When I started my ex-job in 1999, I had a very nice co-worker named Nancy. I knew she was the real thing when she mentioned having the full 20-volume OED - AT HOME! She also was the first to show me the technique of reminding yourself to do something by leaving yourself a home phone message (somehow this had never occurred to me).
Nancy worked with us on and off, both researching and helping check research. She was really on the ball. When she wasn't there, she was organizing the Newport International Film Festival (NIFF), which she co-founded. Some people from work ended up attending the festival, and it sounded like fun. Little did I know that a few years later, I would be going to that festival in connection with a movie I was in!
IFC asked if I would go to Newport, where "Wordplay" was showing Friday June 9 at 9:30 p.m. Apparently they originally wanted the "A team," but they and Tyler were in LA at that time so they asked for me, possibly because of my connection. I made arrangements to take Amtrak and stay overnight. I e-mailed Nancy, who said she expected to be at that screening; she had been closed out during Sundance.
I took the train to Kingston, RI. This was a regular train with no quiet car, but it was fairly quiet. Across the aisle were a mother and teenage daughter doing crosswords together. It did not look like a hard book, but they were occupied the entire time. I was tempted to give them "Wordplay" buttons but was too shy. The trip along the coast was scenic, despite the foggy weather. Unfortunately, the weather inside the train was not good as the air conditioning wasn't working. The associated electrical problems made us very late.
At Kingston, a NIFF van was waiting. Another woman from the train was also going to the festival, and was concerned about making the 7:00 pm showing of a movie she produced. We rode through seaside terrain and soon reached the picturesque town of Newport. It looked a bit like Park City without the freezing weather. We dropped the other passenger at her hotel to quickly check in, and then at the theater down the hill (the same one I'd go to later) just in time for her showing.
Our driver was a volunteer who taught in the local school. We backtracked to the headquarters hotel to get my registration packet (no swag), and then to my B&B across the street. My room was in another building down the block, and I struggled with the door keys before figuring out the same key unlocked both top and bottom locks and the second key was for the front door (which was never locked). The room was large and quaint. So quaint it had no telephone, and no visible outlet for my laptop. I couldn't find any wifi to glom onto, either.
I went back to the main building, and they confirmed there was no phone ("everyone has cell phones") or DSL line. So the laptop was never used (I could have started writing blog entries, I guess). I originally would have gone to a 7 pm movie (we got 6 tickets to each "Wordplay" showing, plus vouchers for 10 more movies - very generous, if only I were staying longer), but by the time I unpacked it was too late.
I hadn't eaten all day. I'm not wild about eating alone, but there was no choice. Reading the tourism materials, I decided to go to Bowen's Wharf. The hospitality person had said to just look for a van, or call for one. Since I had no phone, I went across the street to HQ and someone was there to take me. This volunteer also lived in the area, liked puzzles, and said she hoped to catch "Wordplay" Saturday afternoon. In hindsight, I probably should have stayed longer and Q/A'd that showing, too.
The van dropped me at the entrance to the wharf, where there were several restaurants. I chose the Candy Box, sat at a table looking over the foggy water, and had chowder and penne with chicken and a parmesan sauce. I wondered if I should give "Wordplay" tickets to other diners, but was shy again. I entered the ladies' room to hear gales of laughter: the hand drying machine was REALLY LOUD like a cyclone, making everyone hysterical. I used it a few minutes later, erupting into gales of laughter myself. You had to be there.
I needed a van back, and found a pay phone outside. However, the number did not seem to work. Who knows what I did wrong. I did not see any festival vans passing by, so went back to the restaurant and asked if they could call for me. Either my "filmmaker" badge helped or they just took pity, but they got through and the person told me to stand at the end of Bowen's Wharf. As I waited, I noticed with panic that I was actually on Bannister's Wharf. Uh-oh! Luckily I saw a sign for Bowen's Wharf which was just a block over.
A van soon arrived, this time driven by a man who said he was going to the airport to get Diane Ladd (who was getting an award) after taking me. I realized I'd left my buttons in the room so asked him to stop at the hotel. I also used the bathroom again, and we then went back down the hill to the theater. By now it was drizzly; I might have walked in nicer weather.
At the theater, I gave buttons to the ushers to give out. The current festival director arrived and said she would introduce the movie, which was preceded by a short called "Zombie-American." That director was also present. The short was really funny. Ed Helms plays a zombie living in current-day New York. There was a crossword connection. Working on a puzzle, he says, "The only thing I like better than doing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle is finishing it!" I was the only person who laughed at this NYC-centric joke (from an NYT TV ad).
Then "Wordplay" came on. The theater was large and not full, but with a decent number of people who reacted in all the right places. The short director and I took questions, and there were zombie questions as well as puzzle ones. It went well. No sign of Nancy, though. The program listed a special "Wordplay" showing Thursday for VIPs so I assume she caught the movie then.
I had tickets to the nightly party at a restaurant. It was 11:30 and the usher said the parties usually ended around midnight, so I figured I'd just go home. A waiting van took me back, where I read a bit before going to bed. Unfortunately, my neighbors' alarm clock was going nonstop, and they did not get back to turn it off until around 2:30 a.m. Since I was up anyway, I took my shower, finding it hard to maneuver in the stall (how do fat people manage?), especially with the door not staying closed.
I set my own alarm correctly, and was up early. They said someone would pick me up around 9:45 for the 10:41 train, so I planned accordingly. At 9, though, the driver knocked on my door. Ack! Not ready. I said my train wasn't until 10:41 so she said she'd come back after making this trip. I went down the block to get the continental breakfast included with the room. There were gift bags near the desk, but they were for a wedding and not swag. I gave my tickets and vouchers to people at the next table.
I started panicking that the van I didn't take would get back too late to make my train, and used the desk phone to call HQ. They told me to come to the hotel lobby across the street and another van would get me to the station in time. A driver was there looking for someone else taking my train, and I asked to go along. Soon after, another driver came looking for me, and we agreed I'd just go with the first guy. An abundance of transportation! The other passenger had been on the documentary jury (she wouldn't say who won - it turned out it wasn't "Wordplay"), and had impressive experience in the film biz. She had been at last night's party (which ended around 1 a.m.) and said Nancy was there. Oh well.
We arrived in plenty of time to navigate the elevators to get to the southbound train platform. When the train arrived, my vanmate and I somehow went in different directions. That was OK, as I had plenty to occupy myself on the trip. Passing the Stamford Marriott, my iPod shuffle eerily played the Beatles' "I'll Be Back Again."
I soon was back in New York again. It was a strange trip, where I felt a bit alone. At the same time, the festival was really nice and well organized. I'm sorry I couldn't be there longer.