Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The names of the dead

September 10, 2001 I had a night job "Best Boy'ing" a Noriega rap video. Talent included the midget from Howard Stern. I forgot his name. I never remember stuff like that. We shot in a supermarket in NJ and the Gaffer and I had an easy-going relationship. We were both sips of water personalities. He liked me because I was a hard worker, experienced, and self-directed. He was also rather gawky and puny for a crewman, so my energy was not a threat to his authority. I am strong and capable but not a butch. I knew how to take and give orders, and luckily, my crew always did what I asked.

The vibe was strange that night. I have done hundreds of rap videos over the last ten years. I am use to being the token "which of these things does not belong" in the midst of a hullabaloo of posse antics and hooch'ie mamas. When I was younger, I prided myself on having earned the respect of my male co-workers by blending in to the organism so that you would barely know I was there. Someone would always inevitably point out how hard I worked, but I worked just as hard as all the other men on the crew. The attention would just gravitate to me because I had not relinquished my femininity to adapt. Everyone else was working as diligently too.

I had never been on a job that was so volatile before that night. There was tension in the air. I thought it was due to the fact that Noriega was involved allegedly in a shooting in Queens or because production was disorganized so that we had to rerun 4/0 cable five times through the supermarket. They kept changing the lighting set up and shot order and we were only eight and eight. Accordingly, the electric crew attempted to make ice cream from the shit of cables and gak strewn through the freezer aisle. Lunch was four hours late, so we had worked straight through ten hours of backbreaking labor before any of us sat down. By the eighteenth hour many of my guys were tired. The bulk had been shot and I did what most "best boys" do in the eighteenth hour .. vis. time cards. Anyone who works in my field knows that the best boy does time cards before wrap so the crew can go home after a twenty plus hour day without delay.

One of my crew-members sat on the truck next to me filling out his W-2 when the AD walked up. This AD put the whole job in perspective for me when he asked me why we were filling out time cards. What an idiot! He said that my crew-member should get back to work. I stood right into his shoulder and told him in no uncertain terms to get off my truck and never tell my crewman what he should or shouldn't do. I never had to do that before. He walked away. The Gaffer also acted out of character. After yelling at me in front of the DP, I mentioned to him after the job to do me the favor of never call me again. Never eat your own crew when you are fucked, it ruins morale and when all is said and done the fault lay with him and his poor scouting abilities. By the end of the twenty-four hour job all I wanted to do was sleep. My boyfriend and I took the G&E truck back to the city with a Luna driver and went straight to sleep. It was 8:30am.

I woke up at 4pm. There were fourteen messages on my machine. No one mentioned the WTC, all they asked was if I were alive. I thought there might have been an earthquake while I slept. I turned on the TV.

When I was in school in Ohio the first WTC bombing took place. When I came back to New York in 1998, I worked as a grunt in a rental house down on Worth Street paying my dues. The storefront was under the WTC. I remember standing outside during lunch one day with Charlie from the Bronx who worked in the basement. He recounted for my benefit how they tried to knock "this tower" into "that one". I stood there in disbelief. That could never happen...I wonder what it would look like.

I knew the Trade Towers well. I even worked as a temp in an office there during one summer home from school. When they offered me a full time position, I turned them down because I wanted adventure. I bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia instead. Many of my childhood friends did not. I went to a private Jesuit school on the Upper East Side on Manhattan and most of my classmates went into finance. It was upward mobility for the young Irish catholic kids from middle class homes. If they didn't go into finance they became cops or firemen.

A couple of weeks after the attacks I was on Perry Street in the West Village, and my old speech and debate friend from the all boys' high school across from Loyola walked past me. I always wanted to go to Regis but I couldn't because I was a girl. Since Loyola didn't have an Lincoln Douglas debate primer, I went go over to Regis. I would volunteer as a female actress in their High School plays. A Regis boy took me to my senior prom. T always scared me because he reminded me of myself. T had gone to Princeton and then worked as a camera assistant for a while. His whole family was in the fire department. He was the only male who was not a fireman. He had been documenting his family's relationship with the fire department in a film leading up to September 11, only he didn't know that September 11 would happen. We had both worked in Haiti on separate jobs. When I asked him how he was. He fell apart. They were all dead, every single one of them. As I write this I get so angry, but my anger seems futile, so it subsides into numbness and sadness. Last night was the first time in five years that I have been able to think about what was lost that day with tears that went deep into my heart with relief

The owner of Luna lighting deserves an award. He owns stages in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Tony sent all of his genies down to the WTC because he knew that workers need electricity and light to look for survivors. Non-union motion picture lighting crewmen came and lit the whole areas with movie lights before nightfall and manned the genies voluntarily for weeks until the union took over and kicked the "scabs" and "rats" off the work set.

S was a close childhood friend. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. S was my first lesson in the smartest person is not the wealthiest person or the happiest person. He was very intelligent but not a "smarty pants because I bought everything my parents told me type." He always thought I was too serious. We always argued. His dad was always nice to me. My childhood best friend, K, (who was his roommate and closest friend) said she saw his photo in the Daily News jumping out of a window. She could recognize his socks. She smiled and then looked pained and guilty for saying something so matter of fact. I want to delete this blog after writing that.

I will probably delete this blog before tomorrow is done...I understand why some do not speak the names of dead people...I wish I could just be o.k. with this but I am not...

(reposted from http://www.myspace.com/scalexa)

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