Kelley and I have a few days off before gigs in Fresno and the SF area.  We will make the necessary stop in LA to see our film peeps and good friends — but I wanted to “stop and smell the roses” a little more.  The choice: Arches National Park in Moab, UT.

All I knew of Moab was from the brochure that came with my last mountain bike (model name: the Moab.) So basically —  nothing.  I did know it would be beautiful — what I didn’t know is that it would be enlightening.

First was the perilous drive over the Continental Divide.  I don’t do slushy roads, dull windshield wipers, large trucks whizzing by and early mornings well on a good day — let alone thrown together in an endurance test over the Loveland and Vail Passes.  I am glad that part of I-70 is over.

We arrived at Arches around 3:00 — which gave us a few hours to drive around, see the sites, snap a few pics, and walk a few short trails.  Good plan, right?

It was until we drove in and were completely amazed and overwhelmed by the sandstone formations:  arches, balancing rocks, fins, and more.  Each stop the conversation went something like this:

Jon: It’s amazing.
Kelley:  Wow.
Jon: Gorgeous.
Kelley: Incredible.
Pilot: (pee on a rock or bush)

We took a few short hikes (I misread one description, mistaking a moderate path for an easy one — oh well.  We survived.)  We took lots of pictures. Pilot took lots of whiz breaks.

We also took in a ton of languages: Russian, Spanish, Hindi, Dutch, and German. Just as I observed on the last cross-country excursion, our National Parks are visited by everyone but those who live here.  Not that this is a bad thing — it is just sad that Americans think a vacation is a week at a corporate theme park or an overcrowded beach town.

On the way out, I suggested parking the car and waiting to watch the sun set.  I mean — how often am I going to have the chance to do that?  We drove back to the Balancing Rock and sat down at the end of the walking path.  While waiting for the moon to rise, I had some time to think — think among some of the most incredible forces of nature, taking in some of the cleanest air I will ever breathe.  Kelley and I sat in silence and I thought.  About work.  About boys.  About my cousin and the mess I inadvertently created.  About my purpose — or more specifically, my lack of one.  As the air chilled in sync with the disappearing sun, I relaxed and took it all in.  No decisions were made — but some were contemplated.

In a matter of moments, the temperature dropped to where my light sweater was of no use — so we headed out.  Driving into Moab, I took two rooms at a Super 8 (not the Ritz, but it was better than the dump in PA the first night.)  After dinner, I spent Halloween alone (ok, with Pilot) in a moderately-priced motel room, watching a restored print of the original “Phantom of the Opera,” putting the final touches on my Cafritz grant application — and continued to think.

Today, my brain hurts — but at least I am clearer than I was the day before.  Whoa yeah!

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On the way to Denver from Kansas City, Kelley wanted to stop at a roadside attraction touted to us by Matthew — the Garden of Eden.  Located in secluded Lucas, KS, one man spent a good portion of his golden years creating a house and garden of concrete people, plants and animals.  Giant Adam and Eve (and Cain an Able) welcome you into the 1/4 acre lot.  One figure (laborer) is crucified and surrounded by the banker, lawyer, union, politician — you know — all of that subtle stuff.  There are remnants of an aviary and cages I think were to hold exotic animals.  And in the corner, a mausoleum in which the good Doctor and his wife are burred — she under a ton of concrete — he on top in a glass coffin you can still peer into.  Although a bit green and moldy, he looked pretty good for a do-it-yourself mummification.

We jumped back on the road and headed to Denver, where I know people.

Now, I don’t want to get into it, but in the last few days, I have been written off by some biological family members, affirmed my love to my oldest family-by-choice, and have struck a nice balance of honesty with an ex and a new beau.

Let me explain.

The family member: long story, short — my efforts to keep my maternal family together are over.

The former-family member:  we reconnected, and I am happy to have her family in my life.

The family-by-choice: stayed with Jessica and her kids. She has always been my older sister (Moira and I met when we were 4 — and Jessica, a year older, was usually around to get the two of us into trouble — and get us out a whole lot more.) It was nice to catch up with her. She has had a lot of big changes recently — and seems to have come out on top (as expected) and is enjoying her life.  Jessie always makes me laugh, and it is great to have her and the kids in my life.

The ex:  He passed a kidney stone this week — so I had to tease him via Facebook chat.  I am glad that the two of us can kid around — yet know we care and can be there when we need to — and back of when we must.  Get well, F.

The new beau:  Of the three men I am juggling, L seems to have the most potential.  Problem?  He has a lot of personal issues to work through.  I haven’t communicated with him since before Camp (mid-August), but have been sending Facebook pokes to remind him I am alive.  He finally responded with an apology for blowing me off — and reaffirmed what I has suspected — he is interested, but needs time to work thru his stuff.  I am ALL about the time — God knows I do not need more baggage — I have enough to deal with as it is.

So the Garden of Eden?  Its wherever I want it to be — this week, in a little corner of my heart.

The KC stop of the tour was interesting and strange — all in a great way.  Yes, I met some fabulous people and filmmakers, thanks to the vibrant Independent Filmmakers Coalition — which I will get into shortly…

I stayed with a lovely family (Matthew, Moira and Max) and their three dogs (one of whom jumped over and under Pilot like a circus dog.)  Their beautiful home and Tempurpedic bed were very welcoming and appreciated. Matthew is a past present of the IFC, and has his pulse on the local film scene.

Kelley’s friend Joe showed us around town — we ate delectable BBQ at Oklahoma Joe’s, saw incredible bands at both the RecordBar and a classic roadhouse, Knuckleheads.  We went to the Jazz Museum (disappointing), but were purposed by the amazing Negro League Baseball Museum in the same building.

Work-wise, Kelley and I (with special guest Andrea Ellis, one of my favorite producers and incredible film talents — who is moving to KC from DC this December) spoke to two classes at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.  I have been told by countless friends that Lawrence is the coolest town in the USA.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see much it, as we rushed from class to class and back to KC for a third gig that night.

Speaking of which…  The IFC has been around for about 13 years. Every week, 50 or so local filmmakers meet to exchange ideas, hear a speaker, announce what goings on are going on, etc.  I was very impressed — and took home a few ideas I will implement at the DC Film Salon come January.

Kelley and I were to speak on distribution strategies and film festivals.  Kelley kicked the talk off and passed the ball to me.  That is when I ran it home — for the rest of the engagement.  I had a lot to say, and filmmakers had a lot to ask.  I felt kind of bad, but for the first time on the tour — I felt like I was able to add value to our seminars.  I know that I was all along, but this gig was magic.

And speaking of magic, here is an idea one person pitched to the filmmakers in attendance.  The quote is not exact, but seriously close:   “My name is (insert Porn name here).  I am an aspiring filmmaker and a Warlock.  I want to make a movie of me and my powers in the black magic. I manipulate shadows and stuff — and know it would be really cool on camera.  We could shoot all day — probably at my Mom’s house, you know.  If you’re religious or something, you might get wigged out by the black magic, so I can work with anyone.  You can call me. I don’t have an email address.”

When he was done, Joe turned to me and whispered, “welcome to the mid west.”

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