This is my account of a trip to Central (or "Eastern") Oregon in order to do 2 video screenings of various short videos, by myself and others, including the 48 hour movie. This trip was orginally the brainstorm of reverend phil. Also on the trip with he and I were Bengt and Mandy.

we got out of town at about 11 on saturday. as soon as we got over the Cascades, the rainy mess that had been in action all day just disappeared and we were in a bright hot sunny desert.

the landscape out there is a lot like northern arizona, but maybe with a little more vegetation. lots of classic cowboy-movie-type rock formations, big buttes and mesas and cliffs and stuff. we got to Mitchell, which is where Phil went to highschool. it's a tiny town, 160 people, in the middle and on the sides of this little canyon. it's kind of charming. the main street has several businesses that are totally western-style facades, old wood, hitching posts, etc. so after we took a look at the town we went out to find a camping site. phil lead us down this long gravel and dirt road to this place called Priest Hole, mainly a place to put boats in the John Day river. it was way out in the middle of nowhere, near the Painted Hills. phil got his truck stuck in the soft sand by the river, but we pushed it out in not too long. we camped right next to the river, set up our tents then headed back into town to set up for the movie. it was about 5:30, so we didnt have much time before sunset.

it turned out we were really late getting it set up because the person that was going to bring us an extension cord never showed up. we found another one and finally got going about a half hour late, at 7:30. townsfolk kept coming and going, but mostly going, the later it got. by the time we got started there were about 4 adults and 8 kids (like pre-teens). by the time it was over, there were 0 adults (except for one guy that had drove up in his pickup and was watching through his window), and 2 of the kids. we didnt' even show the documentary because even these 2 left after the 48 hour movie was over, perhaps thinking that was it.

it was embarrassing and frustrating. I guess Betty Beige (yes, that is really her name), phil's contact in town who set this up for us, really let us down. not only did she not show up with the extension cord but she had said she would promote the screening a little around town, by putting up posters and stuff, but then never did. there was a little bit of word of mouth buzz, but mostly nobody really knew about it or didnt care. even phil's friends in town didn't show up. some he even visited beforehand and i guess they were like "well, we're eating dinner, sorry." really sad.

anyway, we packed up and headed back out to the campsite and then had fun sitting around the fire, making smores and drinking. it was pretty cold that night but i was comfortable sleeping till i woke up a little before sunset and realized my head was very chilly poking out of my sleeping bag. I got up at least an hour before everyone else, i think it was probably about 7 am, after actual sunrise, but before it had come over the hills to the east. I walked up the river aways and saw lots of birdlife: loud squawking things that i think might have been kingfishers, some pheasant, a blue heron that flew by, some ducks, and other things i couldnt identify. there was a thick mist that hung over the river. i saw the sun start marching down the sides of western hills. i went back to camp and started a fire. then i set up my camera to film myself and the rise of the sun over the hills. it was great. it was really a beautiful camping place.

immediately the air started to warm up. i made coffee with my little stove, started getting out food for breakfast. couldn't find the oatmeal i had brought. eventually bengt and phil and mandy got up. we ate donuts and bananas and granola and yogurt and coffee. for $5 we had purchased more wood than we could realistically burn. i convinced phil that we didn't have to burn it all up just for sake of using it. we left 4 or 5 big chunks there by the fire ring for someone else to use, perhaps.

we struck camp and then started tooling around the area. we went to the John Day Fossil Beds in the Painted Hills. the hills are totally beautiful. not as many colors as the Painted Desert in Arizona, mostly gold, red, and black, but they really do look like some giant swiped a few paintbrushes across the land. it was great. we hiked around a little. then phil took us back to town and showed us some sites there. the high school he went to (his graduating class was 8 people), some spots where kids go to drink and get away. etc etc.

we had a great lunch at a little cafe in town. then we headed out, making our way back toward Madras where the sunday screening would be, but taking our time, stopping at cool views and stuff. we got to Prineville, sort of halfway between Mitchell and Madras, a bigger town but still pretty small. we met Phil's friend from highschool, Tim, who works for the Prineville Fire Department. he was on duty for the next 16 hours so he couldnt go to the screening. he's a funny guy though. he reminded me of Dignan in Bottle Rocket. A lot smarter than Dignan, but visually and voicewise, and he had a similiar sort of dry, stoic way of speaking. I told Phil, who amazingly has still not seen Bottle Rocket, that he had to see it at least just so he could compare Tim to Dignan.

We moved on to Madras, and then spent an hour or so trying to find the place where the screening would be. Phil had failed to bring directions to the place, or write down the address, or a phone number, and he couldn't even remember the name of the person he had dealt with! I gradually became close to furious at how flakey and irresponsible this was. How could you arrange a showing of a movie in a city that you did not know, and not take along that kind of information? totally ridiculous. I've presented my work at cultural events from Brussels to Australia and i've never seen anything or anyone so miserably disorganized. Phil claimed it was all because he hadn't slept. I still don't know why he chose to not sleep the night before going on a big road/camping trip. and even so, he could have written down the information before starting to not sleep. I don't mean any offense to Phil, I just am describing what happened and trying to convey how amazed and frustrated I was.

Anyway, we were almost ready to give up when bengt and i flagged down a town policeman and he told us where the place was. But, no one was there yet. It was still a couple hours till the screening, but I was so frustrated by our almost-failed search, and by the night before, that I had pretty much reached my limit in this comedy of errors. I didn't feel like waiting around to see if this mystery contact in Madras would remember to show up or whether she would blow us off just like the woman in Mitchell had. I also didn't want another heartbreaking scene of seeing only a tiny handful of people show up. Bengt had already been planning to leave early, so i decided to go with him. we had a little dinner with mandy and phil and then headed out, making sure they had what they might need for the screening. just before driving off, after doublechecking 3 times that i had left the video tape with him, phil told me, for the first time EVER, that the Madras person had wanted to show the videos from a disc instead! We didn't even have all the pieces on vcd, but i dug out the one copy of the 48hour movie vcd that i had along and gave it to him.

then we were off. bengt and i made really good time and were back home by 9:00. the rains began again as soon as we came back over the mountains. amazing. western and "eastern" oregon are like 2 different planets. (i put eastern in quotes because where we were was really central oregon. but phil and a few other locals kept calling it eastern. basically the idea, i guess, is that everything past the Cascades is eastern. and yet, newspapers and other official information called the area "central". whatever.)

I hope phil and mandy got back okay. i was really glad mandy was with him because otherwise i would have been afraid for his ability to drive back that late at night with such little sleep.

To sum up, basically the whole weekend was fun except for anything that had to do with the "official" reason we were out there (showing our videos), ironically enough. i'm really glad i went, just for the camping and seeing the beautiful country, but we should have just done it for the fun of it instead of trying to get anything accomplished. pretending that any appreciable number of people out there would be interested in these wacky little movies of ours, or expecting that the logistics of screening them would go smoothly, was a lost cause. at least now i know. live an learn....