12/31/2010

The Mastabah To Meggido

by Matthew Hawkins

Even though the following will only make sense to about five people at best, somewhat (sup Katie, Joe, Dave, and Hilary)… plus how divulging too much info might seriously screw things up… why the hell not. Though certain key details have been obscured, just in case.

Anyhow, as those mentioned have known already for quite some time, I’ve been on a quest of sorts for the past year and half (on and off). Well, earlier this evening saw some fairly significant developments. The center of it all is a movie… an underground movie… perhaps the most underground movie ever?

Not long ago I wrote about this flick quite extensively. At the very least, I did my best to gather as much information as possible, plus added some theories here and there. The end result is what I’ve been told is the most comprehensive account of said movie, which was nice to hear. And I?m guessing it?s what attracted the attention of certain parties in the first place, the ones that got the goose chase going (as one can see in the comments section of said post).

Thus far, it has consisted of me corresponding with a variety of wacky characters via email or text messages. At times challenges were presented, mostly puzzles to solve or some person to establish contact with. Though never a seemingly normal individual; there’s always a wacky alias involved and sometimes they appear to act like a character from the flick. And things were going quite fine for a while, till I hit a wal’ (I’ll explain why in a bit). Though my life in general also got very busy, so the hunt was effectively put on hold.

That was until recently, when I decided to resume my quest. The last development was earlier this fall, when I was presented with a document that I was instructed to study and memorize, which I did. Yet no follow-up commenced, so I decided to ping my most recent contact and see what the status was. To my surprise, I was told of a gathering… a party, really… that the director was throwing!

And I assumed, this was it. What I?ve been waiting for; a person that I figured would be impossible to track down (based upon other’s reports) was in fact going to be somewhere definitely, in the flesh, practically on a golden platter. Because I had become somewhat impatient with how slow the entire hunt was progressing, I figured now would be the perfect opportunity to just ask blank about his movie, specifically if I can watch it.

For starters, the shindig took place in the Bronx. Now, I’ve lived in New York City for 15 years now and know much of Manhattan like the back of my hand. I’m also fairly familiar with many parts of Brooklyn, and am becoming at home with Queens as well. But regarding the Bronx, I can count the number of times I’ve been there with just my two hands, which has been mostly to visit Jason, who lives in Mosholu Parkway (aka where all those gang members gather in the beginning of The Warriors… I think). The sole other occasion for those interested was to check out Fordham Game World, one of the city’s most renowned indie game store, for my big gaming in NYC piece in Summer Carnival 09.

Thusly, I had no idea what to expect of the evening, even the environment. Hence why I wished someone had told me in advance that Twin Peaks and its denizens were indeed real, and had been relocated just north of the island. Instead of the Great Northern, the hotel in the show, it all went down at an old time movie theater that has since been converted to a performance space… very classy, regal, though more importantly, lots of wood grain. As noted, it too had a cast of colorful characters; the show had the log lady, here we had a rollerblading snowman.

After all this time, I finally met my most recent contact. Let’s call him “the Dancer”, and was just the same in real life as he’s been in all those purely text based correspondences; very cryptic, an enigma (much like the log lady from the aforementioned show, and I mean that in the nicest way possible). I had a million questions for him, and he had a millions questions for me, though due to the setting, casual conversations was not easy (the music was booming). The one thing he wanted to know the most was why I had not sought the services of this Haitian voodoo priestess, one of the bigger pieces of the puzzle that he passed along, and a gateway to seeing the movie, or so it was implied.

As I explained, the timing of this revelation could not be worse, which was around the time that horrible earthquake hit her homeland back in January. There was simply no way for me to visit her since she was back in Haiti to help bury the dead. Hence the primary reason why I let the trail grow cold in the first place. Hopefully enough time has passed since the tragedy and she’s back in NYC.

The importance of following protocol and going through her instead of just approaching the director was stressed; it would seem the movie is cursed, and those who don’t watch it without preparing adequately will suffer dire consequences. In the case of the Dancer, his marriage was ruined since the proper steps were not taken. You essentially have to go through a mental and spiritual “cleansing” first, which the Dancer did not. I should also perhaps mention this clue was found in a cable access show, the most recent project of the director, aka the real reason for the festivities; to celebrate the premiere of the new season. Hence why the director was milling about, saying hello to everyone, myself included. Yup, got to chat, even shake hands with the man. Calls himself “the Baron” and was intensely charming; just another reason why I didn’t feel like crashing the party with a bunch of hardball questions about this supposed cursed, underground film of his. At least I got the chance to give him my business card!

I unfortunately was not able to converse with the Dancer for much, but before moving on he slipped something in my coat pocket with instructions to go upstairs. Was hoping it would be another major clue, but was instead a bottle of Jamison. Which I was still more than happy to have, since the drink prices at the venue were highway robbery. I would then spend the rest of the evening looking for others that I have been part of the odyssey. The Dancer indicated the possibility of “the Doctor” being present, the one that made first contact with me at the very beginning. Alas, was not there, nor “Harry”, another integral figure; according to the Dancer, he was no longer in the country for whatever reason.

At least there was a fine feast to be had, which given the nature of the Baron’s show was hardly a shock; delicious Caribbean and African cuisine, along with mouthwatering cannolis for desert and genuine Italian soda to help wash it all down. I also got to yuck it up with a number of Bronx natives, like “Vanessa” the former public school administrative executive that’s trying to become a burgeoning filmmaker. I have to wonder if she too was simply part of the process I needed to go through in order to view the movie.

The most common reaction to my presence was what a Manhattan city boy was doing in those parts. Actual circumstances aside, producing an answer was easy: I simply love cable access (obviously). One can always tell how rich a city is, culturally speaking, by the quality of it’s community access programming, primarily the enthusiasm of those that take advantage of its free airwaves. I became aware of the show’s existence as I performed initial research on the Baron, and became an instant fan.

The premier episode did not disappoint. It, along with the evening’s experiences, cemented the fact that I really need to explore the vast wilderness that is the Bronx. Given that my journey has only begun, that might be the case! Oh, and it also had at least two references to the grand, epic, underground flick, which reminded me of why I was there in the first place. Yet overall, it did what it usually does; highlight delectable and exotic local eats, along with the personalities behind the dishes. In this case, we had the backstory behind the soda being served, brewed and bottled by real deal Italian wiseguys who back in the day used to run around with shaved heads, beating the shit out of hooligans with baseball bats. They were in the audience, and appeared to be straight out of The Sopranos or Goodfellas.

After the screening, a true living legend of hip-hop, Melle Mel (yes, of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five fame) came out and did a bit of The Message before wishing everyone a good night and a happy 2011. I was hoping for one last chance to talk with the Baron, and maybe even snap a picture, but the man was way swamped with friends, family, and admirers. Hopefully I’ll get another opportunity, somewhere later down the road. As well as a chance to see this damn film of his!

Though from this point forward, I might have to go back to keeping things down on the DL. Then again, part of my “contract” states that I need to write about the film, and I’m hoping the experience that spring froth from it. Hopefully me spilling the beans this tiny bit is not complicating matters at all.

Basically, mission not accomplished, still got a ways to go. And again, was not able to snap a pic of the center of it all, so instead, here’s the card to the Haitian voodoo priestess, the next stop in my quest…

TO BE CONTINUED ?

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