Thursday, May 04, 2006

Let's hear it for seasonal unemployment

All the TV shows are on hiatus, pilot season is over, and the movies won't start up again until June or July, so I've got some idle time facing me.

If I'm very lucky, I'll get one day a week on a music video or infomercial (cheesy, but they pay well) this time of year, and it's fine.

I have a list of projects around the house (fix the running toilet, re-do the grout in the kitchen, clean out the closets, write a magazine article that I committed to months ago and haven't finished yet, replace the hard drive on the laptop if I can find the hard drive I bought and then put, well, somewhere), and the cat's alternately appreciating the company and wishing I'd go away and stop tripping over her (the crazy beast insists on napping in the middle of the floor, but I'll fix her. I'll run the vacuum).

I also rented the DVD of the Penn & Teller show Bullshit. I love those guys, and that show's great fun to watch. I may have to rent it again.

I also invariably gain a few pounds when I'm working a lot - I can't go to the gym, and when I'm standing on set I'm eating and not getting any kind of exercise that melts off pounds (wrapping cable is not an aerobic workout), so I suppose I should add "going to the gym at least once a day" to that list.

I've been riding the bicycle everywhere since gas is way over $3 per gallon out here, so hopefully that will help me drop some lard (okay, it's only five pounds, but why does it have to live on my ass?) quick.

The problem is that I like to eat things that aren't so good for dieting, but I've got nothing but time on my hands so I can go to the gym in the morning, and then spend three hours on my bike every day.

Speaking of fattening food, I'm off to a friend's house to cook Italian, watch Fellini films and drink wine. It's okay, though. I'm going to walk.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Warning: WAY off topic today.

It's not that I'm in favor of illegal immigration, it's that I'm against the xenophobia that seems to sometimes grip otherwise sensible people.

I'm not sure of the exact numbers, but a significant percentage of the population of Los Angeles were born in another country and immigrated here - some legally, some not.

Yesterday was the big May Day (a worker's holiday in much of the rest of the world) immigration protest (immigrants protesting our proposed 'anti-immigrant' legislation, although I'm sure there were several anti-immigrant gatherings) in LA, and I wasn't going to miss all the fun, so I left the car at home and took my bicycle out (good thing, too. Traffic nightmare from hell on the streets).

As I was riding around, I was taking a sort of informal tally of how many businesses were closed (no one was supposed to shop or go to work today - since I'm currently unemployed, not working was no big deal. Not shopping was a bit harder, especially when I remembered I was supposed to wear a white T-shirt to the march but instead had worn a blue polo, but no, I didn't buy anything yesterday - I just lived with my unfortunate wardrobe misstep). In Hollywood not many businesses were closed, but as I got nearer to the intersection of Wilshire and La Brea (one of the rally points), the place was a ghost town. IHOP, closed. Marie Callender's, closed. My bank, alas, also closed. I swear I wasn't going to buy anything - I just wanted to make a deposit.

Wilshire Blvd, one of the busiest streets in the city, was completely deserted early in the afternoon.

Wilshire Blvd

Until the marchers came - waves and waves of them.

May Day March

May Day March

Chanting, waving flags, laughing, talking - I've been to a lot of protest marches and this was the calmest crowd I've ever seen. There weren't even any angry cops floating around scowling - just happy well-mannered folks walking along Wilshire.


Masonic Temple

Since the day's events have been discussed to death just about everywhere else, I'll spare you my version and just leave it at my having had a great time.

I do have to mention something that happened after the rallies ended, though.

After the march

About 7 pm, after everything was over, people headed back along the march route in the deepening twilight. Still orderly, still well-mannered, they walked east on Wilshire - the flags were put away, and everyone was quiet as they made their way to wherever they'd joined the march (some of the folks with small children parked along the route so that the kids wouldn't have to walk the whole way).

A woman, seeing a business opportunity, had set up a grill on the side of the road and was making tacos for the marchers (who still had quite a walk ahead of them).

She had at least 20 people lined up next to her grill - talking, nursing almost-empty water bottles, carrying sleeping children. Not all of them were Hispanic, either, but everyone was hungry, worn out and eager to fork over cash to someone who was in the right place at the right time.

To me, that's America.

After the march

Monday, May 01, 2006

Big late night adventure!

The call came around 10 pm.

"Hey" my friend said "you wanna wrap out this set tonight? Production wants us off the clock, and you'll only be here for four or five hours and get paid for eight."

"Isn't that the same as them paying you double time?"

"Yeah, but we told them it's not safe to give us 6 hour turnaround, so they have to bring in another crew."

Whatever anyone else may say about the safety passport program, it's given us ammo against producers. In pre-passport days, the producer could scream "I'm not paying you to think, asshole! Do it now!" but these days, once we say something's not safe, the argument's essentially over.

I was all warm and cuddly in bed, watching a movie, and I really wanted to say no, but then I remembered all the money I'd spent in Vegas.

"Sure, why not. I don't need sleep."

"Great! It's in Long Beach"


"Too late - you already said yes. Get your ass down here."

Long Beach is a forty minute drive for me, if there's no traffic. If we worked too late, I'd be screwed coming home and get caught in the rush hour crush - that and it's looking very likely that all hell is going to break loose in Los Angeles today due to this May Day thing.

As soon as we got to the 'stage' - an old warehouse that's been converted into a place to shoot - the production person started in on us about hurrying. "I don't want you going into over time! Do you understand why this is important?"

Yes, of course we understood, except that we had to contend with pipe grid.

Warehouses that have been converted into stages don't have catwalks. They just have a grid made of pipe hanging from the ceiling (hence the name), and the only way to hang any lights or cable is to get a lift under spot you want, raise the lift, do what you have to do, lower the lift, clear the whatever junk's in the drive path, move the lift and then start the whole process over again.

Needless to say, this takes a long time.

"Towering" - driving with the lift raised - is strictly verboten, even though it can be a time-saver.

There's also a way to run cable on a pipe grid which makes it fast to wrap (hung underneath the pipe, tied on at intervals, so all one has to do is cut the ties and let the cable fall), and a way to run cable on a pipe grid which makes it take forever to wrap (run over the pipe so that the cable must be pulled up and fed through to the next opening).

Guess which way the cable was rigged?

So, the production person, watching and pacing, waited about two hours and then started asking how much longer. Each time she asked she got crankier ("Why aren't you done yet? What exactly is the problem?").

I understand why - she was sitting there, bored and tired, watching six guys using three lifts saying 'goddammit' an awful lot with no sign of anything resembling progress happening.

So now I was faced with a choice. Try to explain to her - in words that she'd actually be able to understand - exactly why it was taking us so long, or tell her what I was pretty sure she wanted to hear and say "you're right. I'm gold-bricking just to piss you off, and because I like to be up in a scissor lift at one am, breathing in toxic waste. I don't even need the money."

I just sighed, told her we were working as fast as we safely could and that if she wanted to catch a nap in the office I'd come and get her when we were close to being done.

People get cranky late at night, and I'm sure she's a very pleasant person when she's not tired.

We got done in five hours, so I got home before all today's predicted mayhem, and even had time to catch a nap.

I'm going out to see if I can get any good photos today.