Ramble On / Battle Cry


___

I was signing in to Soundcloud from my phone to listen to The Christian McQueen Show (props to Christian and Dagonet, its funny as fuck and has great content). I pressed on the profile button, not thinking much of it, and up came this. My old music from the aftermath of my marriage. About a dozen tracks of mediocrity and/or down right bad beats, but all an expression of the pain, loss and loneliness of a blue-pill beta world being ripped from his hands and turned to ash.

Where has the time gone?

I was three years ago last week I crossed the Canadian border with $36 in my bank account, a shit-ton of debt from my ex, my drinking and my irresponsibility and no hope other than a familiar bed and familiar place. I moved my entire life in a single Dodge Stratus, having trimmed a lifelong partnership down to what I felt was the most important. Grasping to the things I felt that made me.

Three years is a long time.

Last week, I was adventuring in the wilds of British Columbia, my last week there. My instinct about this exchange being spot on. Soon after that post, I was notified I had two weeks left due to budget constraints. I don’t blame anyone, the bosses or the newbie or the culprit. When the anger past and I looked at it all clearly, this woman in a position of power had no idea what she was doing, or how it fucked me over. It wasn’t a conspiracy, it wasn’t a vendetta, it was something so much simpler. It was just selfishness. Selfish actions, narcissism and an utter lack of self-awareness. Everything that we know about the typical Western woman. Instead of showing me that she was worthy of her title, this woman showed me all she was no different than the leopard print legging, frayed UGG wearing zombies I see at Wal-Mart.

It did not deter me. When my adventure was over, I told my parents (my ride) that I walked on an ancient glacier, I climbed kilometers of forest, I flew in helicopters to the top of the world and drank pristine water. I did my job right and I did it well. And, when they brought me back to their house, my old house, I recouped for no more than an hour from my long flight. Soon after, I grabbed what packages I had ordered, my car and headed back out. By the end of the night, I had not gone to my own home, but to that of a girl, who happily greeted my return. I finally unlocked my own door at around noon the next day.

Since then, I’ve been on a spree of gear buying, organizing and planning. My room is no longer a pigsty of work, clothes and plain laziness, but a thought out collection. My fridge is full of the right food, not pizza boxes and pop as it was when I cleaned it out before leaving. Hooks and shelves. Roughneck tubs and tape labels. A rucksack being build up to tackle the great big world that lives outside the streets of a city.

001

Three years ago, if I hadn’t put myself on a path to accept the harsh realities of women, and people in general, what happened to me would of destroyed me just as bad as the end of my marriage had. I had done right, worked hard, played on the team and done my part beyond what I was told it would be and, like the end of my marriage, it was the selfish needs of a woman and her missing self-awareness that ended a good thing way too soon. But, because of people like Christian and Dagonet, like Rollo, Dalrock and the long-departed Solomon II, and the countless others I’ve been inspired by, I was able to push myself to become a better me, and through that a better man.

___

Advertisements

Hot Fries, Pickup Trucks and Brotherhood

Sunny, humid, and we were in farm country. The warm weather would bring me down at the start. Reminders of long dead things. That was a few weeks ago. Rolling in to the parking area at around 3pm, dirt road and tall grass, barns and the sounds of horses. Having city people and their trucks of equipment all over must of looked strange if not that most “country” people are just transplants from suburbia. Have a horse and a few chickens does not make one rural.

It was a nice set up we had. Camera, electric and grips all next to each other. Production base camp just a few feet away. Craft services ready with food. The only downside was that the actual set was about 500 meters down the tiny side road with a rocky shoulder. Hundreds of pounds of equipment per department would need to be transferred by cart. That would take hours. The property owner of our set, or someone else with a slice of power, didn’t want the big transport trailers all over the grass. Understandable, but we were making a movie. Its a dirty job. Its a destructive job.

My department, camera department, was kind of fucked. Extremely expensive equipment, time sensitive setups and absolutely no transport to set. That would mean pushing our carts down the road. Luckily, the key (boss) grip lent us a pickup. In 5 minutes, we had all our equipment on. The pickup only had 2 seats though and there was 5 people being transported. The key grip, the 2nd AC (same as the last story) and myself jumped in the back. I sat on one of our carts, supporting my balance on the edge of the pickup’s bed. With the largest Red Bull money can buy in my hand, we set off down the dirt road and on to the asphalt.

