Monday, December 14, 2009

A/V Christmas: A Short Story

“Does that heartless bastard know just what kind of cancerous ball of hate his incessant toddling is creating inside of me?”

I am on my hands and knees, face half pressed up against the wall, jamming power cables, speaker cables, and DMX lines underneath a one-inch gap between the bamboo slatted floor and the eerily spotless white and surprisingly cold gallery walls. Newer buildings create this exact air gap between the floors and walls specifically for cables of all sorts to be jammed into them by guys like me for events like this; the nicer the building, the smaller the gap, the more cramming I have to do. This is a very new, very nice building with very small gaps and my cables are popping out before I can tape them down. I’m currently in the grand lobby of the brand new Modern Wing of the Chicago Art Institute. It’s only been open for about a year and is already jammed to the gills with what some people consider art but I consider punch-lines to a whole bunch of jokes that I just don’t get.

I have a roll of black gaff tape with me to tape down the cables once they are sufficiently stuffed into this gap and out of sight. If you didn’t know, gaff tape is far superior to duct tape. It has a matte finish, not shiny like duct tape, so if you have lights illuminating a room that the event coordinator wants lit up like a Christmas tree, even though everyone else wants as dark as a dungeon, no one sees your tape reflecting the light back at them from the one inch gap between the floor and the wall. That’s why people don’t notice that floor/wall gap, because of gaff tape. Gaff tape doesn’t leave a sticky residue on your cables after you peel it off your gear when the party is over. It is very easy to tear with your bare hands or with your teeth, unlike duct tape which takes a grizzly bear like rage to unadhere from your cables at the end of the night when all you want to do is get your ass home and enjoy a drink that no matter how much ice you use, will still burn on the way down. Gaff tape makes a very satisfying ripping sound when you rip it. Duct tape just pisses me off. Gaff tape, or gaffers tape, or “Permacell P-665” as the techie-knuckle-head-who-want-to-seem-more-knowledgable-than-he-really-is-when-he-asks-to-borrow-your-stuff-cause-he-didn’t-come-prepared-and-now-needs-to-use-your-shit-to-get-his-job-done-right-even-though-he-is-pissing-off-everyone-who-is-already-doing-the-job-right-without-using-words-like-Permacell calls it, is an industry standard. Duct tape is for suckers. Because gaff tape is so much better than duct tape, the stuff cost three times as much and is next to impossible to find. Everyone in the industry has “a guy”, a gaff hook-up, a secret supplier of these coveted rolls of AV-tech gold. My guy gets me 3” wide rolls, the standard width is 2”. Many a techie knuckle head has asked where I get it. I usually refer them to their mother. Right now, it seems like that roll of tape on the shiny bamboo art gallery floor is my only friend on the face of the planet. It is certainly being nicer to me than that jackass practicing goddamn Soon It Will Be Christmas Time on his saxophone. The problem with these big halls is this, that goddamn sax player is clear on the other side of this giant empty room, but he sounds like he’s playing inches from my ears. I want to punch him in the neck.

“Will someone kindly drag that inconsiderate waste of carbon out into the middle of the street and shoot him?”

I’m sweating and stressed out and pissed off and my knees hurt. I’m too old and banged up from having fun and making mistakes to put this kind of pressure on my knees, and this bamboo floor, although scuff-proof and shiny, is not what I envision when I think of the last surface I would like to comfortably kneel on. I was really hoping to be found dead kneeling in front of the largest ball of twine in Minnesota, or underneath a giant ice sculpture of Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire, or kneeling face down in a chafing dish behind the sneeze guard of an all you-can-eat bacon buffet. Stupid holiday parties. Stupid rookie teckie knuckle heads. Stupid event planners. Stupid broken knees. Stupid Christmas carols being played on a stupid saxophone. At least I have my 3” gaff tape.

“Better yet, why doesn’t someone drag me into one of these overly lit galleries and blow my brains out all over the wall. Come to think of it, I bet I could pass for a goddamn work of art. I might even make a couple of million bucks if my gray matter is splattered around artistically enough. Hell, this could be the beginning of a beautiful career for me as a well-lit piece of meat smeared against a wall with a bullshit frame around it and the working title I Fucking Hate Christmas Music This Much.”

