My 5Point Journey, Part 3: Writing the Future from Mountainous Nothings

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by Sara Aranda

[If you haven’t, read Part 1 and Part 2]

4.22.17

9am. I wake up before Sonya, eat granola, snap peas, and sweet tomatoes with the back of the Jeep as my awning. Chug water. Look at the other water jug I peed into last night. Man was that rough. I could barely control it and dribbled on my sleeping pad a little while trying to hold a squat. Baby wipes are always handy. There was a moment where I realized my ass was almost butted against the rear window, having peeped itself between the curtains. I laughed out loud, wondering if anyone could see me struggling to pee into a god-damned gallon jug with the tiniest opening. This is the real “squatty potty.” I should look into buying one of those handy funnels for women. This is real car-dwelling life right here.

Sonya rises and heads to the Rec Center to shower. I walk two blocks to the 4th Street Plaza and snag a spot on a hay bale. Jeremy Joyce, Anya Miller, Ben Anderson, Travis Rummel, and Brendan Leonard sit themselves on stage, donning blankets and puffies. The stage is locked into eternal shade, while the audience sits in tank tops and sweaty pants.

Think of the audience first, every creative project needs strategy and foundation. Follow through with your ideas, collaborate. Translate business goals into creative projects. Even look outside the industry for inspiration. Do you actually care? You’re only as good as your next project, so be true to yourself. Self-permission, grit. Know what you’re good at and keep things manageable. Good people. Well-rounded. Distill your ideas. Trust has emotional and creative wealth. Sometimes, don’t even give yourself a Plan B, so fucking commit. Own you and what you stand for.

My notepad is filling up.

These are the notes I write down while listening to the live panel hosted by Semi-Rad. I look them over briefly as I throw things into my bag and whisper to Sonya that I have to go volunteer, saddened about missing the next podcast presentation by Dirtbag Diaries. The rectangular hay bales are almost neon in the sunlight and I wonder if I’ve accrued any sunburns.

1130am. My gig today is scooping ice-cream for kids. As the Youth Adventure Film Program plays inside, I help two ladies from Whole Foods set up tables, scoopers, bowls, toppings, cones, gloves, spoons – the majority of product compostable. We each get three flavors to scoop from: chocolate, vanilla, and cookies & cream. Anxiety starts fluttering my belly as I watch children and their parents crowd the entrance. I imagine the flood. Children screaming for ice cream and their parents turning into contortionists in order to give them it. This past winter I worked at a Day Care for the Yosemite National Park Service and two summers ago I worked at a Summer Camp at the Boulder Reservoir. I’ve had my fill of children, to be honest. But at the same time, I came away knowing how to assert direction and discipline while maintaining approachability – or so I’d like to think. I also have flashbacks to when I worked as a cashier in the Yosemite Lodge Food Court, or the Bike Rentals, as a Hostess for the Mountain Room Restaurant, or a ski fitter for Badger Pass. I hesitate dealing with long lines and crowds now. I think I may have PTSD from wild and rabid customer service.

The Whole Foods ladies announce that we are ready and a rush of children smash themselves against the tables. There are five of us scooping and thus there should be five lines. It’s a mob and I’m not having it. I immediately order the jumble in front of me to form a line and I take and fulfill their ice cream requests one at a time. But some kids list their desired toppings and flavors faster than I can pay attention to, or the adults start ordering as well, for themselves and all of their 8 children. There was one little boy who kept talking and I shushed him – to my surprise. It just came out. I laughed inside because that is certainly left over from my time at the Day Care – but of course it worked. He waited patiently after that. Then a little girl kept asking me about sprinkles. I heard her, but I needed to focus on my scooping to maintain sanity. She kept repeating herself and eventually her dad told her to say excuse me, so she did. But what the dad failed to realize was how impatient they both were and how impatient I was becoming. I heard you, I said with a fake smile and immediately felt like a bitch. This is why I don’t do customer service anymore.

