The Gentleman Loser

Thoughts and Musings of a Loser

It is nearing the final hours of the trip. It is night, we are again in Paris. All of us are having a picnic by the channel. The police cleared us out of the neighboring park at closing time. Fillip plays guitar and sings as one song flows into another. Across the river, a group of police watch as another officer says something, wildly gesturing with her arms.

The Kabaret at Nogent-le-Rotou is over. The films were great. I appeared in five or six of them. Sometimes as an extra, sometimes in a more substantial role. One of the Austrians taught me how he smoked a cigarette with his asshole, a lesson I am bound to take value from in some way.

There were countless moments that I meant to preserve in writing in the last few days, but many of them never made it to the page. Last night, after the screening, we made party. A French DJ played Britney Spears and I was disappointed but still sang lyrics by another obnoxious pop star to the beat and claimed to be Australian. I asked a teenage girl from the town if it was true that in France, there was always a half moon. When she said they had full moons too, I denied it and claimed to be from Manchester. We ate greasy ham and cheese grilled sandwiches with the cheese on the outside and wrapped in tin foil and drank beers like Leffe, 1664, and Heineken.

I sit at a bar getting late-night food to bring back to the party with a woman from Corsica who reminds me of the French woman from Lost. She is the resident FXC person. Her car is full of low grade explosives, fake blood, and accelerants. She talks to my camera as we wait, talking about proclaiming herself as a “Video Terrorist” after being stopped by a police officer for setting fire to a car outside a grocery.

The day before I am exhausted from once again climbing up to a castle (every freaking town we go to has a castle in it) near where we would film. I am acting as DP, and I think most of the shots look great. Pascal puts makeup on me and everyone else. Flour and ash from a burnt cork. In black and white, we look like zombies. Sam keeps telling us not to say the zed word. I give Sam a little wish fulfillment by asking for multiple takes and angles during a sex scene between him (as a dead man) and Pascal. Nothing much else happens. In the morning, Sam and I had filmed a bit for his piece.

The day before that is officially the first day of the Kabaret. The theme is
“If only I had known,” but it is ignored by most. In the afternoon I go with Joe up to the top of some hills to wait in the rain. I swear, it just randomly starts raining in France, and always when you are in the middle of nowhere with sensitive electronic recording equipment. As I write this, what appears to be a transvestite goth kid walks by, momentarily breaking my attention.

We arrive in Nogent-le-Rotrou by train two days previous to the Kabaret. We are one day earlier than everyone else. We were due to stay at the apartment in Paris for one more night, but at about 2:30, Samuel bursts in and says he got a call from Karim and we need to be out by 3:00, as the apartment owner was coming home. Every hotel and hostel in Paris is booked because of a music festival coming up. So we run with all our baggage to catch the last train to Nogent. The hotels in Nogent are cheap, only 45 euros for the three of us. Cheaper than our hostel was. We sleep, the next day everyone else arrived and we had dinner on the eve of the Kabaret.

And so this ends. In a few hours I will go to sleep. A few hours after that, we will wake up, take the Metro to the train station, retrieved our luggage that we stowed in secured lockers, and take the train to the airport. Paris to Newark, Newark to Madison. Sam and I grab our bags and get ready to leave the group of people we have spent the last two weeks with. We say our goodbyes to everyone. Abel and Hamid practically molest Sam in their goodbye, and we leave them still gathered by the channel. We get about half a block away and they are still yelling goodbye to us, I stop, turn around, and blow a big kiss out to them. We keep walking until they disappear from sight. A fat lady walks past us, and I shit you not, she begins to sing.


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It is 10:30 pm and the sun is still up. That’s one thing I still haven’t gotten used to. Night is so far away here…

Today was our third day in Paris (if you don’t count the day we arrived, which was a wash; we stayed in the hostel and slept). We had plans to leave for Chinon today and stay there for a few days before moving on to Nugent, however they fell through. We are staying in a stranger’s house whom we have never met. He is a friend of Karim’s and that’s all we need to know. Since we were going to be in Paris longer than expected, Sam and I decided to go out and see all that touristy stuff we promised ourselves we wouldn’t. Joe, the man from Manchester, was able to catch a ride to Chinon; Samuel, the guy from Sydney, left to meet with some friends of his. Sam and I started out the day by finding Jim Morrison’s grave. After an hour and a half detour courtesy of Sam, we found it. It was nothing special, just a grave, but with fresh flowers thrown all over it. We then set out for Oscar Wilde’s grave. We talked about how wonderful it would be if we could get access to film there at night. Oscar’s grave is about as flamboyant as I would expect. It wouldn’t stand out, if it weren’t for the giant Egyptian goddess statue and the kiss marks all over his grave.

