Friday, April 14, 2006

Now that's motivation

Crew people generally fall into two camps - those of us who will use any means necessary to avoid working harder than we absolutely have to, and those of us who think that if you're not busting your ass, you're not really working.

One thing we all agree on, though, is this:

Since we get paid for at least 8 hours whether we work that long or not, when we have an opportunity to "bust it out" and go home while we're still on the clock, we'll do exactly that.

We all worked as fast as we could, and tore out the Sports Arena rig in 7 hours - someone had the stroke of genius to move our trucks inside the loading area (on the rig they were parked outside the arena due to the loading dock being blocked), which sped things up quite a bit and we didn't get wet in the rain that took me by surprise when I stuck my head out the door. I'd forgotten my rain gear (I had to wash it, it was just too rancid-smelling and I'd forgotten to pack it back into the car), so I was really glad to be inside, although I got soaked walking to my car after we'd been released.

I used my 'bonus hour' to go to a great noodle joint in Little Tokyo called Suehiro.

Best. Noodles. Ever.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I will get rid of this.

I haven't been to see The Sweater Queen in a long time.

I've had this horrible cough that's not going away, and I'm hearing reports of it lingering in some co-workers for six weeks. I can't live like that for so long - I sound like I'm in the final stages of some ruinous 19th century disease, and this morning my 'normal' doctor told me there's nothing he can do to make it go away faster, so I went to the Dark Side - of hippie curative tonics, chakras, and discussions about the moon's feelings (or whatever it is hippies discuss. I tend to tune it out).

The Sweater Queen has long fuzzy hair, wears a long fuzzy sweater (no matter what the temperature), a long fuzzy skirt, and has quite a few long fuzzy cats and dogs running around her slightly fuzzy-looking Topanga shack*. She's an odd duck, but boy does she know her shit when it comes to herbal remedies.

She gave me this vile tea to drink - and I mean vile. Bilge water vile. Boiled dirty gym sock vile. Korean acupuncturist vile**.

When I got home and actually made the tea, the smell from the steam was so bad it made the cat run and hide for an hour, but the stuff really works. Minutes after drinking it, the cough hadn't gone away completely, but was noticeably improved. I have to screw up my courage (and hold my nose) in order to drink another cup before I go to bed tonight. I would spike it with vodka (it would still taste bad but then I wouldn't care as much), but The Sweater Queen specifically mentioned no alcohol whatsoever until the cough is gone.

So I'm back at work tomorrow - we're tearing out the Sports Arena rig, and I have to carry a container of this nasty tea with me so I can 'sip it at intervals throughout the day'. Blech.

At least I won't have to worry about someone else drinking it.

*For my non-Los Angeles based readers: Topanga Canyon is what's politely referred to as an "artist's colony" and has been for years. Quite a few of the residents built their own houses - some out of whatever they could find - and despite the real estate boom, there are still quite a few home-built shacks in Topanga Canyon. Hence, "Topanga shack".

**Korean acupuncturists are apparently famous for making patients drink unbelievably nasty-tasting stuff. I learned this from my chiropractor, who, when I was complaining about not wanting to see an acupuncturist like he'd recommended because I didn't want another round of drinking something that came in a packet with no English on it and tasted like radioactive dirt, he said "So don't see any more Koreans." "How did you know he was Korean?" I asked. "That's a trademark of Korean acupuncturists," he said. "I think they think it's funny."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


We had a 6 am call at Culver, which is a good thing - it's before the traffic and I can make it from my place in about half an hour (a 7 am call and it's 45 minutes, an 8 am call and it's an hour. Fucking traffic), but the day I chose to cut it close because I wanted that extra 10 minutes of sleep is the day I got nailed by security - normally, everyone working at Culver parks in an off-site parking area and then walks onto the lot, and most of the time you can just wave at the parking guard and drive on without being stopped. I guess they figure that if you're pulling in at 5:45 am, you're there to work.

Sometimes, though, you get a parking lot guard who demands to see your pass. This means driving over to the main gate of the lot, waiting in line of cars because everyone else tried to sneak it too and got busted so you all had to come over at the same time and are now sitting there waiting like jackasses because if you'd just done this the right way to begin with you'd be at work now and not on the phone frantically trying to call your boss to tell him where you are (whew), then having the main gate guard make 50 phone calls because your name's not on his little list (because the boss didn't call in drive-on passes for the crew, and why should he? We're parking off-lot and don't need them), then being issued a parking pass for the lot you just left, then having to drive past the very smug parking lot guard while waving the hard-won parking pass.

The whole process takes about 20 minutes, so of course I was late.

Once I actually got to work, we spent the whole day pulling out the lights and cable from the perms (nice, happy solid wood 48' perms that don't scare the bejeezus out of me) above the set that's being torn down. They're constructing another set on the same stage, so it was a day filled with paint fumes and worries about whether or not I have enough brain cells left to huff fumes all day without ... wait ... what was I thinking about?

