A few weeks ago I decided that my onstage persona could be more amiable.
I've had a tendency to hate my audiences in the past.
Sometimes good and funny things came from this.
Other times it made for uncomfortable shifting and general oddness.
So today at The Paper Machete, Thea and I played a couple of songs to promote our Nurse Novels show tonight at Schuba's.
I talked to the crowd friendly style, like an NPR pledge drive.
The results were better.
I didn't scowl.
People didn't gather their belongings.
We raised $19,000.
Later, we loaded in at Schuba's.
It was our first show at a venue with a quality sound system.
We greeted the soundman.
He was French.
We had had him before as a soundman with Sandwich Shop.
I remember him being rather rigid.
I set my drums up on stage.
Drummers are often relegated to the very back of the stage.
It's tradition I suppose.
What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?
What does a drummer use for contraception?
Hey, did you hear about the drummer who finished high school?
In The Nurse Novels, I sing and introduce songs.
So I placed my drums a bit downstage.
This way they wouldn't be behind a wall of guitarists.
I would be sharing the same plane as my bandmates.
"No, no, no!"
The frenchmen wouldn't have it.
It would make things more difficult for him to mix.
So I retreated toward the back wall.
How can you tell if the stage is level?
The drummer is drooling from both sides of his mouth.
While I schlepped it all back a few feet, Tom was getting his guitar sound.
It was at a stage volume level.
Between trebly blasts the soundman asked me questions.
"Is that your drum throne?"
"Is that your cymbal stand?"
His questions were annoying.
I had to scream over the guitar to answer him.
"Are you going to move the drums back?"
Clearly I was moving the drums back.
Tom stopped playing.
"YES, I'M MOVING THE DRUMS BACK!!!"
I just shouted at the soundman.
The soundman controls your evening.
If he doesn't like you, he will make you sound like shit.
The audience will think you sound like shit.
You will think you sound like shit.
You will sound like shit.
I had forgotten to be amiable toward the soundman.
After soundcheck I tried out amiability.
I asked him where in France he was from.
I told him about my recent French travails.
I mean travels.
He seemed surprised that I had been to France.
He put out his cigarette and walked away.
What do you do if you accidentally run over a drummer?
In my drum monitor the show sounded like shit.
It was a smear of noise.
I couldn't hear vocals.
But I didn't take it out on the audience or the band.
Instead, we had fun.
I talked briefly and amiably between songs.
We played a few new ones.
People clapped supportively.
We raised $68,000.
Afterward, Lauren said the sound was really good.
Well, I almost learned something today.
"You Suck" & "Fuck You"
Tonight we filmed on the actual Grundler Bend.
The same stretch of spooky road I drove down frequently as a teen.
For the occasion I wore a Danzig shirt I bought in 1991.
I had been looking forward to this night.
These days Grundler Bend is an oft-travelled strip in the town of Flatulett.
We closed the road without the presence of police.
The residents of Flatulett were assholes about it.
They let out a lot of hot air.
They were not silent.
Nor were they deadly.
But they stunk.
I Hate Grundler Bend & You Hate Me
Tonight everyone hated each other.
The radios didn't work.
It was all just static and anger.
We aborted the concept of communication.
The film crew stayed down by the railroad tracks.
The production RV's stayed 3/4 of a mile away.
There was nothing to do.
Nothing of worth to do.
All Is Gas & Gaiters
Around 4am, Jerry had me fill up a gas can for the portable generator.
I took Holli's car to a gas station and filled up the battered plastic gas can.
While lifting it into Holli's backseat I noticed a hole in the cheap, battered, defective plastic gas can.
And then I watched it spit gas onto Holli's absorbent seats.
Then I yelled and swore.
I swore some more with the windows rolled down.
And then I left the windows rolled down.
Trains, Rain & Recreational Vehicles
"That's a wrap," someone said.
It began to rain down hard.
I drove the RV toward the railroad tracks.
Time to break down all the wet tents and wet chairs and wet shit.
The actors trooped through the rain like fresh, new vagrants.
Their soaking arms flagged me down.
Remnants of compassion made me stop for them.
They climbed in.
"Who's driving?" they asked through the furnie pad privacy drapes.
"It's Tony," I answered.
"Are you going back to the hotel?"
"No-" and they trudged out before I could tell them anything more.
It's just as well.
I didn't know anymore.
Other than they hated me.
Oh shit, Holli's windows...
All night the producers had insisted that the railroad tracks on Grundler Bend were never in use.
After all, they grew up around here.
So they would know.
I had seen a train once.
But that was in 1992.
Since then the tracks had been updated and refurbished.
This was done to accommodate the lack of trains.
The producers knew best and filmed on the tracks all night.
Around 6am a freight train chugged through while we wrapped in the rain.
It blew its mighty whistle at us.
It was loud.
This was because it was ten feet away.
We were fortunate that none of the cables or equipment or actors were still on the tracks.
Because then the producers would have been wrong.
I never once did participate with any of the filming done on the actual Grundler Bend.
The reason I said yes to this job.
Stuck Inside of Ft. Floyd With The Vampire Hours Again
Today was our big return to overnights.
Downtown Ft. Floyd.
The four teenagers: Britt, Riley, Logan and Haddock.
The two cops: The older actor and the actor I once poked in the head with an umbrella.
And a waitress: A down to earth girl named Mallory.
I spent most of the night walking the actors to and from the set.
On our walk across the river, Britt asked me questions about bugs.
I made a Harvey Klinger reference.
She was very nice about not knowing what I was talking about.
Anyone else would have thought I was an all time, all-American, Grade A creep. On top of that, they'd say I was a jerk, a goof, and a double dingbat.
I'd be known as "Hare-brained Tony Mendoza".
Know When To Hold 'Em
We all worked well together tonight.
Things have gotten better with the crew.
Attitudes were left back at the resort.
The slate girl and I stood in for a shot inside a coffee shop.
"What would we be talking about?" I asked.
"Russian authors," she volleyed back.
I decided against making another 70's TV reference.
Instead I threw some words around the names "Dostoyevsky" and "Tolstoy".
Though a Starsky & Hutch reference could have been funnyish.
But she wouldn't have known what those are.
The townies were out in full force.
While setting up tables and tents for lunch, a sun-leathered woman hung around the craft services table. It seemed her diet consisted of keg beer, cigarettes and dreamcatchers.
"What's your name?" flirted Doug.
"Trouble," she answered.
Then she showed him a tattoo on the back of her neck.
It read TROUBLE.
Doug kept his distance.
Meanwhile I hauled wooden tables and cumbersome tents around the parking lot.
"Smile!" she ordered.
Lock ups were interesting.
The drunks wandered into the shots from every direction.
Like Night of The Living Dead.
Some actually hiccuped like in the cartoons.
But I've gotten much better at telling people that they are not allowed to walk on a public sidewalk.
It felt like tonight we'd reached the peak of the filming process.
Sweet Home Ft. Floyd
Back at the hotel, a Home Depot regional managers' conference had taken over the resort.
They had decided it would be fun and learningful to have a Blues Brothers theme.
All the men wore suits and sunglasses.
All the women dressed as nuns.
It was stupid.
But I was a team player now.
So I put on a Nazi helmet and drove the RV through the lobby.
But nobody got the reference.
Goin' Up The Country
Our second and final daytime on Grundler Bend.
Today we filmed in the tiny farm town of Bundy.
Ah, the country.
Where everything moves at a calmer, more convivial pace.
While driving the RV along a two lane country road, I rolled down my windows and breathed in the fresh, country air. After thirteen years in the city, I could get used to the country.
Maybe buy a country house.
Shop at the country store.
Make friends with the country people.
Like the country gentleman approaching in an SUV.
As he passed on the left, he leaned out the passenger window and flipped me off the entire time.
Ah, the country.
A guido rocker dude and his mammarily augmented wife somehow owned a farm house. They let us use their barn in exchange for a thank you in the credits. In the barn, some construction workers had built a 20-yard tunnel, and were also paid nothing.
The illegal immigrants in the next field over pointed and laughed.