Taken from the 5Point Film Festival Pamphlet 2017

230pm. I didn’t think I was going to be able to attend the Best of 10 Year Film Program, but scooping ice cream paid off. To my surprise, I watch films I never imagined being in an adventure film festival. Boy was all fiction. The Summit was entirely animated. Loved Up: The Shiver Bivy was a short comedy piece about two men sharing a cold bivouac. But it made sense. I begin to value the broadness that 5Point is, how art for art’s sake can have a place among all the traditional fast-paced adventure-porn.

630pm. I end up volunteering all day for the sake of getting into the evening film program for free – it’s completely sold out. Sonya even lands a volunteer tag, helping put wristbands on people. Krystle Wright and Ben Page come through and I don their wrists with royal entrance, asking Ben about how he’s feeling after last night. I don’t think Krystle recognizes me, but I smile anyway. Jon Griffin is in town and we catch up as he, too, helps tag wrists in his tie-dyed Hostel California tank. He casually talks about having just come from Patagonia, mentions very little actually. His humbleness is astounding. Busy night. The line to go inside reaches Main Street. We all filter in and I find myself near the exit for the restrooms, in front of the trash bins in the back. Standing room only for us volunteers this time. We all crowd into this space, bumping arms and butts.

People with flow have a lot of contrasts in their lives. The more you push risk/the edge, the more room in your comfort zone, I scribble in the dark, something I’ve become quite good at. In the film Flow, downhill biker Harald Philipp delves into his philosophy regarding just that. His words are new to me, and I feed off of his insight. Flow is “that special state of being where everything’s just right, when confidence overrides fear and the bike and rider are one,” states the program.

My personal favorite is the film Freezing, by Rob Lockyear and Jeremy Joyce – two british actors who merely thought it would be funny to create a piece of satire surrounding cold water surfing in Iceland. It was brilliant in my opinion. We need more humor in our lives. It also got me thinking about female comedy. I have yet to see that played out here.

10pm. During intermission Sonya and Jon had taken off to put magnets on cars, promoting the Exposure Film Project that Sonya is fortunate to be a part of. I don’t know where they are now, but my eyes are heavy with sleep. I’m old folk when it comes to bedtime and last night was certainly the latest I’ve been up in a while. Tracy asks if I’m going to the After Party, where dancing and mild-debauchery will surely happen. There’s no magic necessarily telling me to go, so I tell her I’m thinking of just going to sleep. If you change your mind, let me know, I’ll get you a ticket.

I settle into my Jeep and my phone lights up. It’s Sonya: Are you going to this after party? 201 main st. I faintly hear her walk to her car and open it up. No I’m pooped, I write, imagining her ready to party with Jon or maybe some other people she came across. I’m not quite sure why I’m not feeling up for it, but for a brief second, I feel myself changing my mind for the sake of hanging out with Sonya. But I don’t. I cower into my sleeping bag and let time pass.

4.23

9am. I’ve been sitting with the back of the Jeep open again. I peer into Sonya’s car and see her nestled into her bright-ass yellow sleeping bag. I wonder how the party went, if I’ll regret not going hearing about it. Soon I have to show up at the Confluence again, where all the live panels have been happening, to work “security.” She-Explores, a female adventure podcast, is hosting a discussion at 10am, during my shift, so I also hope that Sonya wakes up in time to introduce me to Gale Straub, the founder.

930am. I’m standing in line at Town, the cafe next door to the 4th Street Plaza, waiting for a Dirty Chai to-go. I’m going to be late, but I stand patiently, hoping Erik Wardell or Tracy aren’t wondering where I am. Finally, I grab the cup and toss myself out the door, walk-jog in a half squat as I try not to spill the dirty goodness. My brown Teva boots clunk against the sidewalk.

Sweating a bit, I help Erik move some tables and place blankets over the hay bales. Sonya texts me about buying me tea for helping her get the volunteer gig last night. I already bought one! I tell her. Grr, I can feel her shake her fist at me.

The Confluence set-up for the live Enormocast Podcast, 4/21.

