Waiting for Customs

This editorial is likely not to be one of the longest ones I’ve written, since there are no less then ten new Film Blitz reviews to get done this week, which I think is an all-time record in the three-plus years I’ve been doing the site. This is as a result of the first Phoenix Film Festival, which was on over the weekend, an intense jolt of cinema which saw us take in 8 movies in under forty-eight hours, including four in a row on Saturday afternoon. Poor Chris’ eyes were beginning to bug-out like 35mm lenses by the end of that little stint, and I must confess to feeling more than a bit hyper myself, due to the consumption of industrial quantities of Diet Coke. I look back to the days of all-night film-shows – or worse still, the eighteen-hour marathons of Black Sunday – with a mix of nostalgia and how-the-hell-did-I-cope? However, it was fun, especially since the festival had a budget cap on entries of one million dollars, meaning the total price of all the films was less than a quarter of the cost of Hannibal.

With that out of the way, and since I now possess a hangover-like aversion to seeing any movies for a while, I can return to another favourite leisure pursuit: worrying about my possessions. Regular readers will recall that 49 boxes, containing my entire life, were packed up and shipped out on the good ship Hong Kong Senator at the end of October. Fortunately, icebergs, nuclear-powered submarines and the Bermuda Triangle were all safely avoided, and the Senator duly docked in San Diego on January 17th. So, why am I still having to listen to one of the eight CDs I’ve bought since my arrival? Three words: United States Customs.

You will understand, given my past record with UK Customs, how annoying and bordering on the traumatic this is, even though all the things which UK Customs saw fit to seize (Funeral Party magazine, and a copy of Jail Babes), were actually exports from the Land of the Free. So, there shouldn’t be any problems, right? I mean, I even found a good home for my legal-there-but-illegal-here Traci Lords films, out of a keen desire to avoid deportation. What more could they want?

Of course, it is entirely plausible that it’s just bureaucratic failings which have extended the theoretical ten-day clearance period into something currently standing at eighteen and counting. After all, these are civil servants, and my brush with the Immigration wing taught me that “ninety days” is actually closer to four and a half months. And it’s also possible that the sight of 49 boxes, largely of videos and laser-discs, was taken as a sign for US Customs to send out for popcorn and beer, and settle in for a film festival of their own. In which case, I just hope they, unlike UK Customs, remember to rewind the tapes afterwards.

Things are not helped by the difficulty I’m having getting information out of the shipping company: emails go unanswered, phones are busy, and if I do get through, I’m told (very politely) to call back again later. Needless to say, this is pouring gasoline (see? I’m getting the hang of this American lark!) on the inferno which is my paranoia, and every knock on the door is now expected to be US Customs with a search-warrant and a SWAT team, because I forgot some arcane regulation about importing PVC-clad Hello Kittys.

Let’s give the shippers one more try…got through and am on hold…she’s now calling Customs from her end: I’m back on hold…[I visualise her asking Customs, “What do I tell him?”]…okay, they don’t know anything either, they’re in the dark as much as I am. And, goddamit, I can’t even drink to ease my fears, since I’m on day 18 of my month of sobriety: I’m seriously beginning to wish I’d picked another month. If there’s no update next week, you’ll know I’ve gone on the run!