Archive for September, 2007

Road Romance No.73

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Not exactly sure when I wrote this, but the episode itself took place in either 1973 or 1974. I anticipate that it will become apparent why this episode wasn’t exactly filmable.

Road Romance No.73

Even a 9th Century monk would recognise decreasing possibility from the sound of a car battery going flat. In the cold and stillness of a desert dawn, 45 miles out from Delta, Utah, there’s nothing else – just 318 cu ins of dead Detroit iron paired with my total anxiety. Not an uncommon feeling on the road. But I’m also in movies for a living (of sorts) and so, right on script cue, here comes the helpful local rancher. Only time he’s been by this spot all week he tells me. The first thing to do is learn the well known (round here) screwdriver in the automatic choke trick. The second is to say thank you as I head out. People who sleep in their clothes in their car don’t need to pack. A mile or so down the dirt track brings me back onto Federal 50. I’m heading eastbound.

Ahead, across Utah and the Western Slope, lies Loveland Pass. Over the Rockies in early winter, the highest, steepest haul on my journey from Los Angeles to Athens, Ohio. The Eisenhower Tunnel starts at 11,974ft. Over the Top, out there beyond Granite City and the Great Plains lies the first of three Road Dreams shows. People paying good money to watch my four screen film. Money I must have.

Twelve hours later, after crawling across Utah at a fevered 45mph, I’m up through Green River to just past Grand Junction. For a man who’se always been a car’s last owner, such a walking pace should not come as a surprise. 45,000 miles ago I paid $300 for this nag, a relative youngster then with 112,000 on the clock. To drop in its traces is this car’s fate.

But I’m over the Colorado line at least, on the first inclines of the Western Slope. Interstate 70 isn’t yet complete here. Miles of twisting, two lane blacktop lie ahead, seemingly with rusted out Ford PInto’s around every bend, all showing late running Michigan plates and towing oversize U-Haul trailers. The hour between dog and wolf comes and goes, the engine loses more and more power. A big buck freezes in the headlights, along with my heartbeat. A first set of accident flares slides by. The engine is making that continuous, desperate sucking sound (the same for man or machine) brought on by not having enough air to breathe. Suddenly, up ahead, a jumble of running lights, the visual confusion caused by trucks backed up on a blocked hiway. A single orange light illuminates the sign: Snow Chains Required – Inspection Station Ahead. Pulling off into the gas station at Vail I enter an urgent confusion, like an armored column in wartime retreat. Rumors of the approaching blizzard enemy fill the air. $23.50 snow chains are $40 – cash and no arguing. $4 more goes on gas to get me to Boulder. There perhaps Jim can lend me a make up $40 to get me to Ohio. For right now, that leaves $3.

The snow chains have no instructions. I watch others, learn that it’s necessary to hook a specific notch on the wire through a metal eyelet – on both the inside and outside of the wheel. But my station waggon is so overloaded with equipment, riding so low on the springs, that I can only get one arm at a time into place. Through all of this I’m lying in the snow, acutely aware that if I don’t make it over, if I’m beaten back at the crest, I can kiss those three shows – and the money – goodbye. Time after time I try to hook the eyelet onto the notch, my fingers numbed to an unfeeling clumsiness. Finally, by dint of some desperate blind flailing, I make a connection, roll the car foward to test the tension – and it’s too loose. Back out into the snow again. By now my clothes are sopping wet. My body begins to burn with manic fever. Quite irrationally the hook suddenly catches. The snow chains and myself are equally tense. It must be at least 9,000ft here – and getting real cold.

Heading out of Vail, past the empty inspection station, a vicious thumping starts up from the wheel arches. There’s still 35 miles to go to the summit, an interminable penitent’s progress that has me screaming at the swirling snow, begging to be Faust in Let’s Make a Deal. Storm atmospherics carry a comforting radio voice from California to Colorado, urging me to send a ‘tax deductible gift of love’ to Pasadena. No doubt a miracle to some and as I promise I WILL, I WILL – there, the tunnel entrance appears through the driving snow, a beckoning illusion of harbor lights. But, as with a one light town, the soothing orange glow only lasts for a moment before I’m expelled, like a model ship from the safety of its bottle, out onto the Front Slope. It’s snowing even harder. Only 80 more miles to Boulder means three more hours for me.

