Sunday, August 26, 2012

Heading to Burning Man

It feels just a bit surreal as we pulled away from the house this morning. A full year of planning, searching for costumes everywhere we went from Tempe, to Taipei. Always on your mind…. "That hat would look great on the playa covered in dust" This past week, was the major push. 140 gallons of water, enough food to feed a small army, 100 pounds of propane, 400 otter pops, the list goes on and on. 

It is 92 degrees, and we are heading through the desert towards Las Vegas, locked and loaded. Last year when we left Phoenix for Black Rock CIty it was about 118 degrees. This is nicer for sure.
Our first stop will be the Red Rock Resort. It is there, we will meet up with Eric and Audra. Tomorrow morning, we will leave early and drive the 8 hours to Reno. 
Once we land in Reno, Mike should roll in about the same time, and that will be the crew.

It is very exciting, albeit a little surreal. My stomach hurts, but I am pretty sure that is because i haven't eaten anything since yesterday around 5:00 pm. Or maybe it's the nerves….. nah… I am hungry.

We stopped at a place called Ike's in Wickenburg, and had a great lunch.
Back on the road, everything was rolling quite smoothly and then the whole rig started swaying back and forth as we rolled down the highway. Allen was driving and pulled off the highway pretty quickly.  When we got out of the truck we could smell rubber burning, and sure enough, we had a flat tire on the truck. We unhooked the camper and pulled the truck further off the road so we could change the tire safely. 25 minutes later, we were back on the road and heading to Vegas again.

It's amazing how much easier life is when you have cool technology. I hopped on the iPad and found a Discount Tire store near the hotel we were heading to, and found their phone number, They had the tire that we needed in stock and we plugged the address into the GPS. We got there and they were slamming busy. It was Friday afternoon and they squeezed us in. We got rolling again with four brand new Michelins and headed straight to Costco. We bought a shopping cart load full of supplies and then went to the hotel to meet Eric and Audra. 
We all hopped in taxis and went to a Sushi place with the crew from the show Eric was supplying gear for. It was a fun way to end a day that turned out to be a bit stressful.

Saturday morning, we got rolling around 8:30 am and with an additional 200 lbs of supplies on the back of the camper, it was running a bit odd and drifting back and forth. After about 50 miles, we pulled over and shifted the load around and transferred a decent amount of weight to the front of the camper. This made a considerable difference and we pressed on. 
We had great weather all day and didn't have any rain on our drive. It took about 10 hours to get from Las Vegas to Reno and it felt really good to pull into the RV park. We hooked up the camper to power and water, and did a little bit of organizing before the four of us went to the casino buffet restaurant for a good dinner. 
Mike Steighner had flown into Sacramento from West Palm Beach Florida and then rented a car and drove to Reno. We finished our dinner and Mike called to tell me he was just driving into the parking lot of the hotel. Once, we hooked up with Mike, I started working on the water system for the camper. 
The water gauges that show the capacities of the fresh, black, and gray water for the camper aren't always very accurate, and the black water tank even though we had opened the release valve was still showing 2/3 full. 
I connected a fresh water source to the Sani-flush connection, and filled the black tank. Once it was full, I pulled the release valve and much to my dismay, not a lot of water came out. 
This could be a real problem. Tomorrow we are heading out to the middle of no where, and it seems as though we have a clogged black water tank. Allen came over, and after talking about it a bit, he got under the camper and started pushing on the tank from underneath. The tank is pretty ply-able, and that seemed to help a bit. We used the sani-flush again and refilled the tank. After going through this process a few times, we were able to clear the clog, and empty the tank. The gauges showed an empty tanks, and the last time we flushed the tank, it emptied quickly, so problem solved. 

All in all, better to deal with this at the RV park where we had a dump station and water supply, than out in the desert in the middle of nowhere, with neither a water supply or dump station.

Allen, Mike and I relaxed for a little while outside. The temp was gorgeous, probably a cool 73, and no humidity to speak of.
We chatted for a while, and about midnight decided to call it a night.
Tomorrow morning, we will get Dry Ice and Regular Ice, and then head 90 miles north to Black Rock City.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Landing in India

