Thursday, April 30, 2009


No declaration necessary, but I'm cuckoo for coffee. LOVE it. NEED it. I get headaches without it, and even if I didn't, I'd still drink it like a junkie uses heroin. Except I actually like the taste of coffee. Well I guess I have no idea what heroin tastes like, so I really don't know what I'm talking about.

The usual morning coffee routine consists of:
- setting up the coffee machine the night before, with grounds and water to brew at precisely 5 minutes before I step out of the shower
- grabbing a mug, putting sugar in, pouring coffee, adding milk
- downing the concoction, repeating until gone

I've been running that same program for years now. Except now that the morning routine includes getting the boy Judah out of bed, fed, dressed, and off to preschool, the coffee intake had to be adjusted. Two cups at home plus the one or two when I landed at the office wasn't jiving with my desire not to bug out too hard at work. So I limited the home coffee drinking to one cup, then one cup when I got to the office.

At my current gig, the worker bees are much more numerous than anywhere else I've worked. And the worker bees like to congregate in the kitchen. Navigating to the coffee is a little like getting into a subway car in The Big Apple during rush hour. There's a lot of "excuse me", "pardon me", and "comin through" goin on. Not so much that the workers want to get to the coffee, but to get to the juice bar, the refrigerator, and the sink. It's a gauntlet to run. I'm tempted to permanently relocate the coffee machine to an edge of the kitchen, but I can't imagine they'd appreciate that much coming from a freelancer. Plus the coffee rig is tethered to its spot by the water line.

And it seems like every time I manage to wrangle my way to the coffee, the carafe is empty. The carafes are metal, and heavy (heavy metal), so it feels like there's java in there at all times. But once your coffee pouring tilt gets beyond 90 degrees, you know you're shit outta luck. The coffee isn't difficult to make: You just grab a filter, open a metered packet out of the Starbucks pile and press the BREW button. I've done it enough in the past three weeks to know that it takes exactly five minutes to finish brewing, so I always set a timer to ensure that the rabid coffee drinkers don't empty out the pot before I get mine.

That's what I did this morning after I arrived at the office and discovered (the hard way) that I needed to make a fresh pot. I danced the coffee-making dance, sauntered back to my little edit bay and set the 5 minute timer. 5 minutes later, I walk out of my room and head for the kitchen.

As I approach the kitchen area, a business-suit wearing lady hurries past me and makes a beeline for the coffee. She grabs a cup and the carafe, and then her friend walks up and starts chatting her up. My caffeine addiction advised me to knock the carafe out of her hand and get what is rightfully mine, but my better judgment prevailed and I waited patiently.

She started to pour and the tilt was reaching 90 degrees. Coffee finally started pouring, but only reached about 1/4 mug capacity when the coffee ran out. What the hell happened to my coffee?!?!?!! Business suit lady continued chatting to her friend as she opened up the carafe and dumped into the sink what probably would have taken the edge off of my caffeine jones.

She chatted to her friend in what felt like slow-motion as she started the process of making the next pot, fumbling the packet, incapable of separating one filter from the rest. I envisioned knocking her out of the way to get the process going faster, but again, I can't imagine they'd appreciate that much coming from a freelancer.

I went back to my little edit bay and set the 5 minute timer. 5 minutes later, I'm drinking a cup that I thought should have tasted amazing, but instead it tasted like crap. Go figure.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thievery Corporation

I'm getting the lay of the land at my new workplace. Finding the mail room was the biggest piece of the puzzle, because that's where everything important is located. The printer, the pads of paper, the pens. I found some binders, but only those huge oversized binders that are so massive that you can't really put the thing anyplace without it seriously tanking the feng shui of any room.

But the best part was finding the shredder. Not only the shredder, but the locked garbage bin where you can just throw a bunch of documents in a slot to be shredded without actually dealing with the shredding part. I haven't had a shredder handy since my last full-time job. And those live checks I get every week from my credit card companies were piling up. Goodbye scary checks. Say hi to Mr. Shredder.

I felt pretty stocked as far as having pens and pads of paper around the edit suite to write down whatever the director had to say about the cut. Except that she kept stealing my pens. She has a tendency to watch the edit, then she'll have a flash of brilliance as to what the graphic should act like or look like, so she'll grab the nearest pen (mine) and sketch something out real quick. Which leads to her having to talk to the graphics guy, so she bolts out of the room. With my pen.

