all, not a lot I've done in the last 30 years has worked. Deep breath...now streeeetch for the remote...before your wife sees you watching yoga...change channel...now exhale and relax....
I wonder if they make a Harley Davidson yoga mat.