by Walter Chaw I use these trips to the Telluride Film Festival as year-markers: summaries and confessions sometimes filled with hope for the new year, although I find I live almost entirely in the past, in fear of the future, neglecting the present. I don't think this is an unusual malady (indeed, it might be the common malady), and shaking loose of it may be the pestilence that finally ends us and not any other. This year, I took a different route to Telluride, not through the canyon, but straight across the I-70 to Grand Junction, then south to the sheltered valley where Telluride sits. Partly I did this for the novelty of it (I haven't driven over Vail Pass since an accident I had there...can it be a decade ago already?), and partly out of wanting to pick up my friend Katrina from the Grand Junction airport to drive her down to meet her husband at the festival. Every time I go through the Eisenhower Tunnel, I remember that particular passage from The Stand and how, several years ago, I listened to its audiobook on the way up to a different Telluride. It was the first time I'd made it to the end of the novel. A die-hard fan of King's, I nevertheless find his fantasies difficult water to tread. Colorado is a beautiful state, though I worry that the lakes and rivers are looking as low as they're looking right now. I doubt I've ever seen them quite so dry.
I stopped at the "No Name Rest Stop" and looked out over a valley, green on the verge of red. In retrospect, maybe that rust was the colour of the clay on the side of the mountains. The trip this way over the Rockies features a good variety of soil colours, from rich black to ash white to this red I generally associate with Red Rocks Amphitheater. I love this place. It hurts me to think of it differently every time I see a Trump or Boebert sign hanging from the side of a barn in the middle of nowhere. I used to like to pretend things were better here outside the major city centres than they were when I was a child, growing up as essentially the only Asian in every school, job, and community. I wanted to believe it. The ring of protestors around a hospital with signs saying "no forced injections" cast a pall on hope, especially the day after the Supreme Court declined to stay an abortion law essentially overturning Roe v. Wade by, among other things, deputizing vigilantes to enforce this dangerous and regressive edict. I thought about taking a selfie next to the rest stop's sign to make some self-deprecating joke about it, but I don't have the energy anymore.
I'm feeling a lot older now. My feet sometimes swell if I sit too long. I have to watch what I eat. Soon I'll be undergoing painful and terrifying medical procedures with more frequency and at greater risk. At 48, I am now very likely in the last third of my life, one way or another, and all of it weighs on me. I do wonder at the size and duration of the ripple I'll leave when I go. I think it will be small and I'm sorry about it, although I know it doesn't matter and, soon enough, I won't care about that, either. The knowledge I've spent a lifetime hoarding as an identity no longer means anything to the young, who will have to learn it all for themselves, only to find out the same thing I've taken too long to find out. Nothing matters but the present, and the present is the only state that comes and goes quite so quickly, quite so invisibly. Here it is, and there it was. And again. The train doesn't stop at any stations, and I don't know there's anyone driving it--at least I hope there isn't, because if someone is in charge, this cruel calamity is more awful and sad than if it were just a derelict, runaway thing careening into certain dark.
So here we go: the 48th edition of the Telluride Film Festival--a sparse program with a seemingly smaller attendance showing movies desperately against the apocalypse. Sitting in a theatre for the first time in almost two years--the length of the gap less out of fear than out of disinterest--and I can feel the yawning nothing outside pressing in harder than it ever has. It's all anthropology and memorializing. The moments of beauty are more precious than they were before. Put them in amber. I have friends who are true and a family who loves me, and I'll hold them close to my heart even as everything fails. And here is art to make sense of a frightening and uncertain future. There's an Arthur C. Clarke story called "The Star," where an alien civilization memorializes their culture as the supernova that guided this planet to Christ killed all of them. I come back to it often now that Evangelicals have rounded the corner on their Final Solution.
Let's see what there is to see while there's time left to tell the story of what went wrong. Telluride, 2021. Got my mask on.