We stopped at an Italian restaurant, and I had pesto and an Orangina. I have drunk more Orangina on this trip than I have cumulatively in my entire life. I love the stuff. We then make the obligatory stop at the Eiffel Tower. Sam and I discuss the difficulty to properly committing suicide by leaping off the top of the tower. We figured that it would require the assistance of a hang glider or at least a kite to properly clear the lower parts. You wouldn’t want to hit something on the way down, or else you might lose a limb or get bisected, and that would hurt for the several seconds before hitting the ground. As we start arriving toward the underbelly of the tower, we contemplate that being beheaded on the way down would be an interesting experience. Under the tower there are military police, all armed with heavy duty machine guns. We see the arches that Napoleon built, and decide they would be easy to commit suicide off of. I wanted to visit the Louvre, but it was closed because it was Monday, and everything is closed on Mondays in France.

We go to the movie theatre and watch Zodiac, which only recently was released in Europe.

The day before was spent moving from the Hostel and Karim’s place for the afternoon before moving in to the house we are now in. We all took the metro to the cinema in to watch Death Proof, which Sam and I had already seen, but Samuel and Joe had not.

Our first proper day in Paris, I wake up in the hostel. Above me I see the particle board of the bunk bed above me. Written on it is “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumped over the candle stick and burnt his dick.” That pretty much says everything that needs to be said about the Hostel. We leave at 11am because hostel rules require us to leave the room between 11am and 3pm. We spend much of the afternoon wandering around the shopping districts of Paris. We stop at a comic book shop, an electronics shop, Notre Dame, Moulin Rouge, and some cheap restaurants. That night we go to a closed restaurant where Karim and the other local Kino people are throwing a party/screening. Many films are shown. Many I wish to have a copy of. Especially the crazy techno granny one. They show some WisKino films as well; however, an especially boring one from the compilation comes on and gets the WisKino footage boo’ed off.

Around 1am I realize that the Metro probably closes soon, and the four of us run off to get on. We are a slight bit tipsy, and start hitting on the French girls on the other side of the platform while waiting for the next train to arrive. Samuel’s Ausse accent has the most effectiveness. The girls say they are going back to the mission. I ask facetiously, “You’re nuns?” We laugh, and their train arrives. Sam and Samuel start hitting unabashedly on the girls in our next train, while Joe apologizes for them politely in his best Manchester accent before starting in with the most vile and profane things that I will not repeat. We get back to the hostel and know that soon we will have to wake up and pack to lug everything over to Karim’s to figure out what we will do next.


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The van lurched and I wake up, neck aching from being bent in an odd position. If there is one universal, it is rush hour. I am Paris bound, small dark orange-red flowers dot the foliage to our sides. Lavender and white join the sight. I am half awake with my head against the window fingering the smoother rubberized edge of the windowblade.

Two nights ago I had a dream that I lived in a big house with a tower. I shared this house with Sam and with Kathy Fischer from WisKino. Rob lived in the tower. In the tower was a giant ornate metal ball that Rob would roll around in and Kathy was always trying to get into the tower, though I tried not to let her. The dream I had last night was stranger, but I don’t remember the details.

Back in the van, we are running late, hence running into rush hour. There are toll stops which only add to the traffic problem. There is a clear and concise reason we are running late.

This morning, as I woke up in my hotel bed and noticed that Sam was not there, he was waking up in a hospital bed with an IV in his arm attached to a bag of 0.9% Sodium Chloride.

As we drive to Paris we pass a control box on the median strip. It is lying open, circuit boards exposed to the elements. There is less and less green now. We are just approaching the outskirts of Paris.

When I woke up sans Sam, I went down stairs and had breakfast. Eggs, cheese, tea and tea biscuits. I decide that he must have gone home with Pascal. I go back to sleep to wait for him to get home so we can start packing. At noon, our hosts come in to say it is time to pack. Now I am pissed. I rush to the bathroom to use the shower that in France is referred to as the Douche. I pack all my stuff and bring it down stairs to the door. I wait a bit for Sam to arrive. He must be damn hung over to sleep in this late. I pack his stuff and clean up the room a bit before the hosts take over. They pack up the three magnum bottles of Chinon wine we bought the previous day for a vertical wine tasting in a white plastic shopping back filled with newspaper. I leave for the Maison des Associations to meet up with the rest of the Kinoites to tell them that Sam and Pascal sill aren’t back.

