Friday, September 25, 2009

Cardboard and Tape

As I have mentioned previously about my arts high school, there were specific requirements for each year – two dimensional, three dimensional and media. The year before the nude art class and the battle with the dance department I again found myself stuck with the three dimensional class for my last semester. I had little to no interest in sculpture and did not particularly care for the teacher. She was the young daughter of the head of the arts department, fairly fresh out of art school herself.

In my own way I felt like rebelling by making every single one of my sculptures using cardboard, masking tape and various paint. I was using a theme based on Claes Oldenburg – a Swedish sculptor who played with sizes, making large things small and small things large. I made a tiny sofa and created a large scale salami, to name a few. Cardboard and tape all around – nothing more, nothing less.

After about eight of these small scale projects I was approached by the teacher. She hadn’t really given me any guidance during the term, but now she was ready to voice her concerns. She wanted me to expand my materials – not so much in those words, but saying that if I didn’t use something other than cardboard and tape she’d have difficulty passing me for the course.

Failing one of those classes was a ridiculous thought – it never happened unless you missed several weeks of class or didn’t complete the required assignment. I took her words to heart and began working on something big.

I grabbed materials – a large wood panel, a hot glue gun, lightbulbs, yarn, a big block of Styrofoam and of course, just to stick it back at her, some cardboard and tape. I cut the panel into four strips, two thin and two slightly wider and nailed them together. It created a five foot tall, thin box. From there I used a hand saw to cut a set of feet to attach to the bottom and scissors to cut out some letters. I painted it all red and it was clear to everyone I was making a six foot tall Pez dispenser.

The hardest part was the head, carving it from the Styrofoam block. I carved deep eye sockets and stuck in the lightbulbs, but didn’t have enough time or know how to make them light up. Instead I painted pupils on the bulbs and continued to carve. It wasn’t the most artistic face, but you could tell what it was. In the end I said it was a caveman to cover for the crudeness of the work. The face was painted and covered with a 99 cent store wig to complete the sculpture. I installed a pivot on the neck so it actually opened as a real dispenser would, but did not make the candy inside. The work was proudly displayed at the senior showcase and garnered some attention, mostly because it was so recognizable.

At the end of year, Hamden announced several participants to it’s annual “Salute to Young Artists” and I was named to the list. Along with receiving a certificate and being a part of a big ceremony, I got to select three pieces to be displayed at the town library for the summer, one of which was the six foot Caveman Pez dispenser. At the opening a man asked me to make one for him, only blue and with Batman’s head, but he never followed through. The dispenser is still proudly on display in my parents attic.

*Editors Note: I am looking for a old photo to scan. If not I'll take a new one in the attic, where the dispenser is laying on an old twin mattress.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Hartsfield Dash

Karma is a funny thing.

During one visit to Connecticut, I decided to check the status of my flight back to Los Angeles. It turned out that my flight from Hartford to Atlanta was now delayed two hours, thus making me arrive at 1:37 for a connecting flight that left at 1:15 . That wasn't going to work. I got on the phone with India, I mean, Delta, and began trying to fix things up. She tried lots of things that weren't going to work, such as putting me from Atlanta to Salt Lake City and staying overnight - though I wasn't going to make it due to the delay to Atlanta in the first place. It was nearly as inane as the counter attendant in Tommy Boy when they need to go to Chicago right away. It clearly wasn't the brightest conversation I've had, but I suppose she was following her script, which I figured out when she asked if I needed a hotel or car rental before I hung up.

When I arrived to the airport, the Delta line was insanely longer than all of the other airlines. Lindy's flight on Southwest was on time so she had to go. After we said goodbye my parents got in line for me and I jumped on one of the Delta phones near the check in counter.

At about the time I got through, my Dad came over to check on me, since the line wasn't working. Before he could speak and elderly lady grabbed his arm and said she couldn't hear the voice on the phone. He got her flight changed for her, talking to the Delta rep and writing down the information. She thanked him, said 'bless you' and was on her way. Back on my end, I got put on another delayed flight to Atlanta. It was supposed to leave at 7:15am, but was now leaving at 10:15am. The dark cloud behind the silver lining was that I'd be landing in Atlanta at 12:41 pm and I was still on my 1:15 pm flight to LAX. Not to worry, the woman reassured me, the flights were only one terminal apart.

