March 15th, 2013 | ABEL RAISES CAIN | Erie, PA
Miraculously, we got out the door and onto the road early this morning without any luggage toppling out of the car. Back through the mountains we go on our seven-hour drive to Erie, PA. Every unmarked truck that we see, my father warns there must be some sort of contraband inside. He’s been saying this for as long as I can remember. A few hours later, we see a suspect truck pulled over by two cops with their lights flashing and we laugh that my father might actually be right for once. Of course, the last stretch of this leg involved driving through another blizzard, causing Jeff’s hands to become claws on the wheel. But we pulled into Erie in the nick of time and without a hitch.
When we arrived at Mercyhurst University’s Taylor Little Theatre, we were met by a dressed to the nines Jamie Grady, director of Mercyhurst Institute for Arts and Culture. He showed us to the green room where we met Randy, the projectionist, who was chock full of interesting trivia I would soon find out. Did you know it’s illegal for street vendors to sell hot dogs wrapped in bacon? Or that microwaving chicken makes it gummy? I learned more in one hour than I ever thought possible. Listening to him talk, I felt like I was in a Christopher Guest movie. There was a nice mention about our documentary in the Erie Times-News <http://tinyurl.com/d89pll6>. ABEL RAISES CAIN was slated to screen twice that day. But even if we took a plane, there’s no way that we could have made it in time for the afternoon showing. It was a close one. The Q&A that night was electric in terms of participation and reactions from the lively crowd of Erie folks. I had to steal the mic from my dad in order to wrap things up at the end. We were all tired from another harrowing journey and wanted to get back to the hotel to rest. But within a matter of seconds, my dad had already mischievously grabbed my mom’s microphone to take its place. Jamie compared our traveling caravan to ‘The Partridge Family.’ Little did he know that my parents would soon unleash their ‘musical’ act on the unsuspecting audience.
Talking with people out in the lobby afterwards, one couple asked me what the film’s budget was. It’s the kind of question that always throws you off, no matter how prepared you are to answer it. It’s like asking a woman her real age. I say a number, but it’s not really true. Another couple told me that they skipped their Audubon meeting to come to our screening that night, which I found highly amusing. My dad calls birdwatchers “voyeurs” who derive pleasure from “bird porn.” The couple promised to send me a book having to do with birds and sex. I promised that I would share it with my dad for research.
We stayed at La Quinta Inn and Suites and the walls were paper-thin. A gaggle of teenage girls squealed as they ran through the hallways. Upstairs, there seemed to be a party that only elephants were invited to, and our next-door neighbor’s constant booming drawl competed with a yipping dog in an adjacent room. We awoke to another few inches of snow on the ground. Due to our tight driving schedule, the hosts booked our radio interview at NPR member station, WQLN, for the following day. What a colorful way to end our tour. Tom New, Director of Education, Community Engagement and Public Relations at WQLN Public Media, was a super sharp and hilarious interviewer. It turns out that he also had a prankster for a father!
I watched the fluffy snowflakes falling outside as we recorded the segment. Our dog, Cecil, wandered about the station. I was worried that he would think one of the microphone stands was a tree. Speaking of microphones, the windscreen on my dad’s mic was orange, which was symbolic, as that’s the same color as a carrot, Jeff was quick to point out. After more than an hour of taping, we said a heartfelt thanks and goodbye to our new friends in Erie, PA and packed up the family truckster.
Our final day on the road, we took a drive off the beaten path and stayed overnight at the Glenmary Inn in Owego, NY (yes, it sounds like Oswego, but without the ‘s’). The grand old house used to be a retreat for “the insane, the nervous and drug habitués” in the late 1800s and when we drove up the winding driveway, my dad joked that we’re never going to leave this place alive. Yes, we fit in all right. I relish such places with interesting histories. Jeff knew that I had a trick up my sleeve. It ended up being a lovely stay and a perfect way to unwind after the last two crazy weeks on the road!The funniest thing happened after we returned home to Brooklyn. The innkeeper from the Glenmary Inn called to tell me excitedly, “Hey, I know who your dad is!” Apparently, he was fan of my father’s pranks in the 1970s and he didn’t realize who we all were until after we checked out. I guess life is funny like that. I love the fact that people along the way have been touched by my father’s humor. And they seem to remember him for many years after they meet him or see one of his appearances.
I’m reminded by the owner why I made the film in the first place. It’s not only about preserving and protecting my dad’s legacy for people who may already know of his work, it’s about introducing him to brand new audiences for years to come. I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone at Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation for making this special tour possible.