Bring your own fork

August 22, 2008 - Friday

 Is It Safe?

I don’t remember if I’ve said anything about this, but I’ve been working as a “Star Driver” lately, driving an actor (who shall remain nameless) to and from the set. I typically drop him/her off at the set or the lot, depending on where they’re shooting on the day, and then I take off and come back to pick him/her up at the end of the day to drive him/her home.

Stupid job, I know, but what are you gonna do — I’m trying to crack the Teamsters any way I can. This may or may not do it, but it’s a paycheck and I’m making Teamster contacts, so…

Anyway. Occasionally I stick around if s/he has a short work day instead of taking off, and that means lots of down-time while I’m waiting. Down-time can lead to trouble, as it did for me the other day.

Let’s paint the picture first. I’m hanging out by the honeywagon, which is parked next to the wardrobe trailer, and I’m sitting in the truck’s shade. Problem is, this shade is disappearing as time drags on and the sun climbs higher, and the shade on the seat of a nearby golf cart starts looking pretty good. It’s a cushioned seat, so comfier than the folding chair I’m in, and the golf cart has a roof so the moving sun isn’t an issue. So I climb into the golf cart.

The golf cart happens to be parked nose-to-nose with the wardrobe trailer, which is a big 53-foot box trailer normally towed by a big rig except the rig is parked somewhere else. The front of the trailer comes down to just about a foot above the body of the golf cart, then angles back toward the rest of the trailer — this is where the big rig would be if it were hooked up. You could just barely drive the golf cart under the nose of the trailer if it weren’t for the windshield and roof supports and roof and steering wheel and everything else that sits taller than the bottom of the trailer’s apron. (That’s called “foreshadowing.”)

So I’m sitting in the passenger seat of this golf cart, hanging out, enjoying the shade, and generally just killing time. I’m reading a book for awhile, and I’m bullshitting with other crew members for awhile, and I’m daydreaming and working out a solution for world peace for awhile. Time is passing. Slowly. And at some point I vaguely remember noticing and registering the fact that there was no key in the golf cart’s ignition.

This, to my mind, made the golf cart “safe.” I’m very careful around the golf carts and always conscious of the gas pedal and making sure I don’t step on it. I know it’ll never happen, but I always have this fear that I’m going to accidentally step on the gas and crash one of these stupid things. (More foreshadowing.)

So I’m sitting there. And sitting there. And sitting there. And at some point I went to change position, to shift my butt on the seat. I put my foot down and pushed against it to brace myself and move my fat ass–

And the golf cart shot forward. Into the trailer. Hard.

Crunching noises ensued. The windshield shattered and the crunching noises continued. My brain totally locked up with confusion:

What the fuck is happening? Why is the trailer moving? Holy shit, why is the windshield breaking? Holy shit, the golf cart is driving under the trailer and it won’t stop! Am I doing this? Holy shit, the trailer is getting closer! Holy shit, the golf cart won’t stop! Ack! Cue sparks flying out of my ears, etc…

Stuff like that. I finally got my knee to unlock so my foot would get off the gas pedal that I had obviously stepped on, and the cart finally stopped its relentless advance under the trailer. I was laid back in the seat — over the seat, almost — nearly horizontal, with my legs and most of my body sandwiched under the trailer on top of the golf cart. The nose of the trailer was about a foot from the nose of my face, and if I hadn’t finally stopped it may well have scraped off my face.

I don’t know how that thing ran without a key, but run it did. Like a frickin’ gazelle. A suicidal gazelle. I’m still trying to figure it out.

The golf cart was Fucked. Up. I folded that thing up like a pretzel. The windshield had shattered into a thousand pieces, the roof supports were totally bent back, the steering wheel had been torn off, the roof was peeled back like the top of a sardine can. Stick a fork in it, it’s done.

Me, I walked away relatively unscathed: two bloody gouges to my forearm and a big goose-egg bone bruise next to them, a nasty bruise and scratch to my bicep that I didn’t even know about until I took my shirt off at home that night. That was it. It could have been much, much worse, which is mind-boggling to me, considering that it was a friggin’ golf cart.

I felt like an idiot and I’m still apologizing left and right. I’m still waiting to see what the fallout from this little incident is going to be, but at the very least I’ve earned a new nickname. Now they’re calling me “Crash.”

