Softball Field Follies, A Tragicomedy in Three Acts

Friday.

What a weird day!

I got up too damn early. I’d said I’d be at C4 for the Fiesta Breakfast. I heard there were gonna be breakfast tacos. And I heard right. But for me to drag ass from bed and out the door by 8:15 is practically unheard of these days.

But I had things to do, so I took a shower and headed out.

There were about a dozen people who stopped by for tacos, juice, coffee, and banter throughout the morning. I meandered back and forth from the conversation area to my desk. I was busy transferring files from my laptop to an external hard drive in preparation for the video work I was hired to do for Alamo Heights Night.

Around 10 Angela stopped by. She and Rick would be providing the projection component of our collaborative work for AHN. We needed to test her laptop with the 4G card. We loaded up the driver, and plugged in the usb device. Worked perfectly. We tested both our laptops, bridging live video shot by me and fed into my laptop via firewire, to her laptop (via the internet) so she’d be able to project the signal. It worked great.

Angela headed off to pick up a couple of pop-up tents from our friends at Grande Communications. The weather was looking a bit dodgy.

I headed over to the coffee shop in the basement at Blue Stat Arts Complex. I had a cafecito date with Seme Jatib. We caught up on each others projects. She let me read her proposal for a local arts grant. Looks great! They’d be a fool not to award it to her.

We’re moving ahead on our Dance for the Camera Series, four nights of screenings of ultra-cool dance films over the course of a month. It’s coming in May. I’ll be putting out the particulars soon.

I’m hoping we can do a very short experimental film up in the hill Country in the next few weeks.

Next I headed to C4. Angela had dropped off the tents. I loaded them into my truck, swung by my place to load up all my video equipment, and then I drove to the University of he Incarnate Word, the new location for Alamo Heights Night.

I had some problems getting in, seeing as I was never given a vendor’s pass. I was able to sweet talk my way to a parking lot close to the event, but not inside the event itself. I was pretty pissed off. But I’m flexible. I tossed the largest tent over my shoulder–I’m guessing it weighed about 70 pounds–and trundled it maybe a quarter mile to the softball field. When Angela showed up we were able to get her car up to the softball field. We set up the big inflatable screen. It was the first time I’d seen it. Very impressive! I made a few trips back to my truck to bring the rest of my gear, including another heavy-as-hell tent. As we worked setting things up there was quite a bit of sunlight. I shared my sunblock with Angela. But when the gates opened around five or five-thirty, it started to rain every so often. But we were good. The pop-up tents were already set up, and we were able to keep the delicate electronic equipment safe.

I wandered around, shooting video of the crowds visiting the food and beverage booths, kiddy rides, karaoke station, etc.

There was a point when one of the event organizers came and asked if I’d like to shoot video from atop one of these scissor lift cherry-pickers that the police were using to keep an eye on the crowds. Hell, yeah I would! I got up in there with a policeman and we went up maybe thirty feet. I got some great shots. It was perfectly stable…until I moved, even a little bit, and our platform would rock a bit, but enough to make me look for a good handle. The only thing really making me nervous was that I didn’t have the best grip on my camera. In these situations I usually have a monopod, but on recent gig, my old monopod broke (I’d more than gotten my money out of it, but it’s never a good idea to buy a piece of equipment which will receive any degree of abuse if it has any plastic anywhere on it).

When the lift got me back to the ground, I thanked the cop and headed off back to our headquarters in the softball field. Under one of our tents, I had a spare camera hooked up to my computer, automatically capturing some footage. It had finally gotten dark enough to project images on the screen. With footage captured, I removed my external hard drive and hooked it up to Angela’s computer. As she located the video file on her computer and began to play the footage onto the screen, I set up our computers for a quick on-site live streaming test. When we’d convinced ourselves it was working well, I shut down my computer, stuck it in my shoulder bag, picked up my camera and tripod and headed to the karaoke station about two hundred yards away.

The place was really packed. And I kept looking around, wondering why there wasn’t anyone at the event I recognized. I guess these patrons are all from a different world. I should point out that I did know the fellow running the karaoke outfit. He, and everyone at that booth, were gracious and more than happy for me to set up my camera and tripod, and even set my laptop on a table supporting some of their equipment.

