ON THE ROAD TO STARBURST: THE PRESENT
“We’re leaving the eco-fair in Baltimore to attend a New Age event in Virginia,” Peter Ziedman said into the camera his buddy Tony had trained on him. “We’re traveling in Labane’s specially equipped van. Labane describes it as more of a heartland kind of vehicle because it’s partially solar-powered. Which, of course, works better in the sunny center of the nation.”
“The United States,” Ronald said from the driver’s seat. “Say the center of the U.S. or the Canadians will be offended.” His remark was greeted by puzzled silence. “In case you want to submit this to the Toronto Film Festival.”
“Yeah!” Tony said.
“Good thinkin’,” Peter agreed.
Ron rolled his eyes, which at least briefly blocked the endless tackiness of the strip mall and Wal-Mart outside. These guys were hopeless. But they were paying all the expenses and he was beginning to get some forward momentum. People were actually coming to hear him speak at an event. And Peter’s message machine was getting more and more invitations for speaking engagements.
Ron had begun charging a speaking fee and the fees were increasing. But there was no point telling the boys that. He had them convinced that he was a genius at bargaining or exchanging labor for the posters and flyers they were helping him put up and pass out.
Eventually he would dump the kids by telling them: “I have a message to spread and you two have careers to jump-start. You stay here and work on the film.” It was what they wanted to do anyway, so there would hardly be howls of protest when he suggested it.
Actually he’d seen some of their finished footage and he was both pleased and impressed. Peter and Tony might be dumb and easily manipulated, but they definitely had talent. It was a shame that their persistent naïveté would cost them any chance they had of making it.
“Funny, isn’t it,” Ron said, “that most of these eco-fairs we’re going to are held in cities?”
“There’s a lot of pollution in cities,” Peter said.
“There’s a lot in rural areas, too,” Labane told him. “For instance, there are farmers who use so much pesticide and weed killer that they won’t eat what they grow. They’ve got separate gardens for their own families, but your kids are chowing down on stuff they wouldn’t touch. And then there’s those factory farms for pork and chicken.”
Tony shifted so that he could film Ron as he talked. It had been a little difficult to talk them into traveling in the van with him. But he’d convinced them that it would lend a certain cachet to their documentary. Which was true: there was nothing the Hollywood types liked more than tales of hardship endured for art’s sake.
“Do you know there are actual lakes of pig feces?” Labane asked. “It must be a nightmare living within a few miles of someplace like that. But worse than the smell is the fact that the runoff gets into streams and the bacteria get into the water supply. And as you know,” he tossed over his shoulder, “diseases pass quite easily between pigs and humans.”
He’d leave it at that. Let people make of that what they would. Half the battle was getting people to just listen. So sometimes you just gave them these really vivid suggestions and let them process it through the back of their minds. Eventually there would be enough frightening little tidbits back there to get ’em really pissed off.
Ron had some ideas for some really nasty tricks that could be played on the politicians who had allowed those places to be built and who refused to make the owners clean up their mess. Inside he smiled. Oh, yes, the day will come.