Fear & Loathing at Fantastic Fest 2013, Part 2: CHAOS REIGNS, ASSHOLES!

CHAPTER 4: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM IS DEAD; I KILLED IT, I AND I.

It's Thursday night, September 26th 2013. Or maybe, I should say that it's Thursday night October 1st 2009. I don't know. Time travel is really fucking complicated and my head already hurts to think about it.

What's important is that I'm in the bathroom of The Elephant Room, a popular jazz club located in the heart of downtown Austin.

It was one of my favorite haunts when I lived here back in 2009. And oddly enough, here I am drinking at the same small, super hip jazz club once again, back in 2009 even though it should be 2013. And even more importantly, I'm standing in the women's bathroom and I'm not alone.

Benita, a young Mexican event photographer whomI dated briefly during my stay in Austin four years ago is lying dead on the floor. She's been strangled, and I think it might have been me who did that.

Well, it wasn't actually me, specifically. She was murdered by my anti Christ doppelganger that Gina gave birth to at the Philadelphia Film Festival around this time last year. He's all grown up now and at this point, it's nearly impossible to tell the difference between him and I.

And oh yeah, he's in the bathroom with us as well. He's cooling smoking a cigarette with a smug smirk planted on his ugly fucking face.

Christ, I've never liked to look at myself in the mirror and this is a million times worst.

Benita was another woman whom I had fell hard for who simply disappeared on me without a word. I had always suspected that she was seeing someone else and I eventually came to complicate things. She always kept her personal life a secret from me.

But now, as I try to figure all of this time travel business out in my mind, I can only guess that I didn't actually do something wrong on our last date that drove her away.

I had actually killed her, or, it was my evil twin who somehow traveled back to 2009 through Gina's curse that had killed her.

All of my struggles these past four years were pre destined. Pre destined from a horrible mistake that I made in late 2012. Ah, man, this is giving me a head ache trying to work out the logistics of this shit.

I've already been re-introduced to my other self a few days ago and that's when he told me that he's now going by the name of Craig Christodoulou, the snide prick, he's an even bigger asshole than me.

All of my friends, and even some family members seem convinced that my first name is Craig, and Christodoulou is my native Greek surname which my grandfather changed when he came to America illegally to sound more English.

Craig Christodoulou, fucking asshole.

Craig blows a smoke ring in my direction and says, "You're trying to work it out aren't ya? I know you remember having a date with her for tonight four years ago, and she stood you up didn't she. I have that memory because you have that memory. And now you're thinking she never really did stand you up on purpose so now you're wondering, four years ago, did you have a time traveling counterpart hanging out in a bathroom with her corpse on the other side of town while you were left drinking alone at the Spider House?

Goddammit, get out of my head, Craig! You fucking asshole.

I look down at Belinda on the floor. I remember all of those fun late nights drinking coffee and talking movies at the Magnolia Cafe. I remember our first kiss at Barton Springs; I remember the way her giant chestnut shaped eyes would make my heart flutter. I remember the bender I went on when she vanished.

I turn to Craig and mutter, "You've ruined my life."

He snorts and points his index finger at me. "No, bro. You did."

He's right.

But I'm sure you're confused at this point in the story. I should probably back track. I should probably start with Wednesday morning, September 17th 2013. Or at least, I woke up thinking it was Wednesday, September 17th, 2013.

CHAPTER 5: FUCKING GYPSY EX GIRLFRIENDS' CURSES

I wake up in my Double Tree hotel room. Crystal is gone although it was never really Crystal to begin with, or at the least, from the moment that I ran into her at the bar the previous night.
I'm hung over.  I feel needles through my eyes and hammered nails throbbing in my brain. I spend the majority of the morning doubled over by the toilet vomiting sugary blue slush.
In between the stabbing pains brought on by each and every heave, images from last night's horror show flash in my mind lack a David Lynch directed NIN music video.

