Monday, August 28, 2006

East Coast Trip part four

OK, I swear this won't turn into a serial soap opera.

Sometimes you find yourself in situations you don't expect due to circumstances outside your control. For example: Andrew's brother GENEROUSLY donated our rental car. In fact, he upgraded us to a Jeep Grand Wagoneer because we had three people and a bunch of gear. This same brother also allowed us to stay at his very large house in a suburb of DC. One morning, we were really hungry and needed some coffee. I got some directions and headed out to get the group some morning supplies. On the way back I had to make a quick phone call. Suddenly I had to stop and take stock of my situation. I was an SUV-drivin,' Starbucks drinkin', cell-phone talkin' guy wearing sunglasses. I rushed home and took a shower.

So, we left Wednesday evening for New York. We took one of those commuter planes, which normally make me crazy. But this one was pretty smooth. Once we were in the clouds I got out the video camera and got some nice shots to keep myself distracted, and the flight attendant came over and started giving me tips about how to get the best footage of the city when on final approach, such as which side of the plane to shoot from, etc. When she gave the "electronic devices must now be turned off" announcement, she turned a blind eye and let me keep filming.

Luke had our New York accomodations lined up, and after a brief bit of confusion about our driver (we weren't using a taxi, but rather a driving service, which is pretty popular in New York. They're a little cheaper, or sometimes a little more expensive, but you can just call and someone will be around to pick you up. It's a little less hectic than hailing a cab) we made it to our pad for the next two nights: a penthouse apartment in Brooklyn, with a 500 square-foot rooftop balcony that had an amazing view of all of Manhattan. We had a great time at Scott's place. He's a fabric designer, and he gave us a showing of his most recent designs, right after a huge dinner of Jamaican chicken from the place down the street called "The Islands."

Our interview with Dennis Overbye was not confirmed, but was planned for Friday morning. He had just arrived back from China, and we hadn't been in contact in weeks, and weren't 100% sure he still remembered us. I had called and left messages, but we just didn't know anything. Monica was flying in for that interview, and if he wasn't able to do it or had forgotten then her trip (and the 2nd half of ours) would be for nothing. In the meantime, this being Thursday, we had a day to kill. Andrew and Luke unfortunately had free lance work that kept them busy, so I was on my own. I went to the American Museum of Natural History, which was incredible, and then took myself down to Coney Island to see the last of a great institution before it gets the seedy amusement park equivalent of a gut rehab. It was cold, windy, full of trash, and pulsing with hip hop and R&B music. Carny rides whipped screaming kids and people around rusting rides, and tired hawkers tried to convince people to play their games and spend money. One guy was flatly intoning his shtick into a microphone as I walked down the boardwalk, trying to intice the curious or bored with the promise that they could "shoot a live target with a paintball gun. That's right, folks, shoot an actual, living, breathing human being with a paintball gun." I couldn't help but wonder about the poor sucker they found to stand up there, probably in some kind of mildewed foam suit and a football helmet, and get hit with paintballs.

But I got a call from Dennis Overbye and had to duck behind a building to avoid screaming sirens and hawkers. He sounded a little tired from jetlag, and asked "now, what are you interviewing me about?" but generally seemed game.

The next morning I met Monica outside the office of the New York Times in Manhattan and we spent an hour with a cup of coffee planning the interview. Luke and Andrew got stuck in traffic with the gear and were nearly an hour late, but we managed to race up to the conference room for the interview. After a hurried set up, we started.

Dennis was good, but seemed a little tired. He didn't have the same kind of spark that Natalie Angier and Kei Koizumi did, and his "presentation" was a little slow. It didn't make for exactly riveting footage, but he threw us some curves that should keep things interesting. For example, contrary to our other interviews, when asked about Fermilab closing and CERN opening, he shrugged and said "as long as the science happens, it really doesn't matter where." He was pretty uninterested in who did what where, and wasn't even particularly concerned about the trend in US science spending. "If CERN and the Europeans are willing to spend the money," he said, "maybe they should get the discoveries." It will be nice to throw that notion into the mix as well. It will give the viewer a more complex bite to chew on.

His eyes did light up when he discussed a recent trip to Fermilab. He mentioned the CDF detector building, where we have spent so much time, and referred to the huge pieces of equipment as "gigantic brightly-colored toys, looking like a giant child had been playing with them and left them out." It's true --- for some reason, even though the equipment they construct there at Fermilab (some of it for CERN, ironically enough) is incredibly complicated, it is usually housed in a simple, enormous tube or rectangle, and is almost always painted bright orange or blue.

We had to high-tail it out of the New York Times building, into our "driver's" car, and out of Manhattan to the airport in Queens. Then it was back to Chicago where Andrew and I realized somehow we had each forgotten to make a note of where we parked my car (it WAS 4:30 am when we parked, after all), but due to his terrific spatial memory we found it and dazedly went our separate ways, with five more hours of excellent footage in the can. With our total at about 114 hours, we were just about done shooting.

1 comment:

Professor said...

Excellent work my friend. Sounds like you're getting alot of work done and having a good time doing it.