Lost in Laguardia: Southwest's Major Glitch

I tend to lose a lot of time thinking of all the various ways I’ve lost time over the days, months, and years of my life. Some of my time has been lost in wondrous ways like seeing the Grand Canyon or getting in the van and going on tour with a punk band. Maybe I’ll write about those things sometime. However, as it’s somewhat timely, I’d like to write about the time I lost at Laguardia airport between July 20, 2016 and July 21, 2016. It was the day of Southwest’s recent company-wide computer glitch that affected some 2,000 flights and mostly ground the company to a halt for an entire day.

But we didn’t know anything about that as my girlfriend and I travelled by bus from my father’s house in rural Colrain, MA. We had just finished a big trip that involved moving a truck cross-country, seeing Niagara Falls, a fife and drum event, and numerous other things I may write about sometime soon.

We chose to fly with Southwest out of Laguardia rather than a more expensive airline from Boston back to our home in Indianapolis. We went with Southwest because of the cheap one-way fare that no one else could offer. Everything about that trip had gone off without a hitch so perhaps we were doomed before we even set foot into the relatively un-updated LGA.

We left Colrain with plenty of time to get into New York City and take another bus to the airport before our flight (Southwest 1031) took off at 8:00 PM. I had signed up for flight updates from Southwest so that we could stay on top of any changes in travel. Though we would never get any updates as Southwest had multiple computer and database systems fail during that time. I checked with Flight Aware as we sat on the Greyhound bus in New York City, complete with boisterous parents, wearing weed socks and smelling of the same. Flight Aware said the flight was delayed by about an hour, so we breathed a sigh of relief, nervous that our late bus would spell trouble for our trip home. Now we had a little extra time to move around at the airport. It was disconcerting that I wasn’t getting updated from Southwest, but I received no notice of any trouble from the company and when I looked for information regarding it, there was none to be found.

We arrived at the airport to the news that our flight was delayed a little more but no indication was given to us by the Southwest desk that anything was amiss. It was only later when the flight was delayed again (pushing the leave time three hours late) that we started getting texts from friends saying that Southwest had a big issue with its computer systems. We were reassured by the Southwest gate agent there at Terminal B, gate B4, that the flight was inbound and we would be leaving that night, regardless of the glitch.

Inbound flight delay.

Inbound flight delay.

It got closer and closer to our leave time and as we were simply exhausted by the day (having driven in on two buses from rural Massachusetts) so we resigned ourselves to getting in late and sleeping in as much as we could. Some 30 minutes before our inbound plane was to land, the gate agent announced, “Due to a curfew issue at this airport, the inbound plane is being rerouted to a different state and this outbound flight is being canceled. Please come to the desk to rebook.”

The collective groan was incredibly loud. We were so exhausted and felt jerked around, of course. But we had no recourse. As we all stood in line to rebook our tickets, the captain and first mate of the inbound flight walked past the Southwest line. It was then that I realized the gate agent had lied to us. I thought about why and came up with the fact that if the crew and passengers of our inbound flight had gotten out at our gate as they canceled the flight, there might be a bit of a mutiny. In fact, the crew had reached their flight quota for the day, being completely incapable of taking another flight, given the amount of time they also spent waiting for delays. More than likely, we were lied to for this reason.

I confronted someone at the desk about this. They got their supervisor to come over. He confirmed that there was no curfew issue and that the gate agent had lied. People were being turned down for vouchers, hotels for the evening, rental cars, and other compensation, left and right. I stuck around until the bitter end while the supervisor claimed to go speak with his manager. In fact, he was outside the airport not speaking to anyone, just waiting out us hangers-on. I was irate and we were booked on the 6:10 AM flight the next morning, needing to get home to Indianapolis where someone was watching our dog.

Southwest told us that all hotels were booked up, not that they would accommodate us. We tried to sleep there at Laguardia, starting at about 12:30 AM on 7/21. My girlfriend was able to catch a few Z’s while in her sleeping bag on the floor by baggage claim. We slept amidst what I found out later is a group of homeless people that frequents the airport. We only found that out at about 2:30 AM when two social workers and several police officers came to offer them services. They were summarily turned down and only served in infuriating me further as they risked waking my girlfriend up as she slept on the floor.

Sleeping on the floor at Laguardia, after being lied to. Before being canceled on a second time.

Sleeping on the floor at Laguardia, after being lied to. Before being canceled on a second time.

