I shot my wad on the way up to Bay City. We were closing in on lunch time, and I remembered a café near New Buffalo that I’d eaten at a few years ago. I didn’t have to actually make that decision, just suggest it. But when you’re travelling with three other undeciders, even a comment can be construed as a command.
Lunch was fine, though for some reason the waitress didn’t want to give Kismet water. Throughout the weekend, we had a hard time getting four waters. However, the booze was cheap.
After lunch, I left the decision-making to Kismet and Kyle and Dave. At the fest, there were multiple good options for doing something at any time: three film venues, plus a few workshops, plus parties, plus restaurants, plus bars. One of us would say, “Do you want to go to this?” Someone would answer, “Sure, if you do.” Followed up by someone else’s “Whatever you think.” Confirmed by the fourth person’s “I’m good either way.”
I was the one who probably should have had some plan, for how I could meet as many other filmmakers as possible, how I could insert myself into as many conversations as possible, so I could be one of those people quoted on film fest sites, “I made so many great connections and we’re already talking about collaborating on future projects!” But that’s not me. The transition from “Liked your film” to “Wanna read my script?” always seems fake.
Plus, I’m too distracted by new faces or off-topic conversations or pictures of peoples’ dogs or another event happening three blocks away. Like the wonderful family parties that ended just as I realized I still hadn’t talked to the one person I wanted to catch up with, I was too busy having fun. Wandering from place to place, sometimes with the other undeciders or sometimes alone, because in addition to being undeciders we are also unclingers. Watching good films. Eating good food. Meeting an occasional filmmaker and making vague plans to talk later. Because there seemed to be infinite time in this friendly, happy world. Just like the parties at Auntie Aggie’s, where there was always another roomful of interesting people, another tray of food coming out of the kitchen, and rumors of Mr. Microphone in the basement. Oh wait, no, Mr. Microphone wasn’t at the festival.
I did a pretty good job of not putting myself down, though Kismet scolded me once for advising someone to watch Sandman “in a group – it’s not as good alone.” “But it’s not,” I protested.
“Have you watched it alone?” she charged.
“That’s different,” I said.
“That’s your opinion,” she replied. “Keep it to yourself.” Kismet also took apart our distribution plan, late at night in the hotel bar, on the napkin from her Manhattan. In response to my presentation of our strategy, “We’ve done some festivals, so now, hopefully, I guess, some distribution,” she asked for a pen.
“First we identify our long-term goals for the film. Then medium-term goals. Then short-term goals. That’s this column. Then organizational considerations. Then allies.”
“What are organizational considerations?”
“Don’t worry about those yet. Start with goals. What are your long-term goals?”
“Um…” Saved by the waitress. “Another round here?”
“Yes, please!” We decided to finish the discussion on the drive home. That was the one actual decision we made, but we didn’t keep it. Instead, we nursed our hangovers and thought about gifts for the people who were taking care of our dogs.
In classic undecider form, we couldn’t figure out where to exit for the gifts. Maybe a gas station would have something suitably kitschy? But these were favorite people; we didn’t want crappy. Was there something local? Dave took out his phone. “If we detour through downtown Lansing, there are two gift shops.”
“Detour? Do we want to detour?” No one said anything. “Is there something right on the highway?”
Dave searched. “There’s a Gifts from the Heart. It’s about a mile off exit 127.”
I wondered what about a mile might mean. “Do you guys want to stop?” “Sure, if you do.”“Whatever you think.” “I’m good either way.”
We neared the exit. There was some construction; there could be delays. “What do you think?” “Should we just keep going?” “Should we stop?” “Should we…?” “Exit,” Dave suddenly said. And Kyle exited.
We followed the directions, the sure enough, one mile off the highway, was Briarbrook road. But it was inside a gated community. Gifts from the Heart is online-only. “But we commend you for deciding,” we consoled Dave. He was done with decisions.
To get back to the highway, Kyle had to turn around in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. Which turned out to be a great place to get kitschy gifts. Even better, once, we’d bought them and could forget about it, we saw a sign for apple cider. We sampled from 23 flavors of cider, ate cider donuts, posed for pictures on rocking chairs that seemed more authentic than the ones at Cracker Barrel, and played in an outdoor metal dinosaur museum. It was the perfect Michigan roadside stop, discovered only because an undecider decided to stop at a store that didn’t exist.