Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 10 - B Roll

Its okay to be sad.

To sit in the moment and let the tide take you in. Fighting only causes you to spin out of control and drown. The trick is to not let it consume you. To slowly try to untie each knot instead of trying to struggle out of the what’s keep you tangled up.
Promising myself to write everyday - I’ve taken these past few day to sit in that sadness and frustration. Allow myself to feel instead of reacting. Writing and talking to those I trust with these special and specific feelings. Receiving the love and support that can allow you to stay above water without using them as a life raft.
I miss the love of my life. Badly. I see and hear her everywhere. I sing to myself knowing that she would love a particular song. I send her mental and spiritual messages that I know she receives from my heart to hers on a daily bases. Its hard to be apart but that longing and that distance makes my heart expand. It gives me the room to grow into a better self. Allows me to get out of my head and more into my surroundings.

In different variations I sent this message to some of those who feed me in their own special way:

“got the latin american blues right now.
all very confusing and weird.
havent written cause i don't have much to say.
i'm kind of scared shitless of everything right now.
i feel like an idiot going to bolivia. wondering what the hell im doing and why the fuck i am getting myself into. i wish i could shape shift into a smaller darker body with brown eyes. i feel like ferdinand the bull down there. its all very confusing.
shooting some b roll stuff tomorrow with my father tomorrow and wednesday. off to bolivia on friday. not sure what is up or down these days. ”

(There was a tremor just as the sun came out for first time today.)

I still feel a lot of those things but the storm seems lighter and it feels good to be filming again. I think my favourite part of making this film is talking about the scenes with my father. Going out and getting the cover shots I need in order to sew together each moment in order to give the audience an emotional clarity within my family’s dynamic. I love holding the camera and working with my father. Filming him with the horses and watching him smile. Spending time with the Mena family and seeing how happy they make my father. I think Daniel my nephew was the first thing that saved my father’s life -when he was born. It’s clear that Chile, these horses and the Mena family are the second that has prolonged my father’s life. Hopefully he’ll be around long enough so that my children will give him that third wind - to stay with us a little longer.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gordo - Day Six

My grandmother is a cross between Rodney Dangerfield and a beautiful tortoise.

She will also be the first to tell you if you've gained weight or not. A few days before this family reunion she pointed out to me that my face looked "full" and "stuffed." (To her credit and skills of perception - I had gain a few pounds in the last few months.)
If there was an Olympic event on weight guessing, Chileans would have all the motherfucking medals. Believe that. Pointing out how much someone has gained or lose in weight is sort of a pastime here in Chile. Even though my parents know it upsets me when they do it, my mother does slip one out every once in awhile just to maintain her citizenship. You really have to take what people say here with a grain of salt. At times one could hear the smartest and most open minded people use the world "negro" in interesting ways. "No no no, I don't mean (insert racial slur here) like that. I mean it like this. You know? In that good way."
(Thanks for the clarification Abuelita, Tio, Tia, Prima or Primo)
The photo above represents about 1/5 of my entire family - on my mother's side. There were people who attended this reunion that I hadn't seen since I was baby. All I had to do was say "I am the son of Ana Gabriela" and they would either scream, laugh or start to talk very quickly in disbelief on how much I've grown. The great thing about these type of folk is that because they hadn't seen me in a long time we got to skip the part when they tell me how fat I am or how much weight I've lost.
On the way home my mother and aunt spoke without silence the entire fifty minute drive - an almost seamless ping pong of "sheissougly-canyoubelievehowfatsheis-ohmygodshelookedamazing-toobadherhusbandhasgainedsomuchweight-ilovewhatshedidwithherhair-thatmanisjuststraightupcrazy-didyouseehowmucheyelinershewaswearing!" In retrospect it all sounds very amusing but my uncle and I were ready to jump out the window in horror at the rate they were stripping down everyone's physical appearance. My mother is one of the most loving and nurturing women I know but when she gets together with one of her sisters - the craziest shit comes flying out of her mouth. Some of it deadly enough to cause a familial fist fight.

God bless Chile.

