Gleaming on the Surface
Rachel A.G. Gilman (Columbia University, New York, USA and University of Oxford, UK)
Cannes 69: 11 – 22 May 2016
“We did it! We’re in Cannes,” Analeigh said, grabbing onto my and Dan’s arms when the airplane landed. We were actually in Nice, but we were on our way to Cannes. “I cannot believe this! Can you believe it?”
Analeigh was wearing heels and a sundress, and had been since leaving chilly New York. She had started drinking at JFK and continued throughout the flight. She had needed to pee during takeoff, bothering the flight attendant with what was not really considered “an emergency.” Her comment about getting a Guinness during our early morning layover in Dublin was, thankfully, only a joke. You would think it was she instead of me that was the nervous traveller, on a trip without my family for the first time, on the perfect trip to cement a transition into adulthood, I thought.
After gathering our things, we headed for the train station. On the twenty-minute ride from Nice to Cannes, we were able to see the city from a distance, the meandering hills and endless spread of water separated by the streets that were ours to explore over the course of five days. “Oh my God,” Analeigh said, repeating. “I can’t believe we’re actually here!”
Analeigh’s enthusiasm forced Dan and me to fight off the jetlag and not crash upon arrival at our rental apartment. We changed instead in to what felt more like more appropriate (more fabulous) clothing and went out to explore, to see if the in-person experience was as aweing as what we had seen in our Google image searches of Cannes when preparing to cover the film festival for WNYU. Everything was similar yet somehow different, stunning all the same.
We made our way down the hilly street from our rental unit toward the main center of town, passing numerous quaint bakeshops selling fluffy, buttery pastries, a small farmer’s market with vegetables and handmade sarongs, and a small group of children kicking a soccer ball between sidewalks. All we needed was classic Riviera music and a little wine to really set the scene. Analeigh grabbed my hand as we made it closer into the main bit of town where the streets started to flatten, where the bakeshops turning into wine bars and the farmer’s market into Balenciaga, Chanel, and Gucci. The main attraction was La Croisette, the stretch of land between the main road and the beach that gave way to the breathless blue sky and the sea–the place where sailboats and yachts made pleasant conversation in the Golfe de la Napoule while beach goers watched from their blankets in the sand, noses tipped up to the sun, bare chested and armed with beers or cones of gelato. A bicyclist zoomed by me, ringing their bell after passing as if to signal me out from a dream (you know, that moment where you wake up from the happiness and realize you are back to the real world) except he passed and the view remained. Just as Analeigh kept saying, I realized, We really were here.
“I can’t imagine living in a place like this,” I said as we sat down for lunch at a café near Palais de Festival after picking up our I.D. badges. “It makes New York look pretty dirty.”
Dan shrugged, a lifelong New Yorker hiding his distaste for my comment. “Like everything,” he said, opening the menu, “they probably take it for granted.” I could not imagine thinking anything less of this place, and neither could Analeigh. She took out her camera and snapped shots of us with our fancy French food.
That evening, we had been invited to a party celebrating the screening of Laura Poitras’s latest documentary and Analeigh insisted we go, making us get dressed in another round of fancy clothes and shoes, stumbling along the still foreign Croisette as we attempted to determine how addresses and streets functioned in Cannes.
“It’s on Rue,” Dan said. “Oh, our apartment is on Rue, then it must not be far.”
Analeigh and I could not stop laughing.
“What?” he asked.
“Rue means street,” Analeigh said when the giggles subsided. “Everything is on a street.” Dan laughed, too, and I tried not to roll my eyes.
Eventually, we found the rooftop party. It had a view of the water, and string lights framing the exterior, plus an open bar. It looked a little like a venue in South Beach, Florida, though I felt sacrilegious for comparing Cannes to the spring break haven.
“Oh, champagne!” Analeigh said. She became drunk shortly after our arrival, toddling off somewhere out of my sight with a flute in hand.
