“Train Penny Blues”, 1999, 16mm
“An ode to discarded things, which all have the same quality of pathos if it’s a book, lost jewelry, or a broken lighter…”
“For the ground, and most importantly, for the ground covered by concrete. I know you’re still down there.”
I was boo-ed out of a coffee shop in Gainesville Florida on open mic night for showing this sincere little film to a punk crowd. “FUCK Jesus! FUCK Mary!” they yelled at me as I lugged my 60lb film projector out the back door. I really had no idea it was so controversial. I thought it was personal and sentimental melancholy, like kitsch when you’re drunk.
Although the film is filled with religious imagery It’s not actually a statement of faith aside from my empathy for abandoned objects and my respect for the shrine, both secular and religious. I’m always drawn to what others have let go of.
It’s not about the object’s core nature, it’s the shared history. The trash is a kind of orphanage, and I want to give each individual it’s due respect.
The film was shot in the area between Union Station and the corner of 15th St. and Little Raven in the late 90’s when it was all an abandoned field with train tracks running through it. I was working on that corner, and it was a straight shot from the bus stop. I would make the walk in the morning and leave pennies on the tracks, then pick them up flattened on the walk back to the bus in the evening. The field was filled with wild grasses and wild sunflowers like a little piece of state park in the middle of the city.
The footage of train cars was shot at the old Forney Transportation Museum in the same building, and adjacent yard, that’s now owned by REI.
The cave shrine of plastic bits, rosaries, and statuettes was along Hwy 160 between Walsenburg and Alamosa… and it may still be there, 25 years later.
The butterfly and flower animation was a collaboration with Jodie Emmett (now Jodie Emmett de Maciel), who now makes jam and runs a sheep farm in upstate New York.