Crazy truckers come roaring up behind me at 60mph, running 40 ton rigs over snow on top of ice, squeezing by where the ploughs have banked up canyon walls of packed snow. The juddering from the wheel arch gets worse. Suddenly, a distinct lurch. Thump, thump, thump. One hundred yards and agonies of time ahead there’s a partially cleared space, enough to pull half off of the roadway. Out of the car – the snow blows so hard as to be almost blinding. But I know what’s happened. The offside snow chain is broken, the shredded tire so hot it’s steaming in the snow.

That means the spare, the one that cost $6.50 in Sacramento instead of the usual $13, because they didn’t charge me for the bald half. To get to it I have to empty my Nimitz sized station waggon. Four screens, 60lb projector boxes, the myriad bits and pieces that always accumulate on a trip, everything has to be dragged out into the snow, for all the world like a looted coach on Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Every few minutes tractor-trailers come racing by. Those crazy bastards could never stop and I’m more on the road than off. If two of them should come down abreast there simply won’t be enough room.

I work frantically to operate my practical-joke jack, a ludicrous Detroit homage to Rube Goldberg which hooks onto the back fender and has to raise the rear of the car at least 3ft before the wheel springs are even affected. Arm strength simply isn’t enough – I have to throw my entire body weight on to the ratchet to force any movement, notch by notch. I’m sodden and sweating, my heart’s pounding, I’ve no strength left to raise the car any higher. I fall to my knees and pull the wheel off, in the process cutting my hand on the broken snow chain. Within moments it becomes slippery with blood, an unfeeling wooden stump sliding around on the wheel lugs as I struggle to line up the spare. It’s immediately apparent that the tire is oversize and so the lugs won’t align. The jack has to, HAS TO be raised several more notches. A screaming, demented figure hurls itself on to the ratchet, locked in a bizarre dance with a dangerous, dying two ton partner. The whole car is swaying on this spindly strip of metal with no lug seated wheel in place if it should collapse. Nothing for it but to pile the film screens underneath the brake drum as a last desperate, useless measure. Vaguely I note that my blood is staining the screens. By now it’s been 22 hours since leaving dawn in the desert, a seeming lifetime’s voyage to this lee shore off Vanishing Point, where the primal power of the mountains crowds in darker than the night. If swallowed up in that grim implacability a body would stay hidden until the Spring.

I don’t even remember arriving at Jim’s house. When I awoke later that afternoon he went to the bank for the $40 and then helped me to empty the car. We dragged everything out of the car to dry as best it could in the winter sun. For a few hours Stickney Street had its own beached freighter. With that done I sat on the porch glider, with its views of Longs Peak, sleepily nodding to Alysa’s stories of life in 5th Grade – though, like any traveller who reaches port through the storm I mainly gave myself over to the pleasures of my exhaustion. But very soon, a matter of hours even, I would have to get back on the road. The bookings in Ohio wouldn’t wait. And, having come through one storm, I now knew that when the next one came, as it surely must, this past escape would provide no protection. Every departure, every destination, requires a fresh start.

XHL drying out

Live Film Shows

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Live Film Shows

chapel 4

As detailed more fully in the ‘Super8 to Final Cut Pro’ article, I made a living (of sorts) by showing a 4 Screen Film of my travels, incorporating the same footage that is now seen in RetroRoadTrips. My circuit was mainly at colleges, and the venues (which were often lecture theatres) were often just right for this sort of show. But there were also other locales where I’d arrive on a bright summers day and find that I was expected to set up my projectors in a cafeteria with two walls of large windows where most of the blinds were missing, and with the first three shows scheduled for mid-afternoon. At such times it was natural enough to indulge in daydreams of how I would like to present the film, influenced no doubt by feature films I’d seen which were set in countries in which a travelling film show comes to a village where there is no other form of entertainment. Below is the movie script setting for my Fantasy Film Theatre.