Dan nudged me and motioned. “Come on, let’s make some connections, see if anyone will let us interview them.” I followed him around the party as we met obscure people in the film industry. Dan worked to charm each of them, going along with their jokes about his resemblance to Edward Snowden (the focal point of Poitras’s film, which we pretended we had seen in order to make small talk–really, we had been ordering a pasta-heavy lunch).
Martin Marquet, a publicist for the Wild Bunch film distribution company, took a particular liking to Dan’s charm. He acknowledged it was a little bullshit, too, but did not mind the flattery. “Sure,” he said, “I’ll talk to you guys. Do you have a card?”
“Take one of mine,” Dan replied, handing him one from his day-job at a realty office rather than his position at a college radio station. Martin laughed, saying how you can never trust a realtor, and Dan laughed back politely. “We’ll set up an interview, get you on the radio in New York,” he added.
Dan failed to mention to Martin, or every other individual, that our station had nearly no listeners, but I suppose that did not matter. We were here for the connections…and to have an experience.
I dipped out of conversations to try to locate some non-sparkling water to hydrate my body, running on what I assumed was adrenaline. My throat was prickling after the long flight and longer day. I did not feel anything like I figured I was supposed to in this sort of pretty setting, but I tried to chock it up to exhaustion. I approached the bartender.
“Avez-vous de l’eau minérale?” I asked, recalling the week in middle school French class when we learned how to order in restaurants. He shook his head, pushing a glass of champagne my way. Giving up, I sat down at one of the tables with Dan. He was glowing over the number of business cards he had exchanged, like they were of the Pokémon variety instead.
Analeigh resurfaced by the end of the night. She had taken off her shoes and started dancing, which was all she had said she hoped to get out of the trip. Dan entertained her by taking her hand and spinning her around once or twice. We documented the end of the night with all of us exhaustedly smiling in a photo, the ocean in the background. I used to keep it in a seashell shaped frame on my TV stand at home. We looked so happy. It dissipated by the time Dan and I had to help Analeigh walk back to the rental apartment, stopping at a pizza place along the way to try to soak up whatever was in her system (and finally getting my tap water). I took my heeled shoes off on the latter end of the walk, too tired to care about going down the street barefoot. My toes curled over the golden city seal in one of the blocks, composed of the same palm branch that was in the film festival’s logo. The cobblestones were otherwise rough and cruel on the skin, creating blisters and cuts in places I had never known could be so uncomfortable (these podiatric pains were the first of many acquired in Cannes).
The next morning, Dan woke up Analeigh and me. Martin had asked us to meet at the Majestic Hotel on La Croisette for drinks and to conduct the interview. I was still jetlagged and Analeigh still tipsy, but Dan was Dan–i.e. always fine. We dragged ourselves back out onto the gorgeous streets, sunglasses and Riviera-inspired outfits hiding our aches and pains.
Martin looked not the least bit jetlagged, though he had come from Los Angeles not long before us. He explained that he had been attending the festival for years having grown up in a family that worked in film.
“I can’t imagine what that must be like,” I said.
He shrugged it off. He was, however, flattered over Dan’s continuous compliments throughout the interview. “I’m going to make a call,” he said, “see if I can get you tickets to the red carpet premiere of Mel Gibson’s new film.” He stepped away from the table, iPhone to ear.
Analeigh and I downed our drinks to calm our nerves as our bodies buzzed with excitement. “Really, a Jew at Mel Gibson’s premiere?” Dan said. “Well, it’ll be an experience.”
A moment later, Martin returned and handed Dan an address. “Go there to get the tickets. Tell them Martin sent you. Oh, and don’t forget: you’ll need a bowtie.” Martin smiled and left us to pick up the nearly €50 drink tab for coffee and orange juice (a coffee Dan complained they were unable to make correctly even after three attempts), but the three of us still celebrated that afternoon with overpriced cocktails and two lunches before preparing for the evening.