Come 4:00 AM, I decide to check in at the desk because that’s when they first opened. After being awake for 28 hours at that point, sauntered up to the desk, knowing that terminal of Laguardia like the back of my hand at that point. As I rounded the corner from the escalator, I saw the Southwest line, which wrapped around all of its stanchions and spilled out into the security line. I checked the board: Our 6:10 AM flight to Midway (and further on to Indianapolis) was cancelled. Now, I knew our plane had landed because we were lied to about it the night before. And here I was with a flight that had been cancelled some three and a half hours after we were booked on it.

Some literature on what it's like to sleep at Laguardia.

Some literature on what it's like to sleep at Laguardia.

However, every other flight to Indianapolis that day, whether connecting or nonstop, took off. None of those were cancelled. I woke my girlfriend up, completely irate and knowing that we needed to get rebooked, if nothing else. As a further twist of the knife, given that we had to wait for everyone else (and even when I got out of line and just went up to the desk, irritating several other patrons) in line, every other flight to the Midwest was booked up besides the 8:00 PM flight to Indianapolis, a full 24 hours after we had originally booked.

Only our flight was canceled the second time around.

Only our flight was canceled the second time around.

We tried to standby on things to Chicago And Nashville, running all over the terminal, but nothing came to fruition. We were so disoriented that we tried sleeping under the food court escalator for a few hours. If I had a sign proclaiming Southwest’s fault in all this, I would’ve put it up for others to see at that point.

In all, we spent 28 hours at Laguardia. During our stint, we spent time with an AAU basketball team who also had their flight cancelled after sitting and waiting for three hours of delays. We ate at Dunkin Donuts three times, as it was one of two restaurants available to us in that terminal. We spent $23 on two drinks. I yelled at more people than I can remember in my life, over a period of several hours. By the end of it all, I was welcomed into the supervisor’s office due to our specific kinship (he too had gotten about two hours sleep). As they strategized what they could be doing, I looked around the room at the nondescript digs and the overflow of Popeye’s Chicken and realized that the supervisor and Southwest’s employee’s on the ground were getting screwed just as hard as we were, if not more. I shook the man’s hand as he profusely apologized, knowing exactly how long I had been there (and having been on the receiving end of my yelling multiple times).

Basketball players thwarted.

Basketball players thwarted.

Eventually our third flight took and we were able to make it home (after it was delayed as well). We were e-mailed a paltry $200 LUV voucher from Southwest (in a large blanket e-mail that went out to several affected parties, I’m sure). I was told to follow up with Customer Relations, being assured that a MOM report was being filed due to the severity of the situation.

As it stands, I called Customer Relations and was told to contact Southwest via e-mail and dictate my complaint for additional compensation. I was also told that these claims are typically responded to within 48-72 hours by Southwest representatives. I will follow up and report back on whether or not I was given proper compensation for these errors on Southwest’s part.

It just goes to show that we can lose time in a variety of ways. At the end of the ordeal, we were laughing because we had nothing else to do (and my voice was getting hoarse from yelling at people). We became known around the airport for our struggle and my dealings with Southwest. On our flight back, a couple gave us their drink coupons (undoubtedly a cheap tactic by Southwest to get people off their backs). The drinks didn’t quell any of our irritation but we were overjoyed when we made it back home.

Drinks and Dunkie's. Finally en route home.

Drinks and Dunkie's. Finally en route home.

Hopefully Southwest can do some things to recover from this. Truly I picked the airline because it was the cheapest flight and I think that’s largely what they have going for them. I just hope that this doesn’t screw up things up for the concept of a “value” airline at large. Because I’ll probably need cheap flights for the rest of my life. And Southwest hasn’t really cut it for me in recent memory. 

THIS WEEK IN TIME: SICKNESS IS CREATIVITY

I’m at my mother’s house in Lafayette, Indiana. I flew in for the weekend because my brother Adam had has 30th birthday party tonight. My God. I remember sharing a room and a blue bunk bed with that guy. I remember watching and re-watching The Omega Code on laser disc and even later, watching In Living Color and trying not to giggle too loud at Fire Marshall Bill Burns, lest mom hear us. I’m really glad that I came back to town for it. I don’t get to see my family as often as I’d like to and my niece is growing up so fast. And really, for several other reasons, I’m glad that I went back for the second time in as many weeks.

