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Ash & Fern: My Perfect Vacation

A few weeks ago I took a vacation that wasn’t planned around soccer for the first time in over four years. When I was planning my activities, I kept being surprised when I didn’t have to plan for post-game hangovers. In my experience, there are two main kinds of vacation people. First, you have the “Oh my God I have to do EVERYTHING in case I never come here again, I can sleep when I get home” crowd. You should note, these are the people that come home and post something like “I need a vacation after my vacation” on Facebook. Then there are the “vacations are made for relaxation, if I hear an alarm clock this week I will slap someone” people. These people gravitate toward beaches and staycations from what I understand. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I spent a week exploring San Francisco and Portland, and felt like I both did a ton and slept a ton. Nailed it.

However, there is one thing I like to do on vacation that people tend to judge me for. So much so that I often lie about it (No, not that! Get your minds out of the gutter people). What is it? I go to movies.

Why do I waste time on vacation sitting in a dark theater? Sit inside in an exciting new city doing something I could do just as easily (and more cheaply) at home? Well on this particular trip I had four movie adventures, and the reasons for picking them were as different as the movies themselves.

Movie #1: Sicario – This was the only one of my movie going experiences that was completely unplanned. It was afternoon of my second full day in SF and I was EXHAUSTED. Turns out there are a lot of hills in that city. Like more than should fit in such a small little area. And unfortunately, since I had absolutely no idea where anything was, I kept having to climb up and down and up and down to get to my next stop. So, after climbing a hill mountain to see Lombard Street, I was in desperate need of a break. I Googled the closest movie theater, made an Uber pick me up on top of the hill, and headed for a mall that looked like it belonged in Clueless. My movie choice was based purely on two things: What was starting soonest and what would end in time for me to make my Alcatraz tour boat that evening. Sicario was the winner and wasn’t half bad. Great start to a week of movies.


Movie #2: Mad Max: Fury Road (and half of some movie called The Rover) – For my five days in SF I stayed in the Castro, and one of the first things I saw upon arrival was the super cool looking Castro Theater. I’m a sucker for old movie theaters. After asking my Airbnb hosts if it was worth a visit, and getting a resounding yes, I looked at the schedule. Tuesday night, my only night without plans, it was showing a double feature. I saw Mad Max months ago when it came out, but it was no hardship to see such an awesome movie again. And I figured, hey, double features are always fun, right?! The theater was everything I hoped. Awesome architecture, cool velvet chairs, cheap concessions, and a guy playing an organ while we waited for the movie to start. I’d be there once a week if I lived there. I was in heaven for the first two hours. Then The Rover started. I’m probably the least discerning movie viewer in America. I still think Ever After and Dirty Dancing Havana Nights are pretty good movies. I made it about 30 minutes. And I was one of maybe a dozen people left when I finally gave up. But still, a great night.


Movie #3: The Martian – After an amazing 5 days in San Fran, my new favorite city on the planet, I headed north to Portland. Because I’d been so excited to visit SF for the first time, I realized I hadn’t planned a freaking thing for my time in PDX. Luckily my friend Heidi lives there, so I wasn’t totally on my own, but I was still a bit aimless. Also, it turns out any time you ask someone in Portland for suggestions on things to do, their only answers are either “you have to eat at…” or “you have to grab a beer at…” and fill in the blank. Apparently that’s all people do there, eat and drink, and that’s why they have to go climb mountains on the weekend. Fun fact. Since silly Heidi had to do her job or some nonsense during the day, I was on my own all day Friday. It was rainy and coldish and yes I was tired from a week of vacationing, but mostly I just really REALLY wanted to see The Martian. And you know what? Sometimes you just don’t want to wait until you get home to do something. Unlike my desperate Uber ride in SF this time I walked until I found a theater, and only partly because I was running out of money. I did manage to see a lot of the city on my way there, and then I saw a lot of Mars. Nice afternoon.


Movie #4: Fourth Man Out – This last one came about because Portland is Portland. Heidi and I had talked about going to a soccer game my last night in town, but tickets were really expensive and as previously noted, I was almost out of money. While I was sitting around trying to figure out what to do with myself in this crazy city I read a local magazine’s section about things to do that weekend. A Queer Film Festival you say? Don’t mind if I do. I read descriptions of the films and Fourth Man Out sounded hilarious. I asked Heidi if she’d be up for it and braced myself to be lectured for wasting my vacation time at a movie. Instead she agreed and declared that a film festival was an extremely Portland thing to do with a Saturday night, and off we went. The movie was delightful, I recommend it if you get a chance to see it at some point.

So there it is. My full confession about the time I flew across the country to see four-and-a-half movies. I don’t regret a minute of it (except, obviously the 30 minutes during The Rover, but whatever).


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