February 6, 2010
Exploding Plastic Inevitable!
When you are invited to something called the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” you’re bound to have some pretty awesome expectations. When you are a part of something called the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, your willpower exhausts in an effort to contain tidal waves of excitement/ a desire to convince every single person you come into contact with to come celebrate New Years Eve with you, Warhol style. Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory style that is.
Alright, let’s back up a moment before handing you some speed, a screen for printing and a black turtle neck. While at Bicycle Kitchen (check out my B.K. entry if you think this involves soup, the homeless, delivering soup by bike, the homeless riding bikes or a delicate combination of all of the above), a friend and Master Cook (I, still an eager apprentice), Mabell, was talking about her New Years plans, which sounded like a pretty fun deal (house party, cool bike kids) and she happily extended the invitation to myself and anyone else in the near vicinity (mabell is a badass with the kindest and generous of spirits)! But it wasn’t until the ride home I recognized the epic-ness of the event to take place on Dec. 31, 2009. Mabell described the vision of the party which involved a Velvet Underground cover band to complete the whole event and they were still in need of musicians. I couldn’t help but note that I could play a number of instruments albeit none of them spectacularly and suddenly we were discussing rehearsal times. This was legit…a “we’re entering a new decade, party-spectacular” I could only dream of being a part of!
The party was formulated in the minds of Mabell and her wife Xochitl and would take place at their lovely home, which would be transformed into the Factory (more on this later). The “Velvet Underground” would play 5 songs as the culmination of the evening at the Factory. The other members included Eric Potter, another bike kitchen aficionado and
pro musician on guitar, Coral, also a Kitchen cook on drums, Ben Ling, owner of Pure Luck, one of my favorite vegan restaurants on bass, and a whole slew of amazing singers (including Xochitl!), each featuring on a different song and lest i forget two other bikies on violin and cello for a song. First rehearsal was fantastic. Showed up giddy like my first day at Disneyland. I provided keyboard, guitar and amp, and I guess because I wandered in with the keyboard I was invited to play it for the first song we rehearsed. Oh lordy… I didn’t even really listen to the keyboard parts and well…my piano skills went out with my pigtails. Luckily Velvet Underground tunes are relatively simple and very
repetitive, so figuring out one or two chords suits an entire song if not multiple songs. Whew. The rehearsal space was perfect…unknowingly stationed behind some restaurant in a tiny room where we could all bounce the rhythms, tones and sound vibrations off one another. It sounded awesome and I really felt transported. The rehearsal ended up being one giant jam session, power chords and noise provided by myself, more talented endeavors by the others. Good times!
Let’s get to the party already: Mabell and Xochitl had their house decked-out upon arrival for our second rehearsal (on new years eve day of course) and I knew it was going to be the best New Years ever when the transformation of their house included their house wallpapered with tin-foil (yes…read that again…wallpapered with tin-foil!), an abundance of Warhol art all around, blacklights warming in the corners, DVDs of Warhol’s Screen Tests on the TV and Mabell off busy with her mylar balloon making set she bought online (heat knife included) to recreate Warhol’s Silver Cloud installation. Hardcore. Did I mention they even had a screen made in hopes that there might be some screen-printing action? Xochitl even had FauxBan sunglasses ready for all the band members (see pic). The bicycle kitchen kids (not really kids of course) are the coolest.
After the rehearsal, where we recognized the importance of a monitor, we split our own ways only to return to the house, possibly even more Warholized (Tomato soup anyone?), and ready for a party! People came piling in…and then more people showed up…and then a few more streams of Factory clad hipsters packed into the crowd and we were ready for a show! One dude seriously looked like Andy Warhol…totally went for it…fantastic. I was excited as flints of nervousness passed by. We played on the back porch and the whole backyard was filled with people…the whole set was amazing…it felt incredible to be up there playing those tunes in s
uch a perfect atmosphere…and one song even featured a dominatrix and slave being whipped…what would a Velvet show be without some performance art?!
The whole evening was a whirlwind of New Years and Factory-style vibrations; mystery home-brew, mystery alcohol, smoke in the air, some random dude who no one could recognize with a goat-skeleton puppet (yup…real), dancing until 7, 8, 9 in the morning….it goes on. Best New Years ever. Mabell has since told me that people are still talking about that party and even inquiring about the “band”! It’s a night that could never be repeated, i’ll never forget it, and damn do i feel thoroughly privileged to have been a part of making it happen. Explode!