At first, I was nervous to even come. The day that I got back from my cabin in the woods excursion, I got very, very sick. I still can’t tell from what. I had a temperature of 101.2, a patchy red rash, and a terrible sore throat. I was blaming on the hot tub water at the cabin. I actually saw a doctor at an urgent care while I was in Lafayette and got some antibiotics as well as some lidocaine (which I do not recommend using ever). At any rate, I felt pretty rotten then, felt worse when I got on the plane and my ears felt like they were going to explode, and slowly a bit better during the weekend.

I had a lot of time spent in bed, doing very little. And I started realizing just how much I depend on all of the people around me. I was getting a bit depressed, feeling like I hadn’t made any progress on my projects in a long time. Lauren talked to me about getting inspired and feeling good about the things that I could do while in that state. And I started thinking about how much help I’ve gotten from Lauren, my mom, and brothers and sister-in-law, and everyone around me. And that got me thinking about how much we all really need the people around us; that instead of being depressed about my lack of output, I can think about the people around me who are all doing such cool stuff and helping me out at the same time.

It was good to see everyone again, if I didn’t really do much besides hang around the house. Seeing everybody eventually had me feeling better (also I think I gave whatever terrible thing I had to my family).

It’s already been announced and I may have mentioned it to a few folks, but I’m about to start work on a short film that I’ve been writing for what feels like a decade at this point. I have written now 22 drafts of my short High Fructose Suicide Booth. It was selected as a grantee from Idea Capital, an Atlanta-based Arts organization that does a grant every year. I was really fortunate to be selected and all of the other projects associated with it seem to be really ambitious and great. There will be a write-up about it in Burn Away soon, so I’ll probably post about that when it happens.

In regards to the short, I met with James, the producer I typically work for as an assistant on projects, and he’s going to do a full-stop budget and schedule for the project and get those things to me on Tuesday. It’s very exciting that someone I hold in high regard is going to be helping me out. I’m also meeting with my production designer and producer that night to go over things as they stand. I’m hoping to provide several more updates as we go through the process of pre-production and shooting. So, be on the lookout for that soon.

For the most part, I’m getting things in order this week so that I’m ready to go back to work in a couple of weeks and do it all over again. Hopefully some of this increased productivity will stay as I try to get things moved over to a new (beautiful) house and I can keep saving money as I work through this short.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about this week in time.

THIS WEEK IN TIME: CONVENTIONAL PRODUCTIVITY

I’m with my pal and Weird on Top Pictures confidant Jason Zink in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. We’re taking a couple of quiet days to work on a couple of our respective projects and give each other feedback. It’s been a long time coming.  I wanted to give a recap of some things that happened this week and some of the progress I’ve made with a few projects.

This past week has been a great one for inspiration and things of that sort. I first flew home to Indiana, just to see home for a few days. My mom and I went to see a movie, I visited with my niece, and laid fairly low. After a few days, Jason, Kara, and I drove to Cincinnati for HorrorHound Weekend. We met up with my lady pal, Lauren there. We went there on behalf of our distributor for our film, Night Terrors. It’s a feature-length horror anthology with three distinct stories.

Jason and I made it over the last couple of years, when we both had time. Camp Pictures decided to pick it up and they released it last November (sorry for a lack of updates, by the way). You can check out the movie/trailer/whatever here: https://www.alternativecinema.com/movie/night-terrors

We were also featured in Fangoria, went to a festivals with it, and ended up at this HorrorHound convention last week. It was a really interesting time. Jason and I have both been to conventions like this before, but never on this side of the table. Jason has always been the big horror fan and I’m usually tagging along for the story. But promoting our distributor and selling our DVDs was a very peculiar experience. We arrived in Cincinnati, got settled at the Red Roof Inn and began setting up over at the Sharonville Convention Center. It’s madness watching all of the vendors set up their wares before anyone even gets there. In a lot of ways, it’s good to be a vendor and a fan, because you can scope out all of the merchandise ahead of time to see if there’s anything that you are interested in picking up or checking out. This particular convention happened to have a film festival attached to it. We sent our film in to them beforehand, knowing that we would be there to promote it and we snagged the last slot of the show.

So, going into the convention, we were really pumped, if not a little nervous about whether or not we really fit in there. Our distributor Camp Pictures set us up with one of their regular directors and convention representative, Henrique Cuoto.

Henrique, in more or less his natural environment.

