Sleep? You'll sleep in October...


Monday, June 30, 2003

Assisted with rigging the pyro for the 2010 Winter Olympics bid announcement being held at GM Place on July 2.

The first step was meeting up with Elliot, the co-ordinator; the plan was to be picked up at a coffee house on 2nd and Commercial around 9:15. I got there early because I wasn't sure how the closure of 1st Avenue for a major sewer upgrade was going to affect me (they're replacing a 90-year-old section of pipe and it's going to take from late June to mid or late September). I found a free parking spot on 2nd within 1/2 block from the place, which was very nice (and surprising, since most Vancouver residential areas are restricted to local resident parking and if you don't have the right decal, you're SOL).

Once I was in, I decided to get an iced mocha and while I was waiting in line, the obligatory Crazy Woman Who Mumbles To Herself came in; this was was wearing a t-shirt with the word "Rapture" on it (and other, smaller words that I wasn't about to risk making eye contact over); she pulled a biscotti out of the jar and asked the price, then put it back in. The woman in line in front of me decided to tell the CWWMTH off for touching food and was subjected to a small amount of abuse -- at least, I think it was abuse as I sure as hell couldn't understand what she was saying!

I got to the front of the line and ordered my mocha, at which point the CWWMTH decided to strike up a conversation with me (I guess I have an invisible tattoo on my foreheads that says, "HEY, TALK TO ME!" that only strange people and small children can see); I did my best to reply nicely but without trying to prolong the experience, at which point she wandered off. I had a nice chat with the barista about the people in Vancouver, and I gave him a nice tip.

The mocha was really good, too.

Justine showed up a bit after nine and, of course, Elliot was running late and didn't get to the place until around 9:30; we piled into his minivan and went to the warehouse so we could load everything into it (I left my car where it was and got a lift in the van because I didn't want to pay for parking downtown).

As we were loading everything, Dan showed up and it became clear that getting 4 people in the van with all the gear was going to be a challenge; fortunately Justine is rather small so she and Dan were able to fit in the back, while I rode shotgun -- there are some advantages to being a large guy.

We got to GM Place and unloaded, then Dan and I spent the morning making airbursts while Elliot and Justine worked on the stage boxes. In case you're curious, you can get 23 "cap and a half" airbursts out of two bottles of powder (the "cap and a half" referring to the amount of airburst powder used per airburst -- and remember, kids, only use microwavable Saran Wrap...no generic brands, ask for it by name!)

The boxes, which will be on the centre stage in all four corners, have (IIRC) about 8 or 10 gerbs, two large glitter fountains, and a flame projector in the centre. The airbursts were wired in a ring around the outside of the video display that is suspended above the arena floor along with 48 confetti bombs. We also have 7 concussion mortars that will be directly underneath the raised centre stage, which got me to visualizing the following comment: "This Olympic moment has been brought to you by Depends adult undergarments..."

Since our preliminary setup was handled in two small, unventilated darkrooms and we had to work around all the other activity going on (news crews setting up, riggers suspending banners from the trusses, general event setup madness), we had to wait until around 3 before they dropped the display to where we would work on it, and then we had to figure out a way to hang the airbursts and confetti bombs; I ran wire around the inside edge of the display and we used that to suspend all the charges.

By the time we were done it was close to 8 PM, about 4 hours longer than we'd thought it would take -- hot, sweaty, thirsty work. We have to finish rigging some extra stuff (the under-stage mortars and some grid rockets), so call on Wednesday is at 5 FREAKING A.M.! Depending on what time I get home from the Canada Day show, it might not be worth the trouble of going to bed.

Tuesday, July 1/Wednesday, July 2, 2003

My apologies in advance if this section is not quote coherent, but I have just gotten up from a 3-hour nap after being up for 31.5 hours straight.

Elliot had told me to call him around 8:30 in the morning to see if he was running late (which, of course, he was) before heading out to the Cloverdale fairgrounds, so I didn't end up on-site until around 10, with the rest of the crew showing up around 10:30.

The Canada Day show was small -- about 7 minutes long and nothing bigger than 150mm -- and was easy to put together as we were firing from the ground and didn't have to dig in the mortars; I brought my heavy-duty cordless drill to use in screwing the triangles and 2x4s to the racks to stabilize them, and we were done with everything by, if I remember correctly, around 4:30. This gave everyone enough time to do things like head home and shower (I really didn't understand why Shane did this as he was just going to get dirty again tearing everything down after the show), get something to eat, and so on. I also helped Elliot burn a copy of the CD of show music he had to give to the event staff for broadcast over the PA, as it was provided in .WAV format and the fairground had a regular CD player that couldn't read the CD. The day was sunny and even with sunscreen I got little burned on my face/neck and the backs of my hands.

Things got interesting, however, when it came time to do the show; My job was safety watch in a parking lot on the outside of the fallout zone that bordered a nearby skateboard park. After we'd set up the show he'd had to deal with kids that would cut through the area to get to/from the park and while all the kids were nice about being asked to make detours, that started to go out the door as the evening progressed and the beer started flowing (No, the fair wasn't serving beer -- the kids brought it themselves).