Analeigh wore the lacy dress she had purchased from Anthropologie solely for the trip. Dan found a bowtie at a local formal wear store–despite Analeigh and I having warned him before leaving, he did not believe us that they were absolutely required for formal premieres. I put on the only nice dress I owned at the time, the one from my high school graduation, and unbraided my ocean-matted hair from our late-afternoon beach trip to expose waves cascading down my shoulders, which is, ironically, better than how my hair normally looks. We walked from our rental apartment near the train station to the Palais de Festival, Analeigh and I managing the streets in heels, and proceeded to the grand staircase with the formal red carpet. Photographers in tuxedos nicer than Dan’s lucky gray suit (the one he wore to his first radio station management meeting and was now pretending was black) prepared to take pictures of everyone. I prepared myself not to feel awkward, which is near impossible.
Tickets in hand, we proceeded through the line’s security and entered the carpet, the flashbulbs twinkling in the way stars did in my hometown.
This moment was unlike anything else–proms or graduations or times where you are trying to look your best for your whole world. That is nerve-wracking enough. The difference with this situation is that you do feel a bit like you are on view for the actual whole world, or at least the whole film world. Standing there in platform sandals and a dress a size too small with a giant, half-broken clip tucking back the stray strands of hair from my face, one too many drinks pulsating somewhere in between my head and throat, I had a hard time grasping I was still in my own body. I seemed instead to be floating along in a bubble where nothing else mattered. I did not feel like me and yet I sort of did, too, a version of myself in my imagined perfect world. Standing there, living it, I did not know how to understand it.
The three of us walked along the carpet slowly despite the directions we had been given to move it along. Dan went backwards, outstretching his arms in some symbolic and embarrassing gesture of what he called “taking it all in”. He kept reminding me to do the same.
Analeigh took my hand and dragged me up to one of the photographers. “She’s famous,” she tipsily shouted while pointing at me. “She’s one of the kids in Captain Fantastic. My boyfriend’s father is a friend of the sound guy.” Half of the statement was true. The drunken photographer took pity on what I assumed was my childish, mortified face and snapped a photo.
The three of us got to the legendary stairs and followed the lead of others, preparing to pose for a photo. We handed my phone to a nearby stranger–the common practice if you are not famous enough to have your picture show up in Vanity Fair or The Hollywood Reporter. I looked at the ocean, the city, and the massive crowd that had gathered, feeling the air fill my lungs more deeply than I usually allowed. Dan stood between Analeigh and me with his arms around our shoulders, towering over us even in our heels. We all smiled. I even put my hand on my waist in the way I always make fun of girls for doing in their social media pictures. I thought it looked stupid, but was re-evaluating the gesture then, considering maybe it was a reaction to finding something good.
In the midst of the photo being taken, Analeigh tripped on the train of her dress. She stumbled backward on the staircase, leaning on Dan’s arm for help and almost pulling him down, too. He mumbled something I did not hear. I did not even notice the tumble until Dan pulled me to the side in the balancing act, forcing my head away from the lights and the ocean. Analeigh caught herself, adjusted her outfit, and managed the rest of the walk without any more mishaps as we made our way to our seats, a few rows behind Gibson, Erin Moriarty, William H. Macy, and the other stars of Blood Father. I am embarrassed to say during all of the festival screenings, the jetlag got the better of me and I nodded off at some point, but the one exception was this premiere, at midnight, for a film starring an anti-Semitic actor.
We celebrated our accomplishment afterwards with cones of gelato that we took to the beach. “See, you can have gelato any time of day here,” I said to Dan. “This place is amazing.”
He licked some of the chocolate from around the rim of his cone and smiled, as much of an agreement as I was going to get. We sat by the ocean, watching as the waves hit the sand. I kicked my heels off and went another night barefoot along the streets to earn a few more cuts and scrapes, but the moment made whatever pain feel entirely somehow worth it.