The flight to New Delhi was actually not too bad. I slept a lot, and watched movies. The seat I was in in business class was a lay-flat seat. It was pretty comfortable and the flight did not feel like 13 hours.
When we got off the plane and headed towards Passport control, the airport decor was really cool.
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I got my bags and breezed through customs without stopping. As we walked out of the airport, there is a distinct smell that makes you think somewhere there are a bunch of buildings on fire. The air is hazy as well. The hotel sent a car to pick us up and about 10 minutes later, we were ushered into the Raddison Blu hotel lobby. Rick and I checked in and Rob and Joy came out to meet us. I dumped my luggage off in the hotel room which was really nice.
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We all went to the bar and had a drink and finally called it a night just around 12:30 am or so.
It was nice to decompress a little, but it was important to get some sleep because we were going to leave the hotel around 6:00 am to head to the train station in Delhi for our trip to Agra.
I slept off and on for a few hours and finally woke up wide awake around 4:30 am. I got up and got ready to head out.
We grabbed a couple of muffins and a few bottles of water and jumped in a taxi and headed out into the city around 6:00 am to find the train station.

I am going to leave out many details in the next part of the story, because a lot of the things we saw next were really nasty. Someday, buy me a drink and I will tell you about them, but for print... suffice it to say, that there was a lot of humanity out here, being human and doing human things that most of us do behind closed doors in what we take for granted called a bathroom. Watch your step is a very important thing to remember here.

We landed at the train station and found our train track. We were there about 30 minutes before the train left. Standing on the train platform, you looked around and realized very clearly that this was not touristy. You were in the thick of it now.

The smells... pretty rough...
Our train finally pulled in and we all started pushing our way through the crowd to get to our car.
We had reserved seats in the chair car and finally made it there.
The train was pretty dirty, and had an interesting smell. It took off, and as we started to roll out of the station, I saw some movement by my feet and caught a glimpse of a mouse scurrying around.
Kinda freaked me out, but I had to just put it out of my mind.
I remember reading a book as a kid about a mouse that had a tiny motorcycle and how interesting this cute little mouse was in the book. Seeing the mouse on the train was not like that. I just kept thinking that I hoped there was not enough space between my shoes and jeans so that he could have a chance to run up there. Cuz that would be bad.
Looking out the window of the train was very depressing. The poverty and masses of people living in huts made of branches and whatever they could find to shelter themselves was really overwhelming.
I thought to myself, "Once we get outside the city, it will get better"
I was wrong... it didn't.
For the next 3 hours, it was about the same. The area's along the railway looked like what you would expect to see in a movie about navy seals on a mission through a war torn city.
Only this was no movie, and the places weren't war torn.
We finally got to Agra, and got off the train. I had eaten a granola bar that I swiped from the hotel in Delhi, and was feeling pretty hungry, but also scared to eat anything. Rick went to the Pre-paid Taxi stand and fought his way through about 20 people towards the booth. I went up behind him to see if he needed any help and there were about 10-15 men shouting at each other. I assume they were all fighting to try and get the fare. Rick finally emerged and had successfully wrangled two taxis for us and we were off to the hotel.
This was our taxi driver, Mr Bomb. Yup... that's right.. Mr Bomb.
Mr Bomb

Mr Bomb spoke great english, and was very endearing. He jumped right into his tour guide shpeal and by the time we got to the hotel, we agreed to pay him to take us on a 4 hour tour around the city.
First we needed food... Desperately.
I was starving. I had eaten on the plane, but nothing else except for a tiny muffin at the hotel. It had been about 18 hours or so since I had eaten anything. We went to the restaurant at the hotel and I got a club sandwich. It was good... I could have eaten about 3 of them... but at least I finally had something in my stomach.

Mr Bomb took us to the Taj Mahal and one of his employees walked us through the ticket process.. the lines at the gate and then started to give us the guided tour.  Honestly... I could barely understand his English, and more than the history of it all.. I just wanted to shoot photos.
As we came around the corner of the building and looked through the archway, You could see the Taj Mahal and it was pretty breathtaking. I feel like I kept a good balance of taking pictures and yet stopping to actually look at it. In the past I have been to famous / incredible things and spent the entire time looking through the viewfinder of the camera, rather than actually seeing what I was there to see in real life.

The Taj Mahal is really amazing. The craftsmanship is overwhelming when you think about the fact that they didn't have computers to build it.
Taj Mahal 2

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Taj Mahal 1

After we had spent a couple of hours there, I was tired and really ready to be done. Mr Bomb was going to make sure we got our money's worth however, and we went to Agra Fort next. It was pretty cool, but honestly mostly lost on me because I was beat.