Los Angeles, California
January 28, 2010
Last weekend (or a couple ago…post late as usual) i took to the coast. cyclin style. some of you may know…many of you don’t and may not care even…but i just made a long term investment. this is how i’m rationalizing my unusual big-spender ways. to capitalize on the peak of my bicycling obsession i plunked down enough money on this new bike that could have bought me something with a motor equipped. but alas, the only motor on this thing, is muscle fiber: a pair of legs and a mind hopefully sharp enough to navigate the trafficked streets of Los Angeles. and may those hipster angels pray for me. don’t worry, it wasn’t an impulse buy….even after about a year of wavering i still feel guilty having spent so much money in one place. i spent many a night gazing upon the flashing screen (much like you are doing now) and into the realm of bike blogs, ebay, craigslist, manufacturers websites, measurements, weights, angles, colors, styles…oy…you name it (if i haven’t already) and i was reading about it. recently i heard someone say that whatever jumps out at you first is 90% of the time what you will end up going with. whether it’s a pair of jeans, food selection at a restaurant, gadgetry etc…you always come full circle. i’m learning to trust these first instinctual impulses and so far, i’ve been amazed at how accurate that first inkling proves. but i suppose it is helpful…and certainly education to go around the circle and see what else is out there…just in case…ya know…there might be something better and as our well-fashioned consumer minds think…cheaper. my old bike is a Trek…Trekky 1. i’ve had that thing since i was 12 or 13 so that’s where i started. i’ve loved that bike…certainly lasted…let’s see what Trek’s snazzy road bikes have to offer. after Trek, i wanted to see Cannondale, Marin, Masi, Specialized, Fuji, Surly…on and on and on. so i browsed online, went to a bunch of bike shops, took too many test rides, and ya know what i bought? a Trek. of course. Trekky 2 it is! i think humans have more knowledge buried in their instincts, and initial gut reactions than we give credit.try it. at the very least you’ll save a whole lot of time and aren’t we all about that in today’s society. give me speed and i’ll give you an illusion of efficiency. ha.
Where was i going? oh right…actually on the bike! along the coast…highway 1…PCH….you know…that beautiful coastal drive. nahh…it’s a beautiful coastal ride! friend recommended i check out the LA Tri club as i was looking for some serious road riding now that i had my serious road bike. found a ride early saturday morning, 8:30am, meet in malibu, Zuma to be exact. woke up and it was still dark. i barely made the ride as i drove a little too far up pch (now entering ventura county? ooops) and then scrambled round my car, bike shorts and snacks flying, before showing up with my sunglasses hanging off my face, helmet on backwards, sandals on my feet shouting “wait….don’t leave…i’m new! i want to come along!)…greeeat first impression. by the time i got myself together we were off and got wind that we’d be going for a wee ride…50 miles or so. “50 miles!!” i practically blurted back trying to hide those exclamation points “oh ya…50…ya…cool, cool” “But some of us will definitely go longer if you want” “ahh, ohhh, no… 50 should be just fine”. Ha!
As we started out, i tried to mentally plan on the best way to pace myself. I mean, i’ve been communting for 8 months by bike now…but that’s only 8 or so miles a day. And if you know that section of PCH…”flat” is not the descriptor. But at the slower pace (i usually sprint everywhere else i go) it was no problem. no problem for my legs anyway. my butt and shoulders were another story. the destination and half-way marker was a strawberry stand. how quaint. now that i could ride for. food. i’m not sure anything motivates me more. as we pushed and pulled (the beauty of clip-ins. trust me, these things lose their scary factor in no time…you gain something like 40% more power with each rotation) along the coast, i couldn’t believe how lucky i was to be out (and awake for that matter) in the crisp air, the sun lightly touching our backs, and flying down the coastline. When we made it to the strawberry stand (foood! in my haste i forgot to throw my snacks in my pouch and needed some sustenance) i still felt great. A little slower than the rest but i was surely keeping up. We stuffed down strawberries, peanuts, and watermelon (this one provided compliments of the stand!) and chatted away.
On the way back the ocean was literally glistening in the sun. I had to smile, let the warmth of the day soak in, and meditate by the whir of the spinning wheel. By the last few hills i still had energy to burn and pumped up ’em, caught a woman who was riding way ahead and turns out she’s also an ice hockey player! But by now we were both sharing aches and pains. At this point my butt had turned numb, a painful numb, like, i’ve had all 125 pounds of me distributed on two angry “sit bones” now shouting for relief and each shoulder clenched like a rebellious fist, knots the size of tennis balls pulling every back muscle towards their knotty nexus. But hey, my legs felt great!
As the ride came to an end and everyone flew by to hop in their respective vehicles, I knew that i’d be back for more. Trekky 2 ‘s got a good life, and the rider agrees; we’re both on for many miles ahead.