The next morning, I checked my phone and realized Analeigh’s fall had been caught using the camera’s live action setting.
“Hey, look at this,” I said, poking her in the shoulder across the bed. “We can watch you fall, over and over again.”
Analeigh took the phone in her hand and pressed the screen to see the mini-movie. “I look like a freckled Jennifer Lawrence,” she replied. We giggled. I immediately made the photo my mobile wallpaper.
That entire summer, I did not talk about the films we saw or the content that we edited and aired on the radio when I talked about Cannes. I instead showed everyone that little video, and they usually commented on my lack of reaction during the event, my composure seeming to imply nothing was going to “ruin my moment”. This was not exactly true. It was rather that it felt good to remember the entire night, the fall symbolic of the beach and the gelato, toasting plastic spoons to a wonderful trip. It was a vivid, powerful moment of friendship and belonging and of something that looked as perfect as I wanted everything to always be and feel.
Cannes 70: 17 – 28 May 2017
I spent months my junior year of university planning a return to Cannes, a return to La Croisette and white wine and everything else I had deemed ideal. Dan and I took our friend/ radio station colleague, Kevin, along with us. I was also obsessed with making everything even better, starting with flying direct and followed by using Kevin’s film studies major to help us pick out things to see that would not make me sleepy. I did not want to forget anything.
“We can’t drink as much as last time,” Dan mentioned over our first lunch after arriving, badges already in hand and jetlag ignored. “My god, we spent two grand on food alone.”
“Might I remind you I am not one of the people who spilled half a bottle of champagne,” I said, sipping my white wine and remembering the moment he and Analeigh drunkenly pushed it over their entrees while discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict. I had somehow blocked it out in all of my other memories, labeling it, I suppose, an outlier.
Kevin scoured through the festival program. “What’s most important are the films,” he said, dragging a pen across pages to mark things. He was trying to schedule everything, packing in ten films in four days, including Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer (pretty good), Robin Campillo’s BPM (would have been better if it were an actual true story), and Netflix’s Cannes debut, Okja (fun to yell at the top of your lungs, mocking the lead character, but absolutely painful to sit through). “That is why we are here,” he added, “it’s for the films.”
At the end of our first night and first films, we took a picture of Kevin in front of the notorious red carpet steps, in the area where people could gather to watch the commotion. It was for this–not the films–I knew I was there, though I noticed in the middle of the red surface there were a lot of brown marks.
“We are going to get you on the other side of that carpet,” Dan told Kevin on our walk back that night. “You have to experience it.”
I did not know if Dan was totally doing it for Kevin’s sake or a little for himself or if because he had somehow gathered from my constant talking about the film festival since the winter time that being back in that special space was important to me. It did not matter. What was important was our mutual agreement that we needed more of its magic. We just were not sure how to make it happen.
Martin, for the first time in his life, was not attending the festival, and luck did not find us in terms of getting invited to a party with another press contact who could hook us up with tickets. I suppose that would have been a little bit like expecting lightning to strike twice, but in a city where you can hardly do anything without a view of ocean, I did not think it was impossible.
“I guess we’ll go with Plan B,” Dan said.
We (mostly I) had done research regarding the stand-by line, where anyone with a press badge can wait to see if there are open seats for red carpet premieres. Our first day, Dan spoke with some of the security guards and discovered, “Oui, c’est possible,” basic French even he was able to understand. We looked at the list of premieres and decided on The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) , Noah Bombach’s feature about a dysfunctional New York Jewish family. Well, Dan–a New York Jew–selected the film, but no one had any contentions. Kevin just wanted the full experience and to tick off another movie on the list. I wanted to feel transformed.
This time, we were all prepared. Kevin had gone shopping with his sister, Dan had borrowed his brother’s black suit even though the pants were far too tight, and my mother, for my birthday, had purchased me a black, Nicole Miller high-low hemmed gown that fit without any alterations. It was the first article of clothing I actually felt glamorous in, or at the very least pretty. We helped each other get dressed, me adjusting the boys’ bow ties and them helping with the zipper on my dress and the buckles on my massively heeled shoes. We headed off, hours early, our lanyards holding our festival badges hanging around our necks.
