Have Toolbelt, Will Travel…*
After a month of post-pilot drifting, the phone finally rang -- or rather, the screen lit up with an incoming text, which goes to show that old dogs really can learn new tricks when they have to… and I had to, because after refusing to join the cellular stampede for last twenty years, my no-longer-shiny smart phone has become the essential tool for finding work.
Yeah, I know: welcome to the 21st Century, dude -- and what the hell took you so long?
That's what happens when a core crew Show Boy morphs back into a hire-me-please Day Player -- the cell phone goes from digital bauble to economic lifeline in a hurry, with my first lesson in this Brave New Digital World being the importance of responding to a work text ASAP. This little nugget of wisdom came the hard way, of course, since I was busy at the time and didn't get around to checking the text for two full hours. That was much too late, of course, which is how a sweet eight day job for full union scale turned into a one day hi-goodbye gig.
Ouch. Ah well, live and learn. That's one mistake I won't make again.
Still, one day of work is better than nothing, so I reported for duty back at my home lot. After twenty minutes of filling out the requisite start paperwork (scrawling my name, address, e-mail, phone, and social security number at least half a dozen times on different forms), and another ten minutes waiting for a production droid to check each and every form, then verify my SS card and driver's license, I was finally cleared to do some actual work.
Since the show occupied two sound stages, I
While the other juicer worked on cleaning up the cable troughs (this small stage had no catwalks or real "up-high"), I climbed in a man-lift and proceeded to methodically pull down every lamp, stirrup hanger, offset arm, riser, cable safety, and stinger on the set. This is the kind of wrap I like -- melding with the machinery of the man-lift, working steadily at my own pace with nobody on the floor to get in my way. Once I'd settled into a good rhythm, the hours just seemed to melt away as the nice, neat rows of lighting equipment on the stage floor grew ever longer.
As simple-minded as it might sound, there's a very real satisfaction in this kind of work, and at seeing how much we'd both accomplished by the end of our day, nine hours after call. There were only the two of us, but we kicked ass wrapping that stage.
After washing up, I signed my time card and was about to leave when the Best Boy invited me to hit the food trucks at the wrap party. Ordinarily, I'd demur in favor of getting home, but I was starving -- and besides, the free-food television gravy train will leave me behind for good soon enough.
What the hell: I'd helped rig their damned party, so why not partake?
That I did, in the form of a nice fat cheeseburger, a big bowl of crisp, hot onion rings, and a large sugar-laced Coke -- a heart attack on a plate so late at night, but that kind of thing doesn't worry me anymore. Having witnessed the senescence-and-Depends ravages of extreme old age up close and personal as my Dad spiraled into the grave a couple of years ago, the notion of living to a ripe old age doesn't hold much appeal. The "Golden Years," my ass -- I'm wondering if Blondie might have had the right idea when they sang Die Young, Stay Pretty a long time ago... but neither option is open to me now.
This wasn't my show, and although I knew some of the crew from other shows over the years, I was dog-tired and not feeling particularly social. The party was for them -- a reward after slogging through a long season -- not for me, so I took a seat on a hard wooden bench in the shadows, watching as the young writers and production drones (dressed to the nines in the modern, casual mode) waited by the food trucks with their young, pretty dates, the men making awkward conversation as the women nodded politely and tapped on their smart phones. Each had their own private agenda in this delicate mating dance, their unspoken desires utterly transparent, and oh-so-human.**
A truly good wrap party can harness and channel an explosion of pent-up, raucous energy, and in the process, provide a cathartic cleansing of sorts -- a kick-out-the-jams sense of closure to the end of a movie or season of a television show -- but this felt more like a dutiful exercise in mutual exhaustion, hopeful posturing, and lugubrious, unfulfilled yearning. The cool night air reeked with the scent of hot grease and ill-defined dreams, doomed from the start, going up in smoke.
Or maybe that was just me, staring into the cracked mirror of a career rapidly fading to black...
I was too tired to wallow in such pointless philosophical musing. All I wanted at that moment was a burger, onion rings, and a sweet, bubbly Coke -- and once they'd been inhaled, I slung my work bag over one shoulder and pedaled my bike silently through the dark night towards the parking structure.
The first job of the last phase in my working life -- once again a Day Player -- was over and done.
More to come.
* For those too young to know -- doubtless the vast majority of you -- this is a reference to a television Western that was very popular when I was a kid.
** One of the few benefits of old age (the only benefit, come to think of it), is that having been there and done that so many times in the past, I am no longer a participant -- which strikes me as a little bit sad and something of a relief at the same time. Go figure...