Erik surprisingly doesn’t have much else for me to do, as much of the volunteer work is much later in the day…when I’m not around. Sick. Sonya arrives and we claim camp chairs with our backs to the sun. Oh yeah! Gale is here, Sonya pipes up and we walk over. She introduces us and I find myself feeling awkward and wordless, but I attempt to chime into the conversation about experiencing 5Point for the first time. But at this point, I feel like a cliché.

Brendan Leonard and Hilary Oliver show up and Hilary makes her way into the group of chatting ladies. I introduce myself to her and we shake hands, she smiles. It’s interesting to meet her. She’s taller than I imagined her being, but her vibe is friendly. She’s one of the minds behind the film Being Here. In all honestly, I wasn’t particularly fond of the introspective monologue – it wasn’t necessarily new thinking and I felt it predictable. But I understand it’s importance as being a film created entirely by women, showcasing beautiful cinematography and blissful states of being. If anything, she inspires me because if she can be a successful writer, so can I.

10am. Emotional risk and vulnerability, the discussion starts. Anson Fogel, Hilary Oliver, Meredith Meeks, and Brendan Leonard are led into conversation by Gale. How does sponsorship play a role in message? Cathartic (I like that word). Sentimentality is unearned emotion – attributed to Ridley Scott but I think it’s James Joyce. Show don’t tell – duh. Keep it simple, stupid. Offer a variety of things to “take away.” Look at me vs. look at what I’m thinking – Brendan. Originality and not cyclical inspiration. There are two types of films: Reduction – documentary, and fulfillment – narration/fiction. I’m running out of space in my notebook.

“There’s only so many times you can get hit by the stoke stick,” Brendan states, and we laugh. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked him. I like his writing and the online diagrams he’s famous for, but I think he’s so sarcastic that if you’re not ready, he comes off as an elitist ass. “99% of the people that show up to my book signings tell me that they want to write a book someday,” he mentioned yesterday, “and I tell them that they’re fools.” After he said it I remember thinking that I’m glad I’ve never been to one of his book signings – because that’s probably something I would have said to him.

Artwork by Sarah Uhl in the 5Point Film Festival Pamphlet 2017

1145am. I watch Sonya be the badass she is, asking Fitz Cahall if he has a quick minute. She pitches the Exposure Film Project to him and he mentions having heard of it in passing. He comes off as genuinely interested and nods and says things I can’t hear to her as he leaves. I feel like a creep for a second. The only thing I’m missing are bushes to hide behind. Sonya prances over to me and starts jumping up and down, waving her arms, smiling like a birthday balloon about to fly away. Her enthusiasm is undeniable.

Gale and Sonya start planning a podcast recording session, as Gale is interested to hear what Sonya has to say about 5Point. I feel jealous for a moment, but the energy of everything that has happened thus far prevents it from steeping itself into my mind. Sonya leaves, Gale leaves, and I find myself standing near Sarah Uhl, a famous illustrator/artist/poet in the industry who used to work for 5Point for many years. We introduce ourselves.

“What do you do Sara?” she asks me.
“I’m a writer,” I say confidently now. She stares into me, smiling, her eyes tracing my face and neck at times.
“So what do you think of 5Point?”
“It’s amazing. But I’m often intimidated -”
“Don’t be intimidated. Think of us as family,” she states so openly, and that’s exactly right. Despite initial anxieties, everyone has proven to be so supportive and inviting. I describe to her the transformation I’ve gone through, the transfiguration of self-ownership, of self-branding and the commitment to who I am and want to be: a writer.

“What’s interesting is that I’ve met so many people, but I wonder if I’ll even be remembered,” I express candidly.
“You know what – I’ve been thinking about that too lately. And I think that what is truly remembered is if there is that human connection and an experience that surrounds it. Like you and me. I’m going to remember you for your transformation story, and this moment of sharing it.” She smiles and I stare into her, too. I hope she’s right.

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Taken from the 5Point Film Festival Pamphlet 2017.