They were getting 5¢ a day.
Noise Will Be Noise
It was idyllic.
The RV's overlooked an endless field of corn.
Real life chickens clucked in a dungeonous coop.
A basset hound entertained the crew, standing upright on its hind legs.
Holli was captivated by a goat.
Unfortunately, idyllic isn't a word associated with too many ghost thrillers.
The chickens kept ruining takes.
You can't have two cops searching an underground tunnel with chickens bawking all over it.
"Stay away from the chickens when we're rolling, please," was the best Holli could do.
Even the RV's were too loud.
We had to shut off their power during shooting.
Between takes the older actor snuck off set for a 10-1 (short for 10-100).
Shortly thereafter Holli had me find him.
I knocked on his trailer.
He seemed frazzled.
"How do you turn the power on?" he said.
We found the button.
"I don't want to leave a shit in there."
He went to set.
I flushed his poop.
While Holli reviewed paperwork in the RV, Dan took on the role of assistant director on set.
They began rolling.
"Hey can we cut the power on the RV's, please?" he crackled over the radio.
"10-4," I said and ran over to the actor's trailer.
The actor's trailer was already off.
I hoped there wasn't any more feces to flush.
"Can we PLEASE turn off the RV's!?" Dan insisted.
I started back to the RV I had just left.
"I'm working on it."
"It's not that hard. You just press the OFF button."
As I hugged the corner of the idling RV, Alex flew in out of nowhere and jumped into it.
He shut off the power quickly and raced back to set.
"Thank you, Alex," said Dan.
The executive producer walked up to me.
"Do you know how to turn these things off?"
"Yes," I said uselessly.
I walked into the dead RV and threw a notepad as hard as I could against its fucking dashboard.
The notepad flopped to the floor like I had wanted to.
Jerry introduced Dan and I to the rest of the teenage cast.
They would start working tomorrow.
Riley had just graced the cover of Maxim magazine, which I learned is still a magazine.
Logan grew up around here and had a Belushi vibe.
Haddock seemed mellow, distant and blond.
The six of us made brief pleasantries in the crammed moho.
Then I reviewed my errand list to Jerry.
"So batteries, dust masks, scripts, and chocolate covered strawberries."
Jerry smirked and nodded as I headed out.
Through the screen door I heard them talking about me.
"Yeah, he's really enthusiastic," they sarcastically laughed.
What do these people want from me?
"I CANT WAIT! I CAN'T WAIT TO DO IT! I'M GONNA BUY A PACK OF AA BATTERIES!! THANK YOU GOD SO MUCH!!! I'M GONNA DOOOO IT!!"
Chocolate Covered Blunderberries
I bought the batteries and the dust masks.
It was okay.
I don't know why Jerry thought it would be so exciting.
But things were about to get really thrilling.
At the office, I was supposed to make 5 copies of the script.
I accidentally made 15.
That's 1,000 pages of extra billing for Jerry.
Then at the chocolatier, I ran into a problem.
The actor I had once poked in the face with an umbrella asked Alex to get him three boxes of chocolate covered strawberries.
Dan had transferred the task to me.
Unfortunately, the chocolatier was all out of strawberries.
I called Dan.
"Just get chocolate covered cherries."
I arrived on set with the gift boxes.
"Are those the chocolate covered strawberries?"
Apparently Dan hadn't broken the horrible news to anyone.
"I got chocolate covered cherries."
Alex short circuited and shook.
The actor was disappointed.
"No, it's okay."
He handed out the confections to the crew, making very sure not to have one.
Maybe he was allergic to not getting his way.
They were tasty.
I dumped the 15 scripts onto the RV with a thud.
Everyone laughed at me.
"Did you make enough copies?"
Jerry put his head in his hands.
I shrugged and finished my chocolate covered cherry.
I don't know if Jerry ever got a chance to have one.
But he paid for those, too.
Rollins Could Do Your Job In His Sleep
By the time I got back to the hotel, Lauren had taken the train back home.
She had to teach tonight.
Mike had been busy making an inspirational Henry Rollins poster.
It gave me the inspiration to get completely drunk.
A blurry night of nonsense was hosted by Dan and Alex in their room.
A case of beer joined Elaine the editor and a young photographer girl from Ft. Floyd.
We talked about music more than movies.
Around 3:30am we got loaded enough to hop the fence and invade the hot tub.
An annoyed security guard apathetically kicked us out.
I stumbled back to the room and passed out in a cold sweat.
Just like Hank.
Time had become a wooden labyrinth marble game.
Tilting the equilibrium of each day.
Falling into holes.
Lauren and I picked up Holli in Chicago at 2:30am and drove to the Gullch Resort.
Here, Lauren leapt into bed while I stepped into an RV, and Holli followed in her Kia.
Our call time was 4am.
Today we were filming out in a remote town called Elkwound.
On the way there we passed a juvenile corrections facility.
I almost stopped in for breakfast.
That meant that Bizzano's or whatever it was called wasn't even open.
No bland, heavy, unimaginative Italian food for breakfast today!
Verdict: Win So Far
Farms & Barns & Haunted Houses
After the first actual breakfast of the shoot (thank you Suzanne) we got to work.
The pre-dawn set tripped with flashlight beams.
We were on an old, abandoned farm.
A giant toothless barn loomed over the property, wearing a hat of frayed shingles and a crumbling grain tower in its sunburned, winterbitten ear.
In the dew and the darkness, it scowled at another day.
But apparently we weren't filming in the barn.
We were filming in the farm house.
Jerry told me to go there.
"Where is it?" I asked.
He shook his head as if to say, "Why are you so stupid?"
"You didn't see it when you pulled in?"
He shook his 25 year old head some more.
At 4am I didn't see the small house buried by years of untended shrubbery, because my headlights were shining directly on the four-story murder barn that stood directly in front of me. Y'know, in the direction of travel.
But you're right, Jerry.
I should've put on my X-ray night-vision goggles and looked to my left so that I would have seen the obscured, unlit house through the trees.
It would have saved so much time.
Or you could have just told me where it was without having to be an asshole about it.
I found the house.
It hadn't been lived in for some time.
The porch creaked hazardously.
With each step the floor complained.
A bottle opener embossed with the year 1976 sat near the sink.
Dark orange shag carpeting tattered the living room.
Everywhere it smelled like old basement.
With my tiny keychain flashlight I ventured upstairs.
The rooms were tiny and creepy.
It was a dead doll's house.
A rusted box spring for a child's bed laid deceased in the corner, like the skeleton of an orphan's coffin.
Its shadow made grey waffles on the sloping, cobwebbed walls.
Breakfast of the Damned.
I got my morning fix of disturbing and descended down the squeaky staircase.
Sid noticed me from the porch.
"Did you actually go upstairs?"
"Yeah, it's pretty creepy up there."
He gave a big-eyed look to the crew, indicating that I was crazy and potentially dangerous.
I wished high school would end.
Verdict: Loss So Far
The sun felt safe enough to come out.
Today we filmed the final scenes in Grundler Bend.
The morning after scenes with the police and emergency vehicles.
I waited out on the dirt road for the fire department and ambulances to arrive.
An old school ambulance/paddy wagon dusted up the road.
Two elderly folks stepped out.
They were from the Emergency Management Agency.
I wrote down their information, took their picture, and had them sign a standard release form.
They had a lot of questions.
"Can you make us copies of this form?"
"What is this movie about?"
"Is this a Satanic movie?"
"Can I get a copy of the script?"
"What if the movie gets sued?"
I answered their questions and enjoyed the calm country morning.
Don't Distress With Texas
The crux of the cast was comprised of two older men and four co-ed teenagers.
Today our first young actor made her debut, a bubbly Texan named Britt.
Britt had a strong southern streak of smiling, congeniality, and general niceness.
"Shut up, PA!" Jimblob bellowed somewhere.
I found her quite refreshing.
"Can we get some waters to the talent, please?" Holli requested.
Getting water sounded easier than it actually was.