Imagine your humble scribe dressed in his safety gear -- thick jacket, heavy gloves, safety glasses and hardhat. Now, imagine him standing on the wrong side of a chain link fence and watching as a large group of rowdy teenagers start acting up, including a bunch of kids beating up on others. COnsidering BC's track records on "curbings" causing serious injury or fatality, I was damned glad I had an open gate behind me that I could run for it they started to head my direction.

You'd better believe we called the cops.

The only way I can describe the way I was feeling was "helpless authority" -- on the one hand I was having to keep kids from using the gate behind me as an accessway to get around the rowdies due to the live pyro we had set up, and I was also having to do things like try and calm an hysterical teenage girl who was begging me to call the police so she could listen to me say that they had been called and they were on the way.

The police showed up at that point. It started with some bicycle cops who not only got things calmed down and cleared out the area, but stayed there until after the show to help me with crowd control which was nice as we were getting lots of shell fragments in the fallout zone so we needed to keep everyone out.

While the kids calmed down for the duration of the show, once it was over the beer-fueled insanity started up again and the cops had to call in for backup. Not only was a K9 patrol brought in but reinforcements were called in from the RCMP detachment in Langley, so I guess Surrey/Cloverdale was busy that night -- and apparently pepper spray was used at one point, though I missed that.

(BTW, I forgot to get names so I can't thank any specific constables, but the RCMP rocks -- thanks for being there when we needed you!)

Shane and I did a sweep of the fallout area and picked up as much of the shell fragments as we could. Shane was scheduled to come back the next morning when it was light and do another sweep. We did find a couple of very small shell pieces that hadn't ignited to we disposed of those safely.

By the time we had everything torn down and loaded into the vehicles it was quite late and by the time I got home, it was 2:30 in the morning which raised an interesting question: since I was going to have to be up at 4:00 am to prep and hit the road in time for that 5:00 call at GM place, was it really worth trying to catch a quick nap?

The answer, as far as I was concerned, was "No" so I stayed up -- washed my work clothes and made myself a late dinner/early breakfast then watched T2 on a local TV station until 4, at which point I took a quick, hot shower, got dressed and hit the road.

Of course, there wasn't a lot of traffic on the road at 4:40 am (my God, does it feel strange to write that!) so I made it to GM Place in time. They were offering free parking for the Olympic announcement so I was able to park there and bring in my gear without a lot of hassle; got myself signed in with Security...

...and then waited for Elliot, who was running late and didn't make it there until around 5:20.

It was the same crew as on Monday; we set the stage boxes back up and ran cables back to their patch boxes and finished rigging the grid rockets -- these are little beasties that slide up cables that were attached to the four corners of the centre stage area so when ignited they'd shoot upwards and then, when spent, slide back down. Of course, the cable is to make sure they don't fly out into the audience; I know of one incident (not done by anyone I know, fortunately) where the cable was tied down with CYR (short for "Cheap Yellow Rope," the standard polyethylene stuff that melts) which was melted by the rocket, causing it to fly into the crowd.

As I understand it, that technician no longer does pyro.

Elliot had to put the concussion mortars under the rear stage where the musicians were going to be as there was more clearance between them (the mortars, not the musicians) and the underside of the stage -- as it was, he had to put some thin plywood on top of the mortars to prevent anything from hitting the carpet on the underside of the stage (I'm assuming that since this was movable flooring it was designed to you could flip it over if you wanted a carpeted surface; I can't think of any other reason why you'd want carpet).

The doors opened at 6:30 and we were done a bit before 7 but since other crews were still working, it wasn't as if we were holding anything up; we managed to get an hour in the Green Room to get some breakfast and coffee before heading back out to the stage where Elliot was running the control panel and the rest of us were positioned at the corners of the stage as fire watch (since the grid rockets would shoot sparks as they flew) and to keep photographers away from the danger area (you can identify the pyrotechnician because he/she is in the danger zone, telling you to stay clear -- are we being cautious, or do we just want to keep the sparks and smell of powder for ourselves?).

Of course nothing ever runs on time with live event and the crowd was already startled by the news that Salzburg was eliminated in the first ballot, so when the time came for the final announcement everyone was on edge -- of course, the reason we were hoping Vancouver got the nod was because if it didn't we'd have to remove all the live, unfired pyro...which would be a definite bummer.

Well, as you know by now Vancouver/Whistler won the bid and between the airbursts, confetti bombs, stage boxes, grid rockets and concussion mortars (which, we were told later, the musicians felt light the stage slightly when they went off -- hee!) it was one hell of a shoot. We had one line of airbursts/confetti not go off (6 items), otherwise the show went off well.

We had to wait until around 9:40 for the crowds to clear before we could get the display dropped and start tearing down but once we started we were done in a little over an hour. We then loaded all the gear back up and headed to the warehouse where we offloaded and put things away, then we stopped for lunch. Once lunch was over we headed to the barge where we returned 16 mortar racks we'd borrowed for the Canada Day show, and I was free to go home. I stopped at Bosley's on the way to pick up a bag of food for Max, then went home to get some sleep...which brings me up-to-date.

And now, if you will excuse me, I have to go take all the gear out of my car so I can pack for a trip to Seattle tomorrow morning to attend Westercon; I'm glad my schedule is light (4 panels over 4 days) as I think I'll be napping a lot.