No money. No car. Good break.

Being the wonderful, devoted arts and culture writer that I am, I made sure that my spring break was packed full of arsty, culturey goodness. Jam-packed. We’re talking so jam-packed that a Volkswagen Bug carrying thirteen 300-pound gorillas ain’t got nothing on my spring break. In fact, I did so much that I doubt I will be able to fit even one-third of it in this article. In fact, I don’t even think one-eighth of my spring break activities would fit in this article.

What’s that you say? How did a college student with no car and no money attend so many arts and culture-type things? To which I say … “Look, there’s Walter Cronkite! Now, ignore the sound of feet running in the opposite direction.”

Okay, okay, so maybe I didn’t attend any plays, gallery openings or Hungarian puppet shows. I did, however, manage to scrounge up enough money to see two movies in the theater, which, on this salary, is a real feat.

And, thanks to the wonder of press credentials, I attended my first Hipsters Anonymous meeting (better known as a show at the Nocturnal, 1800 E. Burnside). And, finally, thanks to the glory of a well-stocked CD-section at my local library, and a magical library card, I was able to discover the new love of my life. So take that, 300-pound gorillas!

Movie #1

I paid eight bucks to see “Secret Window.” One-quarter of the way through the film, I began wishing I had waited for it to be released on video. At least then I could go buy myself something more entertaining, like trick yo-yos or catnip toys.

Who can blame me, though? I figured, as most people who saw this movie did, that Johnny Depp plus Stephen King had to equal, at least, mildly entertaining. Well, it was more than mildly entertaining. It was hilarious.

There were times when I was sure I had walked into the wrong movie. Then Johnny Depp would appear, and all would be forgotten until the next over-drawn, bordering on tedious camera pans accompanied by something-scary-is-going-to-happen-so-you’d-better-pay-attention music.

Under the ham-fisted direction of David Koepp, the movie played out as a farce of a Stephen King story, and yet another poorly-executed psychological thriller. The dichotomy between the acting and the directing was astonishing. It was as if Johnny Depp were acting in a completely different movie than the one the director was filming.

Artless directing and awful script aside, the movie was not entirely devoid of merit.

While seeing Johnny Depp as a cracked-out writer named Mort did not entirely make-up for ticket price, it did come close, and is well worth the three dollars or so it will cost to rent it on video.

“Secret Window” also features the excellent John Turturro in a hilarious turn as a murderous Amish farmer. Murderous Amish farmer … now, there’s a film concept: When Good Folks Go Bad. I would have gladly paid eight dollars to see that.

Movie #2

When I decided to go see “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” later in the week, I wised-up and went to a matinee show, which is exactly $2 cheaper. Still leery from having been disappointed with “Secret Window,” I approached this film with low expectations.

Where “Secret Window” seemed a sure thing, with Johnny Depp and a Stephen King storyline, “Eternal Sunshine” seemed like a hit-or-miss proposition: Jim Carrey in a serious role? Kirsten Dunst and Kate Winslet in the same film? Elijah Wood?

My one hope for this film was that it did not involve hobbits. It didn’t.

It did, however, have some of the most moving imagery and performances I have seen in a long time. And, try as he might, Elijah Wood did not manage to ruin the movie. It was that good.

I could go on to rephrase the countless glowing reviews of the film with statements like: “It is a moving meditation on the nature of love and loss, and the connection between memory and identity,” or, “This is a visceral film. You feel this film in your heart and in your gut. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, a brilliant rendering of the vagaries of memory. Jim Carrey’s performance is inspired, and hopefully signals a move away from the bland by-the-numbers comedies that, sadly, compose most of his past endeavors. And, thankfully, Elijah Wood is not in most of the movie.”

I could, but I won’t. I will, however, say that this is a totally kick-ass movie with awesome acting and stuff. Go see it. Now.

Hipsters Anonymous

At the beginning of spring break, I realized that my life had become unmanageable. I was on a downward spiral of indie-rock and Paradox Cafe food. With my money slipping through my fingertips on such purchases as the new Broken Social Scene album from Everyday Music or night shows at Cinema 21, I decided that I needed help.

That’s when I heard about Hipsters Anonymous.

I looked up the nearest local chapter, and found that the next meeting was after the Bonfire Madigan concert at the Nocturnal on March 13. What serendipity!

It just so happened that I had press passes to that very show. The gods were smiling upon me with Crest(c) whitened teeth. The night of the meeting/show, I could barely contain my excitement. Finally, peace would be mine! No longer would I be alone in fighting my cravings for vintage clothing and stylishly dorky haircuts!

I threw on my most ironic thrift-store shirt, grabbed my Volvo car keys and Timbuk2 bag and sped towards my salvation on East Burnside. I arrived fashionably late at 8:30 p.m., a half-hour after the doors opened.

When I went inside, I knew that I had come to the right place. In fact, I think everybody at the show must have been there for the meeting, as well. After a futile search for the free coffee that these things are supposed to have, I staked out a spot close to the stage on the blonde hardwood floor and waited for the show to begin.

And waited. And waited. And waited some more. I think I dozed off. When I jerked awake 45 minutes later, the clock read 9:30.

I saw a band setting up onstage and wondered how I could have slept through the first band. Then one of the Nocturnal lackeys stepped up to introduce VI Foot Sloth, the first band of the evening. I thought I must have been hearing things, as I hadn’t had my usual snack of Clif Bar to keep me alert.

I leaned over to the fellow-hipster beside me and inquired as to the veracity of the statement of the announcer. The hipster verified her claim, then shrugged and turned away. I was harkened back to my last show at the Nocturnal, where the set-up of the opening band was two hours late in starting. Apparently, having the main act go on before midnight is just not cool at the Nocturnal.

Resigned, I sat back down and enjoyed the joyous assault of keyboard heavy emo from VI Foot Sloth. Then the next act came on and made me very, very glad for my handstamp. Portland’s very own folksinger/songwriter Sarah Dougher took the stage next, and proceeded to play selections from her new album, Harper’s Arrow, which is apparently composed entirely of – songs about Homer’s “Odyssey.”

Between pieces of uninspired songwriting and ho-hum guitar play, she drenched the audience in self-indulgent blather about her love (obsession, more like) of the “Odyssey” and an attempt at topical political discussion. I lit out of there faster than a VI Foot Sloth in a slug race.

While I was walking around East Burnside with selections from Harper’s Arrow still burning my ears, I realized that I was not the one with the problem. The people who stayed to listen to Sarah Dougher had a problem. I did not.

When I returned for the end of Sarah Dougher’s set, I was at peace. Which, in case you have never felt that way, is a warm nougaty feeling in the center of your stomach. This feeling strengthened as San Francisco-based Bonfire Madigan took the stage at 11:45 and proceeded to rock my socks off.

Frontwoman Madigan Shive plays the cello. Hardcore. She alternates between strumming it on her lap like a guitar, and playing it upright with a bow. Overlaying the innovative musical style is a vocal performance that can range from ethereal to ragged in the same song. Topping off the whole package are laudably idealist and socially-conscious lyrics. Bonfire Madigan manages to uplift you without miring you in sap. This ain’t yo’ mamma’s pop music. It’s post-punk-folk-rock, Madigan-style. And it totally rules.

And that, my friends, is what I did on my spring break.

Confidential to William H.: Call me.