Here's what it entailed:
• Obtaining a bottle of water
• Wrapping it tautly with white gaffer's tape
• Writing the name of the actor's character on the tape
• Leaving the cap intact
• Piercing the top of the cap with a blade
• Inserting a bendable straw through the cap
• Delivering the modified bottle
At first I thought this was some weird Aerosmith rider thing, but later learned it's to prevent the smudging of make up and the soiling of wardrobe.
Gee whiz, they think of everything on these here movie sets, don't they?
Day Of The Dying Alive
It felt strange to be at the office making sides and call sheets during regular business hours.
The windows had sunshine in them.
And people were there.
They were sitting and standing.
It felt like being part of civilization again.
So while the copier did its thing, I turned on the cable news channel to see what else was happening in the real world.
A guy climbed a skyscraper using suction cups.
A kid fell in a river somewhere.
A woman ate 181 buffalo wings in 12 minutes.
Hey America, the pride is back.
Jizmo & The Mercedes
Jerry gave me the keys to a brand new, black Mercedes.
"I need you to pick up my friend Jizmo from the train station."
I grinned like a valet driver.
The Mercedes drove smoothly over the dirt roads.
We were in the sticks.
I didn't even know the Metra came out this far.
Apparently there was a station called Le Peach.
I waited there for a while.
A batch of commuters leaked from the 6:10 train.
No one approached the Mercedes.
No one seemed to look like a "Jizmo".
I called Jerry over the walkie talkie.
Nothing but static.
My phone had died.
I drove back to the set.
Jerry called Jizmo.
"Slight fuck up. Jizmo's at the Lucerne station."
I got to drive the Mercedes some more.
In Lucerne, Jizmo waited patiently, reading.
I guess he was a car salesman or something.
The Mercedes belonged to him.
I didn't ask about his name.
So I turned on the radio.
We learned that Mayor Daley was resigning after this term as Mayor of Chicago.
Finally, some real news.
And great news, too!
I had amassed a collection of the older actor's used socks.
A pile sat on the floor of the RV.
A week's worth of deflated cotton salamis.
If I truly hated myself, I'd sell them on eBay.
Poor Alex had been suffering from foot troubles.
"Can you run to Walmart and get me some socks?"
I did and he gave me a hug.
In retrospect I should have sold him the famous used socks.
Because they're great socks!
Worn by a world renown actor!
Featured in the ghost movie sensation Grundler Bend!
Step into fame!!
Place your bid now!!!
Al Capone Double Date
Back at the resort Lauren and Holli's husband Mike had enjoyed a relaxing day in Ft. Floyd and waited patiently for our return.
Tonight had planned a double date at Al Capone's Hideaway.
The Hideaway is an old speakeasy turned steakhouse tucked away in the woods at the bottom of a steep hill next to the river.
I first went to The Hideaway in the winter of 1993.
A small jazz combo played standards upstairs.
They did "St. James Infirmary".
Ten years later, my friend Greg had his wedding reception at The Hideaway.
I don't know if Al Capone ever went there, but we did.
On a Tuesday night we had the whole place to ourselves.
Over a table filled with steak, Holli and I relayed our hells to our loves.
They helped shape the misery into comedy.
Them and the booze.
We had difficulty getting back to the resort.
A teenage girl walking on the side of the road waved to us in the dark maze of trees and hills.
The GPS wanted us to turn left through someone's yard.
We turned right and for a more circuitous route.
The same teenage girl walked on the same secluded road.
This time we waved.
But she didn't.
The GPS still wanted us to drive through that yard.
We passed the girl again.
No one waved.
With a belly full of "steak fantasy", I dreamed about sleeping more than four hours next to Lauren, in the same room as Holli and Mike, at a golfing resort near the suburbs where I was raised.
I guess you could say it was a dream come true.
The Nurse Novels have a show coming up on September 11th, 2001.
We're making our Schuba's debut.
It's the record release show for Unicycle Loves You.
It'll be a lotta fun.
Though I should probably tell people about it.
Well, people will remember the date obviously cuz-
I meant 2010.
It was a typo.
I meant 2010!
That means if I made a typo on this blog, then...
THE PRESS RELEASES!!!
He runs toward the newspaper offices, but just as he gets to the revolving doors, a hijacked terrorist plane swoops down and crashes into him.
Yeah, anyway, it'll be our first show in a venue with decent sound.
Everyone is excited about being able to hear our instruments and voices while we use them.
Some new songs for the set:
"Mary Hartman Mary Hartman", inspired by the truly wonderful TV program of the same name, and a song by Thea about a vanishing carnival called "Carnie's Gone".
Also, we decided to dust off an old Sandwich Shop number called "My Fucken Family".
Here are the tabs so you can play it at home:
# This file is the author's own work and #
# represents their interpretation of the song. #
# You may only use this file for private study, #
# scholarship, or research. #
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 08:32:17 -0400
From: Andrew Rogers
Subject: l/lets_get_out_of_this_terrible_sandwich_shop/my_fucken_family.crd "My Fucken Family" (Tony Mendoza) Verse: Bb A D F You're gonna meet my fucken family G A Here they come Chorus: D F G Here they fucking come A G D [theremin] A F Don't say anything [repeat verse and chorus] Here they come, my fucken family They're my family Here they come, here they fucking come Don't say anything real, don't say anything Give me a drink(F) (D) (G) [Guitar solo] v v v v v v v v --1--1--1---3----|----4---0--0----- -----3----3---1--|-2-1--4--3----2-- ----1--3-----3---|----1--3---5---0- --3---1-3-1---1--|--6----4-3---5--- ------3----3---1-|-1--1--0---3--2-- (3)-1---1----3---|--2--1-1-1-3---1- (aaaggghhhaaaahhhh...)Here they fucking come Chorus: Don't say anything Don't Don't say anything Coda: Bb A D Here they come my fucken family
-- another ace 00's tab from Andrew Rogers
Around 11:30am I woke up on the floor of the hotel.
Dan and Holli were down there, too.
Ugh, gotta go.
I had a wedding to be at.
And I left mini Jonestown.
The door of our apartment became my entrance and Lauren's exit.
She had to go to work.
I found the couch for an hour.
The wedding songs continuously repeated in the van.
It forced the learning down my cerebrum.
I ran into Anne the cellist on the street.
We lugged our instruments a couple of blocks to the wedding.
The band was set up in the stage right corner.
In my direct line of vision were a set of exposed breasts.
It was a woman and her thirsty baby.
Out of courtesy, I looked to my right for twenty consecutive minutes.
My politeness was rewarded with a sore neck.
A cousin of the groom introduced himself to the band.
The guitarist introduced himself as Tyler.
I also mistakenly introduced myself as Tyler.
Then I corrected myself.
Because my name is Tony, not Tyler.
The cousin laughed uncomfortably.
Everyone thought I was drunk.
I wasn't drunk.
I was on less than 90 minutes of sleep.
That's less sleep than an Ernest movie.
The wedding went well.
I didn't fuck it up.
Some of my friends were there.
Celebratory socializing started but I didn't have it in me.
So I made a French goodbye, and snuck out without even congratulating the bride and groom.
I don't remember anything afterward.
I just asked Lauren what else happened that day.
She said she worked and when she came home I was asleep.
Setting Up Breakfast
Today we filmed in the director's father's house.
The director's father is also the executive producer.
And he plays a shadow in the film.
His house is located in the affluent suburb of Lucerne.
The PA's had to get the six controversial wooden tables onto the second floor, traveling over precarious porch steps and a precipitous staircase that turned 180º.
The room became crowded with grips and electric before we could set up the tables.
"COMING THROUGH! CLEAR THE WAY, PLEASE!" shouted Alex.
Jimblob - a fat grip - snorted.
"I love it when a PA tries to sound important!"
To their credit, the other grips thanked us for setting up the tables.
Breakfast Officially Sucks
So the director used to work for this Italian restaurant during high school.
He swears it's the best, y'know, food or something.
They gave him a big discount to cater our breakfast during the shoot.
Here's the daily rotation: pasta w/ red sauce, Italian beef sandwiches, pizza, repeat.