I checked in, boarded the plane, sat in my front aisle seat and prepared to leave. Except we didn't take off anywhere close to on time. In mid-air the captain said our new arrival time was 12:50, and we'd have to take an extended taxi route to the terminal due to construction. We'd get to the gate at 1:00 pm. This was bad, since the woman on the phone said they close the doors 10 minutes before departure. I had five minutes. Then the news got worse. The gate had been switched to B36. Just to give you an idea of how far apart that is, I made a little diagram

The bottom right dot is where I arrived and the top left one is where I had to be in five minutes. The paths in the middle were the underground walkways or monorail stations. Clearly it's hard to tell by the drawing, but it's clear they're not so close together if the travel options include monorail travel.

The second we landed, I grabbed my shit and go. I'm running, swerving around people, cutting in front of the little beeping cart full of old-timers. I get to the escalators to the station - 1:04 pm. I am on my way down saying excuse me and everyone is kindly letting me by, except this one woman who had a bag with her dog in it. She reached down, I thought to move it, and she was only scratching his cutesy little head. Finally I hit the bottom level and see there are moving walkways. I bolt to them and make some okay time through Terminal A and to the stairs at Terminal T. It's 1:09. I get up the stairs and see a sign that says Gates 1-8, so I figure I'm real close and head that way. The hallway begins with Gate 8 and goes down by ones. Maybe it was the frustration of knowing that I would not be on a flight until 5:59pm, or the knowledge of previously being stranded in Atlanta's airport due to a tornado - I was not going to be denied.

I run to the gate. The plane is still there, but the sign says "Flight Dispatched". I said "Fuck Delta!" to myself, but apparently loud enough for the attendant to hear. She asked for my ticket to put me on standby to 2:30 and I obliged, crushed, winded and with sore knees.

Then her phone rang.

It wasn't the white phone on the podium, it was the red Batman-style phone. She told me to wait right there and I did as she said. She opened the door and headed back into the entry tunnel. I looked out the window to see it reconnecting to the plane. The only time I ever saw that was for Uchenna and Joyce during that season of Amazing Race in the finale they were sure to lose. The attendant came back out and said a passenger was sick, and if the paramedics said she couldn't fly, the seat was mine. Only a few seconds passed when she grabbed my ticket, while holding the door open with her foot and said 'hurry up'. I was on.

I don't know what that lady did to Karma, but I was thinking about that as I saw her passed out in the entrance ramp as I walked to the flight. I guess I was being rewarded for my father's good deed from the morning. The guy next to me told me the seat was unlucky, and I proceeded to let him know that I was lucky.

Of course, my winning streak ran out when they announced the movie they were showing was Lindsay Lohan's Just My Luck.

Though my bags didn't make it until the next Atlanta flight arrived, it was still a victory for me. I would have only been standby on the next two flights, and only confirmed on a 5:59pm flight that would have got me in closer to 8:15pm pacific time. I was happy to wait the extra 35 minutes for my bag to arrive instead of having it delivered four to five hours later. If I hadn't, Karma would have probably been pissed at me and made the bags late on their delivery.

Karma is a funny thing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A few thoughts about September 11th

This isn't really an anecdote, it's more of a continuous train of thoughts that I began writing and wanted to see where it went. It may or may not make sense.

The thing about anniversaries are that you they exist to remind you of the events that occurred on that day. For some reason people find the most comfort in the bigger anniversaries, the monumental ones, multiples of five or ten.

In two years it will be the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001. There will be books and dedications of plaques, ceremonies and reminders of what happened that day. It will also probably trend highly among twitter users and Facebook status updates – and then the next day, it won’t. History’s greatest tragedies always felt much heavier when reading about them in school books. Stories about those events that were told for generations, not a Nicolas Cage movie. How will that day be taught to our children? Today is the 8th anniversary. Does it matter? Do people need a reminder to remember?

I remember waking up that morning for the first day of classes of my sophomore year. After taking a quick shower, I came out to the common area of our suite to find one of my roommates awake long before he usually rose. The television was on with live footage of the still standing first tower as it burned. The second plane hit in front of our eyes. I went to class and the teacher canceled it ten minutes after it had started. The class was called History of Ethics.

I remember it taking a while before I could get through to my sister who had just moved to Brooklyn, right across from the newly named “Ground Zero”. She told me she was okay, but there was soot raining down from the sky in her neighborhood.

I remember the media explosion. One newscaster said this event was our generations Pearl Harbor. The Westin Copley hotel was stormed by authorities on live television because the hijackers had stayed there the previous night.