The pen theft was fine for the first time or two. Then, when I ran out of the company pens I had stocked my room with, I had to resort to grabbing a pen out of my backpack. Not that this pen was special or had any sentimental value, but it symbolized my personal property, and I wasn't going to allow my personal property to be stolen at work.

So the next time Ms. Director did the graphics-sketch-to-bolt-out-the-door hustle, she did so with my pen. I quickly spun around in my seat and said "could I have my pen back?" Apparently she had never been diagnosed with kleptomania, so she was taken by surprise that she would try to steal from me. She said sorry and gave me back my pen, then bolted out the door for a meeting with the graphics guy.

It dawned on me that the pen from my backpack wasn't going to last long unless I made some tactical maneuvers. So I quickly made my way down to the mail room. I grabbed as many pens as I could carry back to the edit suite and set them down in a place where the director couldn't see any of them. I took one of the pens and set it next to the pad of paper that she had scribbled her most recent graphic mockup. The next time she came by, it worked like a charm. After she left the room, I looked over at the pad. No more pen. I took another pen from my pile and placed it next to her scribble pad. The pen from my backpack was safe.

The pen disappearing act was working well through several director visits when the editor next door came by to talk about his most recent visit with the director. Apparently she was giving rapid-fire comments about his edit, but he couldn't take any notes because he didn't have a pen. He complained that she was walking out with his pens, just like she did with me. We laughed as we contemplated where all the pens go. Does she have a mountain of stolen pens on her desk? They have to wind up somewhere.

I told him about my little pen stockpiling routine, and he was convinced that was the way to go. He left, and soon after, the director walked in. We talked about the cut, she scribbled some graphic ideas, and I looked over and noticed that she was holding the pen from my backpack instead of the one I had positioned for her next thievery.

She told me she was going home for the day. She would have to put her dog to sleep that night, and she was gonna have to explain the whole thing to her kids, so she was leaving early. As she stood at the door saying "see you in the morning", I shot down the idea of asking for my pen back. A pen is a little insignificant compared to putting your dog down. I grabbed one of the stockpiled pens and got back to work.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hundreds of Sparrows

It was the middle of crunch time on the last day of editing when the phone rang. By looking at the phone number, I knew it was the people from my next gig. The gig that I didn't want, but the gig that I needed. "I have to take this call" I told the room full of clients as I walked out of the room. I didn't look back to see if it was okay that nobody was sitting in the editor's chair.

"Hello?" "Hi, Lee? This is Lisa." I already knew it was Lisa before I answered the call. "Oh hi Lisa, how's it going?" "Good. So we were wondering if you could come by and meet the director today." I knew she wasn't going to understand, much less hire me, if I said no. The gig started tomorrow. So I said "Sure. Can we meet at 1:30?" Lisa said yes and I was soon back in the editor's chair in crunch time.

The lunch menu soon landed in front of me. CPK. I quickly flashed forward in my mind to how I'd manage to fit a trip through a drive-through on my way back from meeting Lisa and the director. "I think I'm gonna have to step out for lunch today" I told the client services gal. "Are you sure?" she said as she took the menu away. "Thanks" I said, as I imagined how hungry I'd be after not making it through the drive-through. It just didn't feel right to order lunch, when I'd be leaving during crunch time. The coffee's for closers only.

The alarm on my phone went off at 1:12 pm. Just enough time to blast out of the parking lot in Culver City and onto the 10 freeway Westbound toward Santa Monica. I figured that the freeway was the best option, even though getting to the freeway would be the hard part. Merging onto any freeway in Los Angeles is tough, but the on-ramp at Robertson has to be one of the worst. You must start from a dead stop at a light, going uphill, and in a race against the car next to you to get a full car length ahead before the two lanes turn into one 50 feet ahead.

Once you've passed that test, you get to face the full-on Road Warrior treatment as you merge
onto the 10 freeway with cars going at least mach 5, trying to fit into the blur before your on-ramp lane becomes an off-ramp lane about a quarter mile away.