I have a collection of these lanyards. They give them out at every film festival to assist in keeping hold of your badge. They are usually emblazoned with some sponsor of the festival, and sometimes you can collect pins from different productions to put on them like you are at Disney World. The number of lanyards I have from Cannes, however, exceeds the number of trips I have taken.
We arrived in the stand-by line, at the very front of it in fact. I looked down and did not see my press badge. The clip on the end of the lanyard had a large gap where it was meant to fasten and my I.D. card had been slipping through every day. I had usually been able to find it somewhere close. I twirled around in a circle, my dress filling with air, to look at my feet and saw nothing. I walked back half a block and looked at the ground with no better results. My stomach started to ache and the rest of me started to panic.
“I don’t have my badge,” I finally said to Dan, the statement bursting out of me more like a sob. “I don’t know where I lost it.”
“When is the last time you had it?” he asked.
“That’s such a stupid question to ask when someone has lost something! If I knew that, I would be able to find it.” He ignored my outburst and blinked, waiting (maybe hoping) for a calmer thought in my next breath. “All I remember is trying to keep up with you guys when we walked down that hill since I was in four-inch fucking heels and didn’t want to break my ankle. The last memory I have was sliding it around my neck at the apartment.”
Dan went off to retrace our steps while I stood with Kevin in the middle of the sidewalk, now no longer in the front of the stand-by line as it started to grow. I was freaking out, walking around in circles as the sense of ease went far, far away. “Everything sucks,” I said. “I hate my stupid life.” The line was usually reserved for the universe, only to be shared with it from the comfort of my bed.
“Seriously?” Kevin said. “Rachel, you’re in the middle of the French Riviera at the Cannes Film Festival right now.” He shook his head, disgusted. “Listen to yourself.”
I do not think listening to myself would have done anything. I had spent a semester, a terrible semester, thinking about this moment, about coming back to this place in these clothes with Dan and my best self and everything good, the way I had so vividly remembered it. I wanted to feel those things again that I remembered feeling in Cannes, only in Cannes. All I had wanted was one night where everything looked and felt—and therefore could be—perfect. It was important to me and I could feel it slipping away.
Dan came back without having found the badge. He went with me to the press office to see if I was able to replace it, which I could, but only after receiving a police report. There was a station at the end of the Croisette. “Try to remain positive,” Dan said, now trying to catch up with me racing in my high heels. When we arrived there, they told us I would have to go to the city police station, not their local branch, as they did not handle missing item claims.
“Can I panic now?” I asked him.
“It’s fine. We have plenty of time. Let’s go figure out where it is,” he said.
“No, I should just go back to the apartment and let you and Kevin enjoy the premiere. I’ve already ruined his night anyway by acting like this,” I said, and by “this” I meant irrational, but also what I viewed as so far from perfect that the two behaviors would not even recognize the other as being from the same boat of adjectives. I then repeated the phrase I might as well have trademarked, having said it so many times to Dan over the last year I would not have even been able to guess an approximate count. “I just can’t do this.”
“No, come on, if you’re not going, we’re not,” Dan said. “I’ll go with you to the police station and we’ll sort it out. It’ll be fine.”
“No, I can do it myself.” I did not want Dan to continue seeing me as the mess. With the tensions at the radio station, I had been that way for months.
He sighed. “Are you sure?”
“Okay, well just go to the right and go up the hill. The police station is up there, can’t miss it. But call me if you get lost.”
“I know where I am going,” I said, walking away from him. “I’ll figure it out.”