The Menas - Day Five

Yesterday I found myself in the arms of the Chilean countryside where my father keeps his horses. Recently he started a small business with the kindest soul I know in Chile - Don Patricio Mena. Never have I met a man where words like "salt of the earth" just seem like an insult. Making him something more then he is would be an abuse to his name. Even though he's shy and little quiet, he knows just the right amount of knowledge to have a economical and political discussion on Bolivian energy. While skilled enough with a horse to not even blink if the beast of burden beneath him starts to misbehave.
Yesterday we arrived at the farm a few hours before sunset. I knew that because it was close to 5pm that they were about to feed the little ones. So as soon as I got out of my dad's truck I walked over to help Don Patricio's wife Dorita and the grounds keeper who they call "cabbage" in Spanish - because his head is in the shape of a cabbage - to fill the milk bottles they use to feed the thirty calf they are raising. That is part of my father and Don Patricio's business. Every couple of months they go to the dairy farms in the area and buy up all the baby bulls. Once the bulls are big enough, they herd them to a beautiful plot of land dozens and dozens of hectares large. In this field they have a mix of bulls and cows, so almost ever cow is either pregnant or about to be mounted.
Once we finished milking the calf I got on a horse and with my father and Don Patricio we rode out of town to this plot of land where they kept their herd. Because the sun was close to setting it was time to take all the cows and bulls with their littles ones back to where they sleep and have their morning grass. It is important to account for the entire herd every evening to make sure that none of them wander off into someone else's property.
So there we were, strategically bringing them all into one school. I can't even explain the sensation I felt with my father there on the field doing this work. I felt proud and happy for my him that he had this around him because I know it made him so very happy. Laughing and telling jokes with Don Patricio and the other two huasos who take care of the herd, I was smiling just because he was so smiling. After the count there were two missing.
Racing and walking our horses around the property, searching for a good hour for the animals it was important that we retrieved them before sunset. Near the end of the hour we decided to separate into two groups in order to cover more ground. I went with Don Patricio and the other three went another direction. Just at the end of the line close to the small two lane highway there sat enormous bushels of quinces.

I turn to Don Patricio and ask with surprise "Memebrello?" He nods smiling and I go right for a nice ripe one. Tart and sweet I can't believe what I'm eating. A fruit that costs almost two dollars per unit that the local supermarket in Montreal, I am sitting there on a horse with my favourite Chilean eating this childhood treasure.
The two animals from the cattle went off on their on and found these yummy bushes. The only reason I was able to get any was because they couldn't reach where I could while on my horse. Don Patricio calls my father on his cell phone - which I always find hilarious - to inform him that we found the rest of the cattle. After sending them off back to the herd we make our way to the ranch. Just as we arrive once awaits us. Medium rare steaks, eggs and tomatoes with cooked white onions.
Heaven inside heaven.

Mother Nurture - Day Four

Wednesday afternoon I went to my grandmother's house for once - pronounced like the number eleven in Spanish. This is the meal after dinner which takes place in th early evening at around 7, 8 or as late as 9pm. The usual fare is ham, cheese, fresh bread from the bakery, some tea/coffee and the occasional scrambled eyes and left over meats or salads from dinner (which happens at 1pm). As me and my father arrived from downtown Quillota (where I grew up and my grandmother lives) from running some errands, I was told to go into the backyard to fetch some grapes. There I was in my abuelita's broken down backyard with a pile of random items collected through the year in a tin shed. All ranging from the sign of their old shop to the bed frame I used when I was a kid. Against the walls of the backyard are enormous two to three story trees and vines with avocados, apricots, red grapes, limes and chirimoyas. As seen above, chirimoyas don't look that amazing. But I promise that when the western world catches on to its flavor, it will surpass the mango.
With a broken down ladder I climbed the side of the tin shed where the grapes were scaling. My mom came with a large colander as I reached the top to help me retrieve what we could find. Like little kids we yelped with excitement every time I peeled back a bush of leaves to discover something delicious. "There! There Carlo! Those ones!" After we filled our pot of gold we went in the house - my aunt joining us at the door and immediately commenting, with the same youthful scream, on how beautiful the grapes are this year.
My grandmother's house has that affect of you - to momentarily teleport you to that place when you were a child.
It always feels just right.

"Red" - Day Three

Last night's dream(s) were so grande and visceral that I had to write something about it. It mostly revolved around this man who appears in Spike Lee films. A comedian named "Red." In my dream I'm traveling - more like backpacking in the southern states. At this point I'm in Texas and my friend Guillermo and his kids were also doing the same independently.
One afternoon as I'm taking a nap they leave for another leg of their adventures, using the cabin I had rented for a month as a sort of home base. (I assumed they were going to New Orleans because his kids are the most wonderful music nerds.) So in my sleep inside my dream I go see a one man show that stars Jim Carey at the local theatre. As soon as I walk into the first balcony, from the corner of my eye I spot "Red" in the audience. My eyes light up as I realize who this man was. Sitting with a bouquet of beautiful ladies that I ignored, my body b-lines to get Mr Red's attention. At this point he is talking it up with everyone in these bleacher like seats, waiting for the show to start. (For some reason, in this dream I am shorter then usual.) As I approach him he turns to look at me and gives me the same look of "where are have you been all my life" as I was giving him. I introduce myself and his harem of women make room for me to sit beside him. The lights go down as we're knee deep in profound conversation about performance art - hanging off his every word.

Pitch black - the show began.

