Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

The Streets of Beverly Hills

For the past few months, I’ve been taking part in a visual survey documenting road hazards for cyclists in Los Angeles.

That translates into riding my bike around and taking pictures of the shitty roads crisscrossing our fair city.

I don’t understand when and why Los Angeles county decided that having usable roads was near the bottom of the priority list, but cycling here can be an adventure.

There’s a choice if one is going to commute by bike – road tires or fat knobby mountain tires? There are advantages to both. The road tires, which is what I ride on, roll easier so you can go further, faster with less effort, but the fat tires can roll over the city’s plentiful potholes with less of the breaking and crashing.

I like the lower rolling resistance of the road tires – I made my choice, and I’m happy with it, but I do have to worry more about pavement than do the mountain bikers.

Today, as I was riding home from the garden, I spotted this:

P1040305

And this:

P1040307

And this:

P1040309

Oh, and this:

P1040313

And last but not least, this beauty:

P1040318

These are not so much potholes as they are small canyons. All of them on the same 2 mile stretch of road in the glamorous metropolis of Beverly Hills.

I’m not even sure a mountain bike could roll over those top two, and while I can roll over the last one I’m not sure I’d be able to keep all of my fillings in my head.

So what I have to do – since this stretch of road has no sidewalks – is veer out around the potholes into the path of the luxury SUV driven by the guy talking on the cellphone and simmering road rage.

There’s a residential street just north which has better pavement, but since there’s a stop sign every block it’s slow and frustrating.

Happily, though, the roadway is due for a reconstruction project which will mean a complete repaving (not just shitty asphalt patches), and there seems to be support for bike lane striping.

This is especially wonderful news since Beverly Hills has historically been, um, resistant to bike lane striping (and bike racks, and people on bicycles), even though the city’s streets are wide enough to accommodate bike lanes without giving up traffic lanes or parking (both are legitimate concerns for motorists).

But of course, the consultants hired recommended some weird mixed use travel lane which will just put cyclists and other undesirables in a center lane and right in the path of angry drivers.

But until whatever happens happens, I’ll still marvel at the crappiness of the street right in the middle of Beverly Hills.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, rants, , , , , , , , , ,

Good news, everyone!

Normally one likes to ease into work after being idle for months.  It gives a chance to adjust to the hours, the early rising (which I do anyways, so no change there), the heavy lifting and the bad air from construction and paint.

Most of the time, that wish isn’t granted and one just gets thrown into 50 hours per week of whatever it is one’s not used to (heights, heat, cold, smelly air, Michael Bay).

One goes from wondering if there’s ever going to be any work to wondering if it’s possible to survive the week of work.

It does make it easier with wonderful nice co-workers and a boss who’s the greatest guy on earth, but still.

Monday was my last day (bonus day! Hooray!), and after a Tuesday of doing nothing and swallowing aspirin like there was no tomorrow, today I went to see Dr. Dreamboat to assess the shoulder and my general well-being after 11 days of paint fume-fueled upper body workout.

Turns out, the shoulder’s not bad. It’s ouchy, but it’s  not as jacked up as I’d feared.  Which is good.

I know you’re waiting for bad news, but there isn’t any. The shoulder is doing well, and I’m very pleased.

Next mission is to try to get a day at the end of the week – or, failing that, next week.  Yay work!

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Nature hands me my ass

I had it all figured out for today – I was going to get up early, pack my lunch, and then walk the two blocks to the bus stop so I could save some gas and get that nice eco-smug feeling. What’s not to love?

The bus was due at 6:05 (have to be across town for a 7 am call), and as I was getting ready to leave, the cat started following me around and crying.

I picked her up and was petting her, then her eyes bulged and a veritable fountain of vomit erupted. She didn’t even make that ‘huk huk huk’ noise. Just puked.

It went everywhere.  Down my shirt, into my bra, in my hair where I turned my head to keep said puke out of my mouth.

Since I definitely didn’t want to spend the next 11 hours smelling like cat barf (or any barf, really), I peeled off my now very gross clothes and hopped in the shower.

So much for that bus ride.

After a frantic wash and clothing change, I looked at the time and went pale. I might make it, I might not, and one can never predict what the traffic’s going to do.

So, I texted the best boy with the information that I might be late because my cat barfed on me.

Worst. Excuse. Ever.

Shockingly, I made it to work with minutes to spare and we climbed up into the perms.

