Saturday, April 29, 2017

For Entertainment Purposes Only

April 27th, 2017

Woke up at dead time. Still dark as I got ready and drove to the airport with James. Yanked out of my dream state so suddenly, with so little sleep, it felt like I was still dreaming as we turned onto the highway. At the airport, walking down the jet bridge to my plane, I simply let this surrealism overtake me. I was consumed by shadow, half-light and uncertainty - just like a dream....

Walking into an empty, quiet and dark hotel room in a city I've never been to before. Stepping into the room is like stepping into a conversation that suddenly stops. I can almost hear the echo. I think about stone tape theory. I think about ghosts. Sometimes a ghost can be no more than a sigh, a peculiar melancholy at the way the windowpane holds the afternoon light. It can be the leavings of a woman whose lover never met her, perfume, kohl and stockings gone to waste. No one had died here, but someone had cried here. Recorded for prosperity. Pulling back the cobwebs of time, I can almost see her. She arrived alone, like me, she left alone, as will I. Is that what unlocks her time capsule? A shared emotion, in a quiet moment, staring out at buildings, chest heaving, cataloging the disappointments and unfulfilled cravings of the day...

Wake up at 3 in the morning. Take flight from Colorado Springs to Chicago at 7:13. Write several pages worth of script during bumpy flight and attempt to memorize each paragraph. Arrive at the labyrynthian O'Hare by 9:30. I try to hail a taxi. I am told I am on the wrong level. Half an hour later I find one.

Taxi to downtown hotel takes 45min. The driver is quiet and aggressive. I have no seatbelt. I am hurled through damp city streets in a haze of fear. At the hotel I feel several eyes on me, which sets the theme of vulnerability for the day. Why did I put blue dye in my hair again?

My room feels occupied, emotional layers of dust coating everything. No chance for any more memorization of lines. Time for a minuscule meal and some quick photos before filming at noon. My timeline is different from that of the writer. I will have to readjust. All those turbulent paragraphs for nothing. I remind myself that I come from a race of storytellers. I must honor the story.

I am sat in a chair surrounded by lights, cameras and microphones in a dark conference room. I am instructed to look into the camera before me and never deviate from that lens. I must genuinely and casually make a connection with the disembodied voice of the director off camera. I mustn't act, which I find difficult, I must instead emulate.

They craft shadow and light using my face as a canvas, while I take turns appearing concerned, afraid, bewildered, confused - everything I've already been feeling up to that point. Cameras move toward me and around me, bulky black predators outside my field of vision, and the one in front of me, digesting all of my words, expressions and movements.

I am complimented and encouraged, but as usual what I had in mind and what ends up on film will be completely different. I think of my 44th Birthday only two days ago and am grateful for the makeup girl hovering about. Will I be believable? I'm sure my story won't be, as this show is paranormal in nature, but I stay on track with my memory of the events.

Forwards and backwards I am tossed through my recollections of the Halloween night in question. Nothing is linear. The director asks me to close my eyes and remember what I was feeling. That is the only constant. It is hard making a connection with the camera, to pretend I am speaking with a real person. I see only blackness, my eyes feel unfocused. I don't see a lens, just some foggy glare from one of the lights beside me.

Afterward, closeups, stills, and my narration are recorded. Everyone seems satisfied and happy. I wish I could have felt more relaxed. I remember when filming "My Ghost Story" in 2015 with James, they served cocktails beforehand, although we politely declined after one of the "actors" become too intoxicated to film. I asked only for water here. I want to channel everything into my story, but I kept tripping over the delivery, over all of those impactful words I forced myself to learn while speeding through states, speeding through the air. Regardless, the camera is done with me and I feel completely consumed.

It has been nearly three hours and I am released. I head back to my room, phone James and head back to the pretentious, expensive hotel restaurant. I nibble at a couple of unpronounceable appetizers alone and flip through pages on my phone while patrons laugh and toast nearby. I treat myself to a victory cocktail, which I will regret later.

Rush hour is approaching. I have an hour to return to the airport. I say goodbye to my room and my hotel, grateful to walk among ghosts so willing to whisper their stories down the empty hallways and stairwells. My cabbie is much more personable than the last. I have a TV in the backseat. This does little to distract from the fact that my driver proves to be the most road-raging speed demon I have ever encountered.

We rush past people, windswept and angular, expertly bracing the wind and the roar and the activity of their environment. After half an hour I begin to feel sick. I look around the cab for a sack. Anxiety sits in and I can only hold on for dear life.

Eventually I am deposited at O'Hare. Both cab rides came to the same total. $47.25, before gratuity. I immediately find a restroom so I can be sick. It does not happen. I have so little food in my stomach. I find a kiosk where I can purchase some Pepto Bismol, a Chicago shot glass for James, and a magnet for me. That's all the mementos I care to have from this experience in my state of nausea.

I fly out just after 7:pm. I was looking forward to enjoying a relaxing trip back, but I am uncomfortable, ill and exhausted. This is basically a flying Greyhound bus. There are no soft edges. It hurts to bump into anything and just like the first flight, I am crammed right next to another passenger. I try to focus on my iPad but my eyes keep closing. I cannot sleep.

After over two hours we finally land in Colorado Springs. I have been up since three, somersaulted back and forth across several states and states of being. Fortunately, within minutes the great light at the end of the terminal tunnel awaits me, as I find James standing around a corner waiting to hug me. I will never know a greater brother.

James drives me home as I recount the day to him. I only have a very small appetite so I have him pull into a Taco Bell. It is nearly 10 in the evening when I finally return home, just as dark as when I left. I have to film parts of a music video tomorrow. I have only one day. I need to eat, sleep and dream download all of this memory. There is nothing left of me.

I realize I forgot to ask when this program will air. I groan at the thought of how I will appear. Tomorrow there is a traveling carnival arriving nearby. It's near one of the comic shops I got a birthday gift certificate for. I fall asleep thinking about panels of graphic stories, action figures and carnival rides. Smells of cotton candy and soda spilled on pavement.

I am looking forward to and hoping for a haunted mansion ride. That rickety little cart that whirls you through dark corridors, screams and sinister laughs while spiders, bodies and ghouls pop out around every corner. It's cheap entertainment. Like the story I just filmed. For entertainment purposes only. I took it very seriously, perhaps too seriously, for a scant 15 minutes, which might only result in hundreds of rolled eyes and angry emoticons.

I didn't make money off of it, and I've appeared on television several times previously, so it did little to salivate any ego. It's simply something that fell in my lap. My body and mind have traveled through time, through story and zones. I don't know what time it feels like. I don't know what to feel after this experience other than gratitude. Even if it's only the gratitude of being far away from from home and getting to come back again.

When this episode airs, I understand it may be like pulling into that carnival. All the exciting promises of neon wonders and enchantments but no haunted mansion ride to be found. Just a carnival game where you attempt to knock over a pyramid of bottles with a bean bag. Did I hit my mark? Will I make a mark? Or stepping into a comic shop to spend a birthday gift certificate and they're out of everything you were hoping for. You leave grateful for the gift, but disappointed. I guess that's television for you. That's the disclaimer.

For entertainment purposes only.

- Christopher Allen Brewer, April 2017

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