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June 14, 2008 - Saturday

 Near The Set

Phase 2.5 of my mission to change careers and get into working in studio transportation is under way … sort of. I’m on a little bit of a … detour? No, not quite a detour — it’s more like an access road paralleling the main highway. I’m traveling right next to the road I want to be on but there’s a fence separating me from it, but a few miles up the road there might be an on-ramp.

I’ve landed a long-term driving position on a major production, working with exactly the people I want to get in with — only I’m not on the call sheet, so it’s not a union position. So I’m on a union show — sort of — but I’m not getting my days toward union membership. I know I’m being cryptic and weird about it but I can’t go into any more detail about it than that.

The cool thing about it is that I’m meeting people who can (and I think/hope will) help me down the road get to where I want to be. It’s a stupid easy gig, too, and the paycheck beats Unemployment. The downside is that what I’m doing is a little impersonal, almost “don’t make eye contact with the bigwigs,” but the relationships I’m making more than make up for it. On the one hand I feel like I’m sort of just marking time doing this and not making any progress, but it’s putting me in the right environment to pay off later. A big part of getting lucky is being where the luck is.

Here’s a couple pictures from the set. This is one of the things I’ve always liked about working in production — going to places you’d never see under normal circumstances and getting paid to be there.


Flightline set

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April 30, 2008 - Wednesday

 Back On The Set

Phase Two of my mission to change careers and get into working in studio transportation is under way. I just finished my first day as a driver on a low budget non-union feature shooting in and around L.A. It’s a tiny little show being shot very much on the cheap and there’s only two guys in the transportation department — me and the guy who hired me — but it’s a start.

One thing that hasn’t changed since my grip days is the long hours. My call time was 9:00 a.m. this morning and I didn’t finish my day and head for home until about 12:30 a.m. tonight. Something I hadn’t really thought much about as I planned this move into transportation but was blatantly called to my attention tonight is that grips may be among the last to leave the set after wrap is called, but transportation leaves last, after everyone else — and often drives every else’s trucks somewhere else before they’re done.

I’m tired, I’m beat, and I feel like I’ve been rode hard and put up wet. It’s good to be back.

My stakebed

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April 12, 2008 - Saturday

 10-4, Good Buddy

After getting laid off from yet another software training gig and having my years of experience pissed on by potential employers because I don’t happen to have the latest set of credentials that say I’ve spent X number of hours in a classroom learning what I taught myself how to do on my own… Well, after all that I decided “Fuck It” and I’m changing careers. So I’ve been back to school. Truck driving school.

Big Rig


The game plan is not, however, to be a long-haul trucker. I may do that if it comes to it, but the ultimate goal is Teamsters Local 399. These are the guys who drive for the TV and movie studios and that’s what I want to do. I’ve held a lot of jobs over the course of my life, and the most fun I had was when I worked on movies as a grip. I think I’m too old and my knees are too shot to try to get back in as a grip, but I think coming back in as a driver is an achievable goal. So… back to school.

I “graduated” yesterday after taking my driving test at the DMV. I now hold a Class A commercial drivers license with endorsements for air brakes, doubles and triples, tankers, and hazmat. That means I can drive anything on the road but a bus, and I’m going back in two weeks with a shuttle van to test for my passenger endorsement so I can do that too.

It’s not easy getting into 399. Hiring is done off their Industry Experience Roster, which has three different levels of seniority: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3, and jobs are filled from the roster in that order. To get on the roster on Group 3, I’ll need to work 30 days on union shows in a one-year period. That only happens when the town is so busy that everyone’s working and they can’t fill the jobs from Groups 1, 2, or 3. They call that being “in permits,” and that’s when non-union people like me get our shot — when we’re “permitted” to work on 399’s shows without actually being members.

So I’m gambling a little bit in doing this. The writer’s strike crippled Hollywood over the year-end, and SAG’s contract is about to come up for renewal and there’s some fear that the actors will strike too. As a result of that, production is at a low ebb right now — nothing new is in production because nobody wants a strike to shut down their show. I’m gambling that production will spike when the actors sign and that things are going to get really busy — busy enough for me to get my shot to get in, and start a new career as a driver.

Wish me luck.

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November 30, 2006 - Thursday

 Well, That Was Fun

I quit my new job today. I had my doubts about it on the first day, they grew stronger on the second day, and by the third day I knew this was the wrong job for me, so on the fourth day I quit.