In response to a comment on the last post – not only do rigging crews not get lunch*, they don’t even get air conditioning.

The air is only turned on when the shooting company arrives. Since it’s currently July, it’s quite hot in the perms.

Our boss has made the very sensible decision that we’re only to be ‘up high’ before lunch, and then in the hottest part of the day we come down and do work on the floor (wiring fixtures, labelling equipment, etc…).

So the morning was all about sweat and sore muscles (after two days of carrying cable, I’m in serious pain), and the afternoon was all about frustration as we attempted to re-install some fixtures from last season in exactly the same places they were before.

The clock ran out before we finished, so we’ll have to try to pick it up tomorrow.

After we were dismissed, I walked out to my car, which was parked on the street as this particular lot has the most difficult parking ever so it’s  just easier.

I’d parked under a tree and the avian residents had left their calling card, so to speak.

Although the idea was to get back across town before the traffic got too bad, I had to stop and get the car washed, as I couldn’t see out of the windshield.

Damn animals.

*Film crews can either be on production, which means the shooting unit, or off production, which means anything not actively making the movie. On production means one gets free parking, free meals, climate control and craft service. Off production means you get reasonable hours (usually) and don’t have to carry a walkie, but you have to pay for your own food and parking (depending where you are. Paramount Studios, for example, charges for parking, but if you’re on production you get a voucher. Riggers have to suck up and pay it).

Filed under: long long drives, mishaps, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , ,

Finally, some good news.

This has been a bad year for work.

Actually, it’s been beyond bad. It’s been an unmitigated disaster – I’ve worked approximately 10 days since January 1st.

Mainly I’ve just been trying to fill my time in between wringing my hands and wondering what’s to become of me.

Texts to various best boys about if they’ve got anything have been met with either “I’m out-of-town” or “I’m looking for work, too!”

The irony is that there does seem to be a fair amount of work out there, it’s just not with anyone with whom I have any sort of professional connection. Guess I need to start attending mixers or that annual bowling party that’s a 90 minute drive east or something.

I’m certain I’ve had a year this bad before, I’m just hard pressed to remember it.

On the bright side, I’ve shaved almost 10 seconds off my 50 meter freestyle.

But starting Monday, I have two solid weeks of work.

It’s rigging on a multi-camera sitcom, and I’m beyond pleased to get it.

Two solid weeks.

It’ll be 100 hours into my health insurance (I have to work 400 hours per semester, and I have until October 10th to get the remaining 300), a paycheck and  a badly needed injection of optimism.

Today, I went to the grocery store and splurged on some chicken, veggies and various goodies (apples, grapes, those teeny little packages of trail mix) to pack  for lunch so I don’t have to eat the overpriced slop at the commissary (in all fairness, calling the commissary food slop is an insult to slop).

I’ll also enjoy working with some wonderful folks that I really like, and I can take public transit and save both the wear-and-tear on the car and the rage-inducing miz-maze that passes for parking on this particular lot.

Except on Mondays – I have swim on Mondays and I’m not going to give up that hard-won 10 seconds.

I have to take the victories where I can get them.

Filed under: studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

Technology Wigs Me Out

One of the most horrible feelings in the world is the nausea-inducing panic of losing something that’s necessary to function and is a pain in the ass to replace.

Note that anything necessary to function is usually a pain in the ass to replace, although the key to the shed in the back where you keep the ladder that you only need once a year is an exception.

Since gas prices are rising (again) here in Southern California, I’ve opted to commute on my bicycle whenever possible in order to avoid pump-induced nausea and anger.

I really do enjoy riding the bike. Not only is it more economical, but I see a lot more interesting stuff when I’m not sealed in the car singing along to a certain teenybopper pop icon who keeps putting his feet into his adorable almost post-adolescent mouth.

The downside of bike commuting is that, in a way, it’s not as easy as driving. Instead of picking up the purse and locking the doors, I have to dig the locks (plural, since I’d like to keep said bike) out of my panniers, find a place to secure the bike, make sure anything that can be stolen is removed (bike computer, water bottle, super expensive blinky headlight that can blind astronauts in space), and then schlep the whole mess into wherever it is I’m going.

Sometimes I forget a step and leave something on the bike. Usually it’s the computer, but sometimes it’s the water bottle – call me paranoid but I feel weird about drinking from it after it’s been out in the world unsupervised – and sometimes it’s something more important.

