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Friday, March 28, 2008

Down So Far, It Feels Like Up

Ever been in so much pain that you didn't even know to call it that?

Pain that you just get so used to carrying around that it begins to feel normal after a while?

I went to an invitation addressing meet-up for the approaching theatre birthday party tonight, at the end of which, our Production Manager decided I needed a bit of back massage after the several weeks of pressure I've been under with "the project" (and if anyone should know the signs of latent stress-related debilitation, she would be the one.)

So, face-down on the Swedish-finish hardwood floor I went, upon which she began attacking pressure-points in my back with the accuracy of a laser-guided missile. I find no shame in admitting it was all quite painful - in the way that the sudden release of pent-up stress can be - and had to literally remind myself to continue to breath through it.

The torture only lasted a few minutes, five, maybe seven, but at the end the sheer release of a significant amount of accumulated muscular tension left me a literal wreck; I was barely able to pick myself up off the floor, and nearly had to crawl to the relative upright sanctuary of a sofa. Then, just standing seemed an effort, as though the gravitational pull in the room had suddenly gone from 1 G to maybe 3 or 4.

The nine block walk home was accomplished in a sort of endorphin-saturated daze; the noticeable absence of pain, delineated by the difference between what you've been used to feeling like, coupled with the sudden change into a completely different state of feeling, can feel like a kind of pain itself.

And while I deeply appreciate the partial release, the downside of course, is that I am now very aware of how much more of it is still clenched in there, waiting to curl itself into yet another rope ladder of tightly compacted knots running up-and-down my spine.

I think I may be in need of some serious Rolfing.

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Posted byCOMTE on 10:00 PM

1 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

The Beauty Of Time Is That It's Snowing

So, if "April showers bring May flowers", then what do March snowstorms bring? And does a snowstorm, three days before the end of the month constitute "March, going out like a lion"?

Wouldn't it be more like "going out like a snow-shoe hare"?

Or possibly " artic fox"?

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Posted byCOMTE on 1:03 PM

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

'Cause Baby, It Ain't Over Til It's Over

As of this evening, the long, enervating saga of The Drywall Installation will be over-and-done - for the moment.

Because, you see, there's still LOTS more to do.

It's just that, with rehearsals for our next show scheduled to start up in the space this weekend, we've simply run out of time to complete the project all the way through to the bitter end. But, at least the major installation work has been completed, and with a bit more painting left for this evening, we'll be at a stopping point where we can put the project on-hold for a few months.

But, as is usually the case, there's still a lot more to it than even that. Between now and next Friday, when we have our monthly late-night cabaret scheduled, we have to:

- finish painting the ceiling

- dispose of all the scrap drywall, boxes, refuse, empty applicator tubes, dust, and other accumulated garbage from the past couple of months

- clean the stage, the seats, the hallway, the lobby, the bathrooms - basically everything now requires a deep cleaning to get rid of as much of the gypsum dust as possible

- move all the tools, equipment, set pieces, and other sundry items of value from our lounge back into the stage area

- disassemble the platforms we built to accomodate the drywall hangers

- Install some sort of rudimentary lighting system, including hanging pipe in the ceiling, instruments, cable, circuit boxes, and control panels

- Re-install our sound system

- Fix a major electrical problem that has cropped up in the past week

And there are probably a couple of things I'm missing that should be part of this list.

Oh, right. Plus, we've got our 21st Birthday Party coming up on the 12th, so we want everything to look clean and shiny for that as well.

But, you know, no pressure or anything.

Accomplishing all that will get us through the next few weeks, during which we'll need to install a more robust lighting system for the remaining shows in our season.

Because on top of all this we also have shows to put up.

After the season is over in late August, we'll be able to revisit the sound baffling project in what I've officially designated "Phase II-B" (having now split the project into two sub-phases, with Phase II-A representing work completed to-date).

Still, most of the heavy lifting has been accomplished - and I'm still here to tell the tale.

However, next time we try to pull off some crazy/impossible scheme like this, I'm going to have to insist we not do it whilst I'm in the middle of tax season.