4 screens ws

‘Road image neon sculptures glow softly on a dark green, canvas tent wall, enclosing a temporary film compound. Beyond the wall, reaching up into that blueblack, star starting night are the silhouettes of three buttes. Sudden recognition here and Yes, the gut reaction was right – they do have movie meaning because we’re in Monument Valley. Which is no surprise to the Navajo sheep herding family who are waiting patiently for the performance to begin, as are (though not quite so patiently) the UniLever Wash Mon V2executive with his wife and two children from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, whose 37ft Pace Arrow Ponderosa Motor Home is temporarily out of action with a malfunctioning microwave oven. Up front, in somewhat solitary eagerness, is the Activities Director for the YMCA in Shensii City, Japan. He’s cycling, rather intensely one might be inclined to judge, to Mason City, Iowa to hand deliver a Sister Cities proclamation. All of them are waiting for the show to begin. Then, with only scant warning as the generator kicks in, up there on the screens colour and shapes are swirling and puslating as rapidly as a spring melt river. Ten years of a life condensed into 26 minutes. It’s all just a moment really, and look how full it is!’

Needless to say this scene didn’t take place, though there were plenty of times which were just as effective, even if they weren’t in quite such an exotic locale. Different audiences have different interests, of course. At a show I did on the Blackfoot Reservation at Devils Lake, North Dakota, the interest was mainly in the horses shown. When I tried (unsuccessfully) to interest Detroit in subsidising me one time, my preview audience of auto industry executives were quite taken aback with how many old cars there still were on the road in America. In similar vein, at the headquarters of Coca-Cola in Atlanta (Yes – there really are ‘water’ fountains that dispense Coke), there was a ghastly moment when a Pepsi sign appeared on the screen. I even had a woman at a show in Phoenix who recognised her old house in a suburb of Boston.

audience

All of the above seems to demonstrate that melodic scenes from the everyday, when recorded without a message or political point of view in mind, do have a range of contact points for a wide set of audiences. For myself, as part of getting older, there is by now a more pressing knowledge of that abiding wistfulness in all beauty.

’41 Jimmy pickup

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

41 in LA 2

I’ve been asked about the ’41 Jimmy pickup that appears in the Home in October film. I drove it from Los Angeles to Long Island, in 1980. Its owner (Richie Gilks) was contemplating a return back East (after completing that musician’s ritual rite of passage – a period of living in LA for a few years). I was on the verge of leaving America for good and needed to transport 41 hood upmy three foot lockers of film (75 hours worth) to the East Coast, prior to finding a way to get them back to England. So the deal was that I would deliver the vehicle in return for using it as my carrier. The physical cargo was, quite clearly, a large slice of my life. Given that the truck hadn’t been out of California for most of its life and now was facing a load carrying trip over 3,000 miles, through deserts and over mountains, there were a few anxieties in the air. This set up had all the ingredients for the start of a Twilight Zone story.

Jimmy desert road

In the end, there were no big catastrophies – just the steady, ongoing anxiety of listening to the engine mile after mile for any new (and threatening) mechanical noises. Standard driving procedure of the time. It was quite a basic drive (as was to be expected – though not quite of the era as an Advance and Retard lever, which I had on my first car, along with a Town & Country horn), and there were nice touches like a windshield that was hinged at the top and which could be opened out to promote air flow through the cab – very handy in the desert.

41 main street

Not too surprisingly, driving into small towns in the midWest (I tended to take back roads and sleep alongside the truck at night) in a working ’41 truck with California plates, created small pockets of interest. It seems to be a human trait to enjoy seeing old things still useful and working, which is probably connected to our own desire to have a long and productive life.