I quit because the job I had bore almost no resemblance to the job I interviewed for. They basically lied to me, bait-and-switched me into taking it. Why, I have no idea. I made it very clear in my interviews that I was a trainer looking for a training position, that I was not at all interested in doing sales, and I specifically told them I wanted no more than 25% travel. And they reassured me that oh no, I’d be training, not selling, and that I’d only be on the road “a little bit,” mostly at trade shows, and that “other people” (they were really vague about who) would be scheduling the training sessions.

Well. I’m reminded of The Princess Bride, where Inigo Montoya says to Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” For these people, through the miracles of hair-splitting and double-speak, “training” means product demo and “not selling” means selling and “scheduling training” means cold-calling customers. Oh, and the “other people” scheduling the “training” meant me. Inconceivable!

Their vision of the job: The people I’d be “training” were potential customers I had cold-called on the phone and coerced into letting me bring my big box o’ products over so I could show them off and train demonstrate their usage and hopefully induce the students customers to buy want said products. Sort of like a door-to-door vacuum salesman “teaching” you how to use his product by showing how well it picks up cat hair. Only with appointments. That I made. And it was “not selling” because I wouldn’t be actually taking orders, but rather referring them to one of the salespeople so they could close the deal and earn the commission. And they wanted me to do this nationwide, so there was going to be a lot of travel if I did as much “training” as you’d expect someone who’s “not selling” full time to do.

I know: it was a sweet deal. I’m a fool to pass it up. But, um… No. I don’t do sales, no matter what you call it. I don’t like it and I’m not good at it. And I especially don’t do sales for people who lie to me about it. I have a specific skill set that has nothing to do with sales — or product demonstration or customer education or whatever you want to call it — and I can get paid a lot more and be a lot happier if I stick with that.

So… I’m out of a job again and I have a new flurry of resumes out in the wind. Great. Because, you know, the holidays are the best time of year to be looking for work.

All I want for Christmas, Santa, is a new job.

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November 27, 2006 - Monday

 Back on the Job

I started a new job today. Whew. I was only out of work for about a month this time, which is an improvement over my usual months-long stretch. Too bad the stress of being out of work prevents you from enjoying not having to go to work.

Interestingly (or not), I went for my first interview for this job the day after I got laid off. I left my suddenly not-my-job anymore at noon, came home and did a search on, found a job with a description that sounded as if it was written about me, emailed a resume, and got called back about an hour later. I was crossing my fingers then for the perfect symmetry of getting a new job the very next day after I lost the old job, but I’ll take 30 days later. It beats unemployment.

But as relieved as I am to have a new job … I’m not 100% sure about it. It’s product training rather than software training and while it’s not a sales job it will have elements of sales to it. So it’s nice that it’s different … but I’m still in wait-and-see mode about if it’s going to work for me. I have kind of a weird feeling about the company itself and the people there, too. It’s quiet there, too quiet, and the people are nice and all … but there’s an odd quality to it that I can’t quite put my finger on. Beth said it best when I was trying to describe it to her when she went all Christmas on me and suggested the Island of Misfit Toys.

I hope things work out there, because I’m sick to death of looking for a job every year or so. I could stand to be the Charlie-In-The-Box.

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October 13, 2006 - Friday

 The View From Tempe

I’m back from Phoenix, where I actually stayed in Tempe. There’s a lot of that for me in Phoenix, apparently — go there but not go there. Go figure.

Anyway, here’s the ever-popular view of the room:

Tempe, AZ

…and here’s the even more popular view out the window:

Tempe, AZ

I’m pretty proud of how I was able to focus on the window screen in that picture. I certainly didn’t want to be able to see and comment on the porn video shop and lingerie modeling joint that would otherwise have been clearly visible. No, I wouldn’t want that…

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October 11, 2006 - Wednesday

 The View From Anthem and Montreal and St. Louis

I’ve been remiss about posting my View From Here pictures again. Mea culpa and all that Latin crap. Since the last entry showing the fabulousness of Wichita, KS, I’ve also been to Phoenix, Montreal and St. Louis. Truly, I am a world traveler — if by “world traveler” you mean someone who travels only in the upper portion of the North American continent. But no matter, you’re here for the view. So…

First we have Phoenix, AZ — or rather the small suburb of Anthem:

Anthem, AZ

…and that’s where my camera’s batteries died. I had to take the view picture with my camera phone and I can’t get reception to download it right now, so… Imagine a beautiful desert landscape … with a hotel pool in the foreground and a Denny’s in the background. That’s what you have to look forward to here in the next day or so.