That gets a chuckle out of Steve. He’s just kinda standing there, listening to me complain, watching me boil, not lifting a finger to help. Steve is my assistant. He is older than me, lazy as hell, and balding. By balding, I mean that Steve is almost completely bald but can’t bring himself to shave off the little tuft of dirty blond hair that sits straight up on the top of his forehead. It’s like an island of sad, thin, wispy strands, perched on the top of his head, standing straight up almost in defiance of the surrounding sea of shinny, smooth, bald scalp. He’s real sensitive about his hair. I mentioned it once and he got all kinds of pissy with me.
“I’ll fuckin do it, man.” he chuckles.

“What? Tape down these stupid damn cables so that I can save just enough mobility in my knees to get bent over by the boss when pay day rolls around?”

“No. I’ll blow your brains out in gallery 183 if it will make me a cool million.”

“Aren’t you a saint.”

“Screw it, I’ll do it for twenty bucks.”

“Are you asking me to pay you twenty bucks to blow my brains out? I think you are missing the point here, Steve. Besides, there are Picassos in 183 and you’d have to be pretty fancy with that shotgun to arrange me in a way that he hasn’t already thought up.”

Steve is a little bit cross-eyed and totally worthless. He is just standing there watching me tape down these cables. I could make him do it, I am his boss after all, but then he’s just gonna bitch about it all night. I didn’t want to hire him for tonight’s gig, I knew tonight was going to be a hell gig no matter who I put on it with me. Even if I had Sunrise Adams as an assistant, in cut-off jean shorts and knee pads, I’d still be taping these goddamn cables down underneath this goddamn gap between the floor and the wall and that goddamn saxophone would still be playing goddamn Christmas songs. My normal assistant copped out last minute, something about an allergic reaction to his new laundry detergent, so Steve got the call. If he’s talking to you in a crowd of people, you never really know if he is really talking to you or to the space just over your left shoulder. It’s for just that reason that I try not to talk to him at all. It also gets me out of conversations like this one.

“I’m pretty good with a shotgun.”

“Go tell that saxophone player to shut the hell up.” I grumble as a leave a streak of forehead sweat across the pristine white walls.

He cups his hands together around his mouth.


Jesus Christ. What kind of idiot yells, “shut the fuck up” across the grand lobby of an art gallery? His brain might be mush, but the balls on that guy could probably drive nails into oak. In his defense, the offending Yule Tidings stopped almost instantly.

“Nice, Steve. Real pro.”

“My work here is done. I’m gonna go take a piss. You want anything?”

“What, like from the bathroom? No I don’t want anything. What I want you to do some damn work, Steve.”

“I hate taping cables.”

“You know that it is a fundamental part of your job to tape down cables. The job that I pay you real money to do includes taping down cables. In fact, the majority of the work that someone in your position does for me, the person who hires you, is taping down the fucking cables. So when you say you hate taping down cables, it’s like a fisherman saying that they hate fishing.”

“I love fishing.”

“Than you are in the wrong business, buddy. Do you see any water? Do you see a boat? Do you see worms, or poles, or Gordan the goddamn fisherman? Can you taste the mother fucking freshness, Steve?! No. But there are a shit load of cables than need to be taped down.”

“Alright, asshole. I get it. I gotta take a piss, then I’ll tape down your damn cables. Okay?”

“I’ll do it. Just meet me back at the control desk. I’m canceling Christmas this year.”

1 comment:

  1. Obby my man, just play some tunes on your ipod, or your cellphone... or whatever the fuck you've got. Load it up with some black diamond heavies and play it when people, or a specific environment, pisses you off. Do you have any idea how bad traffic in India is man? You complain about guys not indicating and cutting in the way? Folks here manage to go three ways on a one way street. And don't get me started on the way "official" shit runs around here. There's more red tape here than 3" gaff wrapped around Steve's ass. The way I stay... *cough*... sane, is by blasting music through my ears via my Sony Walkman. Right now Them Crooked Vultures are playing during my conscious and unconscious hours... they're nice, and they don't make me want to kill people. I highly advise you to try a similar strategy.

    Merry Christmas Obs, for whatever it's worth O_o

    Oh... meet Anglo after a bad day. He's has got to help! His mere presence might be enough on some days