Thank you for reading our last blog adventures in Kansas City and Fargo. Now for the rest of my long and wordy ramblings about our Fargo Film Festival adventure! Today is the Fort Myers Film Festival screening of “The Power Of Two,” so there will be more news to report. Next week is Bozeman, Montana!! This travel journal will keep going on and going on.
Anyway, after Ana, Andrew, Marc and I arrived in Fargo on March 6th, we walked out of the airport to a warm 37 degrees. In 10 minutes, we arrived downtown, which felt like a movie set from the 1950’s. There were few chains that we see in most of America- but rather small independent shops and restaurants. The streets were white with about at most six inches of icy snow. The trees were bare. It was beautiful.
Andrew spent his 11 to 18th years in Fargo, so I was excited to visit (for the 3rd time) and meet his friends and teachers. We were all invited thanks to a grant for the Film Department of Concordia College, and Andrew’s best friend Greg Carlson. We checked into the very hip and fancy Hotel Donaldson (HoDo), which is officially Andrew’s favorite hotel in the world.
Each room is uniquely decorated with local artists’ work, and comes with other fancy modern furniture, a bed to die for, heated tile bathroom floors, and a flat screen TV. It was AMAZING. And not that expensive! Thank you to the Fargo Film Festival for providing us these rooms! The downtown of Fargo had all sorts of fancy cute shops—it was very chic! The fresh air felt great except for the stinging of my ears after just a few minutes from the icy temperature. After a welcome reception where we met very enthusiastic volunteers, we went out to a yummy Thai dinner in Moorhead, Minnesota, and then we all crashed early in the hotel.
Wednesday was a full day. The sky was blue with some clouds and it was a crisp 27 degrees. Ana and I worked out briefly in the fancy gym, then made up and head to the Fargo Theatre on Broadway. This theater was built in the 1920’s and restored in the last decade or two, and still sported an impressive art deco style. Again, we were greeted by very friendly, kind people who raved about the film. I was humbly grateful for the compliments. The 10:30 screening on Wednesday came and went; with about 40 people in the audience. We were very pleased with the turnout- given that this was a work day morning, and … well, it was Fargo. Immediately afterwards, the crowd head over to Juano’s, a Mexican Restaurant next door for a panel discussion. Susan from Life Source, Minnesota/Dakota’s organ procurement organization, Nikki, a woman from the twin cities waiting for lungs with CF, and Paul, a local CF/double lung recipient, Dr. Mystery, a kidney/pancreas surgeon and father of a liver recipient, and Dr. Hung, a CF adult pulmonologist in Fargo, joined the four of us for the panel. The restaurant filled up, and everyone was served one cheese enchilada for lunch. Yes, that was the whole enchilada.
The panel was a hit. Most but not all of the audience had seen the earlier show. Everyone on the panel spoke, including Andrew and both doctors. Mid-way through, Ana and Marc had to leave to go to a radio interview. We were so happy Nikki was there, to represent the waiting experience. I think she was infused with hope. Susan said that North Dakota is second in the nation for organ donation registration(or consent?) rates, after Utah. These Lutheran, used to a harsh climate and the need to help one another, seemed to truly support this cause. It was wonderful. In fact after the evening screening, the lady in front of me turned around and said, “It’s such a no-brainer! I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t donate!”
The panel sped by and then dispersed. We thanked the physicians and then Susan drove us to the WDAY station to meet Andrew and Marc. I was interviewed briefly and then we had a tour of the station. The local anchor and host, Kevin, a big supporter of organ donation, showed us a clip from 2004, of a 14 year old girl who was waiting for a lung transplant. She unfortunately died without ever receiving one. Her parents, Monica Kersting and her dad, started “Alexa’s Hope”—a non-profit dedicated to increasing donor registration in North Dakota, and increasing lung donors nationwide. They both spoke for the Breakthrough Collaborative, which increased supplies of lungs dramatically around 2005. In their grief, they have been responsible for changing the donation situation in North Dakota, and all my respect goes to them.