41 in NYCIt got a bit tougher around Iowa as the brake hydraulics were quite perished and I had to start replenishing a leaking system. By the time I’d gotten to Philadelphia the brakes were totally shot and I then had to drive on to eastern Long Island on the handbrake. The least stressful section of this leg of the journey was driving through Manhattan – a perverse advantage to crowded, slow moving streets. But I made it to East Quogue – truck and film intact – and moved into a small trailer I’d bought earlier, which was parked in the yard of Richie’s brother Mike. And that was my last coast to coast.

41 picnic table

Comments

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Comments

As we enter the era of high definition TV, the saturated Kodachrome Super 8 format has become even more visually appealing. Its glowing warmth and modest scale is a welcome change from xenon plasma powered boastful video images, now with HD hyper-sharpness.
Aidan
July ’06

Cheyenne Liquor

1. I remember Road Dreams when it was first broadcast on Channel 4 – it was an unforgettable series. It was elegiac and bore comparison with Laurie Lee’s “As I walked out..” Elliot’s eye for detail makes the ordinary appear extraordinary, every shot deserving of a story on its own and accompanied by a stunning soundtrack. I look forward to the DVDs!
Mike
Sept ’07
From: Live Film Shows

2. First saw this years ago on Ch 4 and fell over in a faint. My country, through the eyes of a ’seeing’ man. Fantastic. Homesickness in big dollops. Couldn’t get enough of it. Spread the news, had others in tears. Thanks Elliott.
Mary
Sept ’07
From: Live Film Shows

Girls in pickup



3. I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe how these films effect me, and the closest I can come up with is that you have captured the scenes and atmosphere so well it almost seems that I’m watching memories I feel could have been my own, even though I know they aren’t. It’s almost like being transported by a great book to somewhere that doesn’t exist – but ought to.
Barry
November 08
From: email

4. I just sat, mesmerized, and watched Elliott Bristow’s Road Dreams. Words fail me. I found it incredibly moving (and I don’t mean that as a pun, given its subject matter). There’s so much in it that resonates with me. The shot of the Continental Trailways bus, for instance. I used to take one of those almost every Friday night, from New York to Philadelphia to spend the weekend with Lesley. I moved to the States in 1973, right when Bristow was in the middle of his marathon trip, and a great deal of what he filmed looks familiar. Back then, America was a magical place to me, full of promise and excitement. It was the best time to be there. And “Road Dreams” brought it all back.
Sept ’06
From:email

Acme Hotel



5. ……and there was at least one particularly beautiful woman who featured, although her name is lost to me despite a vision of her swimming and giving the camera a smile that would have brought Paris back to steal her again if her name had been Helen…
Kevin
Jan ’06
From: email

6. As I started watching, I realised that you’d seen (and lived) exactly everything that appeared on the screen. It was a strange and beautiful thought.
Tim
March ’06
From: email

Lane & Danni



7. Your diaries rejuvenate the spirit and I don’t like being without access to them.
Jim
Sept ’04
From: email

8. Elliot, all your work must appear on television again and again, it’s wonderful. To think that when you were filming in ‘68, Here’s Lucy, The Doris Day Show, Rowan & Martins Laugh-In, Hawaii Five O, Magpie & Dads Army all premiered on tv. Mary Hopkin appeared on Opportunity Knocks, the Ford Capri was about to appear and the crew of Appollo 8 believed in Father Christmas..
John
Sept
From: Current status

old flashgun



9. ……but the charm of Road Dreams is that it is so uncomplicated.
David
Sept ’06
From: email

10. Hi Elliot..Like many, many others I’m delighted to see that the Road Dreams dream is not dead..For the last couple of years it seemed that failing VHS copies of the original were all that was about..fantastic that you are doing your thing..still..even now watching the snippetts etc. has a real emotional pull for me..and as for the Kerouac reading..brilliant.. ..I think it would be well worth providing a page where fans?such as myself could explain what the series meant to us..and why we are so grateful to you for bringing this “thing” back to life.
Mike
Sept ’07
From: Current Status

sun on graves



11. I’m sure you didn’t realise at the time that the films would become such an important mirror of those years, when the post-war world was changing for ever. Despite all the celluloid produced over there, nothing comes close to capturing those times as well as Road Dreams.
Richard
Sept ’07
From: email

tobacco road



12. Just enjoyed watching the Dinosaur Gas and Joshua Tree clips. Beautiful. The sound effects really add a new dimension, and the snippits of footage that I don’t recognise from the original Road Dreams programmes only serve to tease for what else is to come.
Simon
Aug ’07
From: Current Status