If you navigate the distance between the two stations, it is only a ten-minute walk. If you are having a meltdown in a formal dress and red lipstick, it is at least a thirty-minute event involving many wrong turns. I do not remember which way I went but I know it was wrong. Looking at a map I would guess I went diagonally through the town–past the designer boutiques and wine bars, the farmer’s market and pastries shops–until I got to the train station, which I knew was wrong but also knew roughly where it was in relation to everything else, helping me to navigate from there. I walked inside, embarrassed at being in a formal gown trying to read a map in French. My face felt hot and red, and my skin itchy. No one even noticed. I debated if that was the worst or best bit of it as I stepped back outside and saw the police station, dashing over as best as I could in my now swollen feet.
There were a few drunken teenage girls sitting there who seemed to have been brought in for public indecency issues. They wore fringed denim and backwards baseball caps, pouting their glossed lips as their dads asked them questions in rapid-fire European languages, I assume about either what the hell had happened or (more likely) why they had to go and do it again. I waited behind them in line, tapping the toe of my shoe, but it did not make anyone move any faster. My appearance still meant nothing.
Finally, a female police officer asked me to come to the desk. “Tu parles anglais?” I asked, and when she said “yes”, I spilled my story as if I thought it might get a reaction. It did not. She pulled out some paperwork and scanned my passport, tossing the American I.D. back with mild disgust after I could not remember the address of our rental unit.
“Take report to the Bureau de Presse,” she said, dismissing me with a wave of her hand. The teenage girls were still there, now in tears as they answered their disappointed dads and seemed to resolve the issue with air kisses and real hugs.
I made my way back down the hill to the Press Office, re-passing all of the shops and restaurants once again and felt stupider by the minute. I called my mother along the way, explaining the situation. Her immediate reaction was to laugh. “This isn’t funny,” I said. “I feel like one of those dysfunctional characters in an episode of Girls, except I’m not getting paid to make a complete disaster out of my life.” My mother continued laughing. “Stop it!” I said, though I was laughing a little by that point, too. “And do you know nobody gives a shit that I’m walking around in this dress with mascara running down my face? Is this, like, normal for these people? What the hell, I thought this was paradise.”
The whole thing was four miles and probably an hour’s, maybe ninety minutes’, worth of drama at most. I received a new press badge, which the woman was too sympathetic to charge me to replace (and ironically, I again dropped it on my way out of the office, retrieving it thanks to a kind security guard). I still ended up in the stand-by line. We all still got into the film. My picture of Dan and me on the red carpet, him wearing sunglasses and giving a ridiculously cheesy smile with a thumbs up and me with beach waved hair once again, was my new mobile background for months. I used it to hide the problems of an imperfect life back home in much the same way I had used the one with Analeigh the year before.
I still sometimes fixate on the fact no one turned a head during my swearing and screaming and scuttling about Cannes. I remind myself, too, of when we all left the premiere. One of the drunken photographers tried to take photos of me in the perfect dress, as if I was not the same disaster of a person I had been earlier in the day, which I had been forever. To him, I was just another girl with sore, blistered feet going without shoes yet again on the pavements, on her way to get oysters for dinner and a shared jar of crème brulée for dessert and pretend it was all fine. Maybe everyone was pretending, which is why no one noticed anymore. The realization made everything seem a little piddling.
So badly I had wanted to be back at the festival, to be in Cannes, to relive something I remembered as so wonderful. I did not want to think that it was not that way at all.
The real perfect moments of Cannes did not happen in formal wear or with films. They actually happened in bathing suits.
My first year, Dan, Analeigh, and I had had a day after the festival concluded to explore the rest of the area. We decided to take a trip by ferry to Île Sainte-Marguerite, the largest of the Lérins Islands off the coast of Cannes. It is only 1.9 miles in length and about 3,000 feet across. The island used to be an active fort and prison system, but now it is protected by the forest commission of France and acts mostly as a tourist attraction for boaters. There is not much to do outside of hiking, swimming, and eating at one of the two restaurants. The three of us enjoyed all of these things (most especially for me the discovery of a dessert called a “colonel” which involves a scoop of lemon sorbet doused in vodka). We basked in the sun and breathed in the salty air. A photo of this island has been my computer desktop wallpaper since then, and I doubt if it will ever change.