Henrique is a great dude with immeasurable energy and a lot of really great advice for new filmmakers. He’s shot ten low-budget features, running the gamut of various genres. He’s working on his eleventh. At any rate, it was really great to talk shop with Henrique as we loaded our stuff in and helped him out. I learned a good amount about how these things sometimes work on the part of distributors and things like that. Henrique is local to Ohio and usually represents Camp at conventions close to him. They sent him several 90-count boxes of DVDs, featuring new releases and some older, more classic titles that Camp Pictures and Alternative Cinema have re-issued. In that batch of DVDs were 45 copies of Night Terrors that Jason, the ladies, and I were going to sell at a table next to Henrique’s.

We set up our booth, filling the table out with our screen-used props and special effects pieces (all of which were constructed by Matt Stahura, our wonderful effects guy). We also brought Night Terrors stickers, promoted the screening to people that were there, and tried to help promote the brand. We had a lot of fun talking with people about their interests in film, trading cards, and selling DVDs. In fact, we sold out of all of our copies of the movie on the last day of the show. We all got a chance to walk around and see some of our old friends, like the Open Sign Productions guys, who we were with in the Indie Horror Film Fest. We also met some new folks like the group that made Headless (which won a bunch of awards), the guys from Old 37 (who did the same) and countless others. There was a great vibe at the show and I really enjoyed seeing people who love micro-budget filmmaking, as they seem fewer and further between lately.

At any rate, we did that for three days. Jason and Kara headed back to Indiana. Lauren and I drove back to Atlanta, fairly relieved to have sold out of what we had. It was a great experience in direct sales that I had never really experienced. Jason ended up driving down to Atlanta the day after to go out to these mountains and relex. We did a few things with Lauren, showed Jason Videodrome, and hung out before Jason and I made the drive to Blue Ridge yesterday. It’s incredibly peaceful out here. We’ve spent equal amounts of time scriptwriting, editing, shooting the shit, eating, and hot tubbing. I feel really invigorated about some of the projects that I’m working on, and it seems like Jason feels similarly.

Tomorrow, we’re leaving Blue Ridge and heading back to Atlanta to visit Emory, my alma mater. We’re both going to be speaking about what it’s like to pursue non-academic careers with experience in film theory. It feels great to be invited back to speak about what I’ve learned since I left. I hope that will yield some great results.

Before the talk, I have a phone interview with Burn Away, an Atlanta arts coverage organization. I’ll be talking about my progress on my High Fructose Suicide Booth project, which I will soon be gearing up full-force. I received a grant from Idea Capital for the project and will be speaking about what it’s like to produce art and films in Atlanta. That feels like a really wonderful thing that is happening. I’m hoping to do a write-up on what is happening with the project (hopefully in a more timely manner than seven months from now…) and where I plan on going with it.

I’ve also finally begun editing footage from an as-yet-untitled documentary about my friend Nick Puckett, who is an “Entertainment Advertiser” as he calls it. I’ve shot footage with Nick over the past year, featuring his job of sign spinning and dancing for local businesses.

When Jason and I get back tomorrow and settle down after our visit to Emory, we’re also probably going to flex our Atlanta Film Festival badges and see a movie or two. Jason drives back to Indiana Friday and I fly back there as well for my brother’s birthday.

Here’s hoping I’m as productive then as I feel like I’ve been this week. Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about this week in time.

Our puppy Lars gets a bath.

Our puppy Lars gets a bath.


This Week in Time: Toward a Re-Proliferation of the Pop-By

This week in time, I am thinking about how we plan our time with friends, coordinating schedules and events, and my pal, Harry Nelson.

A couple of years ago, I stopped by my friend Harry Nelson’s house completely unannounced (I let the door knocking do that). At the time, it felt like a fun thing to do. I don’t remember the particulars of the situation, not even where Harry was staying at the time. I’m sure he recalls though, as he was immediately affronted at my decision to “just pop by”. It was something that Harry was prepared to deal with given whatever set or circumstances I have, at this point, forgotten. I don’t know why I had been possessed by some awful spark of inspiration to hijack my friend’s time and space by giving no call, text, e-mail, Facebook message, tweet, Instagram, telegram, or carrier pigeon. Nothing. Now, even though Harry’s not a bad guy (most of the time), I was a little hurt by being turned away from a potential hangout. How could this guy not know that I had driven probably three whole minutes out of my way to say, ‘hello’, maybe sip a Sprite, talk to him about his cats, and leave?

Given the way that certain events take months or maybe years for me to adequately process, I think about this moment every now and again. It cropped up today and I thought it might be something to write about. Now, Harry’s not at all in the wrong to be upset/weirded out/caught off-guard by my random showing-up. It’s less-than-normal. And as far as folks go, Harry’s one of the most level-headed dudes I know. To that end, I got to thinking about why I might have decided to stop by and why Harry may have gotten frustrated by that.