We are now entering the outer city of Paris. It is all newer construction and looks kind-of like Milwaukee, except that that graffiti is all in French.

I arrive, and Pascal is there. Sam is not. She explains that at 6am, he walked her home and that was the last anyone saw of him. They all thought he had gone back to our hotel room. Everyone panics about now. We walk to the nearest police outpost and after 15 minutes that feels like an hour, they inform us that he is in a hospital in the neighboring town. A brief ride through the countryside and we arrive at the hospital. It has neon signs all around and there are mounds of dirt just randomly strewn around places. It looks so, non-clinical.

Sam is standing near the entrance ready to leave, though we don’t notice him until we try to hail a passing nurse. His clothes are different. The T-Shirt that he had been wearing beneath his button-down shirt was gone. The last thing he remembers of the night was drinking a bug swig of the West Indies rum that he had joked was from “The Americas”. The doctors and nurses didn’t speak English, so the details of his arrival at the hospital remain a mystery. We tell him he was last seen giving Pascal a walk home. He says “well, that was nice of me,” and get in the car back to Chinon. We pile into the van. As we drive, I put in my headphones and drift off to sleep.

We enter into a tunnel and everything turns a jaundice shade under the tunnel lights. When we emerge, we are greeted by skyscrapers. The green foliage from before for is now totally replaced by stone and cement. A ridiculously small car drives past us in the right lane. It looks like an already small euro-car with the entire back seat truncated.

We arrive at the hostile. It is squalor compared to where we have been staying. Pizza for dinner and then we go to bed.


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We arrive at the caves. More of a basement, but it serves as a middle ages hall. Sam and I, dressed as sailors of the time, our role is to drink wine and sing along in a trashy French song that has something to do with having sex on the toilet. There are French drinking songs and nothing makes sense, but I sing along and spill wine as I cheer. The wine pitchers are ceramic and look like a pot bellied monk, but the wine dribbles down the sides and over the monk’s face, giving it a disgusting look. Amidst the chaos Sam leans over and says to me “Nothing can ever take this away from us…”

“Alzheimer’s can,” I briefly think.

A few hours later, we wake up in our hotel room clearly having missed dinner. We go to the Kino lab to finish editing our films. Sam edits on an unused Macintosh, except Final Cut Pro is all in French and the keyboard is rearranged. Still QWERTY, but with some of the keys moved around. We return to sleep at our hotel room at 7am.

At 10am I am woken by the presence of two French men in our room; other filmmakers. They urge us to wake up and join them for a filming in the extensive wine caverns. I protest, and Abel, the one who looks more like a Spaniard, jumps into my bed and starts humping me. I borrowed a power cable from him last night, which he threatened to “burn me with his pee” if I forgot to return, I guess he is very comfortable with me now. He jumps out of my bed, pleading me again to wake up and join them. He drops the back of his pants and starts singing Britney Spears songs in broken English, Sam is already getting dressed.

We arrive in the caverns and a German man that looks more like Charles Manson is there dressed as Jesus. This is the final scene of the movie. We beat a man to death and eat him alive as Jesus dances to techno music. We leave for lunch at the Kino lab.

Dinner is the same as lunch. Tabulie, chicken, bread, assorted cheese and wine. At the table, we decide what hostile we will spend the next few days between Kabarets in. We will be joined by the rest of the English-as-a-first-language-ers. A guy from Sydney and a guy from Manchester.

We leave, as it is time for the screening. It takes place in an old church hall that I don’t think is used for religion anymore. The number of viewers is in the hundreds.

Right now, we are at Les Café Francois. Before that we were at La Hazard. As artist of the Kabaret, we get access to the bars of Chinon past closing time. Sam is hitting on a girl named Pascal that he will not get. I am writing this on a copy of the Excentrique Festival flier (the festival that the Kabaret is a part of). The table I am sitting at has a painting of a mysterious French woman with eyes like a cold winter day. No one in this room has eyes like that.

