Tuesday, May 22, 2007

LR Film Fest - Saturday

Saturday was a busy day with friends, marked only by one film: Towncraft.

I knew there was a lot of buzz about this documentary on the Little Rock music scene, so I was concerned when I got to the theatre one minute prior to showtime and had to park in the back forty of the lot. The line was out the door, and I thought I had missed my chance, until I realized they were only slowly seating non-pass holders. I knew my investment had been worth it when I and my trusty film festival lanyard sauntered past the hordes and into the perfect middle row, center seat that awaited me.

I, for one, was entertained. And I’m quite certain the audience around me was, too. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of whispering between friends, and a lot of smiles. I was well aware that many of these people had been reminiscing together all week long, with a week’s worth of concerts and the official premier screening the night before. Saturday evening capped off the week with a second screening of the documentary and a finale concert at Revolution (props to Ho-Hum). The atmosphere at that show was full of more energy than I had seen in awhile, no doubt stirred up by everyone being knee deep in the hoopla.

What stirred up for me were flashbacks to high school and the struggle of finding my place. To be fair, I should go back to my freshman year and the infamous Dunbar Junior High School. We had moved back to Arkansas toward the end of my 5th grade year and, after a few months of sleeping on a wood framed couch at my grandparent’s house, found an apartment on Chicot Road in Southwest Little Rock. Eventually my stepfather at the time returned for his final round, and we found a rent house in the Baseline/Geyer Springs area which became home. I won’t get into the stories from those days, but suffice it to say I didn’t exactly have the most enriching social scene. We were a bunch of kids without money or guidance, and that goes where it leads.

The façade of desegregation hung over the Little Rock School District, so kids were being bused around for hours a day just to keep them in the same circles they would have been in their own neighborhoods. Three packed buses were routed from the east side of Geyer Springs to Dunbar, which desegregated us in with our counterparts from Downtown Little Rock. Let me tell you, the diversity would have underwhelmed you. However, Little Rock was also in the process of establishing magnet schools at the time which offered courses in concentrated subject areas – an effort to attract students (or more importantly, their parents) to schools they might not otherwise consider. My sister attended one of these, which at the time was simply Parkview Fine Arts Magnet (PFAM). It was kind of like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day: she got the cool shoes, and I got the plain old white ones.

My neighborhood life and school life mirrored each other, and I did my best to fit into both. But I always was an odd child, and having deep thoughts and social concerns doesn’t really have much place in an mixed-up culture of hair bands and hammer pants. So I adapted to my environment, and I did so pretty well. But something interesting happened my freshman year, when Dunbar suddenly morphed into a Gifted and Talented/International Studies magnet school. There were these strange new kids there from places I had never been, like the Heights and West Little Rock (consequently, there were scared as hell to be at Dunbar). I approached with caution, but found some of these creatures intriguing. They thought saving the earth was cool. They knew who Bob Dylan was. We actually had intelligent discussions about what we were learning in civics class. I was enrolled in a Gifted and Talented Seminar class where critical and creative thinking were encouraged and fostered.

The ultimate culture shock came when my mom insisted that I enroll at Parkview, rather than McClellan High School (which was in our neighborhood and which all of my “friends” were planning to attend). Parkview had moved on from the PFAM days of my sister and was now an Arts & Science combined magnet program. I, of the dramatic disposition, registered for the theatre program (following in the footsteps of my sister) and was accepted for enrollment. It didn’t take long for my Southwest friends and me to drift paths – and it didn’t take long for me to realize how grateful I was for the split.

At Parkview, I was instantly smitten with a group of artsy, hippie seniors who were kind enough to extend friendship to a displaced sophomore from the ’09. They read all kinds of interesting stuff and listened to interesting music and watched interesting films and saw interesting plays… and they didn’t even get extra credit for it. For the first time since we had left New Mexico, someone knew who the Violent Femmes and the Cure and Siouxie and the Banshees were... and they liked them. They were kind and spiritual and weird and intelligent and creative. They were going to change the world, but they weren’t going to let it change them. They were into things like Baha’i and veganism and experimental poetry. One of those seniors, who I didn’t get to know very well, was Colin Brooks. Colin is featured prominently in the Towncraft documentary, which is what connects the film with my ramblings.

In a complicated twist of fortune, a few months into my sophomore year I became a Christian, thanks to a girl I had bullied in junior high and who didn’t end up staying around the church long herself. The same year I was opening up to a world of art and thought and expression and soul, I was learning what it meant to be a part of the southern-baptist-youth-group culture. I tried to balance participating in the Patchwork Coffeehouse events with participating in youth rallies. I ushered at the Rep and greeted newcomers to Sunday school. I submitted creative writings for the Patchwork Pegasus and learned how to have a daily quiet time. So went most of my high school experience, my constant state of limbo.

All in all, I don’t think I would go back and trade my church experience for a lack of one, but I do wish there could have been something more - someone to show me how to live Christ out in the culture, instead of how to mold myself to this modern culture of the church. My friends at school weren’t bothered by the fact I was a Christian, but many of the people in my church were bothered by my friends at school (and they were an interesting variety). I had great discipleship and grew very quickly in my faith and enjoyed all of the time I spent with them, but I lost pieces of myself in the process. I had been opened up to this new world that fit like a glove, and then quickly had to surrender it again (albeit, this time for something worth wearing).

It took a long time to grow into myself again, and the process included a lot of questioning things I had been taught and shedding things I thought I needed. It’s still a process, but now the process is more of a growth than of a breaking free. And that is all I want to extend to others: here’s Christ, and here’s what he teaches, and he and I both want to hang out with you where you are, and he is probably going to change you in dramatic ways because that’s what he does, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to squeeze you into a mold. It will be awkward at times, and the weight of it all may overwhelm you on occasion, but it will good and it will be worth it.


Ramón said...


Keep writing. This is wonderful!

Jennie said...

Wow. I'm with Ramon - I didn't want this entry to end.