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Labor Day weekend 2000 my father had passed away on July 21st & had been dead 39 days or

so, I was at the Telluride film Festival & I had just bumped into my friend Stan Brakhage who I

had known about for 20 years and had known personally for about 13 years both as teacher,

friend & confidante, I had also known him as a film maker, painter, lecturer, we had gone to the

movies together so I knew him as a film lover, I had watched him work & for the last 7 years or

so we had discussed film every Sunday night, he was a customer at my shop & had been a good

friend to me in times of trouble & I had seen him in almost every state of mind possible, to name

a few, suffering from cancer, divorced, remarried, the father of adult children (5) the father of

small children two, I had seen him spitting tobacco juice or snuff into a flask when I thought he

was drinking, for a while before I knew who he was I thought he was blind, I knew there was a

Brakhage from film school but I didn't know this strange blind man was him, he looked like

Gene Hackman in Young Frankenstein & he had a rather pronounced brow which shaded his

eyes with a unusual effect, he later said he was having eye problems at the time, once my friend

saw him & said "there is that famous underground film-maker what's-his-name," which caused

Stan to laugh real loud & later we discussed the whole idea "of famous/underground" & "what's

his-name" confirmed his underground status...  he said it was one of his favorite stories,  I had sat

with him in the morning while he was having his Irish Coffee, I had spoken with him on most

subjects including girls, God, movie legends, Jackson Pollack, Christ, Creeley, Naropa, Ginsberg

etc. ad infinitum, like I said my Dad had just died & I was out of my head with mourning but

very pleased to bump into the one guy who seemed to understand me, he had said everything you

could imagine to me over the years, including once very oddly in front of a whole group of

people "I like your beard, very much," he had said I was prescient and said in my life and poetry

I seemed to have one foot on the other side, (I had asked the director of the Film Festival in

passing, when was he going to invite Stan back a few years before, telling the guy, Tom Luddy,

that Stan was recovering from Cancer for the 3rd, 4th or 5th time & it was never to soon to invite

him back,) he was invited back every year for the rest of his life, (but I never mentioned this

interaction to Stan, I had no pull there at all, but that prompt didn't seem to hurt any) on this

sunny Telluride day Stan invited me back to his room for a drink in the middle of the day and the

festival had provided him with large and small bottles of Gentleman Jack, they were sponsors

and Stan had two drinks every morning but never drank for the rest of the day or night, we had

quite a sober cocktail and then he invited me to go see the world premier of Ken Burn's Jazz

which was showing in 10 parts over the weekend, Stan had never been an aficionado of Jazz and

had basically shunned all popular trends in his lifetime & career, Stan sat on the aisle of the

Mason's Hall and I politely allowed one seat in between us and sat down, it wasn't sold out &

there were other empty seats, as per usual whenever you have perfect seats and there are empties

in front of you right as the film begins someone or another invariably plops their ass down right

in front of you, three folks came in and were leaning their  asses into the three seats in front of us

& I looked at Stan and made a magical go away gesture towards their backs with both hands and

they magically all in perfect choreographed motion didn't finish sitting down but all moved over

three seats each and left the three empty seats in front of us, Stan handed me a one and a half

ounce bottle of Gentleman Jack and gestured good job Tom, we sat through the bebop legends

and at one point I was about to see if Stan had any more small bottles on him, about an hour into

it, but he looked horrified that I seemed to be about to address him during a film which I never

did before or since, the empty seat between us seemed to be occupied by my father's ghost and I

kept thinking how great it was that he could join us for this film which was right up his alley, as

soon as the film was over Stan looked over at me and said, "I read your Dad's book and knew

how much he loved Jazz, especially this period and I had the strongest feeling that he was sitting

between us during the whole film."


Which had been my thoughts exactly, throughout the documentary.


We walked out into the sun and later, the next year we saw The Cat's Meow, afterwards when I

saw Peter Bogdanovich embracing the 19 year old Kirsten Dunst who had slept through the

premier feigning altitude sickness, I was so jealous I imagined Bogdanovich to be dating her, I

knew his whole dating history including dating his dead girlfriends' much younger sister who he

married, she was about 35 years younger than him & they stayed together for a long time, later

that same afternoon I was chatting with Tobey McGuire about what a great job he did in Wonder

Boys, and Dunst who was actually his girlfriend that day or covered wagon, one of the two, she

stood next to him listening to our conversation and every few minutes someone would come up

and ask her if they could have their photo taken with her & she would graciously say yes and

when the camera was pointed at her she would "light up like a pinball machine and pay off in

silver dollars,"  everybody with a disposable camera got her star treatment, it was unbelievable

and she was built like an alien the tiniest waist in the world, small frame, but perfect medium

sized breasts, she was wearing a really cool polo style (no emblem) rugby shirt with blue and

orange stripes and a white collar, the kind I wanted so bad in high school, tight perfect fitting

jeans and 1975 style suede nikes, blue with an orange swoosh, she was devastating & the only

strategy I had, was to not look at her or address her in any way but just pay attention to her

boyfriend, we talked while she listened, later that night I walked into a small romantic restaurant

by myself and the first thing I saw was the two of them, Tobey & Kirsten at a romantic candlelit

table for two and they turned to me and smiled and I turned and walked out, I just couldn't take

all that happiness at that moment in my life and I didn't want to make them uncomfortable so I




[Originally published in NHS 2009, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs09/Thomas_Peters.htm.]