Where in the World Are You, Matt?, or, I Wish I Was Successful Enough to Leave $20 Tips for the Baristas

The Professor, a former actor, a faintly Russian-by way of NYC fella, limped about with master of universe moustache and hipster cane,  legitimately needed post-radiation treatment, but also wielded excessively with theatrical panache, like Travolta with cigar. He told many jokes, and also tales of his gay ballerina son (dancing successfully in NYC), and unapologetic references to his mentally-challenged brother. It's okay for me to joke about it, he'd harumph eloquently. He was not merely a teacher, but a performer; a posturing filmic Tolstoy by way of Barnum, regaling the freshmen with picks, pans, and cinematic deconstructions. His voice was authority and finality; his picking of a raised hand was the choice of a master deigning to call upon the proletariat spokesman. His voice, thick with moustache and hyper-articulateness and crowd-pleasing sarcasm, raced to the attention like walrus to crippled seal.

Exposition: Fall 2003. I was in my first quarter of grad school at University of Montana. I was a Teacher's Assistant for a lecture class with 100+ students.  Media Arts 101 was an introduction to film history, theory, criticism, and visual storytelling mediums.

It was a good class. I enjoyed it greatly, as we sat through screenings of various classics, including Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon (bizarre and...eye-opening), Keaton's The Great Train Robbery (what people used to chuckle at, and I still do)Miyazaki's Spirited Away (magical, strange and delicious), Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (hilarious, jarring, so that's what postmodernism is!). I got paid to sit in the front, grade some papers, and walk a 40-student group through various discussions and concepts. 

Hoop + Wire / Boy Eats Drum Machine

One class, we watched Peter Weir's Witness (1985).  Harrison Ford plays a detective who hides out in an Amish community while trying to protect a young boy who witnessed a dirty cop murdering an informant. Kelly "Top Gun" McGillis plays the boy's mother, and let me tell you, please let me know if you've ever seen Harry Ford in a sexier film than his scenes with Ms. McGillis. 

AN ASIDE, pt. I: In cinema, there is sex, and there is sexy, and there is a big difference between the two. And Witness is sexy. Anyway. I digress.

The film concluded, and (I shall call him) Professor M, also a fan of the film, began speaking of its brilliance. Midway through his candied deconstruction,  an arm in the upper bank of lecture halls seats raised itself. Yes? Professor M gave the hand license to continue.

(Footnote: Boy Eats Drum Machine is a Tender Loving Empire label one-man outfit that made the Princiest, catchiest, funky electrogroove of the year in Hoop + Wire. Incidentally, it also is reminiscent of (former) Missoula funksters No-Fi Soul Rebellion.)

I turned, and the voice belonged to a vaguely hippyish Midwest urban blond-locked, babyfaced, cheerful lad, who went on to publicly voice his strong disagreement with the film, with the film's merits, and with the idea that the film was anything but hackneyed and cliched to begin with, thereby implicitly questioning the wisdom of showing said film to a lecture hall of already Bambi-eyed freshman looking for easy arts credits.

Matt, assisting on the set of my 2004 short film

Professor M's voice dropped into friendly but stern Zen Mr. Miyagi mode, and the use of multisyllabic words increased, and he peremptorily shut down Anonymous Blond Boy, although the lad's grin never abated, and his face never reddened, and I thought I noticed, from afar, that he lacked regret over his bold public denunciation. Class continued, and I never tired of remembering John Book (Ford's character) slowly fall in love, and wondering how bonnets ever went out of fashion. Are they?

Hearts / I Break Horses

I went up and introduced myself after class. I disagree with your assessment of the film, I told him, but I respect your speaking up. Not the easiest thing (at least it wouldn't be easy for me, I thought.

Note: I converse more readily and actively in small groups than speaking to large masses of people, and also, I didn't do that well in high school Speech class, so people who seem to extemporaneously speak boldly and eloquently to the masses are of interest, and respect to me, sometimes).

His name was Matt. He was a freshman, and he was a music geek too. He introduced me to Modest Mouse's This Is a Long Drive For Someone with Nothing to Think About, the Walkmen's Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, and many other bands with wonderfully verbose album titles. I believe I shared with him the Polyphonic Spree's The Beginning Stages Of...

Note: the ellipses are part of the album title, not me intentionally trailing off...

Rest / Parts & Labor
I also learned, as we got together over coming months for coffee to talk film, music, philosophy, and unified theories of existence, that his sister Bridget Bedard was award-winning filmmaker & writer for her 2001 short film Baby. (and recently, writer for Mad Men).

Which brings me to Parts & Labor, the noise-rock outfit that Matt introduced me to. He left Montana for a period of time to study in Thailand, and go to school in Rhode Island, and eventually got some sort of...traveling job that took him to Britain? Or was it for a girl? Memory is not linear and I do not know, but I do know that I lost touch with him, even in the Fwitterbook world of always-on, always-there friend networking. I do not know where he is. I lost him, and I cannot locate him. If I had ever met his sister (who sounds very nice, and smart, as most writers and Michigan librarians and astrophysicists are), then I would ask her where he is, because I would like to talk to him about Parts & Labor's Rest, which is one of my favourite electronoisy tracks of the year. We would talk of it, and then inevitably drift into the vagaries of creating a Universal Creative Process that supplants Bauhaus and Flannery O'Connor and incorporates postmodernism in an unironic, yet charmingly self-aware way. In the process, I would avoid asking him how his sister is doing, because she is writing for Mad Men and I would fear that I might somehow try to use that information to leverage a pitch for the television show I may or may not be creating at the moment...