Today it was pasta again.
Once again it tasted numb and forgettable.
There are currently more breakfast options in the US prison system.
Because of the crowded quarters, Jimblob sat at the same table as the PA's.
While we ate in apathy, Mikey casually mentioned the possibility of us all working together again sometime.
Jimblob scoffed with a mouthful of food.
"Dude, once this shoot is done I'm not gonna even remember you!"
Why would anyone would ever say that to someone?
You've got red sauce on your face and asshole sauce on your life.
No wonder no one wants to sit with you.
There Is Crying In Production
While distributing radios I realized I hadn't seen Holli since the hotel.
She wasn't at breakfast.
I opened the screen door on the production RV.
"Hey," she smiled.
Her smile looked odd.
Like it had been driven over.
Tears leaked from her face.
"Oh shit," I said.
I held out a mummy arm and cautiously advanced toward her.
Her phone rang.
It was her husband.
She split toward wardrobe and I split from the RV.
Today was going to suck.
Nice People Are Stupid And Should Be Punished
While Holli cried alone in the RV, the crew played ironic P-funk from an iPhone and discoed on the side street.
An intrigued resident approached the cluster of motor homes and trucks that had suddenly overtaken the neighborhood.
"What are you guys doing?" he asked nicely.
The gaunt best boy snapped, "dancing"
They all laughed at the completely stupid homeowner loser and went back to being amazing.
It was getting close to 6pm.
That meant it was time to ask the gaunt hipster best boy for some power to the motor homes.
The motor homes needed to be powered up before the talent arrived.
Otherwise they had no lights, no fridge, no microwave, no TV, no heat/air conditioning, and no toilet.
Hey, let's imagine that.
"Just hang out in here till they're ready for you. Yeah, it's really dark, huh. I'll see if I can get you a flashlight so you can read your sides. Let's see. I think the TV's out right now, too. What else. All the juices are warm, and there's a tupperware of some room temperature pasta somewhere over there, I can't see. Also, there's no air circulation, but we're working on it. Oh yeah, one other thing. If you need to use the bathroom, we're going to ask you to hold it. Cool, let me know if you need anything."
I loathed this task.
It was the same thing every day.
"Hey, we're going to need to run a line for the motor homes, please."
"i have more important things to do right now" (whoosh)
So then I would have to track down Jerry, wherever he was.
And Jerry would have to tell the gaunt hipster best boy to do it.
Because he had to do what Jerry told him to do.
I thought games were supposed to be fun.
Today when the gaunt hipster best boy brushed me off, he did so by strategically yanking a cable while I stepped over it, catching my foot and causing me to stumble.
I regained my balance and began to daydream.
I imagined his passive aggressive gherkin penis turning deep purple as a stoic fieldhand strangled it with an important, important cable. I imagined his blueberry scrotum bursting into little dead morsels, and blackened blood streaming down his skinny jeans, ruining his iPhone. I imagined paying the fieldhand his $20, while the gaunt hipster best boy's final cries remain muffled by the layers and layers of gaffer's tape over his quiet, arrogant, dying mouth.
Ah, but this did not happen.
Instead, I made my way to the talent RV and screamed.
Kate from wardrobe strolled past my brief meltdown.
I took a walk.
On my walk I encountered Tad.
Tad was a young intern for the grips.
He usually wore old school punk rock T-shirts.
Tonight he donned a Black Flag shirt.
"Do you have a favorite Black Flag singer?" I asked, attempting to make a connection. I've always been partial to Chavo and Keith Morris myself.
"Oh, uh. I don't really have one, I guess."
I told him I liked their earlier stuff.
"Yeah, I don't really know that much about them."
Just wear a Human League shirt, man.
No one's going to ask you about them.
Also on my walk I saw Holli.
I asked her if she needed any water or anything.
She had put on a work face.
I placed my hand on her arm as if to say "I'm going fucking crazy."
"How are you doin'?" I asked.
"I'm fine. Just so you know, do not coddle me."
Holli thought I had touched her arm out of a patronizing male obligation to be sensitive around her fragile little female emotions.
"Oh, no no," I tried to clear up, "I'm just about to lose my mind."
The radios went crazy.
It was time to work.
"10-4," I said to somebody.
Holli walked to set.
I couldn't even communicate properly with my own friend.
Locations! Locations! Locations!
Grundler Bend had no locations manager.
Locations managers are in charge of legally securing the filming areas.
This requires permits from the city, police cooperation, signs, etc.
Jerry and Sid had taken care of all the Ft. Floyd locations.
But they had overlooked Lucerne.
So without any notice, three motor homes, two box trucks, two cargo vans, a pick up truck pulling a generator, and a dozen crew cars had overtaken a small side street.
Residents complained about the cables on their property.
Some called the police about the bright lights.
The fire department said we had to clear one side of the street, so that in case of an emergency a fire truck could get through.
I wonder what would have happened if the crew had been nice to the residents of Lucerne.
Jerry was stressed when he approached me.
"We need to clear one side of this street right now."
The grip truck and all the RV's were parked on the south side of the street.
So all cars on the north side of the street would have to move.
The catch: Residents had also parked on the north side of the street. We couldn't move those cars.
Jerry returned with a plan.
He wanted us to park the cars from the north side of the street in a city parking lot a few blocks away.
"Okay Jerry, but some of these cars aren't crew cars. I don't know how we're going to move them."
"Well, then we have to move everything on the south side!"
"But that's the grip truck and the RV's."
"WELL, SOMEBODY'S GOT TO MOVE!"
Jerry flips out, too.
I talked to Dan in the production RV.
"I don't care what anyone says. I am not moving this RV."
So I meandered over to Jimblob who drove the grip truck.
"Hey Jimblob, bad news. The fire department says we've got to move everything on our side of the street."
"Where are we supposed to fuckin' go?"
I pointed vaguely toward some parking lot I knew nothing about.
"What the fuck?"
Jimblob spread the word on the radio.
Soon Jerry and Sid were hot in my face.
"Let's go! We've gotta move these cars!"
"Why haven't you moved these cars?"
"I'm working on it," I said.
"What's the issue?!" yelled Sid.
"Some of these cars belong to the residents!" I yelled back. "We can't move them!"
"What do you mean we can't move them?!"
The gaunt hipster best boy whooshed up to the three of us.
"what is this about having to move the jenny"
He shined his headstrap flashlight in my eyes.
Now three angry men glared at my illuminated face, demanding an answer.
I gave them all a gleeful, open mouthed smile with jazz hands.
"WE JUST HAVE TO MOVE ALL THE CARS ON (THE NORTH) SIDE OF THE STREET!! WHAT IS SO FUCKING DIFFICULT ABOUT THAT?!"
"oh that's it? i thought we had to move the jenny" and the gaunt hipster best boy whisked over to his pick up truck.
I lost my smile along with my cool.
"WE CAN'T MOVE ALL THE CARS ON (THE NORTH) SIDE OF THE STREET BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT ALL CREW CARS!!"
Sid wasn't having it.
"JUST MOVE THE FUCKING CARS!!"
I began to move the vehicles that I could.
For the rest of the night, a compact car and an SUV would remain parked on the north side of the street, blocking potential emergency traffic.
I drove a van from the north side of the street and searched for a new parking spot.
On my left I noticed one and turned around.
As I started to back into the spot, the gaunt hipster best boy's pick up came from behind and snuck into it.
I don't know why I didn't step out of the van and shoot him in the face.
Maybe I hated to see a decent headstrap flashlight go to waste.
And I don't own a gun.
I guess I knew it wasn't worth it.
So I peeled out and took a big dumb drive.
I drove around Lucerne.
It felt healthy to be away from the set.
I considered not coming back.
What would happen?
Would I never work in this business again?
Would that be all that bad?
But it would mean giving up way too easily.
Over a few shitty hipsters and some mommy-funded blunderkinds.
It would also make Holli's life more hellish and reflect badly on her.
She had already had enough bullshit today.
I couldn't do that to a friend.
Oh, and the van I was driving.
They would probably want that back.