13. It was your footage that fired my enthusiasm for Super 8 film, and I just can’t give it up now…
Ben
Aug ’07
From: Current Status

bottles



14. Are you the Mark Bristow mentioned in an old Super 8 Filmaker?

Whatever happened to Mark Bristow

Jim
Aug ’07
From: Current Status

Yes I am. My full name is Mark Elliott Bristow. I started using Elliott around 1976. The motive grew out of my being on a lighting rig one day, and when someone called out ‘Mark’ the three of us on the rig looked up. It was also about the time that the film came to be called Road Dreams. Before that (early 4 screen days) it was known as Mark’s America – which didn’t exactly help the cold calling sales pitch when I was trying to sell the show by phone. But that’s a useful attribute to keeping a diary; it allows the diary keeper (and film) to change tack.

I only recently discovered that the writer of the ‘What happened…’ article is Chris Cottrill, editor of Super8 Today. If you’re at all interested in Super 8, I can recommend this magazine.

Alysa in pool



15. Hi Elliot, I am a disciple of your beautiful films which I watch on repeat very often, and I swear it’s a different uplifting entrancing and more enlightening journey EVERY time. And that’s before the glass of wine. I look forward to the DVD’s. Thinking about it maybe I should set up multiple screens like your college show, each with an episode on looped playback? Heaven. Elliot you have done it, won our hearts and minds.
Matthew
Sept ’07
From: Live Film Shows

16. It left an indelible impression on me when it was shown on TV. Beautiful, evocative, melancholic…..
Stephen
June ’06
From: email

driving into sunset



17. Just thinking about Road Dreams makes me want to to throw everything into a bag, fill the tank and turn the car towards the open road and the sunset.
Miles
Oct ’06
From: email

18. …..I love its simplicity and originality; I think it works so well in the same way that O.Winston Link’s photography works. They are a personal record of a lost time.
Patrick
March ’07
From: email

Vermillion blue car



19. I was sitting in a cafe in Santa Fe and just heard this music, saw the opening shots of Road Dreams in my mind, rushed to the counter and asked what it was – Leo Kottke’s ‘Machine #2’ – then went next door to a music store where I bought the CD immediately, and have been looking for the film ever since. It was great to find that so many people feel like me, and that it was memorable and groundbreaking. Thanks.
Hilary
Dec’06
From: email

20. Road Dreams must be for many people a perfect way not only to remember their own experience in the States in the ’70’s, but also a better way to explain it to people than a failed “you had to be there.” More than that, it has to be one of the best memorials (probably not the best word) of this era.
Allan
Aug ’06
From” email

Water & leaves



21. Like many others I loved that series and have watched it countless times. In fact, I always think I know every part and every bit of music yet still notice something new.
Baz
April ’07
From: email

22. I’ve travelled across the US a couple of times on the Green Tortoise and there’s very little that can recreate such an experience for me back home in England. Road Dreams is one exception.
Simon
Feb ’06
From: email

23. ….while hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2000, my partner and I found a copy of On The Road and would take turns to read a chapter aloud as we went to bed. When I heard the words “We passed Las Cruces in the night and arrived in Arizona at dawn” I could see the Road Dreams images in my mind and hear the narration – so evocative, touching and fitting to the mood were they.
Roland
Sept ’06
From: email

Phillips 66



24. Fifteen of more years back I watched your first series of Road Dreams and was blown away by it. I still watch it at least once a year to remind myself what I love about the world, filmmaking, colour and light…….
Ben
April ’06
From: email

