Monday I spent the day at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. It was held in the Arlington Hotel this year, because the Malco theatre got damaged in a storm.
The Arlington Hotel was my first job. The hotel is a historic place and Al Capone would visit there in his hey day, and they had/have a big suite dedicated to him. I was a breakfast waitress. It was my first experience of being around adults who were not teachers or the parents of my peers. It was the first time grown-up ladies taught me things about their lives without censoring themselves. Some of them were older and had lived pretty rough lives.
One of my bosses there was the first real live gay person I was aware of in my life.
I worried about him and wondered how his family treated him and never dared to ask.
I had to be there by 6:30am and wear a tuxedo shirt and black bow tie. I had the first experience of learning that employees enter through a dark, smelly back area- never the gorgeous front entrance.
That summer I had my own money, but I was too tired to stay up late and enjoy the freedom that came with being an employed person. I was 17. (This was 1997)
The following summer, the summer between high school and beginning college, I had a better position in this hotel. I worked in the guest services office and wore and even frumpier uniform. I would ship things back to guests that had been left behind in rooms. I ordered flowers and booked golf and dinner reservations and updated the info board in the lobby with plastic letters.
I got my first taste of being given tickets and invitations to events and complimentary dinners as a perk of my job. I was now eighteen.
I spent most of my money on decorations for my college room and I took my first trip where I rode a plane. I went to California with my high school sweetheart. My favorite memory of that trip was going to thrift shops and record stores in Hollywood in the middle of the night.
This past Monday, I went to the hotel as a visitor. I saw some documentary shorts and I saw two full-length films. That's a lot of films for one day, I think. I enjoyed being there, but more because I like historic places, I think.
I thought about my history with documentary films. When I was in college one of my professors assigned us to go see some art-related films and write little papers about what we saw. I fell in love with documentaries immediately. I love stories that are the opposite of glossy Hollywood stories. Real people and stories. Bravery and struggle and triumph in corners and for people that don't always garner mainstream recognition.
When we lived in North Carolina, I loved going to the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. I went on to volunteer on that festival. One of my favorite memories is when Eugene Jarecki found out I was from Arkansas and interrogated me about that. I loved the attention and didn't completely realize what a big deal he was/is.
The body of questions that comes from a Northern Person/Eugene to an Arkansas Person/Me follows this rough outline:
1. Tell me everything you love/hate/know about Bill Clinton
2. What is the Bible Belt? Is it real?
I love participating in this discussion.
In New York, I went to things, but TriBeCa Film Festival was kind-of too much for me. Really complicated and actually didn't consist of the smaller documentaries I love for the most part.
Films weren't really my entertainment focus during our time in NYC anyway.
I'm happy to be back in the small cozy towns where I can easily go enjoy a day of films.
My best high school friends who mostly likely do not read this blog will correct this entire post and point out that my actual first job that I was hired to was at KFC/Kentucky Fried Chicken when I was sixteen. I worked there for 4 hours and was so grossed-out that I didn't eat there again for TEN YEARS.