It was the strangest and most magnificent display of visual storytelling I had ever witnessed and all through the body of Jim Carrey. It had a Willy Wonka meets Alice In Wonderland aspect to it but more. It was as if the Cheshire Cat had grown into a man and become the creepiest, most delightful storyteller you had ever seen. I kept smiling and turning to Red - his eyes were even larger then mine in amazement. It was evident that we were both witnessing something the world had never seen before. After the lights went up I sat there and just couldn't believe the show I saw.
As the show ended we got up from our seats and stumbled to the exits in awe of what we had just experienced. On the streets of a small town in 1950s Texas, we walk back towards the cabin I was renting. On the way home I ran into just about everyone I had ever known but engaged in very little conversation because of how engrossed I was in mine and Red's interaction. Smooth and softly we glided down the streets, like a small breeze that just kept getting softer with each step. Nothing could break this bond, we were invincible to the world. As we finally reached the playground of the cabin (it was behind a school) a gush of wind picked me up several inches off the ground. Red pulled me down by my coat and kindly warned me "You better watch out kid. That storm will blow you out." I nodded but before I could turn away from him I heard my sister Paulina scream in the distance "It's coming. The hurricane is coming!" I stood there calmly smiling with Red thinking that even if I died that day, I would be leave the earth a happy man - I finally got to meet my main man Red. He started to walk a little faster towards the cabin and I followed behind. Suddenly Red turns around with his deep voice and yells "Watch out kid!" I looked behind me and this big ball of wind picks up my feet and tosses me into the air. What felt like a lifetime was probably only seconds. I hit black. The same black I usually feel when I would faint after a blood donation. I wake up on the couch of the cabin with Red holding a warm cloth to my forehead. "He's awake! You okay kid? We thought you were a goner." "I'm okay Red... I'm okay." I close my eyes again and hit the same black. I wake up. This time at the same cabin but in reality. Sad that it was all a dream Guillermo and the kids come home while I clean the house. They join in on the cleaning as I proceed to tell them about dream. When I get to the part about the hurricane there's a knock at the door. I open it and a tall black man takes off his top hat and smiles at me. Its Red! In my real life dream - Red is at the door!
Guillermo see's my face and is confused at what's going on because the man at the door is exactly the person I described in my dream. I almost drop to my knees in thanks for letting the dream not be fake. I welcome Red in and he asks me how I am feeling. Shortly after, the door bell continues to ring and more people I know start to flood the cabin with music and chatter. Finally when the house is well over its capacity and I am brimming with joy. I suddenly start to get sad at the idea of waking up from all of it.
I take one look at Red and we smile.

I wake up.

(I just realized that this is the comedy in Bamboozled that I was visualizing but Red was the name given to Malcolm X when he was a young boy - another Spike Lee film.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On the balcony - Day Two

I am so grateful for each and every avocado I eat on this trip.

This morning I sat on my parents balcony feeling relaxed and lucky - reading archival New Yorker articles that I never had time to read in the hustle and bustle of Montreal's winter.
Last night was the first night of rest I've had without nightmares or anxiety ridden dreams. The constant hum of the ocean and long distance construction sites matters but not as much as the fresh air and what the eyes are not use to seeing. I know cars and feeling stuck in a concrete maze but I don't recognize large amounts of space. Endless depths of water making you feel small. Making you feel like there's no need to dominate anything but to just sit there and enjoy it.

I started to get these little mosquito-like rashes on my body. This started to happen in my last three visits. The doctor I saw on my last trip told me it was the ocean water and that it's common for foreigners to get such rashes. When they see it on my body, family members usually say "Oh you probably got that in Bolivia" if I had just came from there or "Good thing you're not in Bolivia or it would be even worse" if I was going to Bolivia after Chile. Most of the times I just laugh to myself realizing how pointless it is to respond to something with so much error and ignorance.

I feel the same way about La Paz, Bolivia as people often do about New York city. Every time I go in there it just kicks my ass but I heal and return for some more. But all you can do while you're healing is think about how amazing that ass-kicking was. Ignorance can cause people to say horrible and ridiculous things but it can also make you love and enjoy something purely based on the fact that you know so little about it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Once again - Day One

In a leg-lock with weddings, red-eye plane travel, paper writing and family time.

I'm in Chile once again with my family here to enjoy the company of my beautiful parents and the Chilean Pacific coast. It seems like the more I return - lighter is the load of El Huaso filming. This time it's just dressing scenes of my father at the ranch. Enjoying what he loves to do most - ride horses.
Montreal these past few days has been a tremendous burden while finishing off the filming of my therapy sessions for the film. I know that I'm going to look back on these days of shooting and wonder why and how the hell I even convinced myself to go through all of this. But I guess some sit and meditate in order to receive a sort of balance or peace and some just walk into the ocean not knowing if the current is either go to give them the release they've been searching for or just pummel you with its force. Either way - if you survive and are still alive, you become a better person.
As soon as I reached the coast with my parents I felt like I could breathe again. The Chilean fall winds cools a sun drenched neck. My body is still in the same filth that was collected on the stuffy oxygen lacking flight here.

I don't really know what I did to deserve this level of comfort with such an incredible view.