Ice storm



25. I spent ten years in North America in the seventies, and travelled many thousands of miles in both Canada and the USA. Every time I watch the part of Road Dreams which I have it brings back wonderful memories, of great cars and wonderful scenery. Myself and many friends think that Road Dreams is very special, a work of which you should be so very proud – evocative scenery and beautifully arranged, sympathetic music – one can feel the nip of the frost and snow, feel the heat of the sun and recall the smell of sixties American cars whilst watching it.
Ralph
Feb ’07
From: email

26. As we head into 2007, Elliott’s record of ’70’s sights and sounds just becomes more valuable, I reckon.
Dave
Jan ’07
From: email

27. Wonderful stuff – for years I thought I would never see the utterly fascinating genius of “Road Dreams”. My late father once described RD’s as Alistair Cooke meets “The Waltons” on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” … in a world of increasing monoculture and mediocrity, I for one, look forward to wholeheartedly supporting this seemingly Don Quixot of an enterprize. Thank you for, yet again, sharing your dreams with ‘us’ Elliott…
Big Al
Nov ’08
From: Nov 5th (is not that far away)

WTC from dunes

Back to top

Location Quiz

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

I’m sure that one of the motivations for my keeping a film diary has to do with having a poor memory for events, though I do seem to be able to recollect colours. My wife remembers how we first met in 1961; I remember the blue of the dress she wore that evening. I can also find my way back to places visited some years before, though that doesn’t mean I could give you directions.

Where the diary is concerned, and as many of you know from your own road trips, roadside scenery rolls by in an unfolding, often seamless panorama. So how to identify single scenes at a later time? With this quiz you can try yourself out in this skill. No prizes offered I’m afraid, partly because we* aren’t always 100% certain ourselves – and also, some of these scenes I know for a fact no longer exist.

Flying saucer

Ashtabula, Ohio – ‘phoned home’ a while ago

All the same, even if the answers don’t roll off the tip of your tongue, there is always the chance that the places depicted will fire up your own road longing. As visiting movie locations is the contempoary equivalent of the 18th Century Grand Tour, the proposal has to be – don’t you warrant a Grand Tour of your own?

Steve Mainwaring*thinks so. Steve is the source I rely on to establish the naming of places. He enjoyed Road Dreams enough during its screening in 1989 to establish a pattern of taking holidays in America, searching out Road Dreams scenes as he travelled around. What an interesting structure to layer onto a holiday.

Anyway, none – or all – of the above may apply. Just enjoy the process of looking back (and if this sets you off to ‘remembering’, why not share your own road stories in the Visitors’ Stories section).

There are three categories (which will get replenished at intervals).

1. Pretty certain: This means, mainly thanks to Steve, that the location details are pretty accurate and specific.

2. Or thereabouts: Much less specific. Try and guess the area of the city, or even just the state we’re in at the time.

3. Who knows: Just don’t know, though I might be able to provide a rough likelihood. And if you could tell us, that would be a bonus indeed. Just enter the details in the dialogue box at the bottom of the page – and many thanks.

– – – – –

Reviews

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Reviews

These reviews are from 1989 and refer to the television series Road Dreams. As I’ve been showing the film in various guises from 1969 to the present (using the same diary source for all versions), I feel that the reviews are as relevant to the overall diary as they were to the series. Plus some interesting observations get made.

car with statue

Elliott Bristow’s 14 years on the road in America began as a two week holiday in 1968. This is the first of six programmes, edited from 75 hours of Super 8 film, and it gives 30 minutes of pure delight. Bristow manages to convey the sensations you hoped to gain from watching those other late night documentaries which turned out to be merely pretentious, self-indulgent and self-consciously “poetic”. Here is both the immediacy of the experience and the quality of the nostalgia is has left behind, adding up to the private history of a society whose public face is familiar from newsreels and movies. The commentary supplies a rudimentary framework, leaving the images to speak for themselves. It is backed by music and the occasional readings from Kerouac and Thomas Wolfe. People, places, and the impulse to record them, remain unidentified, yet specific, tenderly observed memories.
Robin Buss
The Independent On Sunday