All that was missing was the Dixie horn and a shotgun

The resident crazy ass transpo driver was behind the wheel. I nearly fell off when he turned down the driveway to set, but all that came out of my mouth was a “WHOOOOO!” You don’t get to sit on the line between fun and a cracked skull very often. Not an hour later, all the tech trucks were brought to set, parked down in one of the suburbia farm’s fields in a crescent moon. All we needed was a bonfire (we already had the beer) and the long weekend would of started.

Movie making is having huge amounts of stress in a very small amount of time. When something goes wrong, it can tank your reputation and respect in the industry if its not fixed. Getting used to different directors and their needs is frustrating, but a must. The previous one was always on our ass to move faster and faster. This one has a need to take his time, which removes the constant aggravation of “MUST SHOOT! MUST SHOOT!”, but the day will never end early. You can make a movie cheap and fast, fast and good or cheap and good. You can only get to pick one, and they all come with heart-pumping, head-sweating moments of “Oh shit.”

At lunch, most of the crew hung out at their trucks. The key grip, a farm-bred heart of gold, was shooting the shit with his guys when one of the props guys pulled out a toy he got a Wal-Mart: a foam-dart sniper rifle. The country boy, not to say no to having a little fun. He asked how it worked, grabbed a few darts, and by the red glowing light of the electric’s truck, walked up the ramp with the biggest grin. A few moments later, the pop of the gun followed by a “what the fuck!?!?” and the howl of laughter by everyone in our fireless camp. He came back out, loaded another dart and spotted one of his guys having a smoke by the front of the truck. The gun raised, he disappeared into the black. POP! “What?!?!” and more laughter. It was then I realized that I had found a brotherhood. Factions by departments, but in the end, we technicians and creative souls are part of a tiny brotherhood. Our experiences are singular. Our personalities unique. For every ten thousand farm-boys like the key grip, there may be five who can solve on set mechanical problems like him. For every 100 000 want to be photographer, the head of my department may be the only one who can set up lighting in lightning speed, making what could be a shitty movie look amazing.

As I drove home, sun rising over the lake, I smiled. Happy things are getting better, cleaner, in my life. Directions found and ambition focused. It may not have been the dream I had at 22, with a new life and a new wife and the world before me, but its a better dream. A dream for myself; my skills, my will and my wants.

I pulled in to A&W at 6am, hoping to having a well-deserved burger. The root beer came first and it tasted like victory. Soon, freshly made, I could smell the salt and the oils of meat and potato. I was hungry for something other than craft service, catered lunch and what I could find at home. As the chubby, dour looking employee handed me the bag with my food, she said “Be very, very careful.” in reference to the fries.

I drove off, laughing, eating a dangerous fry. Is that what we must be scared of now? Hot meals?

If she only knew what I did in the last 15 hours, she may give up telling shill people to watch out for reheated, freeze-dried food.

The Bro and the Ho

Its part of my job to pick up two co-workers from two seperate locations in Toronto. Every shoot day its the Ho, then the Bro.

The Ho has a nice, thin body, but the shark jaw of the scariest predator of the seas. Half Italian, part Jew, all bitch screeching voice. She sits in the tiny Yaris like its a limo. Back seat on the passenger’s side. Today, she was ordering a custom handbag over the phone as I ferried her. On set, she has one job, but creates an atmosphere of cuntery by trying to push the rest of the crew to fit her timeline. More than once she’s been dressed down by her superiors to no avail.

The Bro is our host. Young looking, funny, charismatic, you’re his friend as soon as you two meet. From day one he’s sat in the front seat when I pick him up. He starts a conversation, asks about life and activities. There’s not a single person on set who says ill about him.

The Ho is Toronto’s monied class in a nutshell, despite her small mining town roots, this woman breathes our air and farts distain for the peons she doesn’t control.

The Bro is the everyman. Despite his position as top talent on our show, he has worked from the ground up to get there. Blood and tears. And he’s remembered every moment. And he hasn’t let it change him one bit.

Survival Mode

___

“I’m fucking serious,” he said, stone look on his face.

Tim, our director of photography’s best friend, was explaining the ins and outs of where we’d be shooting that afternoon. Canadian, but currently residing in Chicago, he had a good knowledge of the streets and the politics of our location: Chicago’s South Side.

“This is a place where a lot of America’s gun crimes happen. Last month there was 60 shootings,” he told us; the DOP, the audio tech and myself. Three white guys, four with Tim, aiming to take a camera into neighborhoods known for their tribal sense of territory and inclusion.