As I write this, I’m also looking at e-mails from work detailing meetings, events, and working out times that people can all get together in the same room, be in physically, over the phone, web, or videoconference. Naturally, for ease of use, my workday (and I imagine a decent number of folks have it this way) is segmented off into meetings and things that happen at specific times, with other not-scheduled tasks, scheduled and accomplished around those times. It’s a really boring, necessary, and bureaucratic function. 

I think that the same tendency toward scheduling happens fairly frequently on our personal time, as well. For one, I have very little disposable time in any given week. I work a minimum of 60 hours in a week, given that I work in a television production office that is, for all intents and purposes, running 24/7. To that end, I’m mostly scheduled most of the time. My weekends fill up because my weekdays can’t, being unable to tell people exactly when my scheduled will actually end (and even before that, my job cutting out most time for socializing before or after “normal” people go to work or get home). And that’s fine, it’s part of the job and I take that on. But I keep asking myself why I’m not building in some unstructured, fucking-around time. I hate to be one to make a basic binary but, for the sake of alliteration...

When I was growing up at my parents’ house, most of my interactions took my place within a few miles from my that same house. I lived in a fairly typical neighborhood, with a few of my school friends in that same neighborhood. Most of what I remember from that time in terms of getting together with my friends was either I planned in advance with my friends and our respective moms or I just walked down to the person’s house. Both worked just as well. And both happened just as often, with planned hangouts typically happening with friends who lived in places that might be a little harder to get to. What am I going to do? seemed to be figured out on any given day, rather than days or weeks in advance, for the most part.

I don’t readily miss that way of hanging out with friends for any particular reason. I just find myself thinking about the switch to planned-play from spontaneous-play. I guess there’s something about the journey to someone’s place or running into someone out in the wild that paints that encounter differently than something planned. In that instance, I would likely place more value on the specific set of coincidences that made that transpire; one, two, or many parties wholly incredulous before the moment of the pop-by. The possibility of some sort of surprise is what I might be missing with my hyper-scheduled situation. I want that possibility some more. I think we all might need some of that. 

To that end, I think that if you’re the sort of person who wants to venture out with that possibility in mind, you have to be just as open to a Harry Nelson Situation. That exchange or even no exchange at all has to all be something you’re interested in or at the very least, will accept. I think looking at the trip to and from places equal weight on enjoying your surroundings and your place in relationship to how to someone else might live and act. 

One thing that I think makes it easier to do things like this is having a greater familiarity with someone. I pop by my brother’s house in Atlanta all of the time. I also have my own key and can pretty much come and go as I please. I used to sleep on his couch when I didn’t have a place to live, so it might be a bit different than any random friend. But I think that doing this sort of thing can also net a certain familiarity with people as well. Whenever all of the coincidental factors have happened to align, the payoff has always been big for both the person I visited as well as me. The other person always seems grateful for me taking the risk to come see them, with the possibility of no payoff. And that has been something I’m grateful for as well.

People have things to do. Especially if there’s a great distance or expense between you and another person, it makes sense to schedule something. But we’ve also got relatively cheap means to go from here to there, in the same breath. Now, I’m not trying to make some hollow statement like, “man, I wish we could go back to simpler times” or “we should really learn to disconnect”. I’m not interested in that at all. In fact, I think it’s something that all our complex, hyper-connectedness makes more possible. Being a bit aloof makes time and space seem a bit more fluid, possibilities stack up when you’re willing to look at all of the possibilities. It’s more a mindset change in that we have to be willing to accept that something won’t go as planned because we don’t plan it, that playing can also take place when we’re on our way to play or even when we planning to play. 

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about this week in time. Hopefully it’s something I’ll start implementing. So, if I show up at your place unannounced, feel free to let me in and hang out for a bit. Also feel free to turn me away. I’ll try to be happy with both.

I leave you with what happened when the Griswolds just popped by--

THIS WEEK IN TIME: MOVIES, TIME, AND SPACE

This week in time, I’m thinking about transition and what that means to me, having recently moved across the city and taking a new job in the past month. I’ve been thinking about how periods of transition affect time, space, my mind, and other such things.

