Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Third Odd Job

This is my third odd job since I moved to Chicago. The first, in total time worked, was about twenty-five minutes and I made $25 which works out to one dollar per minute. I had to wear a Coke Zero shirt and pretend I was sleeping on the ground in the NBC Plaza downtown until we were cued to wake up, show off our shirts and smile for whoever was watching in the comfort of their own homes. It felt awkward and we were miscued once and had to pretend to be asleep and awoken all over again. The second time felt better and if we had had the entire day to rehearse, I feel like we would have nailed it. The second was, to use hyperbole, a dream job. I was hired to work a LEGO Kidsfest. Again, I was provided with a t-shirt. (Oh, we were allowed to keep the Coke Zero t-shirt so, I guess I made close to $40 using today's t-shirt prices.) This t-shirt was bright yellow. Here, I was paid $17/hr to supervise the LEGO racers play area, where children built LEGO race cars and then recklessly rolled them down small two foot ramps. Only one ramp had a an actual start and finish line. It was the steepest. At the bottom of each track a collision wall with a trough in front of it. No matter how well engineered the cars were , they would without fail disintegrate into dozens of pieces after striking the wall. Each crash received cheers and/or silent, jaw-dropped awe. If the crash troughs were too full, we yellow shirts transferred the pieces back to separate troughs at the building stations. Several people I worked with wandered the building stations and ramps and unceasingly picked up whatever pieces were in the troughs and returned them to the building stations. They would not wait for the pieces to pile up. If one car was wrecked and left, they'd go pick it up. They were always on the move, constantly moving, constantly performing this Sisyphean task for hours at a time. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it. I opted to spend my time building race cars with the kids and judging races. If I had kids, I would take them to this event. If I didn't have kids, I would take myself to this event.
This brings me to my third odd job - soliciting donations for the Evans Scholars Foundation, an organization that sends deserving caddies (yes, golf caddies) with a strong record and financial need to college. Try saying that with a straight face to a complete stranger right after Christmas in a moribund economy. I made about thirty dollars, but I visited the University of Chicago for the first time and passed by the Museum of Science and Industry in semi-darkness, marveling at its expansive, impressive footprint on Chicago's south side. It reminded me of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which was closing by the time I arrived years ago, so I only saw its exterior.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Seattle Film Archives

Vice Magazine 'Dos and Don'ts' clearly categorizes telling people about your dreams as a DON'T.

I've often ignored this vice and think if Stephen King ever followed the rule, we'd be more than a handful of fine books short in this world. Here I go again.

Last night I dreamt I was in the Seattle Film Archive (which doesn't exist). Imagine the dusty smell of a used book store and the antiquity and superfluousness of a baseball card shop. I stalked a clerk at the store asking if they had any 16mm prints of von Stroheim films. I guess in this dream I was rich enough to be able to afford an item as rare as that.

Instead, I left the store with what amounted to a lobby card of Humphrey Bogart from some movie I'd never heard of. It was the size of a baseball card, which was on the brain because earlier in the day when I was Skyping with my parents I learned that my father bought all the boys in my family an old-timey baseball card circa 1920. The one I received, in all it's muted monochromatic glory, was Rogers Hornsby mid-swing. Bogart was dressed similarly though instead of striped socks, he shirt was striped like an escaped convict. The card depicted on the upper torso of his body positioned as he was peering out from around a doorway. A dense fog enveloped everything else in the picture, as if he stowed away on a tug boat headed out to sea. So, he was floating there in mid-air, like in a dream. Eugene O'Neill might have written a screenplay based on this card.

I hope to make another trip back to the Seattle Film Archives.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Frederick Wiseman presents 'Wrigley'

I now live in Chicago, Illinois. For how long...who knows? Less than a week after my arrival, I had an opportunity to work at Wrigley Field for one day on a entertainment program that will go unnamed. Wrigley Field, aka The Friendly Confines, at first seemed like nothing more than a ballpark, but as the day wore on and I wandered the concourse, ramps and balconies, it began to resemble Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, which I visited this summer with the Brune brothers and Royal (Brune). As the second oldest active park in Major League Baseball and the oldest in the National League (my league), it's as storied and towering as Frank Lloyd Wright or Abraham Lincoln. With all my miscellaneous tasks to perform throughout the day, I managed to witness the slow wind-up of a Cubs night game, start time seven-0-five. Vendors arrive in the early morning to deliver kegs of beer, boxes of produce and dry goods. An old man in an over-sized Cubs jacket and hat, who works a six-thirty am to two-thirty pm shift with no lunch break, oversees Gate J/K logging all those who enter on the back of a scrap piece of white copy paper, jotting down numbers like L2345 in columns that slowly drifted as they ran down the page. No pre-printed charts, names or positions. He was doing it the old-fashioned way. I was able to see, hear and inhale the sights and scents of popcorn being popped, bagged and hung from stands like pennants. I held my own personal interior court in the modest, cramped administrative offices watching a 'Cubbie' hand-deliver a printed memo to all the cubicles. I drooled over a bucket of what appeared to be foul balls. I watched a colleague shake a bobble head and film it with his Iphone in close-up. A well dressed group of musicians in blue cummerbunds and long horns with banners hanging from them as if in some medievel kingdom gathered near the box office, preparing for what had to be the Star-Spangled Banner. Outside, at Clark and Addison, it was an ocean of red, white and blue.

I felt so out of place in khaki, green and white - not a bit of blue in my eyes and the only red on my lips.

It seemed like a document Frederick Wiseman might have captured already. How had he not? Not only is it a physical institution and business, but it lies within a much larger institution - baseball; and beyond that a larger institution still - sport. The closest he seems to have come is Racetrack and his relatively unseen film about Madison Square Garden. At Wrigley Field, I witnessed the everyday occurrences that so often feed Wiseman's poignant and simple tales of American life. I was reminded of a military convoy leaving the base in Missile, the students entering school in High School II, cattle being driven towards the slaughterhouse in Meat, and the supportive classrooms of The Spring in Domestic Violence. Lately, there has been a drought of movie-watching and making in my life. These droughts always seem rekindle my passion for what I feel is the most powerful medium we have - cinema. Wiseman's renderings came to life for me today in a place I never expected them to - Wrigley Field.

I am an old-fashioned kind of man, just like the man running Gate J/K. His home, place of worship and work is Wrigley Field. Mine is the cinema, but is no different. It is a home, a place of worship and a place of business. Each is historic, hallowed, strong, durable and meant for preservation. They were both built a long time ago and people passionately flock to them today just as they did then. To me, baseball and cinema are two past times I will drive to the airport or help move cross country or give my spare key to. Whatever they ask of answer is yes.

I cannot wait for my first game in person. Let's play two!