We finally made it back to the hotel and after a bite to eat in the bar... which for me was literally about 2 bites of some unknown thing that Rick, Rob, and Joy ordered, I called it a night and crashed.
I think I slept for around 3 or 4 hours and then started waking up every 45 minutes or so.
We all had agreed to meet at 6:30 in the lobby to go back to the Taj Mahal and shoot photos at sunrise.
As we walked out of the hotel looking for a taxi, we went by the homes of some of the locals. When I say homes, what I really mean is four to six sheets of plywood, and brush covering a couple of cots. People squatting on the ground under these shelters, cooking their morning breakfast and whatever else they were doing. I did however see one of these places that actually had a little television set inside it.
It was very bizarre.
A Tuk Tuk pulled up and we all jumped on and told him to take us to the Taj I think the 10 minute ride was about 50 Rupees ($1.02 USD)
Rick and a Tuk Tuk
After a hell raising ride through the morning sights, he dumped us off at a street and pointed his filthy finger down the road and said "TajMahal"
We looked at each other and wondered if this was going to get us there or not.
As we walked down the street, there were dogs all over the place. Let me re-state that... There are dogs all over the place everywhere here. It is a bit unsettling, because you really don't want to get bit by one of these dogs. While in America, they would all make nice pets.... here, they are everywhere and it is frightening.
We got through the gates at the Taj and rushed in to catch some photos before all the crowds arrived.
The morning sunrise cast some really pretty light on it. It was very peaceful.
After shooting for a while, we decided that we had captured everything we were going to capture. We went back to the hotel after another fun Tuk Tuk ride and went to the restaurant to get some breakfast.
I had some beans and rice and a small omelet. It was good, but not a huge meal. It was time to grab our goods and head to the lobby to catch our ride back to Delhi. The train ride was 3 hours, and Mr Bomb had told us it was going to take about 4 hours in the car.
I assumed that once we got out of Agra, there would be a freeway or two back to Delhi.
I was wrong.
For the next four hours, we drove like mad through village after village, dodging cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, bicycles, men, women, children, dogs, sheep, goats, camels, an occasional monkey or two, and even an elephant.
Driving in India, I realized one thing....
When there are no rules... there is only one rule... don't hit anything.
Our driver was very good. We drove using the whole road. For four hours, he basically, passed everything that was in front of us, and he passed them where ever there was a hole. There were many times when we were literally on the other side of the road in oncoming traffic, with cars and motorcycles flying by us, head-on... on both sides.
Mr Bomb had said it best. When driving in India, you need three things. A good horn, good brakes, and good luck.

We arrived in Delhi, almost 5 hours later, and basically grabbed our luggage and headed to the airport.
Our plane was delayed about 30 minutes, and just like that, we said good bye to Delhi, and landed in Mumbai.
It is much warmer here in Mumbai, and we got to the hotel, I took a quick shower and met Rob, Joy and Priti at the hotel Bar. Priti is Indian, and has been to India quite a bit. She has a friend here who's name is Renna. Rick joined us and we ended up going to the hotel restaurant for dinner. By the time we ordered our food it was midnight. I had a good Italian meal, and then thankfully went to bed. The food was very good, and not having eaten anything but a granola bar, a sandwich, and an omelet since I landed in India, it was good to finally have a meal.
Sleep was good till about 4:00 am, and then the jet lag kicked in and I was wide awake. I ended up dozing for another hour and a half or so, but that was all I was going to get today.
Breakfast at about 8:30 am and then we headed to the meeting rooms to start our job at about 9:00 am.

Heading to India

The sky is getting dark outside the plane and the sun is setting with a deep orange glow on the horizon. Wow… I should have said that in a James Earl Jones voice….

It is 7:00 am in Phoenix, and I have been traveling for 24 hours now. I got home from the LA Hilton Show around 11:00 pm Saturday night. I unpacked my small suitcase, re-packed a larger one, and then finally got to sleep around 1:00 am. 
The alarm went off around 6:00 am and I was out the door by 7:00 am.
The flight from Phoenix to Newark was un-eventful, and I landed in New Jersey around 4:00 pm. I hadn't eaten really all day, so a couple of slices of east coast pizza were in order.
I exchanged some US dollars for Indian Rupees and now have a wallet stuffed full of 500 Rupee bills.
Around 6:00 pm Rick showed up at the airport and we went to a little tapas/wine place and got some more food. 

After that we headed to the gate and got on the plane. Rick was supposed to fly in economy, and boarded that way to his seat. However, eventually, he got the upgrade and was moved to Business Class before we took off. 