We hit the Lake Shore and drove south, then east, after twenty minutes the decor changed from polished Chicago to Buffalo, or Watts, or the deepest crime ridden streets of Miami. Grass growing taller than toddlers. Road lines rubbed raw of paint. A gap between tricked out rides and rust on wheels. A huge increase in public transit buses and lines at the bus tops. And, most noticeably, not a single white person save for us four shiny whites in a black Dodge Grand Caravan.

When we crossed in, you could feel the tension in the air. At stop signs, drivers took looks at us, driving away slowly. When going through an intersection, a woman pulled out in front and yelled something from her Mustang, then took off. At each location, 5 in all, front porch sitters with jingling cigarette packs watched us. In front of an abandoned store front, the place where the true criminal was arrested, two men wearing different styles of red did not blink as the DOP and Tim got shots. They stood at their corner, smoking, until we left. The DOP mentioned he was going to shoot the back of a man walking down the street, but Tim saw him trade drugs just moments before, and stopped our cameraman.

“Don’t tell them the story,” Tim told us. “Because the story is divisive. Tell them you’re shooting something for the community, or say you’re shooting for Obama.” In one neighborhood, with young girls leaning over a buff guy’s ride, one of them asked what we were doing. We threw out the Obama line, she said she wanted to say something. The camera was panned over to her and she screamed, “WE LOVE OBAMA!” They all smiled before getting back into the van.

When we returned, and our director, the same one I’ve wrote about a few times, asked us how it went, Tim told the stories as well as his own experiences. Later, as we four went to dinner, without the director, he told us that she didn’t believe him. I nodded in silent agreement. Her politics, at least in that moment, did not let her believe that she couldn’t talk her way out of a South Side scuffle. She considered us paranoid, even when she was taken to the same place the next day, men in red walking the streets.

Its a strange thing driving into these places willingly. Your body knows when you’re putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. A smart man listens to that reaction. When you see a guy fiddle with his pockets on a corner, not crossing, something is up. When four or five men in similar colors crowd around a sidewalk, something is up. When you’re watched or walked toward and your brain says DANGER, listen. In South Side, its blacks. In East LA, a place I ended up in when working in Hollywood, its Hispanics. Even in some places in the South, the same rules apply for whites. Your brain is the product of millions of years of survival. It knows what its doing.

Road Food

Since January, I’ve gone to Greensboro, North Carolina; Akron, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois, New York City, New York; Poughkeepsie, New York; and Melbourne Beach, Florida for work. 10 hour days, usually, hour or so food break with the crew for lunch, dinner and beers at the end of the day. Always eating out. On every trip I stumble back over 190 from 185. In many places, the price of pure meat is too high (due to the tastes of the well-to-do crew) or only comes in bun form (and who’d want the pink slime anyway?).

When I took it on myself to work out and eat as well as possible, it was hard to keep up with that when most of my food came from gas stations or chain restaurants. In the Chicago-New York trip, I was able to get down a rhythm of working out during out long interviews by walking a lot, stretching and shadow box for short bursts. Foodwise, I ate fish, steak or chicken as my main. If there was a salad, I’d get it. And if wings were the best (ie, cheapest) option, I went for those, despite the enormous amount of fat related with their coating. During Florida, I was able to work out in a well equipped fitness center, have time to do several sets of push ups between interviews as well as get my ass handed to me by high waves on Melbourne Beach. Food wise, being right beside the ocean gave me access to fresh fish, clams, oysters, gator meat and other things. And Melbourne Beach being a smallish city without the insane Miami vibe, the restaurants were locally owned and well-staffed. Not to mention that our director was laid back and was happy to let the boys go out and eat instead of steer our wallets toward more up-in-the-air tastes worthy of a twice-divorce snobby hag.

Its hard to get in the habit of eating as well as you can when your traveling. To make sure you’re not going overboard on calories or chemicals or wheat products. I try to steer from breads as much as I can. Load up on meats. And if needed, skip a snack for a Red Bull. Less calories and keeps me un-hungry for longer than a chocolate bar or soda would. I take a Jamieson Vita-Vim pill everyday now, making sure I have some, if not all, the nutrients my body needs. If I find them, I grab the high-protien shakes like Muscle Milk and use them to supplement meals I miss due to being a lazy ass sleeper. The only thing I never miss is dinner and a post-work drink.

One of the most important things to do while on a job like mine is de-stress. Smoking, for the former smoker, works wonders, especially if just one can get you that high and calm you for hours. I’ll try to avoid that and replace it with things like working out, if possible. But sometimes, you need a bad habit to offset the massive bad juju of someone else, someone else who for a week is your boss.

I forgive myself a cig or two, or a beer or three, to make sure the next day I don’t start with piano wire in my pocket.