Generally speaking, I don’t think that I have ever settled. Some part of my psyche has always felt nomadic in some way or another. I have always been the person to go all over town to visit various friends in a single day, week, month, whatever. The hours spent driving to a small house show or a rare screening of a film have only heightened these experiences for me when I arrive at my destination. Suffice to say, I’ve always got a few changes of clothes in my trunk for when I get to where I’m going and then eventually get to another place I’m going.

My brother would love to tell you about the time I drove nine hours from our childhood home in Lafayette, Indiana to his Atlanta home for a screening of Trash Humpers (2009), Harmony Korine’s ode to landfill people and their exploits. He’d love to tell you about it mostly because he was so struck by how far I was willing to drive to see “the worst use of trash ever made”. I still contend it was worth the drive.

This persistent movement from place to place, whether in my head or out in the world, often gives my productivity a frenzied cast, even if I am at rest. It’s not something that I want to work on or do away with.  On the contrary, I find that I accomplish a decent amount in this way, but it always seems to come in bits and pieces or fits and starts, rather than outputting a large piece of work all at once. If I’m on a deadline, I find that I produce what I need and more as long as I can also produce something completely different at the same time. It gives my brain a break from one particular thing.

When I do set my mind to write or edit or create some new thing, I typically multi-task, watching a movie or pawing at something else. I find that if I try to focus on something with everything that I have, I often feel too tense and pressured and I lock up. But if I can somehow put distance between my overwhelming enthusiasm for something I’m working on and the actual work of putting that together, I find it easier to get started in moving one thing from brain to the page or the timeline or the whatever.

I feel like this disposition has me always feeling as though I’m in a period of transition. Regardless of if I’m living in the same city or spending time in the same places, my mind always feels more at ease in ebbing and flowing between things. After I had transitioned to Atlanta to get my Master’s and be closer to my brother, I never got fully settled in my first apartment, though it was a great place to be. I contend that I settled all over the city. I’ve probably spent more time sleeping on other people’s couches or beds than I have my own here in Atlanta.

I feel like I have a natural fit making movies, TV, and media projects. I have been working as an assistant in the film industry for a little over a year at this point and I feel like I’m very suited to this environment in a lot of ways. I’ve worked as an office production assistant (Vampire Diaries Season 5, A Walk in the Woods) and am currently working as a producer’s assistant (Constantine).

For the most part, the production industry seems to be comprised of mostly freelance workers (though the bulk of them operate through guilds and unions) that have the capability to move from production to production fairly quickly. During a shooting hiatus, you can make it known that you aren’t interested in coming back to a given show, and typically there are no hard feelings. People work for weeks or months at a time and then possibly go unemployed for just as long. Wrap is also seen as a time of fluidity, where people have more leeway in moving from one production to another, if something new is starting up. Oddly though, I find that this has been one of the difficult points of transition for me as I have moved from job to job. It’s been one of the rare transitions that I do not look forward to. Thought I like ebbing and flowing, it’s difficult for me to get to know a group of people and then move on or have them move on a few months later. Luckily for me and my finances, I have not had any downtime between positions. Instead, I moved on to the next job during wrap of another job.

My transition from Vampire Diaries to A Walk in the Woods happened because a friend gave my credentials to the new production office and they called me, wanting me to start the next day (this is also typical). At the time, Vampire had a couple more weeks of shooting and a couple weeks of wrap after that. Instead of being overjoyed at the potential of the new show, I felt dreadful over having to go to people that I had grown close to and knew how to work with, and talk with them about leaving the show quickly. I was incredibly surprised to find that when I finally did tell them my situation, they were overwhelmingly positive though sad to see me go. I worked a couple more days there and found myself in a completely new office the next week.

As I worked through my stint as an office PA on my first film, I became more aware of one of the transitions that I happen to love very much in the film industry: the use and re-use of various spaces for various purposes. If you’re not working out of one of the major studios (which I have had no experience with), most film offices are set up in a way that they can be broken down easily. Often there are a mixture of desks, folding tables, and cobbled-together work-areas. A Walk in the Woods’ production office was carved out of one of the floors of the OFS Fitel Fiber Optics building, out in Norcross, GA. It is a building very well-suited for travelling affairs like film offices.