Seriously, between taxes, managing this project, work, and trying to maintain some minimal semblence of a social life, it's all just a little too much to juggle at one time. (And believe me, the "social" component was the first candle-end to get snuffed out.)

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to a bit of a breather, which at this rate should happen sometime around late April - if I'm lucky.

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Posted byCOMTE on 1:23 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Sunday's The One Day I Need A Day To Rest

Is it evil of me that I woke up this morning with absolutely no ambition to do a bloody thing today? No cleaning, no laundry, no yardwork - nothing.

Does that make me a bad person?

I did: make coffee, feed the cats (including my upstairs neighbors' while they're out of town), make breakfast (Florentine Benedict - about as close as I'm going to get to acknowledging today is Easter Sunday), and fry up some eggplant for an eggplant parmigian I'm going to make tonight (although it won't get to eat it for a couple of days). Later, I'll take a shower, and drive a friend up to Target for some linen shopping, after which we'll be hitting The Twilight Exit for burgers and "chicken-fried bacon" (!).

And that's ALL I'm going to do today.

I think, after the week I've had (and a full eight hours of solo tax prep yesterday), I deserve to be a lazy sod for a day.

And don't you dare try to talk me out of it, either.


Posted byCOMTE on 11:19 AM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Metaphors Were Never Made For Keeping Score

I guess the third time IS the charm.

After two previous unsuccessful attempts at getting the theatre drywall project started, I think we're really moving forward this time. I got a call yesterday afternoon from "Don" who apparently is one of our contractor's lead hangers, who said he and another person would be available starting today to get to work on things. They wanted to meet up at 7:00 a.m. to get into the space and go over the plan, and was that okay? Like, at this point I'm going to quibble over it being too early in the morning.

So, last night I informed all interested parties, told them we were "go for launch" (I've been using a lot of NASA metaphors during my tenure herding this project; and yes, "Houston, we have a problem" was definitely among them), and went to bed early hoping the aforementioned meeting would actually take place.

Would you be surprised to hear I didn't get much sleep?

Well, sure enough, I arrived at the the theatre promptly at 7:00 a.m. this morning, and there was a pick-up truck loaded with ladders, scaffolding, planks and other such gear indicative of guys who do drywalling parked out front, with two guys sitting inside awaiting my arrival: Don and Jim.

We went upstairs, I showed them the materials, outlined the project, engaged in a bit of unabashed ego-stroking (after all, they ARE going to be the first drywall hangers in this part of the country to work with some of these materials), and handed over the keys.

After the preliminaries, Don assured me that, while the job itself was decidedly more involved than what they usually do, the process itself wasn't all that daunting, and that even if it was just he and Jim doing the work, it wouldn't take more than about four days all told to finish, but that they would need for us to provide a few things - drywall tape, mud and extra screws, and things woud be pretty much set. But, in any case they could get started immediately with cutting and hanging the first sections until that arrived. I of course, promised to have the materials on-site no later than tomorrow morning.

Needless to say, I left around 8:00 a.m. feeling somewhat relieved.

I got a call from John, the guy who designed this crazy Rube Goldberesque project, at around 8:45, indicating he had just come by the space; from his tone, it was pretty clear he was in a good mood. When pressed, he said he was quite happy with the small amount of work they'd already done, had offered a couple of very minor suggestions which they had found quite reasonable, and generally felt pretty comfortable about things were going so-far.

I could already feel the Gordian-sized knot that's been growing in my back for the past two weeks begin to ease-off a bit more.

About 1:30 p.m. I got another call from our Managing Director, who had also decided to make a swing by to check up on things (can you tell we're all just a teensy bit, um, what's the word? - Oh yeah, PARANOID! - about all this?) and he reported Don and Jim had already completed the first layer of drywall in roughly 1/3 of the 24-foot "bays" (presumably the ones we've been installing the sound-deadening foam tape in the past few days), which frankly was pretty remarkable given our previous experiences. The best part, though was when he said they seemed to be doing a pretty good job; the panels were being cut correctly, they appeared to be reasonably tight to the joists and framing, and they weren't overscrewing them - all very good signs.