The other day, I ran errands for most of the day, making numerous stops to pay bills, grocery up,  work in the garden, plot the demise of those goddamn squirrels, etc..

When I got home and discovered that I needed olives (hey, it’s not a martini without one), I dug in said panniers for my wallet.

Nothing. I dug again.

Still nothing.

I did that thing where I slapped my pockets.

Nothing.

Fuck.

So,  since I’m a sensible adult, I did the right thing and immediately called and cancelled my debit card.

I then sat a moment, thought about where I’d been and decided to retrace my steps.

First stop, the Whole Foods in Westwood.

Where the very nice lady at the customer service desk handed me the wallet that some kind person had turned in. Including the cards.

Awesome.

The worst part is that, since I technically did the right thing by cancelling the card, I couldn’t even be mad at myself. Just sheepish and grateful that there are still a few honest folks left in the cold, cruel world.

This morning, I went to the credit union and enquired about a replacement debit card, expecting to get the thing about waiting 10 days while they mailed it, etc.. Also, I wondered if they’d give me a refresher course in how to write a check, since it’s been so long I think I forgot.

“Sure thing!” the teller responded. “Fill out some paperwork and I’ll print one out right now.”

Wait. Print?

Turns out, they can print cards now. Actual credit cards. That work.

New debit card

They didn’t even charge me a service fee.

Freaky.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, , , , , , , , ,

Slightly delayed Friday photo

Moooo!!!!

This is from CicLAvia a couple of weeks back, and I just didn’t get around to posting it.

This guy rode the whole course in a cow suit. I almost fell off my bike laughing while I took this photo. Good laughing, though, not bad laughing.

Filed under: Los Angeles, Non-Work, Photos, , , , , ,

Saved by the call!

This afternoon, as I was cleaning the bathroom and wondering if I could somehow turn the power of PMS into a paycheck, a friend called and asked if I wanted to do a little data entry.

“It’ll be three or four hours of work and he’ll pay you $20.”

That’s a bit low for data entry, but it’s great if I want to distract myself from worrying about the fact that the “slow” season is approaching and what I’ve got in my savings account wouldn’t buy dinner at one of LA’s finer celebrity-infested restaurants.

“Great! I’ll have him email you!”

I suppose I should mention that, back in the days when the interwebz was still on dial-up and named AOL, I hurt my back (fell off a lift gate) and had to take a temp job which involved operating a ten-key. I sat at that fucking thing for eight of the most miserable months of my life. I’ve never been happier than the day I was well enough to quit and run back to the circus.

I’m still pretty fast on said ten-key, especially when I’m being paid a flat rate.

I figured I could finish the job in a couple of hours and then go for a bike ride to celebrate being underpaid to do menial labor (oh… Wait).

Imagine my surprise when I got a Google document which involved cutting and pasting URLs from websites. About 20,000 URLs, which I would have had to find myself (example: “Type the word Sears in field one and then paste the URL for Sears into field two”).

Holy shit. Even with one of those decommissioned space agency supercomputers (which I hear one can buy on Craig’s List), 1,000 trained monkeys and a shitload of cocaine, I doubted this was doable in less than a week.

When I called to  try to explain that this was way more complicated than four hours and $20, the response I got was “well, I wanted it by tomorrow morning, but do you need all day?”

Luckily, just at that moment, I got a call to work. Tomorrow.

Sweet.

So, even though I’ll only get 8 hours, the cut-and-paste nightmare will fall in someone else’s lap.

Life is good.

Filed under: Non-Work, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

Pain is for quitters

Due to the physical therapy, I’ve been feeling pretty good, so when a friend called asking if I wanted to work a wrap day…

I don’t think I need to finish that sentence. My answer would have been yes no matter how I’d been feeling. Work is work, and my main objective is to get enough hours to keep my health insurance.

The first half of the day was easy – I was in a lift, taking down lights that were hung from the pipe grid.

Then, after lunch, we got sent up to the perms to drop out some lights. Dropping out lights isn’t all that physically taxing but is very repetitive. One unties the lines, then loops the rope around the handrail and then lowers the light (never, ever, let the rope slide. Friction creates heat and heat burns gloves and hands. Use a hand over hand motion) to the ground.

After a few hours of this I was, as the kids say, fucked up big time.