It is 12.5 hours ahead of Phoenix time when I land in New Delhi. So, the plan is to get some sleep and then tomorrow morning we have a 7:00 am train down to Agra. 
I think the train ride is about 2-3 hours, and we will sight see around Agra, and maybe see the TaJ Mahal at sunset. Hopefully, I will get some internet access, and be able to upload some photos.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tired but hanging tough

I got to LAX around 11:30 am and went directly to the counter to see if I could get on the 2:15 flight to Orlando. The woman at the counter was pretty nice as she told me that all the early flights were sold out.
Ugh... So, I was at the airport 11 hours before my scheduled flight. 
To make a very long story short. I hung out in the airport terminal until my flight left, and landed in Orlando this morning at about 6:30 am. Fortunately the hotel had a room for me and I checked in and jumped into bed for about an hour and a half. We loaded in and worked till about 7:30 tonight. Then we had some dinner at the hotel bar, and I am now going to get some sleep. 
Basically, Yesterday my schedule was 6:30 am yesterday morning till 7:30 pm tonight with about an hour of sleep on the plane, and an hour and a half this morning at the hotel.
Surprisingly enough, I did pretty well all day. Now however, I am going to pass out. 
Good Night.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Long Stretch

Last Thursday I flew to Burbank and caught a $65.00 cab ride to The Langham Hotel in Pasadena.
It used to be the Ritz Carlton of Pasadena, so I can't complain about the accommodations.
We loaded into the ballroom at 8:00 am and it went very well. The gear for the show came out of Phoenix, and it is being provided by my good friend. The setup was good, we had everything we needed and didn't have to sit around and wait the vendor to run back to the shop to bring back the stuff that they forgot, like we did in Tampa about 2 weeks ago.
This is a pretty long show, 5 days of show, plus rehearsals. While we did start the week out with rehearsals, there were no more rehearsals after the first show day. 

On Sunday morning we had opening sessions.

And then after some change overs for break outs, the client went to the hotel bar area, where they were having a private superbowl party. 
So, being professional AV Techs, we streamed the superbowl to the ballroom system and then raided the client's bar for food and drinks, and 5 of us watched the superbowl on a 10' x 30' High Def Screen with a JBL Pro Sound system including 18" subwoofers.
Superbowl screen

Monday Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty chaotic. The client didn't give us any info on the show, and so every day... every session, it was a guessing game as to what was going to happen next.
While there wasn't a lot of long hours or late nights, it was pretty stressful work because we didn't know what was going on. So, I am feeling a little beat up from it all.

Today is the last day of the show, and it is supposed to end around 9:30 or so. I have a flight at 10:45  pm tonight and I am supposed to land in Orlando tomorrow morning at 6:20 am and go right to the hotel to start a load in for another show.
I am going to try and fly standby on a 2:15 flight which gets me into Orlando at midnight, so at least I will get a couple of hours of sleep in a real bed. Wish me luck!

The show in Orlando should be pretty straightforward.  I get to work with some old friends, so I am looking forward to that. It is a quick turn-around show and I will be hopping on the last flight out of Orlando to Phoenix. I land at 11:00 pm and go straight to the hotel where I will load in the following morning. The show there is from Sunday to Thursday, so another good long show.
Hopefully at some point, I will get to swing by this house in Phoenix that I call home, and maybe do some laundry.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Audio guy's personal Tech Kit

I have been working on a show this past week with a couple of good Audio tech's and curiosity got the best of me about what they carry in their tech kits.
For those of you that aren't in the business, What I am referring to as a "Tech Kit" is all of the gadgets that you would bring to a show to help you do your job, basically the way you want to do it. 
The company you are working for brings the main equipment, but there are always things to bring to make your life better. A good example would be a good pair of headphones. The company might bring a set of cheap headphones in their audio work box, but as the A-1 or A-2, you are going to want to have your own good set. 

Tech kit's develop over many years in the business. Young guys in the business start out carrying a messenger bag or a backpack. And that works just fine for a while. Right up until you start bringing smaller pieces of equipment with you, that just don't fit well in a messenger bag. The process then becomes, you carry a messenger bag and throw those other things in your suitcase. Eventually you will be walking through an airport and see one of your colleagues rolling a Pelican 1510 or a Pelican 1560 through baggage claim. You might ask them, "what's in the case?" and when they tell you it is just my tech kit, you realize that the backpack you are carrying that is about to rip your shoulders off, just might not be the most efficient way to do this anymore. 
You will go and buy yourself a Pelican, SKB, or Storm Case and empty your backpack into it. Then and only then, you realize that you don't have enough stuff to really justify the size of the case you bought. 
So, you start adding stuff to it. This process goes on for months if not years. Eventually you hone down your tech kit to the right case, with the right tools and gadgets. Then you see someone else's tech kit and they have something supercool and probably expensive in it, and you want it in yours too. 
So, the more of this story is, that with time and experience comes a pretty cool tech kit, that never seems to be completed, but is always pushing itself closer to the mark of being what you really need on a show.