It was the vehicle they kept all the production tents in overnight.
After a few nights of rain, the moist tents had caused the van to smell like a giant stale sweat sock.
Even with the windows rolled down the stench was palpable.
I had to get out of there soon and face this dreaded day some more.
It wasn't even 10 o'clock.
The key grip was absent today.
During filming this week, he got stung by bees.
His leg had puffed up red all the way to his thigh.
He would be out for a few days.
I went looking for more hives.
I did find a sliver of carpet on the moho and took a nice, long fuck you nap.
Dan laid down on the couch and began moaning.
"I feel sick."
He remained this way for the rest of the night.
Skate Or Die
At 4am Holli woke me up via the radio.
"Tony, come to set, please."
Ooh, maybe I was being fired!
I ambled over to the set.
"Can you run to Meijer and get a skateboard?"
Jerry handed me a credit card.
I didn't ask questions.
Meijer is like a 24 hour Walmart.
You can buy shirts, blenders, lawn ornaments, popsicles, a futon, crayons, shampoo, bird seed, a digital camera, cribs, diamond pendants, a CD burner, Christmas trees, clothespins, survival knives, a humidifier, dinnerware, gadgets for Dad, linens, Guitar Hero guitars, boots, artwork, coffee filters, pants, salad dressing, an HD TV, peat moss, household cleansers, an air pistol, a levitating globe, and loose leaf paper any time you want.
Shopping there at 4am can actually be quite soothing.
It's like having a giant Walmart all to yourself.
You get hypnotized by all the shiny goodies.
A stocker pointed me in the direction of the skateboards.
He seemed nice.
Later I found his blog about working at Meijer:
and then at like fuckin 4 this dipshit guy comes in and is like DUH I NEED A FUCKIN SKATEBOARD. and i'm like dude this is fuckin MEIJER! their over there. fuckin idiot wants to take up skating AT LIKE 4 IN THE MORNING when hes like fuckin 40 or something. HEY ASSHOLE YOUR OLD!!!!!!!! FUCK YOU FOR SHOPPING AT MEIJER!!!
Back on the set, they used the skateboard as a camera dolly.
The morning dragged.
Like a dead, lassoed outlaw through a wild west town.
Filming labored on in the dank basement of an old coach house.
Dust. Mothballs. Mold. Asbestos.
Those fortunate enough to obtain masks wore them.
Sid and I watched the action from a monitor in the garage.
"Pull fucking focus, man!" Sid yelled at the screen.
His wrath was aimed at Amos, the 1st assistant cameraman.
Amos had an Amish haircut and wore Dutch Colonial glasses.
He had been having problems focusing the camera for most of the shoot.
Many scenes had to be reshot due to blurriness.
I tried to tell Amos that they made eyewear from this century, too, but he couldn't talk to me because I was a PA and it went against his spiritual beliefs.
But he did show me a VCR that he whittled from wood.
Fire In The Cornholio
The weapons specialist had returned to conduct a safety meeting.
Today he wore a Crocodile Dundee vest with a Beastmaster hat.
He talked about guns and blanks and noise and nails.
The entire crew listened like zombies, except Dan, who laid somewhere in an RV writhing in gastrointestinal pain.
Nobody cared about anything.
It was 9am.
We were in our 16th miserable hour of work.
The defeated crew schlepped themselves down to the basement with the loaded gun.
Holli gave me the cue.
"Fire in the hole!" I announced sheepishly.
Some of the crew snickered.
"Uh huh huh huh."
Then they made fun of MTV videos and tried to get high off a frog's butt.
Can We Just Get The Fuck Out Of Here?
I'm ending this day right here.
Dan was sick.
Alex couldn't walk.
Holli was depressed.
Everyone hated each other.
The hotel still crawled with hideous manufactured garbage beauty.
By 11am we had all fallen asleep on the hotel floor in mid-grievance.
Every morning I mean afternoon I drive the RV past the Corfu Restaurant.
Each time I'm reminded of the afternoon Lauren and I spent in Corfu.
We had the fortune of performing comedy on a cruise ship that hugged the perimeter of the Mediterranean Sea, among other horrible, terrible, just horrible places.
One day it docked on the Greek island of Corfu.
"Alright, Corfu. Show us your tits," I was fond of saying.
First, we walked into a McDonald's out of curiosity.
It had a Ronald McDonald statue.
The day was full of promise!
Next we traipsed about an old Byzantine fortress high atop the island hills: The Angelokastro, which means "Castle of Angels".
It thankfully had no guardrails or safety shit of any kind.
We were free to romp around its craggy cliffs and climb onto its crumbling peasant's quarters.
Then we bought a couple of goofy bugles at a souvenir shop.
Today those bugles hang in our hallway, greeting guests with silent reveilles.
Nice tits, Corfu.
Back in Ft. Floyd, I realized I hadn't heard Lauren's voice in almost a week.
Tonight we had help from two new PAs.
Mally and Patti.
These girls are 17 years old.
Technically, I'm not sure I'm even allowed to write about them.
Mally wore blond hair and baggy clothes.
Patti walked tough like a jock.
They helped me set up tables and chairs in a church.
Friday night in a suburban church with a couple of underage girls.
Wait, what am I supposed to be doing with my life again?
Friday Night Fresnels
The first scenes were filmed outside the church.
Ft. Floyd Police held up traffic on the main drag for each take.
The big heavy lights attracted lots of attention from vocal local yokels.
(vocal local yokels vocal local yokels vocal local yulkles vulcal lulcal yulkulls...)
Between cuts, teenagers and morons yapped incoherent loud things from their automobiles.
"The football game just let out," the traffic cop said.
I had forgotten football existed.
All I've done for the last week is ingest Grundler Bend and Irish whisky.
Once removed from their vehicles, the townsfolk of Ft. Floyd were curious, civil and obedient.
Many people knew about the legend of Grundler Bend, or had read the piece about the movie in yesterday's Ft. Floyd Reflector.
A small group assembled on my corner.
"Do you need any extras?"
One woman had the director as a student in high school.
We both thought the Grundler Bend ghost stories were garbage.
Then a lone kid in his late teens approached us and began a soliloquy.
"Me and my friend went down to Grundler Bend and put baby powder on our bumper and it left the imprint of a three fingered beast. It was totally scary and then ..."
He went on, forcing people to nod while looking at nothing in particular.
"ROLLING! QUIET PLEASE!" I yelled, rescuing us.
Two kids around the age of 9 whispered to each other.
While the gaunt best boy yanked around some cables, a motorist approached him.
"What is this?" he asked.
The gaunt best boy kept his head down and curtly pointed at me.
"It's a privileged hipster douchebag being an asshole to you," I wanted to say.
Instead I answered the man's questions.
"Do you need any extras?"Extra best boys?
After another consistently delicious lunch courtesy of the director's patient mother, we filmed inside the church.
Holli had me in the back with the actors.
It was my job to cue them for their entrance.
Between takes they sang Irish drinking songs.
When I called "rolling sound" they made fart noises.
They seemed to be having fun.
I smiled to indicate that I, too, was having fun.
In the scene they searched the altar with flashlights and yelled "HOLY SHIT!"
Like a less imaginative Batman and Robin.
I checked CNN on my phone to see what was happening on earth.
Flirting With Disaster
We made a company move to the historic Candlestick Hotel, overlooking the Waagosh River in downtown Ft. Floyd.
They filmed way down in the bowels of the hotel.
Exposed pipes, damp sump hatches, the boiler room.
It felt like Al Capone's vault.
It was getting late again.
The sun had come up.
The actors were getting real punchy, wandering off set every time they could.
"Keep an eye on them, Tony," Holli would often whisper on the radio.
All week, the older actor had been oddly flirting with her.
There had been references to his hot tub and leather and honey.
The next night he again mentioned leather and honey to Holli.
Tonight he gave her arm a squeeze, to which Holli brandished her wedding band.
He responded, "Don't worry, honey. Pretty soon you'll be farting through silk."
An infatuation with flatuation he has.