…and then I got all francophile with it and went to Montreal, QC, where they all speak French and when the hotel desk clerk asked if I spoke French, I responded “Si!”

Here’s the quaint little room with its quaint little double beds…

Montreal, QC

…and here’s the view of the Frenchy-speaking outside:

Montreal, QC

…and finally the wonderfulness that is St. Louis, MO. I have a weird mental block about St. Louis — I always confuse it with New Orleans. I have no idea why — until this trip I’d never been to either, they have nothing in common, they’re not even in the same region. But still, in my head, if you say St. Louis I think new Orleans … and vice versa. So the Cardinals play in the bayou and St. Louis was hit by a hurricane. Go figure. But here’s the photographic evidence that I’ve been to one that wasn’t the other … not that that’s going to help me tell them apart.

Here’s the not-New Orleans room:


…and here’s the still not-New Orleans view:

St. Louis, MO

And I’m in Tempe, AZ as I write this, so look for a fresh new view from here entry tomor– Oh, let’s be honest, it’ll probably be a week or two. So now you have something to look forward to. Or not.

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August 26, 2006 - Saturday

 The View From Hillbilly Country

I took me a little tour of hillbilly country this week. First up was a client in West Jefferson, NC, where the dominant industry is Christmas tree farming. That made for an interesting landscape, actually — it’s really pretty country up there, with scattered lots of pine trees growing in neat rows on the hillsides. It must be beautiful up there when the snow falls. I also saw quite the unique sight while I was up there: at the side of the road, framed by tree-covered mountains on all sides, hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, parked on a wooden frame with no trailer in sight, was a 25-foot sailboat with a For Sale sign propped against it. Wacky.

Of course I didn’t get any pictures of any of that. But I did get pictures at my hotel in nearby Boone, NC.

Boone, NC

Boone, NC

Following North Carolina, I was set to work with some clients in Kentucky, but they cancelled, so I got to come home early. I still had to go to Kentucky, though, because it was cheaper to go home early from there than from North Carolina, so I flew to Louisville and spent the night in a complete dump of a hotel — it was so bad that the cab driver warned me to “Watch yourself’ on the ride over from the airport. Nice. I stayed here for about five hours, then caught the first flight out for Los Angeles at 6:40 a.m. — and then went into the office until about 4:00, which made for a roughly 18 hour day. Nice.

Here’s the room:

Louisville, KY

And here’s the view:

Louisville, KY

Trust me when I tell you that there’s a high likelihood that hookers and drug dealers are somewhere in the background — in both pictures.

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August 16, 2006 - Wednesday

 The View From Springdale, AR

Greetings from Springdale, AR. I decided to switch it up this time and I’m staying in a Doubletree Club Hotel rather than my standard Hampton Inn. Same great Hilton parent, better amenities — and, surprisingly, at a lower rate. Woo.

I got here much earlier than I expected — 2:45 rather than 6:00 — because I wrapped up very early in Fort Smith. The woman I was training was… How to put this delicately? A pain in the ass. She very much didn’t want to be trained on the new software and wasn’t shy about showing it, was bitchy and unpleasant to me in general, and periodically would just turn away from me in mid-sentence to check her email and make phone calls. Plus, she had a lazy eye, so I couldn’t quite tell if she was paying attention to me or staring at the ceiling. Given her poor attitude, my money’s on the ceiling. And I think she thought I was gay — she got this sour lemon type expression when she noticed the earring in my right ear, so I made a point of camping it up after that — lots of pointing at things on the screen with my pinkie and flamboyant gestures and much talk of “and this is a fabulous feature…” By the time I left I started thinking I was gay.

Anyway, she was a PITA and kept me cooling my heels for an hour this morning when she was late, so she was trained accordingly: high speed, high level, sorry if you didn’t catch that let’s move on. I was out of there by 12:45. Seeeee ya!

And now I’m in Springdale. And I’m wondering what the hurry was. Check it out, see if you can find a reason I hurried:

Springdale, AR

Springdale, AR

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Listed in the IMDB as a "Production Torpedo."

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