As I descended the ladder at the end of the day, a twinge let me know I’d overdone it, and on the drive home the nagging pain that I thought I’d conquered resurfaced.

Not, of course, enough pain to stop me from doing some kick sets in the pool after work, but still… pain.

Just enough to remind me that I overdid it, but what the hell am I supposed to do? Turn down work because my wimp of a body isn’t performing?

I don’t think so.

I was, however, very glad to have today off. I went to the physical therapist, who tried her best to make things better and then sent me home wearing a weird patch that lit up and hopefully, will make everything better before I have to push carts up an incline tomorrow.

Yay work!

Gotta keep that insurance.

Filed under: Work, , , , , , , , ,

It takes some getting used to

Last night was my first time going up in the condor in almost a year. Although I’m not normally too terribly afraid of heights, it does take me a bit to adjust to being in a lift after extensive periods of time spent on terra firma.

We were shooting on a Y-shaped studio lot street, so we used three condors. Mine was the lowest, armed out over the intersection, mimicking various streetlights. This had two advantages. It kept me lower, so there was less adjustment panic, and since I was a few feet below the tops of the facades, I was sheltered from the wind (spring has not yet sprung here in Los Angeles, so it’s still a bit brisk at night, especially up in the air).

The other two condors, at opposite ends of the street, were ‘full stick’ (meaning they were at full extension of 80 feet, almost straight up) and at the mercy of the wind and fog.

At least it didn’t rain, but the billowing clouds did make for some entertaining nighttime viewing:

Misty night in the air

The operators in the other two condors told me that the wind died down after about an hour, so everyone had an easy night.

Most terrifying night in a condor ever was the night I was armed out over the LA river for an elaborate car chase scene – my base was on one of the bridges and my bucket was full stick, so the distance to ground was about 200 feet. Adding to the terror spawned by an overactive imagination was a windy night and a very ‘bendy’ condor arm (some of the arms flex more than others).

At the end of the night I think I might have kissed the ground.

Filed under: camera, Photos, studio lots, up all night, Work, , , , , , , , , , ,

You can never find one when you want one

My garden, while only about a mile from where I used to live, is currently 8 miles away.

Interestingly, it takes the exact same amount of time to drive as it does to bike, and since the bike doesn’t burn $4 a gallon gas I usually prefer to ride than drive.

But lately I’ve had this shoulder issue, and it seems to cycle (no pun intended) between ‘getting better’ and  ‘won’t this thing ever stop fucking hurting’.

Today’s physical therapy appointment wasn’t until noon, and since I’ve been in a ‘getting better’ phase, I decided to bike instead of drive. Hey, I’m unemployed and gas is expensive (for the US).

So I hopped on the bike and headed out. I swear I behaved – I didn’t lean on the handlebars and I stayed off of the drops. I got to the garden fine – no pain and I felt really good. I dumped my veggie scraps into my compost bin, watered the seedlings (leeks, rutabegas, parsnips, beets and celery that looks like it’s not going to come up), admired the out-of-control fava beans (looks like I’m in for another 50 lb harvest from my tiny plot), and weeded for a few minutes.

I then headed out as I needed to be at the PT place.

About a mile into the return trip, I started hurting. Bad.

I then, for the first time in my life, decided to do the sensible thing and catch a bus back home.

I found a bus stop and sat. And sat, and sat and sat.

With the clock ticking (can’t be late, don’t want to anger tiny Asian woman who is torturing me), I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer and started riding, figuring eventually a bus would catch up to me and then I could give my poor shoulder some rest.

Except no bus came. I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping I’d see something – anything. Any bus would do.

Nope. Nothing.

Normally, when I’m biking, I have to avoid being flattened by a bus approximately every five minutes, so the complete lack of buses just when I really needed one was maddening.

Every time I looked back and didn’t see a bus, I’d let loose with a torrent of language that would likely shock a sailor. At one traffic light, a police car pulled up beside me, and the nice officer asked me what the problem was.

“I’m hurting and need to catch a bus, but now I can’t find one.”

“So.. they’re just like cops, then?”

Yes, indeed. Just like cops. Only not on a frantic manhunt which involves several innocent drivers getting shot up.

I finally saw a bus two block from my apartment.

Bastards.

Filed under: cranky, humor, life in LA, Los Angeles, mishaps, Non-Work, , , , , , , , , , ,

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