I turned on my computer, plugged in the Clear USB WiMax USB card (thanks again, Grande!), established a connection to Clear, turned on my camera, fed its signal to my computer with a firewire cable, managed a lovely composition and a clean focus on a cute girl singing a Lady Gaga song, opened a way-cool piece of free software (thanks Michael Verdi for hipping me to this!) called QuickTime Broadcaster…and then I moused my way to the button “broadcast” and clicked and there I was, broadcasting video to the web. I walked back aways from the speakers and called Angela. She said the signal was being projected and it looked pretty good.

Things were all falling into place.

That is, until, maybe 18 minutes later, when Angela called. It seemed the sprinkler system on the softball field had come on, automatically, and drenched everything of ours. Even the stuff under the tents…because, well, those recessed spigots are everywhere.

“You can shut it off,” she said. “We’re not projecting anything anymore. The equipment is fried.”

It took me a few minutes to pack up my equipment and fight my way through the crowds. When I made it to the softball field all our stuff was moved to a side wall. Some UIW student volunteers were using one of the tents, turned on it’s side, to protect our soggy equipment and belongings from further outrage. Angela and Rick’s little girl was standing limp and wet and cold, and she was crying uncontrollably. Their little boy was over by the last remaining sprinkler that was still going–the one the UIW kids were dodging with the sideways tent. The boy was standing in the pulsating stream of water, apparently already so drenched, that it no longer mattered. I saw an orange plastic emergency cone and carried it past the UIW kids and put it on top of the sprinkler head. The water was no longer spraying. The boy began tugging at the cone. I guess he still wanted to play in the water. I let him know that if he took it off, it’d continue to splash on the inflatable screen that Rick was trying to fold up. He understood the need to protect family property, and left my cone alone.

We spoke with the sponsors of the event, the SAPD, the UIW cops, and I believe that whatever equipment is completely lost will be compensated. But the problem is, the one piece of electronics what is obviously dead, is Angela’s laptop. Computers are more than just a price tag. They have stuff on them. I’m so sorry that the Incarnate Word softball sprinklers murdered Angela’s laptop. We’ll have to assess the damage in the days ahead.

Here’s a photo of some of the swamped equipment, with Angela and Rick’s daughter looking rather shell-shocked.

Photobucket

What a mess.

We did our best to repack soggy stuff.

And I found myself lugging those fucking heavy tents all the way back to my truck (well, Rick helped with the little one…which I learned was the one that had wheels).

I made it home a bit before midnight. Had a couple 24 ounce Modelos. I wrote for a while, made a late night snack, walked the neighbor’s dog, and I watched half of the documentary on the band, Minutemen, “We Jam Econo,” and finally went to bed around three am.

What did I care. The only thing I had to do on Saturday was make it to the set of a promotional trailer in which I was expected to, um, act. And that was, as I recalled, three in the afternoon. I would just sleep in, right?

Oh, and if you are a fan of American punk rock music and you haven’t seen “We Jam Econo,” you gotta track it down. It is, for me, a representation of two sad missed opportunities. First was that I never made it to a Minuteman show. I’m fairly sure they came to Worcester at least once when I was living there in my late teens. The fact is, I never really got them back then. However, when I saw fIREHOSE many years later at Club Clearview in Dallas, I became an instant Mike Watt fan. That’s when I looked back and re-examined those brilliant Minutemen albums. Missed opportunity regret number two: I never got around to meeting Manuel Castillo, who died at the unthinkably young age of 40. He was the executive director of San Anto Cultural Arts (an incredible arts and cultural non-profit that continues to churn out excellent work by young people in media arts, large scale murals, and journalism. Manny was also the drummer for the SA band deeply connected to the punk scene, Snowbyrd. There was a film screening jointly sponsored by NSLIP-SA and San Anto Cultural Arts. “We Jam Econo” screened at Cafe Revolution.” This was before I was a NALIP member, but I was still made most of their events. This one, sadly, I missed.

Ah lost opportunities….

@@@@@

Saturday.

My phone rang at 8:45. That’s in the morning. The morning I was supposed to be sleeping in.

Who the fuck!?

I grabbed my phone.

It was Russ. Ah, that changed everything. A call from Russ is always a welcomed event. We don’t hang out nearly enough anymore.

