by Walter Chaw It's a six-and-a-half hour drive from my home in Arvada, CO to Telluride on the Western Slope, and there are two ways to get there. One way is all highway; the other way is all beauty. I took the second route, and it made all the difference. I've been in a dark, difficult place for a long time now, or, at least, long enough in the parlance of near-crippling depression. I was caught in eddies; I had become inert. I had almost completely stopped writing. Not just essays like this one, but reviews, too, which I used to be able to pump out with I think alarming speed and ease. Early on, someone asked my editor how I did it; at times over the last couple months, I wondered if I'd ever write like that again. Things are hard when you're dark. Getting out of bed was a negotiation--getting out to a screening was a near act of God. The thought of accidentally eavesdropping other people's thoughts was agony. The times I did, of course, were good, because the guilt I would have felt had I gone and not written on the privilege would have been untenable. Would that the guilt of not writing on home-video releases have the same lubricative effect.
I have a good friend who lives far away now but comes every year to the Telluride Film Festival. He asked me to meet him there. He asks me every year. I've never accepted his invitation--work has interfered, or fear, or sloth, or embarrassment at having to put him out, as I likely wouldn't be able to afford a place to stay, or wouldn't have the planning ability most days to work up the impetus to schedule. But he asked me again this year, and despite the black whispering in my ear, I said "yes" and then avoided the topic in my mind until the morning I left, to protect it from being poisoned.
So I took the beautiful route, the one that goes over Monarch Pass and through towns named things like "Fairplay" and places like "Tenderfoot Mountain." It's easily one of the loveliest drives in a state known for its natural beauty. I took it despite that my illness makes me hate to drive and, more, makes me hate nature...and beauty. It hates those things like Frankenstein hates fire. It hates those things because they kill it. Its roots drive so deep because they contract with fear whenever threatened--it's the facehugger from Alien: you try to cut that fucker off and the host will die. Or so it would have you believe.
I downloaded the audio book of the unexpurgated version of The Stand for the trip up because I had never been able to force myself to read it, even though I like Stephen King and a lot of my friends who also like Stephen King consider it his best book. I'm now 16 chapters in. Not a convert, but at least I've begun to bridge this gap.
As I was filling my gas tank somewhere between a barn that said "Millie's Thrift" and a restaurant promising "Ribeye and Eggs: $10.99," I felt something loosen in my chest. I was driving a beautiful stretch, in a beautiful state, to stay with dear friends in a beautiful little town to watch movies. And to write about them. Movies have always saved my life. Here they go, doing it again.