The Madonna dancers in the next stage spent the day rehearsing with their elephant door open, and the disco-ish beat mixed oddly well with the 80's classics coming from our construction crew's boom box.

I'm off tomorrow.

Monday, April 10, 2006

My big exciting weekend

Working weekends really fucks me up - on Saturday, I kept thinking it was Tuesday, and on Sunday night I kept waking up in a panic thinking it was Thursday and I had forgotten to put out the trash.

Today, I wandered around in a daze, not really knowing what day it was at all, until I saw the Monday chili special at the BBQ place near Culver Studios (and then I went back to being confused as soon as we got back on the lot - must have been the hot shirtless dancers for the Madonna video on the next stage. I know they're gay but they're still nice eye-candy).

The weekend's work was rigging the LA Sports Arena for the DFISM*.

Rigs go in in layers - first the cable and distribution boxes are laid out, connected, "gak"** is added, and once that's all sorted out we hang lighting units, then connect everything together, then fix problems, should they arise.

Laying cable is pure muscle. The technique hasn't changed in 100 years: pick the cable up and put it down, then repeat - first from the trucks that it's delivered in, onto the ground to count it; into a stakebed truck to drive it to the other side of the arena, then onto the ground to sort it again and back into a cable cart to wheel it across the icy arena floor to where it's going to live for the next few days.

Saturday - all 12 hours of it - was laying cable (the LA Sports Arena is very, very large and requires a LOT of cable to get from the generators to the set).

Sunday - yet more cable. For the first half of the day, I got the 'girl job', which was sending coiled cable up to the catwalks via the winch. Not the hand-eating kind of winch, though. We're using a high speed chain motor, which our Local 33 brothers had to operate for us due to some union jurisdiction thing (so basically what I was doing was attaching our cable to the chain and then stepping back while the other guy pushed the 'up' button). The 33 guys were a really cool bunch and it was great hearing stagehand stories for a change (fresh material, you know). At some point, though, all the cable had been sent up and I had to go up high to help the boys run the cable through the catwalks along the roof of the arena (what I really wanted to do was take a nap in the cable cart, but that's not a good thing for my boss to catch me doing).

The permanent catwalks in the Sports Arena are not constructed the way stage perms are - stage perms are made of wood and have a wooden grid underneath them. Not only do they feel solid when you walk on them, the grid gives the illusion of some sort of floor and somehow makes the distance to the ground less intimidating. I'm very rarely nervous or afraid of falling out of a stage perm (the exception being the tall stage at Sony - I think the perms are 70 feet up, and it's scary as hell despite the grid).

The Sports Arena's catwalks, however, are metal (not mesh, either - it's thin metal sheets welded together - they almost look like a wood floor made of metal, if that makes any sense) floored walkways that flex and creak like hell when you walk on them - plus there's no grid so you're looking 80 feet straight down to the deck with nothing to break up the visual of the ant-like co-workers scurrying about below.

Of course, since I have an overactive imagination, the whole time I was up high I kept envisioning that three seconds of free-fall followed by the sudden halt.

After lunch, we had to hang lights on the truss over the ice rink***, and of course they froze the rink before we had to walk on it - the location lady told us she tried to get them to hold off, but they were in a hurry so they wouldn't wait. Oddly enough, the rubber mats we had to walk on (so we didn't fuck up the ice) were more slippery than the ice itself, so we ended up walking on the ice anyways. In case you were wondering, walking on rink ice in work boots will cause it to crack.

Today, some of us were back at Culver to tear out the rig on the main stage - others were left to 'assist' first unit at the arena. I can't even begin to explain how much being on the rigging crew and having to help first unit sucks - so I'll just leave it at my being very, very glad to have been on the tear-out crew (where I'll be for the next few days).

Oh, and the car's problem was the water pump. Three Benjamins later and he's purring like the proverbial kitten.

The cough I can't shake is getting progressively worse - I keep trying to stay home and rest, but I have an aversion to turning down work. My best friend gave me a ride into work today (after I dropped the car off) and spent the entire drive reading me the riot act about not slowing down.

Easy for her to say - she's got a steady job. Me, I have to make enough money to get through the slow periods, plus I'm nervous about the potential SAG/WGA strike next year so I'm attempting to hoard as much cash as possible - even if that means working while I've got a cough.

I'm off to bed - hopefully I won't have any more garbage-can related panics tonight.

*Dumb Fucking Ice Skating Movie

**"Gak" is what we call the little stuff that sits at distro boxes - bates cables to connect lights, extension cords ("stingers"), etc...

***Ice rinks, in their unfrozen state, are smooth concrete, and are prepped by being flooded with about half an inch of funny-smelling (sort of lysol-ish) water, which is sprayed on in layers while it's being frozen via elements in the concrete. Apparently it takes about a day to get the ice ready to skate on.