please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Martin van Buren?

On the night before Obama's inauguration, which was also Martin Luther King Day (or "Black Saint Day", as a friend once called it), I was running a spotlight at a Boyz II Men show.
Well, here's how I summed it up over on Reid's blog:

"You know, yesterday I was working. Boyz II Men was playing Spirit Mountain Casino, and after setting up the stage, lighting, sound, video and band gear, I also ended up running a spotlight during the show.

So, successful black band plays to capacity crowd on MLK Day, one day before the inauguration of the first black president of the United States. Do either of these items get mentioned? No.

On one hand, I appreciate that they had no obligation to talk about either of these things, but they did go on and on about how honored they were to still be doing whatever the hell it is they do after eighteen whole years. It was like it was B2M day, and it was odd to put it lightly."

True. As I also noted, the crowd was largely populated by large white women. These were attended by either reluctant boyfriends or the men they married -possibly to these very tunes. Also: lots of gay men, generally accompany-ing their big, fat lady friends.

This scenario was made even more iffy by the fact that these were brand new bleachers we were standing/sitting on. My co-worker Lord Douchebag pointed out, "They're held together with aluminum crossbars! They're gonna collapse the minute any of these ladies start dancing!"

I was certainly worried about it, since I also had had a hand in constructing the entirely makeshift and improvised spot platform. It was sitting uncomfortably atop a number of folded-down seats, with legs propped up by tiny wooden shims in front, resting on four-by-fours in back.

"Just shove some poker chips under there!" I yelled. Someone came back with, "I know where we can get some!"

Later, during showtime, I'm trying like hell to keep a hold on this enormous piece of lighting equipment, which is swaying back and forth along with the entire bleacher. The lady seated immediately in front of my feet (and who, if things go terribly wrong, will have a hundred or so pounds of fine lighting equipment landing on her head) at first had some resentment about our presence back there, but noticed our headphones and indicated "ears" to her boyfriend. They got headphones. This is official.

Luckily, the lighting director didn't count on us knowing the artist's names, which I appreciated. "Spot Two, you got The Bald Guy..." he had said. This was nice, as earlier in the day we had been unable to name a single song that they had done. "I Wanna Sex You Up", for instance, is by Color Me Badd. I knew this. But these guys?

So yeah. They kept on acting like something far more profound than what they are, and the audience followed suit. The buffet food made our business agent violently ill, and gave some rather serious runs to another one of the stagehands. I, who had two servings of shrimp n' bay scallops in butter sauce at lunch, was just fine.

The next morning, I got up and went to Seattle. I listened to the inaugural speech until the southern-most reaches of Cowlitz County, when I lost OPB on the radio. Seemed good. I liked the fact that Obama made it a point to basically say, Hey, we've been childish shitheads for too long. Let's do something about that, and maybe for a few minutes, the resta you assholes should shut up and let the grownups talk.

That's what I got from it, anyway. The NPR folks, too. I rolled into Seattle nine minutes before my appointment with the folks at McCaw hall, which gave me scarcely little time to both find a parking space and figure out where the hell in the thirty or so buildings that comprise Seattle Center which one was McCaw hall.

I paid for parking, and received eighteen dollar coins in change. Idly, I wondered, so who's on that coin these days? I mean, from Ike to Susan B. to Sacajawea for chrissakes...Who could possibly...I didn't have time, and rushed over to the theater.

I was greeted by a number of happy Seattle Center employees who were overjoyed that I, the last testee of the day, was there. I am already an extra with IATSE Local 15, which enables me to do theatrical work in King County proper, but to work in the many venues incorporated in Seattle Center, you need a City Card.

So the two people ahead of me were quickly run through the process. The one before me was a young lady dressed for a job interview were she -say- looking into becoming a receptionist at a law office. It was pretty clear that she didn't completely understand what she was wandering into, or perhaps was recently graduated from college with a degree in Theater, and had quickly figured out that there were no jobs for her anywhere else.

People continued to be so happy to see me, as I represented the last one of the day. After me, they could go home. The deck manager was a nice man who came right out and said it: "This is really just to weed out people who honestly don't know what the fuck they're doing at all. Climb this ladder."

And I...Climbed the ladder. Then I helped him put away some cables. Pass.

I went up to the lighting bridge after this. I encountered a guy up there who was with the secretary-lookin' one from earlier. He wasn't testing her skills; he was telling her how to hang and focus a light. He asked what my knowledge level was in this area. I said, "Well, I've been with IA for two years. Before that, I was LD on a local television show, did a year at a local rock venue, I'm house AV at Nike, and was at the art museum before that..."

"Fine," he said, "I just wanted to know if you've ever done this before."

"Yup," I said. Then we got talking about an older guy we both know, although it took a few minutes while we confirmed that we were talking about the same guy. "In his late seventies? Number one on the list in Phoenix? He once threw Ronald Reagan into a river on a film shoot in the Fifties?"

"Yeah! That's him! He loves that story!"

"If only he'd stayed in the river..." If I were the secretary-lookin' lady at that moment, I would've been saying: goddamn it. It was two techs being all chummy. Later, up on the loading bridge, he basically let my sloppy knots go, and her complete lack of knot-tying skills go. He also did not test our skills as far as loading bricks. He just showed us how, including the perhaps unfortunate use of the phrase "yes you can," to the lady, who was black.

After that, a visit with the stage manager, who assured me that the Seattle local is entirely okay with answering questions, not just bark bark..."You know, a lot of the Portland guys..." I said.

"I know," he said.

Thence over to the home of Disco Boy and Girly-Girl, for brisket and endless conversation. It's interesting to note that One A.M. is wayyy past bedtime for both of us, now. The next day, even though both of us really shouldn't do this, we went record shoppin'.

For me: Queen's first album, which I can't find here at all, and Brian Eno's Music For Films, which I've had a very hard time finding. For the lady: Excene Czervenka's one-off project Auntie Christ: Life Could Be A Dream.

And -would you believe- who's on the dollar coin? Martin van Buren, who certainly was a controversial figure of his time, and a political genius of sorts if I read him correctly...But hardly a president that anyone has thus far felt any serious need to commemorate.

Ah, matter o' fact, I have a number of presidential history type stuff I'd like to talk about, but I gotta get up in the mornin' n' do somethin' stupid. I'll be back.



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