November 2007


Paranoid Park

Welcome StrangersLet’s just say, my trip from Portland to Brussels was great, until I got to Brussels, and then things went downhill rapidly—from the instant the plane parked.

After having put a temporary fix on the problem, I took a nap and woke up feeling somewhat refreshed and in need of entertainment. I grabbed Brussels’ tri-lingual weekly magazine that has movie listings and other events around town. I grabbed one, read a whole lot of tri-lingual movie reviews and settled on “Paranoid Park”, a film I’d never heard of.

The review stated that it was a 2007 Gus Van Sant film based on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, but that’s not why I picked the film. Nor did I pick the film because it was set amongst skateboarders.

I picked it because it was set in Portland. Oregon.

Admittedly the subject was ghastly, but I found myself looking at the scenery and recognizing many of the places it was filmed.

Dog PissingIt’s a mere 5,076 miles from Portland to Brussels, yet I had to travel that distance (actually more) to see this film. It’s worth the time—a well thought out film showing how a teen skater deals with the fact that he caused a security guard’s gruesome death in the rail yards. The imagery is vivid, disturbing, and gets inside the mind of the teen quite well.

Certainly the film is not for everybody, but if you’re a Gus Van Sant fan, or you’re into quirky films that jump around without linear story-telling, this is a film for you.

Things that went wrong since the plane parked, some are minor, others are not.

First, the plane parked at the furthest possible gate in the international section of the Brussels airport. It was easily a 15 minute walk to immigration. There I sped through immigration, right through customs and into the line for taxis at the airport, where I was promptly served. (Minor)

My first clue that the taxi ride was going to be bad was that it was a minivan taxi: I hate minivan taxis. Then the driver started messing with the meter and couldn’t get it to work the way he wanted it to work, so he pulled off and started hitting it. (Major) I told him I wanted a different taxi—where things looked up.

Until I got to my hotel and the person who made my reservation didn’t understand that “arriving on the 7th, early” meant I wanted a room on the 7th, but instead I had a reservation for the 8th. (Major)

150€ later, I was in a 3* hotel, the Hotel du Congress, that has absolutely nothing to recommend it. If it’s three stars, then the hotel I was supposed to be staying in is a 6*, even though it is offically only 3. This place was awful: I lay down on the bed—and it was so soft I might has well have been sleeping on the floor. At least, though, it was a place to sleep: and I did.

When I woke up, I found the listing for Paranoid Park, and asked the clerk for directions to the movie theater. He assured me that it was right as I would come out of a metro station and that I couldn’t miss it. Apparently he forgot to tell me which exit to take: I took the one that most people were taking and then spent 15 minutes looking for the theater.

After the movie, I decided to find food and stay in the rest of the night. I was awake here and there, and then I fell asleep, sleeping right through the hotel’s awful breakfast. I checked out and headed to the hotel where I thought I would be spending two nights. It’s in a far better part of town, far nicer, and far cleaner.

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