November 19th, 2013 | Mr. Cao Goes to Washington | Lake Placid, NY
I am in a tiny Cessna, seated directly behind two pilots who look like they are not even old enough to go to prom. It is a gorgeous night over Boston, with the silvery full moon reflecting on the many bodies of water. But I am not really enjoying the view, because it is the bumpiest flight I have ever been on in my entire life. I try to take deep breaths and focus on the music in my headphones instead of the mid-air roller coaster ride.
Lake Placid is my last stop on the On Screen/In Person tour. By chance, I had visited this picturesque town just this past summer, working as a cameraman on a documentary project about the US Olympic Women’s Hockey Team. The harrowing flight from Boston aside, I was looking forward to spend a couple more days in town and see what the village is like in the winter.
I am picked up at the tiny Saranac Lake airport by Bob, a retired park biologist in his 70s who now runs a taxi service. In the 20-minute ride into Lake Placid, Bob gives me a brief orientation of the Adirondack Park. The park covers 20% of New York State and relies heavily on logging and tourism for its economy. Lake Placid, because of the 1980 Winter Olympics and its continuing affiliation with the US Olympic training facilities, is the main attraction. Main Street is quaint with shops, restaurants, and hotels, many of them with spectacular views of the charming Mirror Lake. The weather at previous OSIP stops had been milder than I expected. Not here. The snow comes shortly after I check into the hotel and continues to dust the rooftops overnight.
I take a walk down Main Street in the morning. The village is all but deserted. This seems to be the theme of my tour–I am visiting vacation towns during their off or shoulder season. In the case of Lake Placid, I have come during the 3 weeks after the fall visitors have gone home, and the winter sport enthusiasts have not arrived. So I have the lake front to myself. No complaints here.
James Lemons, the Executive Director of the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, puts together an intimate meet-the-filmmaker chat at lunch. It is a fun conversation with several locals/recent transplants. The Center has a gallery space, a dance studio, and a retro-fabulous theater where the screening will take place. I also have the pleasure of meeting James’ partner John. These guys moved to town less than two years ago from Sarasota, Florida, for James’ position at the Center, and John now works for a chocolatier, which must the greatest job ever.
My afternoon is spent enjoying the town, including a tasty vegetarian lunch at the Good Bite Kitchen on Main Street. I am trying to eat healthier, and that does not always go together with travel. This fresh and hearty meatless meal makes me feel better about the steak I wolfed down at Applebee’s in Erie a couple of days ago! My hotel lobby has a large and wonderful fireplace, and since it continues to snow all day, I grab a Darjeeling tea and hang out by the fireplace to catch up on my emails. Heaven.
The evening screening is also cozy. A lady in the audience, Sue, had been a photo journalist in New Orleans, so she raises many knowledgable questions about the city. I also chat for a while with a couple, J-Coby and Kain, who had recently settled in Lake Placid after traveling around the country for a year. The folks who come to the screening are super interested and engaged.
The evening wraps up with a celebratory dinner with James and John, who share hilarious stories about moving to a small town for the first time in their lives. I love these guys! We toast with a round of colorful cocktails. Mine is a sazerac frappe–a more festive variation to the New Orleans classic and an appropriate end to an enjoyable and productive tour.
Many thanks to James and John for their hospitality. Also to all the other host sites and to Kim and Alyson at the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. I hope I get the chance to do this again with a future film soon.
Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, S. Leo Chiang