Anyway, Professor M would be a topic, and we would chuckle. But we can't do that, because Matt is lost, and he is one of my favourite conversationalists ever, and I hope to find him.

josef ivan long 2009.

Lose It / Austra
Austra, from what I hear, has some sort of operatic background. I get a vague sense of that with her darkly trippy, pounding synthbreath of a track. I really have no idea what it's about, but I dig it. I was at a coffee shop (way out of my comfort zone) and asked the barista for change (after requesting my third refill of the afternoon*).

*a long afternoon of work, and headphones, and a conversation with a stranger named Jerry that I'll talk about sometime (not now), but let's just say that Jerry used to be an athletic director for Roosevelt High School in Portland, and coached basketball for 30 years until he retired in '99 with the whole PERS Retirement thing, which was a debacle to many, but not to him because he was able to retire at the height of the stock market and live comfortably, which essentially means golfing while his wife is finishing up Christmas shopping for their grandchildren, though unfortunately not his 12-year old grandson who lives in Japan with their son working for CitiBank (which, it sounds like, may be going under soon), which is strange because Jerry's son's degree was actually in Computer Science but now he's working in Management (doesn't actually seem that strange to me), and while he was at Portland State University taking a Japanese class he somehow met a Japanese exchange student who was going to University of Portland and they got together and got married, moving to Japan eventually, where he's been for 15 years , and where Jerry has only visited once, but planned to last year, actually having tickets to leave on the Thursday of the weekend before the earthquake hit, thus validating the decision to cancel and not see their grandson, which is sad (I am guessing he is bilingual, which I am not), but also leaving pristine the memory of the last time Jerry saw his grandson and they went golfing together 16 times; you may wonder what Jerry's last name is (I wonder too), however, I do not know, as I have not consulted the employment records for Roosevelt High School yet, but Jerry did also tell me an interesting story about a retired college coach here in Oregon (the name escapes me, I wasn't paying much attention) who draws a $41,000 monthly salary due to a very nice PERS plan, which has many people upset (but not Jerry, who also retired at the right time), and also led to the following statistic: in the '90s, PERS guaranteed an 8% return, which means that if the market returned 35%, you would still get in the range of 27%, but if the market tanked and bottomed out with a negative return, like -25%, you'd still be guaranteed an 8% return, which (as Jerry noted), may not be fair, but it's just the way things are, and he did actually work fairly hard during his 30 years as a teacher, which is evidenced by a good moustache and World War II-ly demeanor. Anyway, someday I will write about my conversation with him, but I am already beginning to forget it, and I wasn't paying that much attention to begin with, so it may end up lost to the winds forever.

Like my friend Matt.

This is not Matt. It is my wife, pumping her own gas.

Beat And The Pulse / Austra
Beside / Sleeping Bag
So, back to the barista and my third refill. I paid, and gave her a fiver and asked for change. She gave me ones. I made sure to immediately plop one of the  George Washingtons back in the tip jar while she was watching (she was), and I hoped she realised that I wanted - I wanted - to tip a lot more. It is shallow, to want to make sure it's seen (The Tip), but it's human nature, and I was also wishing I was successful enough to stick a $20 bill in there (with barista watching), and not feel...empty.

Let You Go / Dimbleby and Capper
So, I wish I had lots of money, so I could give big tips and pay Sergei Brin to find Matt. But, there is something vaguely comforting about knowing that with everything we know; with all the cameras and networks and databases and instant search engines, that it is still possible to lose something (or someone). I wish I could find that missing $100 bill, and Matt. And also, my other pair of glasses, and the charger for my phone, and that overdue library book (I totally support libraries).

I'm sure you are doing well, my old friend. Here is a link to Facebook, if you stumble upon this post. I'll see you there, and we'll someday watch Witness again. You'll see the light.


  1. Any chance I could sit in and watch Witness with yourself and Matt, Joe? I'd really like that. Matt sounds like a real doll.

  2. Not bad for a guy that "wasn't paying that much attention to begin with". Someday I shall become a listener like that. I often fail to recall the most simple statements others have made. I think I'm too often busy thinking up my next statement to remember to hear what my conversation partner is saying. But what is life if there's no room to improve?

    Props to the blonde kid willing to disagree. I haven't seen the movie, but always admire those who have the courage to speak up in a potentially hostile environment.

  3. If you set up a three week search for Matt, I will probably attend. We can listen to Joseph Arthur and Sufjan Stevens and 27 different versions of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" in the car... it will be fun.

  4. We'll have to have a Witness screening. It's terrific.

    And afterwards, we can have a dance party set to 29 different versions of Hallelujah. Rockin'.

    Thanks for the words, guys!


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