At which point I think the load off my mind actually lightened to the extent that I felt a little giddy, even.

So, I'm planning on dropping by tonight after work to check on the progress, but all signs seem to be pointing towards a quick and successful completion of this project by the middle of next week.

At which time we get to move on to other fun things, like: installing pipe for a lighting grid, moving all the equipment we moved out of the theatre back into it, cleaning up for the beginning of rehearsals for our next production on the 29th, then our monthly late-night cabaret on the 4th, and most importantly, the theatre's 21st Birthday Party on the 12th.

And I think I'm going to survive to see that - for a while there, I wasn't completely confident that would be the case.


Posted byCOMTE on 4:07 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology Is Indistinguishable From Magic"

- Sir, Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

If you've been to my apartment, you'd have to be pretty inobservant to miss the "2001: L' Odyssee de l' Espace" (yes, it's in French) movie poster that dominates one wall of my kitchen. If that didn't clue you into the fact that I've been a fan of Clarke, and of this particular film for, well - nearly 40 years now, certainly the original souvenier program, or the orignal sound track album, or the four first-editions of the "2001" novels that reside in my collection - along with a couple of other Clarke 1st eds - would probably be a good tip-off; and that doesn't even count the tattered paperback editions of Jerome Agel's 1968, "The Making of '2001'" and Clarke's "Lost Worlds of '2001'", or the much newer (and somewhat less thumbed-through) Bizony, or the three DVD versions, all buried in the warren of bookshelves in my bedroom. If you dug down deep into one of the boxes beneath my bed, you'd eventually come across a couple of pen-an-ink renderings of "2001" spacecraft I did in my mid-teens -

- okay, you probably get the picture by now. Needless to say, "2001" has been something of an obsession of mine since I convinced by dad to take me to see a screening at the old Hollywood Cinerama in Portland for my 8th birthday.

As I've gotten older, I've pretty much stopped reading Sci-Fi altogether, but would still pick up anything by Clarke: the "Rama" series was a particular favorite, and I also enjoyed "The Fountains of Paradise", which popularized the concept of a "space elevator", something that has been getting a fair amount of press coverage in recent years, due mainly to the efforts of programs like NASA's "Centennial Challenges", and groups like The LiftPort Group, located just across Puget Sound, in Bremerton, of all places.

What I've always enjoyed about Clarke's writing, over such contemporaries as Asimov and Heinlein, is his skill at negotiating between the "hard-science" fact-based fiction, and more metaphysical musings about life, art, extra-terrestrial intelligence, and our place in the universe. He was a masterful storyteller with a keen ability to project current technologies into the future to show how what we achieve in the present can influence our future.

The quote in the headline above I think sums up his extraordinary ability to synthesize these two seemingly disparate elements, science and metaphysics, in a way that both respected their separate spheres of influence, but which also acknowledged their collective impact on our achievements and philosophies.

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Posted byCOMTE on 9:23 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Friday, March 14, 2008

Every Time We Take One Step Forward You Take Two Steps Back

I’m sure you’re all just dying to know how the drywall installation portion of our massive sound baffling project is coming along, aren’t you?

Well, too bad, because you’re going to hear about it anyway; after all, why should I be the only one to suffer?

When last we left off on Tuesday, five guys had just hauled 9,000 pounds (yes, a full half-ton more than my original estimate) of drywall into the theatre in anticipation of the arrival of the installers the next day.

I arrived promptly at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday to let them in, and found one guy with a bag of tools standing out in front of the entrance. Okay, the rest of his crew must be running late, I thought.


Turns out Bruce, the Hardwall Guy had sent ONE PERSON to do the job.

I took him upstairs, he looked around, listened for a couple of minutes to my description of the project and the sequence of how it was supposed to be done, then stated, “I can’t do all that by myself!” (which seemed pretty obvious to me – and should have to Bruce, who had been on-site twice before himself). So, after a brief telephone consultation, Bruce agreed to contact his “hanging crew”, and see if he could get them to come in that afternoon, promising to call me back as soon as he had more details. So, I decided to hang out at the theatre, since I had some tax prep work I could do in the meantime.