I remember the rumors. More attacks coming. Boston was next. The rumors got so strong that girls who lived next door to us fled to New Hampshire for the weekend. A few of us walked down Boylston and the streets were eerily vacant. We nervously walked by the Prudential Center and Hancock Tower, Boston’s tallest buildings. Eventually the nerves subsided and people began getting back to their routines.

I remember things moving on. Everyone talked of revenge, but the idea was not really so cut and dry. In the meantime sports came back, as did late night comedy. There was an outrageous list of songs that were banned from the radio because of words like crash, fly, and airplane in their lyrics. Other songs profited, using lyrics about the events of that day to get country music fans fired up.

I remember Universal Studios having there was a park wide moment of silence commemorating the anniversary, but that stopped after five years.

I remember not even noticing much the last few years. I hope I don’t forget.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Future's Last Ride

To commemorate the two year anniversary of the closing of Back to the Future the Ride, I thought I would re-post the entry I wrote in my old blog to mark the occasion. There are some minor edits and changes since it's original post, but it's generally the same. Some might call this a cop out, but I prefer to call it a "classic". Hell, comic strips, columnists, even podcasts put out reruns every now and again.


My first experience with the ride was in 1991 at Universal Orlando. It was the summer the ride first opened and my family was on vacation. Being an nine year old kid who was afraid of any ride that looked scary - despite having never actually been on one - I was really scared to go on it. My parents convinced me to get in the car, but during my first cycle, my head was down and my eyes were closed the whole time. If not for the more visible vehicles at the Funtastic World of Hannah Barbara later showing how the motion simulation worked, then I might never have gone on BTTF with my eyes open. Eleven years later I was struggling to find a job after moving to Los Angeles, so I turned to Universal Studios Hollywood. I was hired during a mass summer employment seasons and was offered a choice between Van Helsing or Future.

"You're the suckers Doc conned in to his Time Travel experiment."

Choosing BTTF was probably the best decision I could have made. From the start of training, these people became my first real friends on the west coast. It made the transition away from home all the more easy. It was hardly like work at all – between the four minute ride cycles you had down time to talk with, or avoid, those you were positioned with. If you could find just one or two people with something in common, your days would fly by. Aside from that, there was hallway basketball using the garbage cans and the game I made up with one of my co-workers April where you got points every time one of your guests mimicked the dummies did in the safety video. I was always put out at the Greeter position during rain or cold weather because of my east coast weather tolerance. I loved turnstile spiels and hated gigantic groups that didn't know their exact numbers. Even the elastic ankled khaki pants became tolerable. Secretly I hated being a lead because you spent all your time isolated in the control tower, dispatch, or doing walk throughs. The Tower was the loneliest, dark and sad place in the building, and sitting there for two hours straight was torture. All you had to do was watch the surveillance monitors, up to 12 at a time, to make sure that nothing was going wrong. I would have rather dealt with the angriest guest of all time than sit in tower.

"Remember, the future is what you make it."

Some of my favorite moments were being asked to redraw the two pre-show chalkboards on level one and three. Guests would come by while I was drawing and think that I was actually doing some kind of scientific equation (which is what I told them). I got to bring family and friends to the park and lock them down in their ride vehicles, which was both fun and embarrassing at the same time. There were barbeque's and parties. There was a great special event for Microsoft with no kids or lines and lots of free booze – made for an easy night of carefree adults who were just there for fun. Things were pretty similar every day, so when someone famous came to the ride, a lot of people would run to see them. It's hard to tell if more employees would check out a celebrities or just pretty girl. I'd say the girls. When Wrestlemania was in Los Angeles, I got to put several wrestlers in their vehicles, also Wilmer Valderama and Snoop Dogg. Summer new hires would come and go, but we all knew which people would be around for the long haul. I was there for the long haul, going from Lead to Supervisor for the Summer of 2006.

"Have a nice trip, see you next winter."

After my summer as a Dome supervisor, I was promoted off the lot into an office. I had made it out of Future, which was great, but I missed the daily routine just a little and my friends over there a lot. When the announcement of its closing at the end of the summer was made it never really hit me. It just seemed like one of those things that would be down the road some time and never actually happen. Summer flew by, and suddenly it was Labor Day weekend – Future's last stand. Though I hadn't actually worked at the ride in about ten months, the place still felt like home to me. I'd stop by occasionally during the last couple of weeks just see everyone and remember the times that were had. The management "Last Ride" was a really thoughtful thing for the company to do – they knew how much the ride meant to us as well.

Watch your step as you exit the vehicle.
Exit towards the red flashing light.
Enjoy the rest of your stay at Universal Studios Hollywood.