And earlier in the night, the actor I once bludgeoned with an umbrella put his arm around Zhangela's waist and gave her a pinch.
A harmless, coy, seductive pinch.
It seems movie sets and crazy hours combine to create an incubator of wayward emotions; these mirages of feelings that come from being away from loved ones. The passion you're accustomed to expelling regularly continues to produce, and it wants somewhere to go, and it is your duty as a man to tame it if you subscribe to monogamy.
Ho boy, I need some sleep.
America The Beautifull of Shit
Back at the hotel the Miss Teen USA Pageant had descended upon the entire resort.
These homemade beauty beasts sashayed around the lobby like showgirls with their twin mothers in tow, held together by glamour glue and joyless diets.
Alex and I lumbered the heavy radio crates through the perfectest freak show in the US of Jon Benet.
Consider any surplus of passion I once had officially evaporated.
In the hotel room we drank of course, and then Alex and I went out for a smoke.
The alcohol and sleep deprivation had turned our conversation about music into a thrilling ride down memory lane.
Alex, 24, liked a lot of 90's indie rock, and mentioned The Magnetic Fields as one of his favorites of that era.
So I told him about the time they crashed at my apartment, and how Stephin Merritt had drooled all over my roommate's Morrissey pillow.
I elaborated about seeing Pavement, Yo La Tengo, The Blues Explosion, Archers of Loaf...
Alex was amazed.
"So tell me. What was that like?"
Dude, You're Blowin' My Mind
We reinforced the curtains in the hotel room with discarded, unnecessary pillows to ensure noon felt like midnight. Sometime in these wee hours of the day, I finally imdb'ed the most famous actor in Grundler Bend.
"Wait. He was in Short Cuts?"
Short Cuts happens to be my favorite Robert Altman movie, and one of my favorite movies in general.
"Holy shit, he was the news anchor!"
That meant that he was in that sad scene with Jack Lemmon.
And that weird scene with Lyle Lovett as the baker.
"No wonder he seemed so familiar."
"He was on the Harry & The Hendersons TV show," Holli pointed out from memory.
Holli, come on now.
I scrolled further down. He did a lot of TV.
Designing Women, thirtysomething, Hunter, Murder She Wrote, V, Hotel, something called Kiss My Grits (an Alice spin-off?), Lou Grant, Police Story...
"HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!"
I pounded the comforter with a big dumb fist.
"HE WAS IN DEADMAN'S CURVE!!"
Deadman's Curve was a 1978 made-for-TV movie about Jan & Dean.
I first saw it in 2004 on a dubbed VHS tape.
The guy from the original Battlestar Gallactica played Jan.
A couple of the actual Beach Boys were in it.
It's way too long.
When it finally ended, I found out Jan had just died that day.
"HE PLAYED FUCKING DEAN!"
Holli laughed and thought I was a spazz and a dork.
Her thoughts were facts.
I continued sitting up on the bed, my mind completely blown.
Blossoming In The RV
The production RV had become home.
I began to emerge from my shell a little.
Now I felt comfortable enough to speak the occasional word and crack up the occasional room with dry a Ringoism.
During filming it was usually me and Dan charging batteries and prepping sides in the company of vanities, while Holli and a revolving door of PAs would drop in for a respite from the pace-challenged DP.
Vanities were nice.
Kate in wardrobe had big sapphirine eyes like a compassionate cat.
Zhangela in make up brought with her a purry accent and a blunt logic from Hungary.
"You cannot bee shy in thees beesness," she stated.
I had been tossing around phrases like "trying this out" and "dipping my toes" in regards to my enthusiasm for PAing. I kept this odd, cold world at an arm's length. When things got tough, I told myself that I was doing this for writing experience.
"Yes, butchoo cannot bee a-shy."
She was right.
If I was going to write about this, I would have to dig in.
It's easy to be on the outside making fun of everything.
That's what I've done my whole life.
I wasn't really the class clown.
I was the kid in the back of the room muttering the pointier barbs to the few within earshot, hopefully girls.
So if I was really going to participate, I would have to make fun of everyone directly to their faces.
I was still unclear as to my role in this production.
It certainly wasn't Key Set PA.
Young Crew, Get Out Of My Mind
The few film crews I'd seen in action had contained a spirit of camaraderie.
People worked together on the same page and traveled in the same direction.
This crew seemed segregated into exclusive camps that wandered wherever they wanted and did little in the way to promote communication.
Walls of ironic T-shirted backs.
I asked Dan why this was.
"This is a young crew of hipsters."
The mean age of the crew was 24 years, 9 months.
The mean fashion was skinny jeans.
This meant that many of them still possessed an adolescent omniscience.
It's an annoying trait that doesn't age all that well.
I guess they're afraid of what's on the other side of cool.
• They were the first generation to wear bike helmets.
• They were the first generation to be raised as precious geniuses.
• They were not the first generation to wear the craziest clothes, listen to the craziest music, and pretend they're always in Brooklyn.
I got it and I didn't.
I used to wear clothes and bike around and be an asshole, too.
But not like that.
Not everyone on the crew was a complete piece of recycled shit.
I gained respect from Marcie - the script supervisor - after I successfully made a set of copies for her. From here on out she would say things like "hi" and make eye contact with me. She was even open to things that the others weren't, like conversation.
Genius baby steps.
Wilting In The RV
It rained pretty hard.
I flew over to the set with an umbrella for the other actor.
He had also been in an Altman movie.
I still hadn't seen that one.
M*A*S*H, Popeye, Nashville, Gosford Park, Prairie Home Companion, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, California Split, 3 Women, Brewster McCloud, Short Cuts, I'd seen those.
But not The Player.
I opened the umbrella and accidentally poked him in the forehead with it.
"Sorry about that," I chagrinned.
"No, no that's okay."
We had nothing to talk about.
"I hope it didn't ruin my make up."
Back in the RV Dan was in a sharing mood.
"Alex said, 'I like Tony. He's a good guy...I don't think he has a future as a PA.'"
Then Dan let out a hearty laugh.
A Lost Episode of Barney Miller
Tonight we filmed in the Ft. Floyd Police Station.
One scene had to be postponed while they booked someone.
So we ate hot dogs in a training room.
For some reason a weapons specialist was on set.
He wore a leather Romancing The Stone vest with a Quigley Down Under hat, and spoke his resume at us through endless war stories.
The hot dogs were good and I focused on those.
Doug & Stu: Master Craftsmen
Around 5am the hot dogs wore off.
It was up to Doug & Stu to ignite the morning.
Doug & Stu were our volunteer crafts service guys.
Stu was a laid off accountant.
Doug seemed unemployed.
Both had no previous experience in catering or film production.
They were working out of curiosity and the kindness of their hearts.
Doug was a knowledgeable guy with longish, oil-blond hair and a thick suburban Chicago accent.
Stu wore thick glasses that magnified his blue onion eyes, and a thatch of toupee-worthy hair protecting his scalp. He spoke in jazzed affirmations, repeating everything back like an excited distorted mirror.
"Hey Stu, do you have any Nature Valley granola bars?"
"Oh, let's see. Nature Valley. Yeah!! Y'know, I do!"
"Cool, where are they?"
"You mean where are they? Oh! They're in my car. Did you want them?"
"Well, the talent would like some."
"Oh.. Okay.... I guess I'll go to the car and get them then."
"How long on those granola bars?" asked Holli over the radio.
Stu turned around.
"Granola Valley, right?"
I fumbled with my headset, trying to find the button.
So around 5, Doug & Stu made little Denver omelets in the police station break room.
The famouser actor walked off set and followed the scent trail.
"Keep your eyes on him," instructed Holli.
I hung out in the break room while Doug & Stu poured eggs into a portable molded griddle and the actor paced, waiting for the results.
Doug placed the first completed omelette onto some aluminum foil. He planned to cut it into four pieces and serve it on a tray. Before he could do that, the actor had grabbed the foil and wolfed down the omelette right then and there.
"Mm. This is good."
Then he farted.
It sounded like a proud frog.
No one said anything.
"You got any more of those?"
