A five-hour journey from my parents’ house in Southbury, CT to Oswego, NY, at last we made it! It took only two hours for Jeff to pack the minivan with Tetris precision earlier in the day. I don’t know if my parents realize just how much their son-in-law puts up with! We were reminded to pack lightly, but we still brought the kitchen sink. To a family of hoarders, a super-efficient packer is not only mandatory, but also a perfect fit!
From the little bit of research I did about Oswego, NY, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It was just a blurred snapshot when we first pulled into town. We were in a bit of a hurry because we had a crying baby in the car. When this happens, every minute seems like an eternity. By the way, my husband and I brought our 5-month old baby on the tour! And our dog. So between my parents, my husband and I, our baby and our dog, this trip is eerily reminiscent of the Griswold family’s vacation to Wally World. Except let’s hope that no one pees on the picnic basket.
Chris, our gracious host at the Serendipity B&B, pointed us to Vona’s for dinner, a great little Italian restaurant. Of course the Abels always cause a scene wherever we go. When we arrived, we came in through the wrong door and ended up having to file one by one through the kitchen to get to the dining area. The kitchen staff all stopped what they were doing and stared at us, some with a smirk. I asked the waiter if anyone had ever done that before, and he said no. We were ravenous and the place turned out to be a true gem. I am not lying when I say it was THE BEST Minestrone Soup I have ever eaten in my entire life.
Arriving on campus the following day, we realized that SUNY Oswego literally sits right on the edge of Lake Ontario. A beautiful sight to behold, the waves lapping against the shoreline contained what appeared to be sea foam, but were actually blocks of ice undulating on the surface. I never had time to stop and take a photo. Jacob Dodd, Cinema Production professor and our OSIP host, had a busy day planned for us.
First of all, Jacob Dodd is probably the nicest person on the planet whom you will ever meet. And he is so passionate about film. He seems like a great teacher who has an enormous rapport with his students. We met with his Introduction to Cinema Production class in a combined visit with his colleague’s Case Studies Public Relations class. A fun way to introduce my father’s work to the students was through the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals hoax. It had pertinence to both courses. We shared clips from the film, and some from our archive, which we interspersed between talking with the group. One of the students was hysterical. With a dramatic pause, he held up both of his hands and simply asked my father, “Why?” That’s the question that haunts most people regarding his work. Why in the world would anybody devote his entire life to the art of the hoax?
Speaking of haunting, as we walked around campus, I wondered if living, working, and going to school so close to a nuclear power plant seemed a bit frightening. But to Oswego locals, students, faculty and staff, it appears to be completely normal for them. Information on what to do in case of a meltdown dot the campus announcement boards, I was told by one student. I imagine Homer Simpson behind the controls. It’s funny how a cartoon context allows me to also accept the fact, without much thought, that we are adjacent to an active nuclear plant!
The screening that night happened at an old art deco theater downtown. Divided into seven smaller theatres, the Oswego Cinema is like a mini multiplex from yesteryear. It still has some of the seemingly original elements, which I am a big fan of. It was not only fun seeing the title of our movie on the small overhead marquis, but also hearing a line of people excitedly talking to one another and saying, “We’re here for Abel Raises Cain” was beyond thrilling. People coming out and paying actual money to see our movie!
The response to the film during the screening was great. We were lucky to have had an appreciative audience. The Q&A afterwards was especially fun and meaningful. One gentleman pointed out that most children try to separate themselves from their parents to make a name for themselves. However, I’ve done the opposite and made a name for myself by shining a spotlight on my parents’ work. I joked that some people might find it a bit pathetic. But I quickly added, in all seriousness, that it’s been a rebirth for my parents and a cathartic experience for me.
It was a really amazing community visit and we had a great time. Other exciting news about our trip to Oswego, NY was that we made the school paper! Please see the article and review in the Oswegonian <http://www.oswegonian.com/lreview/10113/abel-raises-cain-tells-distinctive-story-of-national-prankster/>. Special thanks to Jacob Dodd and Sarah Bozek, ARTSwego and SUNY Oswego for taking such great care of us!
Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, Jenny Abel