3pm. Surrender to the emotion of belonging. And what is disturbed consciousness? I write. What we create doesn’t necessarily come from a selfish place, I contemplate the question of art making, it comes from a human place, and it is human to share it. I watched the final film program, entitled Changemakers, featuring films about people making a difference. But what does that really mean? Many of the films were beautiful and called for action, or were a reminder that humanness is expansive and possibility, self-determined. Big Air Max was a particularly gripping film on Max Grange, a paraplegic who despite his state, yields an incredible attitude and stoke for the outdoors. But how will all of this really create change beyond the audience watching, I wonder?

I find Sonya in the back and don’t even question her about how she got in. She has managed to attend every film program this week for free. Oh yeah, how was the party? I imagine loud music and dancing bodies bouncing and popping to the beat: boots and pants and boots and pants and boots and pants and…We exit the Rec Center. It was really fun! I’ve been needing an excuse to dance. The regret arrives, damnit. I should have gone for the sake of story. Hunter S. Thompson would have not only gone, but would have been the life of the party. Why I think of him? The infamous journalist. There’s no time for rest, I imagine him saying. So I imagine giving myself the classy face-palm.

Sonya mentions how Jon and her had a really cool conversation about life before the party, then she met a gentleman whose name escapes me and they danced all night, how he walked her to her car and kissed her goodnight. And even now they dance outside in front of the live band. I watch her swing him around.

But it’s the end. I have to start driving the 4.5 hours back to the Front Range, to my new home nestled into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Tracy hugs me goodbye, hopes that I enjoyed myself. “I’m a writer so I’m going to write about it all!” I tell her and she thinks it’s amazing, tells me about her husband and his website splitterchoss. Then I hug Sonya goodbye, ensure that we will be meeting up again soon – that we’re solid friends now, and no escaping it whether she likes it or not.

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330pm. I stop at a gas station in Glenwood Springs before hopping onto I-70 East. I watch an SUV pull up to a pump and a woman opens the passenger door, dumps out the remnants to her supersized soda. The sound of ice smacking the concrete echoes and the reality of how small 5Point is, its impact, its community, sets in hard. But not only that, I remember volunteering to clean up after the film program last night. The lessons we claim to hold so dear don’t even spread through the very audience watching, participating. Trash lined the seats, from popcorn to paper, wrappers, empty beer cans, plastic bottles – the works. I was amazed, ashamed. They couldn’t even make it to the trash bins lining the walls. They didn’t care to pick up after themselves and that’s the very attitude that will destroy all the wild places shown in all these films, all the spaces that create havens for more than adventurers, to the Natives, to the flora and fauna. How can we be proud? How can we claim to be stewards for the outdoors when we can’t even keep a multi-purpose room clean?

So I drive home, saddened. But the fire is there, don’t get me wrong. I am changed, and I owe it to all the people I met, to 5Point. Regardless of progress still needing to be made, I am ecstatic. I recall Friday night and the tequila – probably the highlight to the week. How after 5 sips of liquid courage I became Ms. Give-No-Fuckery. I begin imagining a tigress in the moonlight as I trace the curves through the mountains home. Or the mule deer in Yosemite, how they walk unapologetically across meadow and road, high heeled and graceful, sure – absolutely so. They walk with intention. They own their existence. And there’s something alluring about deer in a meadow, eating. Maybe because they are at peace. They are calm. They are silent. They are present and in their purpose, which does not have to be meditated upon. They are unknowingly transient, yet remembered.

Like the edge of a page, with the light of the room behind it – a band of sunset below penciled overcast gloom – silhouettes of wind, old mines, homes – abandoned or not the page is never lined up with the horizon and the farther East I go, there it is again. Non-perfectionist evening. Purple haze. Vast expanses of mountainous nothings and hidden radio towers. I listen to NPR. Begin to decompress. Internalize. Rewire. Manifest. Remember the moments I said yes to, and imagine the yeses to come.

Home at last – near Loveland, CO

Related: Dear Outdoor Media by Sonya Pevzner, a critique of 5Point and No Man’s Land Film Festivals for inclusion/exclusion of diverse voices and how we can address diversity in the future films.

Follow Jeremy Joyce’s kickstarter campaign.

Learn more about the Exposure Film Project on the Pretty Good For A Girl blog, “The Mountains: Not Yet Cool Enough.”

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