The day of the notorious badge fiasco, Dan, Kevin, and I (at my suggestion) decided to go to the Cannes public beach in lieu of seeing an afternoon film, wearing our bathing suits underneath our work clothes and shedding them upon getting to the sand. The water was cold and I teased the guys endlessly about it, snapping photos of them shivering in their swimming trunks while I sat comfortably on the beach towel I had purchased from the festival souvenir shop. Of course, it gave me no ground to stand on when I eventually went in the ocean, soaking my hair straight through to my scalp as I floated on my back to prove my point, even if I was a little wrong. My hair always feels better with salt water in it in an illogical way that only makes sense to me. Something in the water that day generally released the pressure that had built up in my chest over the course of the semester and took it to a far off place. I mentioned this to Kevin as we waded together in the waves, and he said, “Good, you deserve this,” with his own sort of sigh of relief.
These moments–the days of hiking on beaches, swimming in the waters, of coming up to the shores and lying on the over-sized towel next to Dan before we fell asleep in the sun and let the warmth dry out our hair all kinky as the sun burned our skin in uneven patterns–were the perfect moments of Cannes. At one time, I thought they might have been the most perfect moments of my entire life.
I still read a lot about Cannes, from both entertainment and travel sources. I feel a connection to it. One article by Anthony Peregrine, a “Destination Expert,” for The Telegraph I find particularly interesting. It is called “Why would anyone in their right mind go to Cannes?” “This place has general always struck me as rootless bling, all fur coats and no knickers,” he writes. “[It] was a Sodom and Gomorrah of IQ-free security guards wallowing in the free rein that protecting Sharon Stone bestowed.” Considering I do not think Sharon Stone has had a recent film at Cannes, I was skeptical when I started, but continued for the laugh. After many other complaints over eight hundred odd words, Peregrine eventually comes to the conclusion that Cannes is “gleam[ing] on the surface…mainly glitter and bling…all the way down.”
My undergraduate film professors were always surprised when I told them I had been to the Cannes Film Festival, and not because one of my parents was a producer or something, but because I was part of the press. They always asked me if I understood what exactly that meant, of how important and special it was, how unique. I nodded, but I wondered.
Like many WNYU-related things, I still cannot adequately have a clue of what this experience largely meant. My blind hope helped me to get to the place where I could attend Cannes, but my obsession with perfectionism made me return. I did not (and might never) understand that some people worked their entire lives to try there because the reason I went was very different. The result I hoped to receive was also different. It is why I was confused that my satisfaction came from dirt and sand and hills that were so polar opposite to the glitz of everything I wanted to satisfy my hopes.
After returning from the trip, I was often reminded by friends (usually when I became frustrated), Rachel, you made Cannes happen, you can make anything happen. I tried to believe this, as well, but building a belief off the foundation of Cannes was unsteady.
This belief of “I can make anything happen” would become a problem when working at WNYU. Endless hope, like what I had when at the festival, at the station was dangerous. At least in Cannes it was possible to believe if you had the right outfit and a more or less optimistic attitude there was a hope of the bling understanding, of it rescuing you. Having the same sort of thing at WNYU could be crushing. I still tried to dream big, to aim high, and to look for this perfection in everything I did, but I began to understand that doing this would have negative consequences.
Rachel A.G. Gilman founded the femme arts journal, The Rational Creature, and hosted the award-winning podcast, “The Write Stuff”, on WNYU-FM. Her writing has been featured online and in print throughout the U.S. and U.K., including TV Guide Magazine, Minetta Review, and Popdust. She holds a B.A. from NYU and is reading for an MFA at Columbia University and an MSt at Oxford University. Please visit Rachel’s website.