Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Virtual Disaster!

The title of this post does not in fact refer to the current state of my job search, applicable as it may be...

The recent fire at Universal Studios, which apparently started on the New York Street backlot and went on to destroy a video archive and the King Kong ride, brought back memories of my first-ever visit to Los Angeles.

It was 1997 or '98 and I was working for a company in New York that fabricated part of the interior of the Marvel Mania Restaurant at the Universal theme park. Specifically, I worked on shaped-MDF wall panels tricked out to look like a spaceship interior.

The panels were built in New York and trucked to L.A. and a small installation crew was sent out. The installation was plagued with difficulties. Certain anchoring walls hadn't been built, site measurements were significantly off, and whose brilliant idea was it to install the neon before putting it on a truck? The usual stuff.

I was part of the second or third wave of relief installers dispatched.

My first day in Los Angeles went kind of like this:

Find my way into the Universal Theme Park and locate Marvel Mania.

Make my way through the under-lit maze as the laser-light show was being tested and footage from Pink Floyd's "Momentary Lapse of Reason" tour blared out of myriad T.V. monitors.

Find my crew in the midst of a tantrum that involved a detail-sander and a sawhorse going airborn.

At lunchtime, step out of the dark work site (where early-Black Sabbath videos had replaced latter Floyd. "Lookit 'im," the crew chief shouted into my ear, "Ozzy had like no charisma then.") and into the blinding midday sunlight.

Pass a line outside the "Earthquake" ride. Because after all, who would want to visit Los Angeles without experiencing the thrill of being trapped underground in an earthquake?

Pass another line next to the billboard-sized photograph of the Hollywood sign. Because why find the real thing twenty minutes away when you can take your picture in front of its...picture?

Pass a railing looking out over the New York Street backlot, which was blazing on fire.

Watch it burn until the fire trucks show up, then continue to the employee commissary, where a guy dressed as Beetlejuice was breaking up with a plain-faced red-haired girl at the next table. She was bawling into her hamburger and he kept saying, "I'm not saying I don't think you're cool...I'm not saying I don't want to hang out with you..."

Return to the job site passing the New York Street backlot, already under reconstruction.

Now, I don't think I can say anything about Los Angeles simulacra that Nathanael West hasn't said better seventy years ago.

And I don't want to sound like an East Coast snob, certainly not when New York City seems to be slipping ever closer to becoming a municipality in which a theme-park island of affluence is maintained by surrounding tower blocks full of poor people (which worked out great for Paris and London, no?).

And to tell you the truth I'm kind of looking forward to the "Crane Collapse!" ride at Coney Island.

copyright, © 2008 Andy Biscontini