I slowly collect myself, struggling to drink tap water from the sink and hold it down.
It takes a couple of hours until I can manage to get myself together enough to head out to the lobby and check myself out of the hotel.

When I do, the desk attendant stares at me like a skitzophrentic homeless man raving about alien mind control chips implanted in his head.

She tells me that my name and credit card are not on file, she politely tries to explain that I never checked into the Double Tree last night.

Before she can call the police, I make haste and exit the hotel. I'm not about to protest a free night's stay.

I try calling and texting Danny but my phone is now out of order. I wander the deserted streets of Memphis until I find a pay phone, only to discover that Danny's cell is also, still out of order.
I find a Kinkos and rent a computer to go online and see if Danny might be logged onto Facebook or his email account, but he's not. I send him multiple messages.

I start to worry. I call the police. I call all of the area hospitals, but I find no information or clues to his whereabouts.

I spend the afternoon searching for Danny while periodically taking breaks to dry heave and spit up stomach bile in shady back alleys.

By the evening, I decide to continue my journey. I get back to my Cadillac and hit the road.
24 hours later, I get to Austin.

I immediately head over to Monkey Brains art gallery to check in and drop off my artwork off.
It's a fairly new place. It's only opened its doors a few months ago and it hasn't been fully established within the local scene yet. I think this is the sole reason why they agreed to give me a solo show.

But a funny thing happens. I can't find the place. It doesn't seem to exist. It certainly isn't at the address that was on their website or in our email correspondence.

I walk around to neighboring businesses and ask about it, but no one's ever heard of it.
My stress levels are starting to rise. I still haven't grieved over what happened in Toronto, I still haven't begun to deal with what happened in Memphis.

A panic attack is becoming imminent. I need to get a grip on myself and before I lose my cool. So I go on a leisurely joy ride and visit all of my favorite places from my brief time living here to reminisce on the good times before they went bad.

I make my way out onto West Gate Blvd and leave downtown behind.  I pass the Half Priced Books store where I spent every Sunday afternoon stocking up on cheap and rare reads that you'd never find in Philadelphia. I pass the small home where I rented a room from an attractive older paralegal.

I find it funny that I spot a 1999 jungle green Saturn station wagon parked out front. I used to drive the same car.  I had it with me when I was living here. What a strange coincidence?
I turn around and head towards South Lamar. I have a hankering for some smoke house dry rub ribs from Green Mesquite BBQ.

This is when I see something that nearly causes me to plow my rental car directly into the back of a metro bus stopped in front.

I see the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and Highball bowling alley to the left of my car.

I see this but I shouldn't. This should be a giant empty lot with construction cranes and contractor crews. I shouldn't be seeing the Highball because it was torn down earlier this year and the South Lamar Alamo should also be closed for elaborate renovations. But it's open for business with cars parked in the lot and people entering and exiting the popular theater.

After nearly avoiding a head on collision with the bus, I swerve the Cadillac into the turning lane and enter the shopping plaza.

I see posters at the front of the theater advertising Day Breakers and Nine. Those films came out years ago, everyone has already forgotten them.  And then I see written on the giant Marquee at the top is, "Welcome Fantastic Fest 2009."

No. No. Nononononono.

No way. Nah uh. Nope. Not buying it, I refuse to believe this. This cannot be real.

I'm delusional. This must be some type of fever dream brought on by sleep deprivation and binge drinking, it's a two day long fever dream where I can read and interrupt road signs. It's a fever dream where I can feel the dry Texas heat on my skin and the itchy swamp ass under my boxers.

I must be in a coma. I must have gotten into a car accident or had a stroke or an aneurism. I'm on life support somewhere while my mother weeps by my side and the doctor advises her to pull the plug since I have no health insurance to afford it.

I can't possibly be back at the 2009 Fantastic Festival.

But I know that it is possible. After this year, anything is possible. And I know Gina is responsible, the vindictive gypsy bitch.  She sent me back in time with her fucking vagina. 

Ugh. I need a drink.