January 16, 2010
Work as an Extra* (yep…i’m capitalizing it) proves less than glamorous, but my experience on Cold Case where i used my sports talents to be a background blur, get free grub and make some pretty good money considering, was so positive that when I randomly (Central Casting rarely, if ever calls you) got called on to be an extra for a Heroes episode, I couldn’t resist. Well, that and being unemployed with nothing else to do. Work on the set for some TV show i know nothing about? Why not?! Well, Read on…
If this opportunity ever presents itself and the hollywood glamor facade sweeps you off your peasant, C-list feet, I’m not saying turn it down straight out (hey, hollywood ain’t thaaat bad), but be wary of any terms such as “night shoot” or “evening call” deceptively present in the conversation. The woman did repeat it a couple of times, perhaps even emphasized it, just to confirm I was agreeing to a torture unknown to me at that moment, but how was I supposed to know? Usually the extra work day is 8 hours. “Night shoot”…my call was 3:45pm…yes…I will be working at night, probably get out around midnight…I can handle that. When I showed up at Universal Studios feeling mildly special to be let in on account of filming and not tourism, I noticed that 90% percent of these people came equipped with enough baggage to last 3 weeks. Duffel bags, roller suitcases, medicine cabinets and make-up drawers stuffed into hand bags, piles of costumes slung over shoulders…I am in the right place right? Yes. Oh dear. “Night shoot”. I see a pillow…and another….oh damn…that girl’s got a blanket….this thing isn’t going all night is it?
As I finally made my way through the snaking line of people to get my time card I noticed my pay was only $8 an hour, half what you get as a skilled extra (are you sure you don’t need hockey players skating in the back of your carnival scene??). Ahh well…it’s an experience. As I was bounced from one place to another: costume check (just as you would imagine…luckily everything i brought passed), make-up (which involved a lady going “who sent you over here?” and another guy looking at me: “yep…you look fine” (i.e. extras do NOT get personal attention…please leave), giant food spread (of which compared to Cold Case was very disappointing…i had slimy fruit salad, and a bun with lettuce tomato and pickle for dinner) and my favorite place: the holding area; basically about 100 huge tents set up in what was a hollywood Extra daycare of sorts. Before it was dark it was fine and dandy to wait (which is mostly what you do on a set) read, write and chat to fellow desperate looking “actors”…but once it got dark (quickly this time of year) and COLD, all games were off. This shoot was way back in mid-December when there was a bout of 40 degree weather and rain. Miserable was the word that kept flashing through my mind. And then, tired, annoyed, bored, cold, cold, cold, cold….
The scene we were shooting was a carnival…and apparently the end of the world or something. I don’t know…in all 15 hours i was there…the actor uttered 3 lines, the crowd ran, things collapsed, etc, etc. Oy veh. But let me tell you, those set-designers, prop-masters…damn do they do a job! I mean…i’ve been to many a carnival in my life, but this one was the best! And it wasn’t even real! They had everything….everything you would want or imagine at a carnival…tons of rides, games, house of mirrors, cotton candy, popcorn….fun house, ferris wheel….unbelievable what hollywood does (and pays for…and can afford!) for the sake of entertainment. Even more authentic was the straw all over the ground….and what with the wet weather, turned more into a mucky hay paste…mmm.
I should have known it would be a long night, if not while hovering around a space heater or hearing rumours spread that we’d be let out at 4am, 5am, maybe even 6am, then when the director called cut and said “alright…great job…everyone take lunch!”. It was 11:30pm. He was serious. They’d been working these hours (without extras) for 2 weeks, so midnight was logically lunch time. Ohhhh, goody.
You do start to go stir crazy, or just plain crazy when you’re standing around for 12 hours and it’s 4 in the morning and you are practically begging the sun to come out. All the repeated shots (you really want me to pretend there’s an earthquake and run away again??!), wait time (about 15 mintues in between takes…about an hour for a new shot), and frozen toes…well…i began just throwing my prop popcorn around…so look for that in the episode. Oh…and i’ve forgotten to mention putting up with crazy people. There are some in-ter-est-ing people in that Extra crowd. One girl who had spent all her money (she’s broke paying for gas) and time (over 2 hours) driving to the shoot said she just thought it was a good way to get herself out there…to the directors and such. Umm…as an extra? There are 500 other people out here…you are a moving blur! No one even cares about you aside from being a part of the crowd! It really is sad though…to see people who think they’re really gonna “make it” The whole thing just made me a bit nauseous. BUT, i did also meet a few really awesome dudes…one of whom plays hockey at my same rink…small world! So we did have fun together, joking, chatting and commiserating/reveling in insanity.
The best part of the night (aside from the Director yelling cut or wrap or something…i was completely delirious and sleep-deprived by this point) was when some of the Asst. Directors took note of our frozen suffereing and offered us some of the crew’s food….hotdogs and soup. Garrr…wait…did you say “soup?” What is the chance it’s vegan…not much but for some reason i had hope. And when the big dude ladling it out uttered “lentil- vegetable” i practically hugged him/through myself into the giant vat. And at last, at about 6:15am, the sun began to rise, I turned my time-card in still uttering my mantra of “this is so stupid!” and “not worth it…not worth it” and zombied myself to my car to hop on the 101 with all the commuters rising up for work that day.
Dear Hollywood…you must do your thing…but i’ll not stand in the background for a night shoot ever again. Thank you and good morning.
UPDATE!!! The Heroes episode (it’s the Finale…ok…maybe it was worth it?? umm, no) airs this Monday at 8pm on NBC…check it!)
*Come on RL! Another blog about working as an extra? Well, this blog is all about Hollywood and what else do you think out of work locals do with their time?