by Walter Chaw
Things to do in Telluride:
- Go to the thrift store on the main street. There's always something there--old festival gear, glass-framed posters, sweatshirts (because it's never not colder here than you expect it to be). Especially go there at night after the trams stop running and you're walking in the pitch black on the side of a mountain. I've done this without a flashlight and with a dead cell phone and it's terrifying. Also, there's no air. Also, there are bears.
- At night, stand outside apart from other people and things and look up at the sky, because there's not a lot of light pollution and for city-folk like me, what the sky looks like in Telluride is existentially horrifying. And incredibly beautiful.
- Go to the Middle Eastern food stand next to "Coffee Cowboy." It's a fantastic value and they do a great job. I also like Coffee Cowboy, though. If you've never had French fries and hummus, you should try that.
- "Steamies" has affordable burgers and stuff, but they sell their fries separately and I've always been a little disappointed by their portion sizes. This is because I'm what's colloquially known as "obese" and "a glutton."
- Go to the bookstore on the main street. It's across from the hotel where I interviewed Jonathan Glazer a few years back--the hotel a guy on horseback rode into this morning, I'm told. I didn't see it. I don't know if that happens a lot in Telluride, but it appears to have happened the one time so I bet it'll happen again. The bookstore sells books at full price, so I tend not to buy any, but I did run into Philip Kaufman there once with Annette Insdorf and had them both sign the book she'd just written about him.
- High Pie has a vegan pizza my vegan friend loves, but vegans grow accustomed to eating things that don't taste good and so recommend things that taste less bad than most of the other stuff they eat. I don't know what to say about that.
- If you're driving from Denver and playing "Roadkill Bingo," be sure you have squares for "porcupine," "probably a hawk of some kind," and "coyote." Also spotted this year: multiple skunks and a raccoon. I think I witnessed a bird getting clipped, though it's hard to be sure when you're screaming.
- Ride the gondola. A lot. It's the public transportation here, linking three discrete developments up the side of a mountain and down into the valley where the town centre is. When you ride it at night, there are no lights inside or out and you feel like you're floating. Once, I rode it all the way down and all the way up again just because you can and it's free. In the daytime, you meet a lot of people going to the festival, and though they usually like all the stuff you expect them to like, once in a while you meet Andrey Zvyagintsev and you get to tell him that you love his movies and have taught them in class. Then you find out he doesn't speak English so you settle for a selfie. Sometimes you ride down with Mia Wasikowska and hope she doesn't ask if you've seen the camel movie because that one was terrible.
- Go to the Chinese restaurant on the main street on the last night you're here because it's a tradition you started with your friends five years ago and ritual helps contextualize things in a life that's otherwise disordered and headlong.
- See a lot of movies if you can because though the programming is disproportionately vanilla and features not only films that are releasing in a few days, but the wrong films that are releasing in a few days. Telluride is still one of the most unique places on the planet to experience a film festival. This is my fifth year in a row coming after a long absence. It's the one thing I do for myself every year and I'm unbelievably privileged that I can. I never realize how much I'm broken and rundown until I come here and begin to heal. It's not the movies. On average, the movies aren't great, and it seems to be getting worse. It's the watching; and the watching is amazing here.
- Pet a lot of dogs. Everyone in Telluride seems to have a dog. Most of them are friendly. I met a puppy today named "Oso" who was one of those fluffy German shepherds. I also pet a red heeler named "Betty Sue" and she was a lot softer and smaller than my blue heeler, who is named "Buster" after "Buster Keaton." They have the same expression. Heelers are the best dogs in the world because they are half wild, and the other half is neurotic and psychologically complex. Don't @ me.
- I'm grateful for everything in my life when I'm here because I have time to take a breath and reflect. Breathing is important. I wonder how much time I spend not breathing the rest of the year. A lot, I imagine. I hope I can change that. I think I'd be happier if I could. Telluride for me is like a diving bell: While there's not much air under there, it gives me enough to survive the rest of the year.
- Take off your shoes and wade in the stream that separates the Herzog Theater from the rest of the town. It's shallow and there are round pebbles in the bed. When it rains in the afternoon, like it always does, watch the surface of the pond. I forget how I used to do that when I was a kid with puddles in the yard, and when I do it again now, in a place like this, it reminds me of when the world was full of possible things.
You got it? Okay, let's go.