On this day, the cars in the rightmost lane were ambling along at around 40 mph, making it even more difficult to merge, but I managed to pull it off. In my rearview mirror I saw a clearing all the way to the leftmost lane. Not a single car in sight. I pulled the advanced driver maneuver of going straight to the fast lane (the left one, not to be confused with any lane in Los Angeles) and I was almost there when I heard somebody lay on their horn from behind me. I looked in my rearview and there was a silver station wagon rapidly slowing down, I suppose to avoid being slammed into by yours truly. Where the hell did that car come from?

I had no clue, but I put my hand up to flash the "Sorry, I'm a dumbass" sign anyway. I accelerated so's not to get rammed, or shot, but mainly to get to this meeting. The left lane was clear sailing as I passed over the 405. I needed to get off at the Centinela exit, so I had to move fast.

I again checked my rearview, did the head check, and I didn't see a single car around. Turned on the right blinker and pulled the advanced driver maneuver of going straight to the exit
lane, and I was almost there when I heard somebody lay on their horn from behind me. I looked in my rearview and there was a silver audi sedan rapidly slowing down, I suppose to avoid being slammed into by yours truly. Where the hell did that car come from?

I had no clue, but again I put my hand up to flash the "Sorry, I'm a dumbass" sign anyway. I accelerated so's not to get rammed, or shot, but mainly to get to the meeting. As I approached the exit, I noticed the silver wagon I almost ran off the road back there. It was quickly approaching in my rearview. And it appeared that the wagon was doing whatever it could to get off at the same exit I was. Oh shit, I thought. I was going to die.

My hopes of making it through the light at the end of the off ramp were dashed. I slowed to a stop, and the silver wagon pulled up behind me. I kept my eye on the rearview mirror, to see if I needed to make a break for it if the driver should exit his car with pistol in hand. But to my surprise, all I saw was the driver fluffing his hair in his own rearview mirror. Disaster averted.

I made my left turn and drove toward the meeting place. One last maneuver to make: A left turn on a blind corner that I knew well. It always pissed off the rest of the cars not making that left turn, especially ones behind the left turn car. I hoped for no oncoming traffic, but no dice. I waited, and I looked in my rearview once more. The silver wagon was gone. But the silver Audi sedan was fast approaching. Why the hell are these people following me? The Audi pulled around to my right, just inches from my car, honking the entire time. And the driver gave me the finger. I laughed. I love it when people flip me the bird.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Diary of a Madman

Lately the little energy vampires (namely the kids named Judah and Blaise) have been draining the life blood out of us. Drained to the point that the only thing we can muster the strength for is TV. It got so bad this past Sunday that I think I watched every single episode of Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. Really the only serious show that Lily and I can agree to spend time on is Big Love. It's a guilty pleasure for sure. We spend more time deriding the characters than talking about how good a given episode was.

Our brand spankin new Verizon FiOS HD service allows us to watch plenty of recorded shows on the DVR. And because the little energy vampires hadn't even allowed us to watch much Big Love lately, the season started piling up on the DVR. Which is nice if you want to spend an evening plowing through a few episodes. Not so nice when you discover that you didn't read the DVR manual very well, or at all, and because of that, a few episodes had been deleted by Anthony Bourdain's show, which is on for almost the entire day every Monday. Goddamn chefs, stealing my DVR bandwidth.

At the exact moment Lily and I realized that we, rather I (being the techy, man-person in the house), didn't set it to "don't delete, like EVAR" when we set up the Big Love series recording, I knew that it would be possible to watch the show on demand on the on demand channel. But upon further review, HBO doesn't show its shows on demand in glorious High Definition. That would never do.

So I pulled out my trusty iPhone and its trusty TV widget thingy and found out exactly when HBO would be re-airing the HD versions of the episodes that Anthony Bourdain so ruthlessly erased from my DVR. I set them to record, and I knew that before long I'd be back on top of the techy, man-person pedestal, triumphantly wielding the remote control.

And indeed there I was about a week later, basking in the glow of my lovely HDTV and its DVR which displayed our re-recorded lost episodes of Big Love. And this time I went through one by one and hit the "don't delete, like EVAR" button. That is, until I got a little too comfortable with the wielding remote control power thing, and I accidentally hit "delete" on one of my newly re-recorded episodes.

So I pulled out my trusty iPhone and its trusty TV widget thingy and found out exactly when HBO would be re-airing the HD versions of the episodes, and it basically said "you fool." NEVAR.