SFIFF 50: “Look at Mr. Lee” (i)

Until last night, I'd never been in a room with Spike Lee. The list of
people I have to thank for making that happen will only get shorter if
I start mentioning names now.

First would be Kevin Smokler,
who took a chance on me and heads-upped me last year when the San
Francisco International Film Festival gave a few local bloggers press
credentials. Smokler's giving tends to acquire a momentum of its own. It
feels like a continuous no-look pass on a basketball court that expands
from moment to moment. I had a lot of fun last year.

Second would be Hillary Hart and Cindy Lang, whose persistence,
kindness and aplomb over the last two months are not to be believed. They wanted me to
participate, and it felt good to be able to show up and take them up on
their offer. How much of success is that showing-up thing again?

Out the window at Chaya
In the mirror at Chaya

I got home, turned around and bid A. goodbye, walking south and west. I
slipped past the Oakland Unified School District complex, the Henry J.
Kaiser Convention Center and Laney College campus to Lake Merritt BART
station. The wait there for the next thing smoking into San Francisco
felt strange. I'd just heard that BART had just had
their biggest day ever.
(By their lights,
Wednesday was still about 10 percent above normal weekday numbers,
passenger-wise.) There did seem to be more people around than I was
used to seeing at that hour, not that I did a lot of going into the
city this way.

The train came. I got on and we rode across West Oakland and down
through the Transbay Tube and slid into Embarcadero BART. I didn't
really know where I was going, even with the directions describing the
afternoon's event — 132 The Embarcadero, between Mission and Howard —
but I felt lucky about stepping up and out of the station, among
milling office workers and businesspeople, getting my bearings from a
MUNI driver who'd parked her bus and was feeding pigeons from her seat
behind the wheel, and wandering over to the Bay along the very
perimeter of the city. Set foot beyond that fence and you'll find
nothing solid to put your foot on until you get to the island with the
tunnel, part of the bridge, running through it.

Chaya Brasserie
is glass panes and a fancy sign and a hush once you
step off the street and through the door. The tall well-dressed white
guy behind the booth was talking all friendly to a colleague, but he
politely asked if he could help me. I mumbled something about the film
festival. He smiled, waving me on and back and to the right.

In there I smiled politely at a small phalanx of poised and efficient
young women, who didn't have to do much but watch as Hillary introduced herself and took my event pass and my
riding-the-late-freight press application off my hands. I found a
corner of the room, had an hors d'oeuvre and a glass of beer and listened in on three men — Ivan Jaigirdar of 3rd I, a brother named Carlos who wrote for the Oakland Post (which I didn't know has some woes of its own) and a local indie television producer. We talked about Brazil, ultimate fighting, places to live in
the United States, Manchester United and (courtesy of a tangent
introduced by another gentleman passing by) black animation.

Then I
looked down at my watch and realized I needed to get over to the Castro
Theater. I excused myself and ran over to Market Street, barely catching a F trolley car.


Josh Wolf


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