The Plight of Chris
All night Chris had been on lock-up inside the police station.
It meant standing in a hallway for hours at a time staring at a cement wall, making sure no one walked into the shot.
Like Mikey, Chris was also not receiving any pay or college credit.
Unlike Mikey, Chris had an arrogant wise-ass streak in him.
I flipped out on him a couple of days ago.
We were in the rain putting up the tents when I scraped my finger on the same tent that had sliced it open a few days prior. I yelled something like "FUCK" or "GODFUCKING DAMMIT FUCK" or both.
He gave me a patronizing pat on the back and said, "It's going to be okay, man."
I was not in the mood for this.
"YEEEAAAHH, MAAANNN! EVERYTHING'S JUST SO FUCKING GREAT OUT HERE, MAAANNN!!! IT'S SO FUCKING GROOOVY AND COOOLLL ON THIS FUCKING MOVIE WITH THESE SHITTY FUCKING TENTS THAT FUCKING SLICE OPEN MY FUCKING FINGERS, MAAANNN!! EVERYTHING'S SO FUCKING GREEAATTT!!!"
People were looking at me.
A few days later, I felt a little bad about that.
So while passing out omelets to the crew, I offered him one.
"Does that have cheese in it? I'm lactose intolerant."
I asked Doug & Stu to make one without cheese for him.
Who needs "I'm sorry" when you've got two goons grilling made-to-order omelets in a police station break room at 5 in the morning.
The sun was starting to come up.
It was getting late.
We were behind schedule.
"I need complete radio silence while we are rolling, please," ordered Holli over the radio.
"Holli, did you still want me on this lock-up?" crackled Chris.
"chris shut the fuck up"
Chris took the next day off.
A Portrait of Wentley
Earlier in the day I asked Dan why the relationship between the director of photography and the assistant director was often an adversarial one.
"Because the DP wants to paint a picture while the AD's job is to make sure things are on time."
Wentley sure liked to paint.
Tonight he painted for hours and hours while we all watched.
He even painted the sky morning-colored before we wrapped.
During wrap, Dan asked me to get the camera reports for production.
The camera department loaded their truck under a gleaming sunrise.
Wentley talked to them about how great his painting was today.
"Camera reports for production," I called out to the rigid circle.
The data technician, who lives mostly in the back of that truck watching a monitor, acknowledged me.
"Coming up," he said politely.
Wow, it felt like I was making progress communicating with these different castles.
Meanwhile Wentley continued the conversation, now standing directly in front of me with his back to my face. If this type of behavior turned me on, I could have grazed his perpetually clenched buttocks with my erect penis.
But it did not.
So I took a step back and began sketching him.
Later at the hotel I showed it to Holli, Dan and Alex.
My sketch of Wentley had painted laughter on their faces.
Hot Tub Brine Machine
This morning our Jameson consumption took us to the hot tub.
In the soothing stupid bubbles, we bitched and dished and got downright salty about this fucking, fucking movie.
Ever since word leaked that we had lost two tables, the crew felt entitled to openly treat production like a bunch of idiots.
Dan tried to make light of it with daily jokes on the call sheets.
What did the production manager get his kids for Christmas?
Nothing but he promised to make it up to them on the next holiday.
We talked about Jerry.
He never slept.
During the day he worked on the movie.
Then he would spend all night on set.
He never stopped yawning.
In a rare moment of concern, my eyes widened.
"Jerry's going to die!" I warned.
The hot tub exploded with laughter.
Flight Of The Production Supplies
Thanks to a daily regiment of Irish whisky at 8am, the afternoon was now beginning to feel like morning.
I drove the RV west into the sun for the start of a new day.
A woman pulled up alongside to get my attention.
"Oh, she must be wondering how movies are made," I thought.
I rolled down the window to answer her questions.
"YOU'RE ABOUT TO LOSE SOMETHING!!" she shouted.
Sure enough, in the rear view mirror I saw the back panels flapping away in the breeze.
Something long was indeed protruding out of them.
It got longer and longer.
Then it flew out onto the side of the road.
And then another one.
"Shit. THANK YOU!!"
I pulled into an abandoned parking lot.
The RV I was driving had tables in it.
This was news to me.
Previously the tables had been transported in a minivan.
While I was at the office at 4am, the decision to put the tables unsecured in my RV must have been made.
Now they were on Route 46.
I walked a hundred or so yards, where a man and his pick up truck had pulled over.
He studied the tables on the side of the road.
"How's it going?" I asked.
He acknowledged me with a NASCAR nod.
"These are mine," I said with bored guilt.
We shook hands.
"Yeah, I pulled this one from the middle of the road."
I thanked him.
"Well, I just hate to see shit lying in the middle of the road."
And like the exhaust from a nitro-burning funny car on a hot July speedway, the would-be scavenger vanished into the sunset.
Normally production tables measure 30" x 72".
They can be made of plastic or aluminum and are generally lightweight.
For the filming of Grundler Bend, Jerry rented wooden tables.
They weighed about 40 lbs each.
I carried them one at a time above my head for the two hundred-ish yards back to the RV.
"Hey Dan, I'm going to be about ten minutes late. Some tables flew out of the RV."
"Are you okay? Is everything okay?"
I assured him that no one got hurt, and that the heavy wooden tables had flown only onto the side of the road.
Not through anyone's windshield.
Or into anyone's children.
"How many tables do you have?"
I counted six.
"We're supposed to have eight."
Well then it was very possible that those tables had killed some children.
Just Another Morning Evening
Tonight we filmed on a well-wooded residential street in Ft. Floyd.
On the corner stood an old, green, vacant mansion.
I taped pieces of paper with xeroxed arrows onto a porta-potty.
The crew parked wherever they wanted until Dan yelled at them.
Nearby, the grips unloaded their truck of never-ending gear.
To me it resembled giant Dutch drum hardware.
The talent RV's needed power before the talent arrived.
Electrical was to supply us with a line of power.
The emaciated best boy was hard to approach.
He found a contained joy in ignoring me.
I asked again about getting power to the RV's.
"itll be a while we have more important things to do"
This would become an ongoing daily ordeal.
I stood and ate pizza for breakfast.
Mixing With The Locals
Ft. Floyd came out to see what all the fuss was about.
They gathered politely in droves on the corner.
"What is this?...What movie is this?...What's it about?"
"We're filming a movie...Grundler Bend...It's an independent film about ghosts."
Everyone wanted us to film Transformers instead.
That would've been fun to try.
But filmmakers don't take requests.
"Do you need any extras ha ha ha...? ? ?"
Holli had me on lock-up by the talent trailers.
Some passersby eyed the deserted pizza under the lonely tents.
"C'mon honey. That's not for us."
"I DON'T CARE. I'M FUCKEN HUNGRY!"
A woman came up to me.
She was tall and blond and spoke with an accent.
"What is this?"
I told her what it was.
She had lived in LA for a while but had gotten a divorce.
Now she was in Ft. Floyd.
She rolled her eyes when she said it.
I inquired about her accent.
She spoke with a cold dry curiosity.
She went from 4º to 6º C.
I learned a lot about her.
"I'm a googlemaniac," she declared.
She told me about her job in Aurora as an air traffic controller.
She worked alone in a dark cubicle.
She told me about airports that had terrible layouts.
I asked her if she had seen the movie Pushing Tin.
She laughed and said it was accurate other than the romance.
She told me about the old, green, vacant mansion on the corner.
It once belonged to the founders of Ft. Floyd.
She and a neighbor had broken into it recently.
Apparently the toilet in the basement still works.
Also, her husband was away in Dallas.
"Raccoons love Chinese food," she added.
I was learning a lot in general.
During the course of our conversation, both Holli and Dan had dropped in to visit, and then returned to work.
It seemed we had been chatting for close to an hour.
"Well, I'm going back to the house for a martini."
I remained on my lock-up.
The director's mother is a sweet, lovely woman.
Every night before midnight, she arrives with food for fifty hungry jerks.
She makes the food herself.
Tonight it was Greek cuisine.
It was delicious.