White horses

…..funny, surreal and thoroughly addictive
John Tague
TV Guide

This is the real-life America before the film directors get their hands on it. A brilliantly haphazard album
James Hughes-Onslow
Evening Standard

The laid-back, highly watchable travelogue of a man who went to the States for a fortnight’s holiday in 1968, and just kept right on driving through the Seventies
Jeremy Novick
The Independent

road ahead silver

Elliott Bristow’s splendidly evocative Super 8 film tour of the United States: the Rhode Island summer shots awake memories of Jazz on a Summer’s Day
Geoffrey Phillips
Evening Standard

Elliott Bristow snaps the backyard, side road view of America that we tourists only dream of – the next best thing to being there
Jeffery Taylor
The Mail-on-Sunday

Quite unlike anything that’s been on TV before
TV Guide

Spearfish car

Something about America makes people want to drive all over it. Perhaps it’s because gasoline and hamburgers are so cheap. Perhaps it’s to go in search of the perfect radio station.

In Elliott Bristow’s case, circumstances conspired to make him do it. He arrived in New York the day after Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, and didn’t return to England for fourteen years. He was greatly assissted by a mugger who shoved a gun in the back of his neck and demanded to know the best places to visit on a holiday in England.

When the mugger was arrested, Bristow was a material witness and the case didn’t come to court for a year. After twelve months in New York he felt compelled to see the rest of America.

This was the late sixties, when America exerted a dream-like hold over anybody who loved rock music, or movies, or marijuana. Bristow couldn’t have scripted it better if he tried. He landed a job touring the colleges of America, promoting a programme called Groove Tube for ‘underground’ Channel One television. He received a handy salary and all expenses. And everywhere he went he took his trusty Super 8 film camera.

His series of six half-hour films, ‘Road Dreams’, has been assembled from the 75 hours of footage he amassed during his travelling years. Through its randomness and its fleeting images it achieves a quality of experience remembered in flashes, out of sequence, maybe triggered by a chance meeting or a casual remark.

Overlaid on Bristow’s shots of desert sunsets, trains rattling over viaducts above waterfalls, Florida palm trees or steeplejacks scaling clapboard New England churches, are readings from Kerouac and Thomas Wolfe, plus some suitably atmospheric music (at last somebody’s found the perfect use for Leo Kottke’s many tongued guitar).

It might have been unutterably pretentious, but Bristow wisely keeps facts and explanations to a minimum, so you find yourself constructing your own explanations about places and dates, or how Bristow met so many friendly girls. This could become a cult classic.
Adam Sweeting
The Guardian

horse in pickup

Ghosts

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Ghosts
I slept in the car quite a lot of the time, mainly on a needs must basis because of cost. It can be an unnerving experience, especially if your vechicle has no curtains and anyone outside can peer in. With XHL 236 (the Dodge station wagon I owned for a while) I would sleep on top of the projector boxes, which felt a bit like being laid out on a slab – sacrificial or otherwise. And there were times when ‘someone’ was circling the car, making a possibly unpleasant decision. I invariably used the play dead technique – not difficult to do when you’re rigid with fear. One basic rule to follow is to park way off the hiway, out of the range of passing headlights. I’d applied the rule in this particular case, though as the following article by Aidan O’Rourke will outline, that didn’t prevent a most disconcerting episode.
Go to VW Camper Van Ghost Story – Part 2 Article

Visitor Stories

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Visitor Stories

Going ‘on the road’ is not exactly a 20th Century invention, though my direct inspiration was Jack Kerouac’s On The Road rather than Homer’s Odyssey. But the road is both a long running and widespread theme, and one of the satisfactions I get from showing my film is that it often seems to remind viewers of their own experiences. So here’s a place to share some of those, if you care to. Just type in your story in the dialogue box, bearing in mind that it’s designed for comments rather than full length novels. Who will be the first to tell their tale?

Echo Park rose