I have been taking photos all day. Pictures of rooftops and winding stairways, the many cats that roam the alleys of Chinon and the people. I get people to pose, hold hands, and walk in courtyards. I plan to make several photocollages of what I see in my head when I look at this place we are in. I may even make a photo animation of some of it. I look over at my mostly empty pint of Guinness and decide I need another. I look over at Sam who has an entire bottle of wine to himself. We will have to pack before I go to bed tonight, but won’t. It is almost 3am and the bar will be closing soon.

At close, we gather outside the bar and go to the Kino lab where Karim has a surprise for us. Several magnum bottles of Chinon wine, bread, and a selection of cheese. We all go in the pitch blackness with our treasure and gather by the river near our hotel. We eat and drink and stumble in the dark. Louis passes around a bottle of Rum from the West Indies, someone else passes a bottle of Cognac witch is disagreeable to the man from Manchester. After awhile, I leave, taking the long, bulky gate key to the hotel from Sam, leaving the gate open for him. I settle into bed and can still hear them outside by the river, carrying on. I let this sound guide me to sleep, and I dream.


I am in Chinon, France sitting in the Maison des Associations which is serving as our Kino lab. Behind me some people are busy filling condoms with fake blood and attaching them to squibs in preparation for an elaborate gun fight. In front of me, a lanky and bearded man sits in an open window sill smoking a cigarette. The room next door is filled with laptops with editing software and camera’s plugged into them, people hunched over them with little dixie cups of strong coffee. Me, I have my laptop and a midi keyboard, tying to write a score. In a bit we will all trek over the bridge (a bridge that was built about 1000 years ago) to the other side of town where we all will enjoy food and wine, always wine.

I discovered that whatever the virus that was infecting my throat was, red wine is the cure. The wine we drink is a young wine, made in 2005 from vineyards near the castle that overlooks the town. There are expansive caves beneath this castle, and Sam and I intend to film there. We have been given extensive access to the castle as well, though we may not use it.

I will return to my hotel room to write this, as my battery is too low to do it here. The hotel is more of a bed and breakfast, and it is as awkward as I ever dreamed them to be. More so when the owners do not speak much English, but still, being friendly people, engage in much conversation. For breakfast we had some sort of gelled chicken dish, not nearly as tasty as the cubed ham and eggs that I missed the previous morning. And there was wine, always wine. Okay, that was a lie, no wine for breakfast in France. I think.

I have photographs of this lady that I took the night before. It’s for a short film I made, a silent film about love and photographs. Sam just shot one of his, and is editing it now. Two single continuous shots of a man and a woman meeting in one of the winding alleyways of Chinon. We know what will be next, but we have until the next night to make films. It seems we will make a set of very short films.

Sam and another filmmaker from Australia have just walked in to the hotel room and are urging me to go with them for lunch. So I put down this computer, and leave. Seafood salad, quiche and carrots. As we eat, Sam inquires about the age of consent laws in France, while another talks about going back in time to please ladies. From this, Sam and I begin to put together our most trashy storyline ever:

An evil psychiatrist who goes back in time to find various women he is attracted to when they were children. He brutally abuses them, then travels back to the present where they are now damaged, maladjusted people, and becomes their psychologist, and in their sessions, seduces them. Worse yet, the way he appears to these girls, stepping though some sort of distortion in reality, he must look like an angel or a demon or something more terrifying. It’s his fetish, and it’s a fucked up one. Now he has his eyes set on a colleague. But no matter how many times he goes back in time to try to ruin her life, when he gets back she is even more driven and dedicated. It is his undoing, and he loses sanity. The woman herself, who has actually become a close friend (though not knowing his intentions), has him committed. She cares for him so much, like she would a sibling, that she puts him in the same ward as her identical twin sister. The sister the she never talks about, that is her secret burden to carry. At the end of the story, he sees her in there, realizing his mistake; a wicked little smile crosses his face.

This film will never get made. Just a sick and twisted little story between the two of us, and the various other people at the table who now look rather disgusted with us. We walk back, looking for a one hour photo, but we find none. The camera film will take at least into next morning. I fear for the viability of my movie, the final shot requires this film developed. I don’t like cutting it so close to the deadline. I will have to write an alternative ending, a backup to use if time runs out. But first I stop in the hotel room to finish writing this. Then I will meet up with Sam and some filmmakers from Belgium. In their film, Sam and I will play drunken, sea-weary sailors looking for women. This scene will be filmed in the cave, we will sing in French. We wear tattered canvas clothes that smell like camping equipment. And that is where I leave off, for now.


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