In the afternoon, Ana and I had some time to just relax at the hotel. I was still coming down from the hyperactivity of Kansas City- so I was pooped. Before we knew it, we head out to the theater to see some films. Ana saw “Fast Talk” and I saw “Windigo Tales.” I enjoyed the fictional film about an Ojibwa family in modern times facing demons of the past. Then it was time to go to another film reception. We mixed and mingled with locals and visitors, and had a wonderful time bonding with new friends. Then, came 7:00! The film started and ended, with a good 200 people there. We were thrilled. As we entered the theater, we were given small bottles of bubbles- courtesy of the Fargo Festival. Everyone after the film blew bubbles in the audience and it was gorgeous! The Q&A was good, with a question targeted to Andrew, and one targeted to Ana and me- asking about our professional lives. I appreciated that question, since I don’t like to only be known as patients.
After the screening, we were bombarded with questions, and thankfully, book sales. We didn’t have to carry any home! And a volunteer named Prairie Rose helped us. She was Native American and an amazing person who founded the local “Urban” Indian Center, used to be director of the theater, and was all around awesome. I was blessed to meet her, even briefly.
The evening wrapped up but ‘The Power of Two’ crowd was directed to HoDo’s lounge for eats. My GI wasn’t happy so I had a salad (probably from California☺) and soup. I met with a few of Andrew’s friends but when I felt delirious, I retired at 11PM. Ana sat at another table and got along VERY well with a 22 year old, as did Marc. They both enjoyed buffalo burgers. Andrew stayed up past midnight.
The next morning, Thursday, Andrew got up early to have breakfast with his buddies at the “Fry’n Pan,” a restaurant that played a heavy role in his nostalgic social moments as a teen. I wanted to go but my body didn’t! So I slept in and just relaxed. By 9:30, Professor Greg Carlson picked us up to go to Concordia College. There, we had a date to speak to his “New Media” Class. The four of us spoke honestly about our journey with the book-turned-website-turned-documentary. All the students had seen the film. Everyone was Caucasian except for two students.
After the panel, we head to downtown for another lunch panel. We each received one taco at Juano’s, and two dishes of salsa which had no spice at all. Very North Dakotan! The panel was now focused on the film, “Fast Talk,” about the debate team of Northwestern University. There were prominent speakers on the panel who had a lively discussion about this very aggressive, incomprehensible style of male-dominated debate competition. After the panel, Ana and I head over to the theater to see some of the films. I enjoyed a few shorts. Some were beautiful and touching, and some were strange and painful to watch. We finally saw “Horsemen” by Nancy Wu, a Chinese film in the Tibetan Highlands about the abuses of businessmen towards horsemen who bring tourists up “Ice Mountain.” The film depicted the general discrepancy of poor and rich in rural China; and how capitalism is bringing about abuses and struggles among previously agrarian villages. It was very well done, with beautiful scenery.
After this film, Marc, Andrew, Ana and I had a business meeting in the lobby of HoDo. We have over 30 community screening requests and so many invitations; we have to figure out what is practical and feasible to attend—especially with my new job. It’s going to be another busy year- going to places like Bozeman, Charleston, Boston, Jacksonville, etc. Wow.
At 7:30 we met Ana’s colleague Peter and his partner at the fabulously expensive HoDo Restaurant, where I enjoyed Bison, and Andrew enjoyed lamb. This four star restaurant was fabulous. It just broke our wallets.
It was time to retire, even though I wanted to go see more movies and go to the Bowling Social for Filmmakers. Andrew went to see his friends, but I had to retire. In my old age, I have to be disciplined about sleep!
And today, Friday, March 9, I am writing this aboard another United Airlines flight, sandwiched between Ana and Andrew working on their laptops. This morning in Fargo, we toured the town to see Andrew’s old home, his high school, junior high, and the Hjemkomst Center (a Viking ship) in Moorhead, Minnesota. It was 16 degrees- but probably around 4 degrees in the wind!!!! Ana and I wanted to walk around—but Andrew thought we were crazy. We lasted about ten minutes, but our eyes, noses and ears were about to freeze off. Okay, I guess people here don’t go for brisk walks☺.
Anyway, thank you for reading this long travel diary. Thankfully, I have written nothing about my health, because I’m well enough to travel. I feel so grateful to have these opportunities to visit small towns and get perspective outside of California. I feel so blessed. I hope some of you can explore our country like I have.