By 2:30 p.m. I still hadn’t heard back from Bruce, and when I called to check in, he said, “Oh, yeah. They’re still at another job, so they can’t come in until tomorrow. Sorry, I meant to call you.” Right, thanks. (Are you beginning to get that communication ISN’T one of this guy’s stronger attributes?)

At this point, I’m starting to get a little panicky, and I begin wondering if perhaps I should be formulating some sort of “Plan B”, in case the guy flakes out on me completely. Fortunately, wiser heads prevail and the staff decides to wait 24 hours before considering other options.

Yesterday at around 10:00 a.m. I get a call from “Al”, another of Bruce’s associates, who informs me he has some scaffolding he wants to drop off at the space for the crew, and can someone let him in? Okay, this is better; I’m actually hearing the words “scaffolding” and “crew”, which implies some forward movement is occurring. He agrees to swing by my office, and I hand off a set of keys along with some instructions I’ve written up, and which I verbally go over before sending him on his way. He says somebody will get in touch with me later in the day to confirm the arrival of the crew for either that afternoon or first thing on Friday.

At about 2:00 p.m. Al calls again to say he’s dropped off the scaffolding, but he just heard from the crew, and they won’t be able to make it in today; they’re behind schedule on their current project, because they’ve lost several people due to illness the past few days – reasonable enough, given the flu that’s been going around up here recently. But, he assures me they’ll arrive first thing in the morning.

Which brings us to today.

I get a call from Bruce at 7:30 a.m. this morning, just seconds after my alarm clock goes off, saying the crew had arrived, but was having trouble getting in, and could I come down and help them out? Okay, fine. Actual crew ready to do actual work, sounds good. I threw on just enough clothing to keep from being arrested, jumped on "Little Nellie", and scooted down to the theatre.

No crew to be seen.

I call Bruce back, and he gets on another phone to the crew, "they say they're at the 1100 block of Pike Street -"

"Um, Pike Street or EAST Pike Street?" I ask.

"Oh." Pause. "They say they're down by the freeway."

"That would be Pike St. They need to come up about 10 blocks to East Pike. I'll be waiting for them."

So, about half an hour goes by, and finally a truck pulls up to the construction site across the street. The driver is glancing around like he's looking for something, so I figure this must be them.

Sure enough, it's the crew; they've been driving around for 20 minutes looking for our sign on Pike (*sigh!*), but anyway, here they are. We go upstairs and I start explaining the job - again. Keep in mind, this is the fourth or fifth time I've had to go through a detailed description of this project to either Bruce or one of his people. I can now recite it thoroughly in my sleep, like "The Gettysburg Address": "One score and one year ago, our founders brought forth a new theatre, conceived in poverty, and dedicated to the principle that - yadda, yadda, yadda". (In fact, I think I HAVE recited it in my sleep, since for the past four days it's the last thing I've thought about before falling asleep, and the first thing I've thought about after waking up; presumably some of those hours in-between have been taken up with reciting the details while unconscious.)

Raphael, the lead, looks over the information I hand him, looks over the materials, looks over the room. “We’re going to need more scaffolding than this,” he announces, “and this drywall (the special stuff), you can’t cut this with a knife; you need a saw. So, I gotta cover all these shelves (our equipment bay at the back of the stage), and put some plastic up over these doors, ‘cause it’s gonna get dusty in here. So, we can come in and start tomorrow, but we gotta finish by Wednesday, ‘cause we got another job starting on Thursday, so we might not get all the finishing work done by then.”

Okay, I’m keeping calm, because I’ve learned rather quickly that when dealing with these guys it’s all a matter of “two steps forward, one step back”, and I just want to keep them happy, so that SOMETHING actually gets accomplished.

I let him know, that’s fine, and heck, our deadline isn’t until the 28th anyway, so if they need to take a few days off in the middle to do another job, then come back and finish up, that’s fine with us. It probably ISN”T fine, but at this point, I’m willing to bend over backwards, if it means they’ll just do THIS job.

So, we all go our separate ways; I return home to take a shower, dress properly and head for work.

