October 13th, 2013 | FUREVER | Erie, PA
The only other time I’ve ever been to Erie was when I filmed my banjo documentary, Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart. The film’s location was set in Guthrie, Oklahoma, except for one small segment filmed in Erie. Oddly enough, my hotel room presented a splendid view of the dilapidated Y.M.C.A. (located directly across the street), where I filmed that segment.
At 11am, I met Christine Olivier from Mercyhurst’s Institute for Arts & Culture at the local NPR station, WQLR. She’s an absolute delight, and we became fast friends, along with Tom New, the President/CEO of WQLN, who was conducting the interview (to be aired in a few weeks).
They’re both hysterically funny and they explained that they wanted to do the interview off-site at their local pet cemetery, but that they were worried I might take offense to that, as they never know what personalities to expect from the filmmakers. I would, of course, have loved it, especially when Tom told me that Bonzo (of Bedtime for Bonzo fame, was buried there)! Apparently poor Bonzo became ill while traveling through Erie with a circus, and ended up there. Here’s the trailer, in case you’re unfamiliar with the 1951 Ronald Reagan masterpiece that made Bonzo a star. (Coincidentally, Tom had asked me earlier about the solution used to mummify cats in FUREVER and I said it was similar to DMSO, a chemical I first heard about from a Dead Kennedys song, off of their album Bedtime for Democracy, named after said film)!
Seeing Bonzo made up for my inability to see “Mad Anthony’s Cauldron of Death,” another Erie “attraction” (that no one in Erie seems to have heard of).
Our next stop was Mercyhurst, where I spoke to a few students about filmmaking before FUREVER screened. We had a nice turnout. For the Q&A I was accompanied by Ruth Thompson, who does amazing work at Erie’s no kill shelter, A.N.N.A., and Nancy Bird-Blackwood, a psychotherapist, who works with A.N.N.A. as a pet loss grief counselor. We had a long discussion about euthanasia and pet parents who extend their pet’s life too long, due to their inability to let go. We also discussed the human animal bond in detail.
I was particularly excited to hear post-screening impressions after Christine told me that Erie used to be the biggest test market site in the U.S., as its population most perfectly reflected “middle America.” Fittingly, FUREVER’s audience had a group of college students, but a much larger legion of golden-aged women.
Christine, her boyfriend Anthony, and I topped off a great day with dinner in an old firehouse. We drank beers brewed in Erie (Mad Anthony’s, naturally, and Railbender) and then visited a local resident’s lawn late at night. It was pitch black so we couldn’t see the various sculptures made out of cars, wrenches and mufflers, but my iphone was able to capture some of its glory. A fitting conclusion to an adventure in a town called Erie.