So I walk into the high ball.

The hostess says hello and winks at me. She looks familiar; I remember her face, but not her name.

I sit down at the bar and order a whiskey double. He gives me a strange look; he's another nameless familiar face. I'm going to get a lot of that here.

But I'm surprised when he comes back with my glass and a worried look. First he says, "I see that you shaved your beard this morning and your head. The mustache looks good on ya, I don't know about the bald thing though. I was talking to Jenny a little while back, she was pretty overwhelmed with things, said you were coming in to work at 3pm. I'm surprised to see you here getting a drink at 2.

OH NO. No. Nonononono. I'm fucking here right now, my 2009 self is here working the festival.

That was my fucking car at my old house that I saw earlier.

And this bartender, he thinks I'm stopping in for a drink before my shift.  And whatever I do now, he's going to go my immediate supervisor and tell her that I'm getting whiskey doubles right before work, and then she's going to fire me.

But then again, I already know that I eventually get fired form Fantastic Fest. So what goddamn difference does it make?

Or maybe this is a second chance? Maybe I can warn my 2009 self not to fuck up, to keep his guard, to not lose his internship, to be aware of the people who are going to sabotage his opportunity.

But if I cross paths with my 2009 self, isn't reality supposed to end or some shit like that?

Ugh. I want another shot.

A pink haired waitress wearing all black comes over and sits down next to me.  Her first words to me repeat the bartender's.

"Shaved your beard this morning?"

I don't remember her name either.  I'm scared to answer her; soon enough, she's going to run into me with a beard and hair on his head again, probably in the next hour.

So I keep silent and just smile at her while she continues making friendly conversation.

"I'm surprised you're not on crutches after last night. That was absolutely painful to watch."
I remember her now. The night before Fantastic Fest's official first day, I had snuck into Barton Springs natural spring fed pool with a group of servers from the theater and restaurant.

It was only my 3rd or 4th week in Austin and I was skinny dipping with six other gorgeous women and only two other guys. I remember thinking in that moment that I had finally done something right. Austin was where I thought I belonged.

I remember passing a spliff and playing truth and dare with them. I remember making out with at least two of the women in the group. I remember jumping off of some rocks into the pool, only it was really dark out since it was past midnight, and I hadn't known that I was by the shallow end.

I remember hitting the rocky floor with an impact that had everyone wincing and yelling in pain for me. I was sure that I might have shattered my right shin or broken a foot. But I only sprained an ankle.

But I was on crutches the following day. I spent the opening reception and party limping with my leg propped up on a splint.

And in the next 30 or so minutes, I'm going to be waddling my through to the front entrance of the theater on those crutches on my way to work.

The waitress is telling the story about what happened to the bartender, he squints his eyes and tells me, "We've all done it, man. I know too many friends who've messed themselves up jumping into the water for their first time. You shoulda told me about it, I would've poured you a triple."

Whew, maybe I just dodged a bullet but I need to get out of here pronto.

I stand up to leave when the waitress puts her hand on my shoulder.  Her fingers wrap over the muscle and gently caress my back.

She whispers, "You shouldn't be so self conscious about the body hair. All of the self deprecation wasn't really necessary. You looked good last night."

I feel my dying heart shatter into a million pieces. I still can't remember her name; I but remember her saying this to me. I remember the crush she had on me; I remember the crush I had on her.

Nothing came of it, but goddammit,  I miss Austin.

I tell her thanks and quickly make my way back to the car.

Don't ask how me how the car traveled back in time as well. I'm not the gypsy with super natural powers and a man eating vagina.

However, when I put my keys into the lock, I find that the door is already open and there is already someone sitting in the passenger seat, and he looks remarkably like me.

It's not my 2009 self; this guy has a mustache and chin strap thing like me right now. And he's not wearing glasses.  He's also built better than I as well. His arms are perfectly well sculpted, and there's zero body fat on him. He's wearing a tight muscle T shirt and Chino skinny jeans.