After lunch everyone is less of a jerk.
This is the best part of the working day.
Thank you, Suzanne.
Mikey & The Digits
After lunch, I mostly hung out on set.
Holli gave me the northern lock-up.
It was an easy, isolated spot.
Before lunch, Mikey had the southern lock-up where all the rowdies clamored.
Between takes, a gaggle of girls flirted with him.
By the end of the night, one girl had given him her number.
Way to go, Mikey!
That kid has been working his ass off.
In addition to the 14 hour days spent on set every night, he's continued his day job as a park district custodian.
He's been catching naps on gym mats.
And get this.
He's working as an intern.
An unpaid intern.
And the producers won't give him college credit.
So even the word intern is a misnomer.
He's a volunteer.
Fuck that girl or something, you're making me ill over here.
Blind Spots To Blood Spots
A Ft. Floyd police cruiser had a camera affixed to it.
The actor drove it down the tree-lined street from 2am-3am.
He grew more impatient with each take.
After the ninth or tenth call of "reset", he began driving recklessly back to "one" in reverse like a petulant child.
With the car idling, the slate girl put her eye to the viewfinder of the camera on the car.
The actor had kept the car in gear.
"He's still in reverse!" I called out.
"Guys, the car's still in gear!" Holli warned.
The crew ignored us.
The director of photography spoke to the actor.
The slate girl took her eye off of the camera.
The car backed up and almost clocked her in the head.
She stepped out of the way.
"Thank you, Tony!" said Holli, walking up to me.
"He's going to kill somebody tonight."
Meanwhile, a girl from the art department sat cross-legged and painted a doll red for eleven straight hours.
Moving To The Mobil
We made a company move to a second location.
It was a gas station and 4am.
We were behind schedule.
All the trucks and gear and hipsters had to pack up, drive one mile, unpack, and set up again.
It began to drizzle.
To stay dry, Holli invited me into the police car to stand-in for the actors while the crew set up the shot.
I felt like we were in a reverse drive-in, with the director, the grips, the art department, and the camera department all looking in at us.
It was taking a while.
The DP had been using lots of time to set up shots all night.
His name was Wentley.
He wore the irked air of a prickly caviar critic.
"How are you sitting?" he glared at me.
"I'm sitting like this."
He scowled and returned to his weird world.
How was I supposed to answer that?
If I have to interact with him to stay dry, then I don't mind getting wet.
The Fantastuck Four
We wrapped on the dawn of another dreary day.
My mind had become a grey soggy egg.
I did make sure the panels were locked on my RV to prevent further unsolved deaths of innocent children. But I couldn't figure out how to get any radio stations other than Noah's Severe Weather Report, which is a robot that repeats only the hazardous weather information.
The good stuff.
Its cautious loop of possible hailstorms and gust advisories calmed me all the way back to the hotel, where Holli and I imbibed in our daily habit. Dan and Alex joined us in our room, and now a quartet dished about the perils of this goddamn job.
Alex is a genuinely friendly person.
When he removed his Super-PA cape, I got to know him even better.
Despite my professional shortcomings, he seemed to like me, too.
He's an earnest man with enthusiastic curiosity and an ability to crack up a room with a simple observation.
Did I mention Irish whisky was involved?
PA In Demand!
Holli let me sleep a little longer.
I think I got three twitchy hours in.
Apparently Jerry had been calling me since noon.
Jerry Pucelord is the UPM.
I had to look that up.
Unit Production Manager.
That means he makes decisions with a credit card.
Jerry had wanted me up earlier than 4pm to pick up two more RV's.
Holli told him I would be ready by 4:30.
Jerry waited in the lobby while I showered.
In the lobby, Jerry waved me over with the annoyed snap of old money.
Suddenly I was "the help" on one of his private, whites only ranches.
He and his friend Franklin pulled up in a jeep.
I climbed in the back and laid down.
They were listening to weird music.
Like Atlantic Starr but updated.
It sounded like stuff my mom once aerobicized to.
Music from my puberty.
Jerry and Franklin were talking business.
You have to be 25 years old to drive an RV.
Jerry was qualified.
Franklin wasn't old enough.
"Is Tony old enough?" he wondered.
"Hey, Tony," called Jerry, "How old are you?"
I raised my head up from its rest.
We drove the rest of the way in silence, save for the respectable level of contemporary mom music.
At the RV wonderland we signed contracts.
An overly chipper woman talked our ears off.
She was blond and fat and a little white trash.
She poked fun at my lack of enthusiasm.
"Yeah, man, totally," she said, mistaking my lack of sleep and desire to be there for a marijuana addiction from the 1980's.
I understood that she meant no harm.
The RV was a Chevy or a Ford probably.
I turned on the engine.
The CD player blared some mysterious German punk polka.
Thinking this to be a moment, I recorded myself pulling out onto the highway with the camera accidentally upside-down.
But it seems this angle more accurately captures the spirit of "the morning."
Rush hour allowed us to take too long in arriving on set.
By the time I got there, the breakfast of Italian Beef sandwiches had all been eaten.
I put a steamed sweet pepper into a bun and called it food.
I realized today that I would be seeing these same people over and over again every day and every night for the next three weeks.
Dan likened it to summer camp.
I never went to summer camp.
When I was a kid, my mom used to threaten to send to me to camp when I acted like a little asshole.
I begged her not to.
Being around strangers in a competitive environment with no privacy sounded like hell on earth to me.
Three decades later, the littlest asshole was right.
Watching Talking Walking Watching
The police closed the main drag for filming.
There wasn't much to see, but we all watched anyway.
A couple of guys in cop outfits walking and talking.
We couldn't hear what they were saying.
But we watched them talk.
Some people watched until 1 or 2am.
Dan and Holli hired another PA to help out.
His name was Alex.
He raced down from Michigan.
He was fast.
He was a go-getter.
He got the go.
He knew how to fly.
He wore a cape.
He did all the things I was supposed to do, but faster.
There Once Was A Tent From Nantucket
Some of the production tents sucked cock.
One of them in particular sucked the most cock.
It had a damaged ring on its retractable pole.
This tent sliced my forefinger at the joint below the tip.
I bled a bunch, enough for it to suck lots of cock.
I found a band aid from 1989 in an antique first aid kit.
I applied it to my futuristic wound.
It took about an hour for the everything to stop sucking cock.
I wrote in my diary tonight that things seemed to be going a little better.
I had learned some new lingo.
Hot Brick - a new, charged battery for a walkie talkie
Moho - abbreviation for motor home
That's about it.
"We need a hot brick to set," said Holli.
Alex had already given out all of his hot bricks, so it was up to me.
I gave one of my hot bricks to Mort, a nerd chic kid in skinny jeans.
He was the head of the art department.
Later, a grip requested a hot brick as well.
"That guy with the moustache has them," said Mort.
I was sitting next to him.
"My name is Tony," I said.
It started to drizzle.
Between takes Alex and Mikey would help the art department wipe the police car down.
Alex's towel blazed with precision.
He made the rain afraid.
The actors got in the cruiser and drove it out of the frame 674 times.
They backed it up and got out of the cruiser 673 times.
Around 5am one of Ft. Floyd's Finest screeched a U-turn and raced the cruiser down the main drag across the Waagosh River. After each take the officer directing traffic heckled him.
"Screwed it up again," she jeered.
They got a decent take before the rain came down hard.
My historic band aid flapped uselessly while I collected radios from the groggy soggy crew.
In the mad wet dash, Holli should me the proper way to wrap a D-chair.
By the time production had wrapped, so had the rain.
At the hotel Holli and I had a glass of red wine, followed by Jameson.
"If you didn't have to work, what would you do?" she asked.
"Travel and write."
Holli expressed an interest in doing something humanitarian.
Something that meant something.
After a few glasses, sleep still hadn't arrived.
We decided to take a dip in the pool.
It was a cloudy morning in the deep end.
The mist from a drizzle tickled my face.
Piped-in instrumentals from the 60's complimented my dumb buzz.
I hadn't wanted to quit or kill myself today.
It felt good.