Before I arrived, my PA compatriot Doug had outfitted the office by breaking apart and reassembling old cubicles that remained from when OFS had laid off most of its staff a few years prior. I’m fairly certain the rent was cheap and we made it our own, to the degree that we could quickly make it not our own at the end of wrap. I remember snapping a photo of the giant open space around which we had retrofitted our art department, transportation, props, and costumes offices. Props was having a show and tell of several tents and sleeping bags for producer/director approval out in this big space and it appeared as though we were being occupied or that instead of getting hotels for a long day of shooting work, we could all simply just take a nap in a tent if needed (though I should say that the hours I worked on that show were completely reasonable and I rarely had the need to sleep in an office tent…). If we needed a table, instead of going and buying a new table, we were permitted to comb through the many rooms and offices full of work-paraphernalia for the things we needed. Doug and I spent many hours one day pulling all of the tables out of what used to be a former cafeteria and dispersing them for use throughout our office. It was frankly an incredible experience navigating through the cavernous remains of a bygone office and plant, seeing random technology, paperwork, and fixtures in various states of disarray.

Co-opting that space and shaping it to our own purposes was very fulfilling for me, knowing that I had raw materials and had to make my brain work in order to make that space do what we needed it to do.

As I find myself at a new folding table desk as a producer’s assistant on the new NBC show Constantine, I see similar uses, transitions, and transpositions of space every day. Walking out a door one day yields a clear passageway and by the next that passageway may be blocked by new offices, created wholesale by our construction department in mere hours. It feels persistently like things are changes, which may feel chaotic but at the same time keeps me feeling intrigued about how space and time are literally being shaped while I am here. I like things that change, in short.

Like seeing the installations at an art gallery come and go, some remaining fixed, other practically ephemera, I like to think that world around me is constantly being refreshed, with some fixtures that are constant.

At any rate, that’s what I’m thinking about this week in time.

This Week in Time: Manny in Memorium

“We weren’t meant to fly, but let’s jump anyway."

In Memorium of Hanging Out and Losing Time

 

So, this blog is the start of my fledgling attempt to document the ways I spend my time on a weekly basis. I’m hoping that if I keep myself accountable to the vast, endless expression of time and space that is the Internet, that I may be able to produce some useful or humorous anecdotes into this vast and expanding universe. Here goes.

This first entry is a tough one to write. Amidst all of the amazing changes in my life going on right now, like switching over to a new job, or working on my documentary about a certain sign-twirler in this fair Atlanta city, or even having lost a little time in Puerto Rico with my brothers recently, one recurring thought I can’t get out of my head is: where is my friend? Where is Manny? I had seen on his Facebook page that he was missing from a music festival that he had been working at in Chillicothe, IL: a job I remembered him telling me about down in Atlanta, just a month before. I was panicked and trying to find him or get any information that I could. I received a phone call, a friend of friend who actually knew Manny and had hung out with him before on a film set we were all together on.

He told me that his friend had said that Manny was thought to have passed away. I called this new acquaintance as quickly as I could. And got the information that one night he had said he was going to walk home and never showed back up there. Shortly thereafter the Peoria County Coroner was giving them a call. It wasn’t public yet, but they wanted co-workers and family to have some answers. It mostly just gave questions. I won’t go into the details of Manny’s situation but if you search this vast existence on the Internet with the words “Farmington, IL” and “school fire,” you will likely come to some version of the truth. And that is where the thought begins to fester, because as of this writing, everyone is still waiting for DNA proof. There has been a memorial bike ride in honor of his love of the two-wheeled pedal-machine. In fact, when I called our mutual friend Aaron Molden about it, who had also seen he was missing, he echoed a sentiment in me that really brought me to the earth shaking— He said, “Ya know, he’s a bit of a transient. I hope he just got on his bike and went for a ride.” Truly something Manny might do, be courageous enough to attempt it anyway. And yet, we are still waiting for some discernible answer; to see whether or not he ever came back from his ride—

Manny had the lightest spirit and heaviest knowledge of anyone on this planet. Somehow he had such mad style and was still as humble as could be. He was advocate for everyone, something I don't think anyone else would be able to cop to and withstand. My friends Jason Zink, Chris Purdy and I worked on this horror film in Lafayette for years and Manny was a huge part of it.

There are some really funny moments that made it into those movies and some that didn't, featuring Manny playing a cop. I also enlisted him to shoot fake news footage because I really liked how he held a camera and got a shot, no matter the cost. We went and shot a scene on the steps of the Lafayette Courthouse. A scene I was very nervous about because we hadn't gotten permission to shoot there and we also hadn't told anyone.

This, after the courthouse put up those stanchions so that would-be bombers would be thwarted. But, no one came to claim us and seemingly no feathers were ruffled. But what I was struck with most was Manny's insistence on getting shots and coverage for this scene. Things I had no idea to even think about, but Manny demanded them, saying that we'd just have more to work with later. And he did the whole thing with a smile on his face, cueing background extras himself as he navigated up and down the courthouse steps.