With that, I thought I would post what I am carrying in my tech kit. For a while now, I have had my tech kit in a SKB iSeries case because it was just a little bit bigger than the case I really wanted to have it in. Last night however, I figured out a way to put it in the Pelican 1510 that I wanted to have it in, and I will see how that works out for me. The SKB and Pelican 1510 are essentially the same case, the only difference is that the SKB case doesn't have a handle on the top of it, just the side. This is a huge fail and while you might not think it is a problem, this one little handle really makes a huge difference in the ergonomics of using this case. 
Inside the case, I have the padded divider bottom and the lid organizer and:
2 Marantz PMD 660 Audio Recorders
Cables for Recorders (The cables, adapters, and power supplies for the recorders are in a little pouch)
2 Dsan Laptop Sound port DI's
Pelican 2360 LED Flashlight
Gerber Diesel Multiplier (this isn't my favorite tool, but I liked it cuz it was black)
Nite Ize Pock-its Belt case for flashlight and tools

1 Leica Disto A2
1 Shure Mic Bag with Sharpies, C-Wrench, Pencil Screwdriver, Blue LED Flashlight Spare Gerber Multi-Tool (Gerber Method)
1 Shure Mic Bag with 10' 1/8" stereo to Mono 1/4" plug cable
1 Shure Mic Bag with DBX Reference Mic, Clip, and USB cable for Digi-design USB interface
1 DigiDesign Mbox 2
1 Pair of Sony MDR-7506 Headphones
1 Whirlwind Q-box
1 USB Passive Hub
1 Display port - VGA Adapter
1 Micro VGA Test Generator 
1 Box of Breath mints
1 Organizer of Misc Audio adapters
1 Back up Flashlight (Pelican 1900)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011 so far.....

I have decided to move to the Phoenix area. After I got back from the east coast from getting stranded there during the holidays, I started packing up my belongings. I put a trailer hitch on the Jeep and rented a small trailer. then I drove a load of stuff down to Arizona and started working. I have about 16 days of show this month not counting shop time, so that is a really positive thing.
This past week was spent in the shop with a couple of hundred feet of 1" steel tube cutting, welding and grinding away. Jonny and I had to build three foot by three foot cube frames. Once they were built and all the welds had been ground smooth, we sent them off to be powder coated. 
Jonny and I cut 20 pieces of plywood and painted them white. and then when the cubes got back from powder coating, we had to cut and attach wood strips to the insides of the cubes. We cut white spandex into strips, and wrapped the cubes with the spandex and stapled them onto the wood strips. 
The final product ended up being ten 3' x 3' cubes wrapped in spandex and we will put a LED light fixture in the bottom of it and light it from the inside with different colors.
It was a lot of work and we finished it up just in time to get them loaded on the truck and headed out to Palm Desert.
Saturday Morning, Audra took me to the airport at 5:00 am. I was going to park there, but she told me no and while I was completely willing to park my jeep there, I was pretty happy when she wouldn't take no for an answer!
My flight was on Delta and it left at 7:00 am and I landed in Atlanta around 12:00 noon or so.
I got my bag and took a taxi to the hotel and started setting up the show. 
One of my old friends from the Seattle days is the Director of Operations at this hotel and it was really cool to see him. He came down at the end of our setup day and brought a bottle of The Macallan 25 year old Scotch. That was a wonderful treat, and was very generous.
 There was a huge party at the hotel last night where 2500 people came in drinking and dancing till about 2:00 am. This translates into probably 1000 of those people  staying in the hotel and stumbling back to their rooms talking too loudly... banging on the wrong doors and screaming at each other down the length of the hallway at 2:30 in the morning. Needless to say pretty much all of us on the crew didn't get much sleep last night.
General Session

Fortunately the show didn't start until 2:00 pm today and while I am still feeling sleepy, it will end soon enough. Tomorrow is day two of the show and will most likely end around 3:00 pm. We will strike the show and then I am scheduled to get on a plane at 9:45 pm. 
I will land in Phoenix at midnight and then at 8:00 am on Tuesday morning, I will drive to Palm Desert and join a show that is in progress for the rest of the week.