Summers in Erie, PA, are like roller coaster rides. June is cool and rainy as the coaster creeps slowly toward the crest of the first hill. July 4 weekend, everything stands still for a moment. And we’re suddenly whizzing through hairpin turns, clickety-clack, up down and around. Before you know it, time for the big festivals, Roar on the Shore in mid-July and Celebrate Erie in mid-August. Then the kids go back to school right before Labor Day and everything takes on a pumpkin flavor. Summer’s over — where did it go?
This is the summer when the problem of teen violence boiled over, and maybe, just maybe, caught this complacent town’s attention for a moment. Poverty, violence, racism have deep roots in Erie, and they will take a lot of hard work and political willpower to address. But those are subjects for another time and place. As the descendant of three generations of teachers, the coming of fall has a meaning that’s deeply embedded in my DNA. It’s time to get back to work.
Peter Case has a new record coming out at the end of October, and he’s asked me to help him make some promotional videos. The record is called “Highway 62” after the highway that begins in Niagara Falls, NY, runs within a block of Peter’s childhood home in Hamburg, and continues all the way to El Paso, TX. We spent a couple days roaming around Niagara Falls and getting the “get off my land!” treatment in rural New York state. You’ll start seeing the results of our work in early October. I’m flying out to Los Angeles for the CD release later that month.
Last February, I was invited to document a three-day festival of improvisational and experimental music at a small gallery and performance venue, Trinosophes, in Detroit. I had previous met one of the performers, Thollem McDonas, when he visited Erie as part of Adam Holquist’s experimental music series, Elctroflux. I captured 18 hours of music on two or three video cameras, recording the music in both stereo and natural surround versions. It took all summer to edit, but is now available on DVD through my online store. Here’s the link. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Trinosophes to support next year’s festival. Some of the performances — especially the concluding set by Marshall Allen and Danny Ray Thompson of the Sun Ra Arkestra — will eventually be released as individual DVDs with the option of 5.1 surround audio.
I’m planning a couple of road trips before the weather closes in. First weekend in October I’ll be on the road with Thollem, who is performing in Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland. Later in October, I’m flying out to Los Angeles for Peter’s CD release for “Highway 62”. I’ve recorded many of his performances at McCabe’s Guitar Store over the past dozen years, and I’m looking forward to his show and seeing many southern California friends there. The photo immediately above is Rae’s, a tiny corner diner down the street from McCabe’s that’s one of my favorite breakfast places in the whole world!
Also, I have a couple of grant applications pending, in hopes of getting a halfway decent budget to make a documentary about visual artists in Erie. “The Trouble With Poets” has received a great response, and I’m excited about doing more work for local broadcast, but I’ve got to find a way to make this pay for itself. I’ve applied to the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts and I’m about to apply to the Erie Arts & Culture organization for financial support. It would enable me to hire an editor and spread out some of the tremendous workload involved in backing up footage, culling usable clips, and weaving them into a compelling narrative. More on that project later.
Finally, I’m in the discussion stages about starting film-related projects with the Erie County Library System and the Urban Erie Community Development Corporation. I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to reveal too much about new projects that are still in the works, so all I can say is that both projects involve training teens and young adults in documentary/oral history video production.
That’s all for now. All the best to everyone who reads this far.