A joke Manny kept going when he acted as a police officer in this movie we made


About a year later, I had Manny come with me to an In the Face of War show. It was their final show and Manny had never heard them play. I wanted to be able to mark the memory with video proof but mostly I wanted to be able to move about the crowd and sing my heart out. Manny didn't miss a beat, moving from the crowd to the stage with his camera, getting some of the best shots. I had no idea they were going to have people there with cameras and Manny's angle got added to the mass of camera footage for that show. I find it kind of difficult to look at the footage now, as I edit together that final show video, more for personal satisfaction than anything else. I can feel Manny in the images he devoured.

All of these photos were taken by Greg "The Mayor" Andrews. Check out his Flickr page.

Can you spot Manny and I in these photos? In one, I'm holding a finger up, singing my lungs out. In another, you can see Manny in the far left, keeping his bearings amidst a moving crowd.

Moving down to Atlanta, I was fortunate to be visited by him multiple times, doing multiple projects. Most recently-- a month ago. He came down to work on some corporate video stuff, having come from Phoenix, a place he raved about as being one of the best places he had ever been. He was like that, able to imbue wherever he had come from with a certain aura that made it worth seeking every brick and crack in that place (though in all honesty, the pilgrimage to Phoenix seems like a difficult one for me, wondering if would be able to beat the heat). His blog over at GreatLafayette.com illustrates the Lafayette area in a way that I don’t know that anyone else has.

He spoke about living in Phoenix and how free it was, feeling out the bike scene and his friends. He used the phrase “running amok” in a very positive light. He spoke about reading into the Dharma Punx, which I’m definitely going to be reading. This is on top of the trove of literature he had gotten me interested in over the years, not the least which were the writings of the Rza, in his Wu-Manual and the Tao of Wu. In fact, I’d really love to meet those Phoenix friends of Manny, because he’s always been on-point, but when I saw him the last time in Atlanta, all of his senses seemed to be engaged and in-sync.

He had this really pleasant unity about thoughts. I needed a second cameraman for a shoot with my friend Nick Puckett, a sign spinner in Douglasville. I really loved watching Manny work as we recorded this man bust out the most insane dance moves with a sign. There are great images of Manny recording with a bag over his head, so that he could still see in his viewfinder, but not be hindered by the camera itself. The camera looks like a literal extension of his body in these photos. 

I found myself gravitating toward Manny even over our subject that we were documenting. I loved the way he did it. Afterwards, (or again, perhaps before, I lose time all the time) we were in this immaculate Chinese supermarket, with so many smells and lights and thoughts. Manny took pictures, capturing this supermarket. It brought him so much joy. As we were checking out, I was struck with how up-front he was about not needing or wanting a plastic bag for just his drink, as he tried to make the Chinese woman understand his language or get to the point where she could understand his. But he made himself clear, with a smile. And he navigated the situation with such ease and grace. 

With his friend Miles and their Golden Eagles production company, I helped them shoot a slew of rap videos that helped me to see several environments I had never been privy to before. He lead me to places I knew existed but had never dared to see them. I was in big rap producer Jazze Pha’s luxury apartment because of him. And so many other moments along the way. Manny was so even-keeled, it was a real blessing for me to see him struck off his feet for second when I mentioned the tax policy in Mexico as accepting art from artists as payment of taxes. “That’s beautiful!” he practically squealed with joy on that back bus seat of the MARTA bus, me now unable to remember if we were heading to the shoot or heading home. But I remember watching these two parts of my own life, brought together because of Manny’s immaculate ability to believe in and work toward some brilliant concept of unity between humans. An awesome moment where I found myself unable to direct or even speak to these people as I admired them. 

I am met with such a deep, resolute sadness at the loss of such a profoundly cool dude. There is such a displacement of time and thought as I struggle to simultaneously find closure and move on and holding out hope that he is just out going for a ride. It has been a month since Manny went missing and this is truly some of the time that I wish we hadn’t lost. I wish we knew.  

 

Anyway, that's just a little about the time I spent, lost, and wasted with my buddy, Manny.

I part with words from one of my new favorite In the Face of War songs, “Simple Magic”—

We weren’t meant to fly

but let’s jump anyway

Because falling feels like flying

and I’ll take that simple magic anyday

 

 

Stay fly. Always produce. Love losing time with you, mi hombre.

Catch you on the road...