About 10:30 I get a call from Bruce, who says he’s spoken with Raphael, who is clear on the job, the process, and will bring in everything he needs first thing Saturday morning, when they will get to work (evidently, Bruce has finally gotten the message that timely communication is a good business practice). He figures it’ll take less time to complete than Raphael has estimated, but I’m putting my money on the accuracy of the guy who does the actual work, so I figure we’re still going to have to do some final finishing when they wrap up on Tuesday or Wednesday. We’ll just have to wait and see how things go, because at this point, it’s pretty much out of our hands.

Cross your fingers, your toes, your eyes, and anything else you can – because it’s going to be an interesting next few days.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention I start doing income tax returns tomorrow?

Yeah, just trying to take one step forward at a time...

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Posted byCOMTE on 1:07 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

These Are The Times Of The Everyday Hero

There are times - such as today, for example - when I feel like I'm living in a real-life comic book. How else can you explain the incredible, amazing, seemingly impossible occurances you witness with your own eyes?

Sure, there's the occasional firefighter rushing into the burning building to save the trapped pet, or, the paramedic calmly exerting pressure on the severed artery; the soldier carrying a wounded comrade to safety under a barage of enemy fire; the Good Samaritan who gives the stranded motorist a lift without a second's thought to safety or compensation. We sometimes hear about the actions of the ordinary person prevailing in extraordinary circumstances, but it is rare indeed that WE are the one performing the superhuman feat.

This is what myself and four not-so-young-or-in-the-best-of-shape guys accomplished today:

We used this machine -

- to raise 110 eight-foot by four-foot panels of drywall (not quite half of which you can see stacked in the above image) two stories up the side of our building to a 100 year-old fire escape -

- and then proceeded to haul them one-at-a-time into our theatre space, like so -

- where all 8,000 pounds (yes, True Believers - a MERE 4 TONS!!!) of drywall is now neatly stacked, awaiting the arrival of the contracting crew tomorrow morning, who will transform this mass of gypsum and fiberglass into a brand spanking-new, acoustic dampening ceiling, so that we can continue to pursue our - sometimes - noisy art without unduly disturbing our upstairs neighbors.

There are GIANTS astride upon the earth:

David, The Wise, who had the Promethean foresight to rent the crane-lift that saved us from literally scores of spine-crushing treks up two and a-half flights of stairs with drywall on our backs.

Stephen, The Fearless, who ventured out onto the rickety fire escape and lifted each and every single sheet from the forked tines of the crane and through the door, in the rain, and gusts of wind, all the while mocking the elements.

John, The Organized, who researched the project, designed the sound-dampening system, ordered the materials, got them all here on time, and still managed to shave $1,500 off his original estimate.

Ben, The Equanimitable, who always shows up knowing that for him "just another day at the office" is going to involve doing things that would send most average employees either to the hospital, or, to a lawyer's office - and then just goes back to doing what's he's actually being paid for when the crazy jobs are done.

Then there's me. Comte, The Reliable. I'm not the smartest, or the strongest, or the bravest (I veritably cowered at the thought of stepping fully out on the fire escape!), but I can still do my fair share of the heavy lifting when it comes to that, and for some reason - I guess it comes with the title, "Facilities Manager" - I've been put nominally in charge of seeing that this insane project gets completed, on-time, and on-budget.

And so far, thanks in no small part to people like these, and the many, many other friends and colleagues who have answered the call when it's been issued, we're managing to do just that.

In my book they're Superheroes, each and every one.

Because this kind of thing should just be downright impossible.

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Posted byCOMTE on 5:47 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

Sunday, March 09, 2008

We Can Do What We Like When We Drive The Golden Spike.

It's a little dim, but still, captured for posterity:

Molly Drives The Golden Staple.

Phase I is done.

Phase II commences on Wednesday.

Sound dampening continues apace.

Those of you who were there for any parts of it, salutations and congratulations.

The rest of you will just have to imagine.

We are GOLDEN.

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Posted byCOMTE on 9:01 PM

0 Scurvy Dogs Have Gathered 'Round The Scuttle Butt

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