He said he was fighting the downpour while on his way to North West Vista Community College.

“Oh, fuck,” I said. “I’m supposed to go there as well, but it slipped my mind.”

This is what was buried deep in my back brain when Ranferi asked me, earlier in the week, if I could make it to his shoot Saturday afternoon. I muttered to him something about how I had a weird feeling I was supposed to do something at some point on Saturday. If there was an irreconcilable conflict, I told him I’d get back to him ASAP. I never did remember.

Not until Russ called.

“I’m gonna try and haul myself out there,” I told him. “So, I’ll probably see you soon.”

As I made my way into the shower, all the abuses I had visited upon myself the previous night became apparent. And I’m not talking about drinking and staying up late. I can navigate that stuff. But it was the walking all over the UIW campus which caused blisters on my feet, and the hauling of heavy equipment which had left my shoulders, with their adjacent muscles, bruised, strained, and sore. I was pretty damn stove up, but I made it–through the deluge–to NW Vista well in time for the event. Actually, I was a bit late, but they were running somewhat behind schedule.

I walked into the theater and took a seat beside Sam Lerma. We caught up a bit on one another’s projects. The bad weather kept a lot of people away. There might have been 60 to 70 people there. I got to talk with some of the important high school film teachers: Sam, Russ, and Konise. Veronica was there, not just as the face of NALIP-SA, but because her daughter, Emileigh, had her excellent short documentary on Alex Rubio screen. Pablo Veliz was there. And I think I saw Rosalva Gonzalez, but she was working the event, shooting video, and I didn’t want to interrupt. Also I had a short chat with Maria Fernanda Chavez. She’s a student at NESA, who continues to do strong and interesting work. She was showing a music video at this event which I had not seen before. This was the one piece I was looking forward to viewing. And I was, of course, not disappointed. She’s very much in control of what she does.

But I couldn’t stick around too long. I’d looked back at my notes, and my call time wasn’t 3pm, it was 2pm.

So, I drove back home to get my script and notes. We were shooting at an old diner on the west side. Western Broiler. It’s on Old Frio Road, just off Zarzamora. The rain was insane as I headed over there. I should have made it on time, but I overshot the intersection and had to double back on Zarzamora, And with the horrible rains and that fucking long light at the five-point intersection (seven-point, if you acknowledge the railroad tracks), I didn’t make it to the cafe until 2:18.

But this was okay. The crew of four and cast of one (not yet including me) were sitting and eating lunch, waiting for the cafe to shut down.

I’d already learned that AJ Garces was offering his service and his equipment as the DP, so I wasn’t surprised to see him. There was also Ranferi–writer, director, etc. Chris, who was doing audio, lighting, and a bit of this and that. Rolando, who was there as a PA (he’s also an actor in some other scenes, but not this one). And then there was the very talented and accomplished actor who’s playing the lead. His name is Tom Lagleder. Thankfully, he’s also a very sweet guy. Ranferi decided that I (again, let me stress, a non-actor) should play the protagonist’s best friend. If he gets the funding to make the full feature, this character I played today will have maybe three fairly pivotal scenes. I guess he knows what he’s doing. But for this promotional trailer, my character only has one small scene.

I made it a point to say nothing about camera, light, audio. Things I actually know about. I was asked to come in as talent, not crew.

I did my best, and I think I gave Ranferi something he can use. At least I hope I did,

It was a lot of fun. And, damn, Tom helped to make me feel not like an imbecile. I’m learning that acting is a lot of fun. But to really get something out of it, you need to work and work and work. Whether we’re talking about taking loads of classes, doing stage work at every opportunity, or working in every film you’re asked to work in. Acting, like learning an instrument, is all about practice. It’s working a particular and, for most, an obscure muscle. Though I’m neither an actor nor am I a musician, I can attest to this crucial dynamic where you have to practice seriously and intensely until the behavior becomes natural. I think that I’m a fairly good writer and filmmaker. And my accomplishments in both have come about because of long hard hours putting down my head and doing the work.

We wrapped and I headed home. It was a long day. And even though I should have just climbed back into bed and caught up on my sleep, all I can ask is why didn’t I? And how is it that at 1 in the morning, I’m still awake? Time, well past time, to hit the sheets!

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