About two years ago, I had a housemate move out. He's a good guy, but he left behind about two truckloads of stuff including a green Piaggio Ciao moped. That moped has sat in the garage, waiting for a day like this past Sunday.
Sunday was particularly special because of the Couch Fest Film Festival. I attended last year's and loved it, but found myself doing a lot of walking between houses. This year, the plan was for my lovely girlfriend and I to ride mopeds to the festival and recreate our second date. The only drawback to that plan was that I had never ridden a moped or motorcycle before in my life.
After cramming my giant head into the helmet in the garage and finding suitably ironic riding mittens, I set about learning the craft of moped travel. It turns out that riding mopeds is a lot like riding bicycles. A moped just goes faster and requires less pedaling. The most difficult part is getting the moped started, but a little downhill slope helps to alleviate much of that difficulty.
I rode the four miles from my Greenwood house to the U-District without any incident. A guy on a scooter even afforded me one of those knowing waves that I see all the motorcycle guys sharing with each other. With the sun warming my mostly black helmet and the crisp breeze reddening my cheeks, I met with my lady and we rode up the hill towards the "experimental house."
After awkwardly knocking at the door, we paid our $5, sat on a fake fur-covered piano bench and joined in the experimental program with two other gentlemen. A smallish flat screen TV in the corner was already in the middle of the program as we sat down, but the host was nice enough to immediately start it again for us once it ended. My personal favorite film at this house was Six Hours, a three-minute shot of a woman walking up stairs, set to a marimba soundtrack, with the shot rotated and clipped up in disorienting ways. My date and the house's host preferred TAK, which featured images of children's picture books set to a disjointed electronic soundtrack.
After the disappointing turnout at the experimental house, we were a little discouraged that the festival might be dwindling in popularity. However, we were reinvigorated by a short moped ride to the "comedy/inappropriately awesome
house apartment," which held about sixteen people at one point during our viewing. Sitting on the floor by a giant record collection that I desperately wanted to flip through, we watched the films projected on a sheet hung on the wall. In the comedy section, I liked Be My Brother, which was both comedic and personally touching. My girlfriend preferred the crowd favorite, Battle of the Bozos, a true story about two offices that set up inflatable clowns across the street from each other in New York.
"Inappropriately awesome" was a difficult category to judge. I picked Intervieweer (link is different version from Couch Fest version), where people answered a question and asked a question of various people at a party. However, most people were disgusted enough by Feeder that they picked that one, which spent 24 hours inside a man's mouth.
After the popular comedy/inappropriately awesome house, we then walked the block to the "documentary house." We pushed through a deep maroon curtain into the TV room and found a place in the pseudo-Moroccan decor to watch the program on an actual tube TV. Once again, my date and I differed on our favorites: I chose Forty Foot, a sweet piece about an Irish swimming hole, while she picked The Poodle Trainer, a poignant film about a Russian woman dedicated to training dogs for the circus.
It turns out we missed two of the top 3 overall films (The Surprise Demise of Francis Cooper's Mother won the "Golden Couch" and Famous 4A got bronze, while my girlfriend correctly picked The Poodle Trainer as the second-prize film), but we still had a fantastic time. As we turned our sub-50cc machines to the north and made our way home, it was natural to reflect on our day. We got to sit on the floors, piano benches, and couches of three strangers' homes. We watched short films in rooms full of other strangers. We felt the autumn chill on our cheeks and smelled the oily exhaust of a two-stroke motor. We smiled and laughed at our luck at living in a city with Couch Fests, mopeds, and seemingly endless possibilities for a wonderful Sunday.