He's smoking a Marlboro light and eating beef jerky while listening to heavy metal on the radio.

I'm giving in to the weird, there's no point in fighting it anymore. I get into the car and close the door.

I don't even say anything. I just sigh and lean my head forward into the steering wheel.

So he starts the conversation.

"Aw, C'mon bro, not going to introduce yourself?"

"Do I need to?"

"Guess not. We already know each other anyway."

Of course  we do but I still have to ask how.

He tells me, "Aw, dude. Last time you saw me, I was about yay high."

He spreads his fingers out and holds his right hand by his knee.

"I was totally hurt when you shot me and tried to flush me down a toilet. Not cool, man."

Yeah, this makes total sense.

He then reaches his hand over to me to shake it.

"I go by the name Craig now. Craig Christodoulou."

I'm not sure why I shake his hand. It's probably because I'm always insulted when someone refuses me after I make the gesture.

The song on the radio goes into a sick guitar shredding solo. Craig starts air drumming and head banging.

He's a fucking frat boy. As if I needed any more reason to send him back to the hell he came from.

He pats my shoulder excitedly telling me, "Lighten up, bro. We've got a lot of catching up to do. We'll have plenty of time to come back here and get all teary eyed on what could've been and what's gonna be."

Flatly, I ask, "Where do you want to go?"

"Let's grab a drink at the Continental Club. You remember where that is right?"

Of course I do.

CHAPTER 6: WHY DON'T YOU GO SING KARAOKE AND LINE DANCE IN HELL?


It's now pushing 7pm and I'm still seated at a private booth with Craig at the Continental club.
A popular Johnny Cash cover band is playing for the happy hour crowd on the small stage of the highly coveted Rock and Country spot.

I've been drinking $2 Lone Stars and cheap tequila gold shots with lime for the last three hours.

We've hardly shared two words since the drive over here.  We've just been silently drinking while watching a pudgy middle aged Mexican man in a cowboy hat and jet black suit croon songs like Folsom Prison Blues while a combination of native Texan rednecks in leather boots and transplant hipsters take to the dance floor and act like they're in the old west.

I spot a beautiful young Asian woman who looks nearly identical to my first fiancé, Ayumi. She's wearing sleek designer heels, a tight black leather skirt, a denim shirt tied off with a knot just above her belly button, and a cheap cowboy hat with a price tag still on it.

The world premiere of Gentlemen Broncos should be starting at anytime on the other side of town at the Paramount Theater. Right now, my 2009 self is on crutches trying to handle crowd control at the packed venue.

Tonight will be the opening reception party. There will be major celebrities singing Karaoke alongside Austin locals and film bloggers.

This is the year that will really put the Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest on the map.

Sure, Fantastic Fest has been a popular staple within the film community since its inception in 2005, but it was really a Festival that previously only appealed to those already in the industry, those who were in on the know.

This is the first year where the festival is going to receive its first major media blitz. After this year, the Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest will become close to being household names.
After this year, nearly every genre film festival in the world will begin to emulate Tim League's and Harry Knowles' model for presenting cinema.

Every city will begin to rush to develop theaters that serve food and drinks. Every film festival will now organize karaoke parties, dance parties, and costumed themed events.

Any time any article in any fucking publication mentions film exhibition and or presentation, there will be always be the requisite reference to Alamo.

Whether people know it or realize it, but the next ten days will become a pinnacle influence on the film entire festival/cinema landscape.

But for now, I'm staring at an evil twin, hoping that he's just a figment of my imagination and that he'll disappear if I only drink enough to ward away my anxieties.  But he doesn't go anywhere.

Out of the blue, he starts laughing, and I'm not sure if I get the joke.

Craig says, "You do know that I'm here to fuck things up for you right?"

I answer, "Yeah. I know."

Craig adds, "And there's nothing you can really do about it either, bro."

And I sigh, "Yeah, I know."

TO BE CONTINUED
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