Excerpt from Webs
The following are excerpts from a novel Kayt is writing about her experience as a rigger in the live production, technical entertainment business. Names have been changed to protect individuals, and in many cases characters are based on mash-ups of several people, or entirely invented, yet not unlikely, personality traits.
Tyler and I were pushing a couple of heavy motor cases across the concrete, loaded with steel cables and shackles. He mused that he didn’t want to be doing this forever, and preferred working in film where the days were longer and the work wasn’t so uncivilized. We moved slowly because we wanted to talk longer. I liked hanging out with him, mellow and cool. He was attractive, lean and youthful. He reminded me of a kid I’d had a crush on in elementary school who’d been a diver. Everything about him was lanky and slick. I could imagine him wet, smelling like lake water; a trick of my imagination that made him even more delicious to my senses.
As much as Tyler was a part of this world, he separated himself from it. He did the work, knew a lot about it, and didn’t sink into the vice and social stirrings that seemed to hold the others frozen in those times and places. Thinking back, our brief conversation planted a seed in me that eventually became my way out. It was an idea. As much as I was to grow into my role in the biz, as much as I let myself learn the language of the crews, I never accepted that I totally belonged. I longed for something more. There would be a respectable life waiting for me should I choose it someday.
Perhaps the naturally seductive, naturally isolated sense that Tyler had of himself was what gave me the strength to remember, that the story I was living in wasn’t the last story on earth. Not for me. I was attracted to his resistance; the way he repelled all that was overly oily and personal about the crews. He was never immersed, never trailer trash. Even as he swam through his few days with us, he retained his composure and the dirt and motor grease never seemed to become part of him.
I’d always liked the quiet ones. Always felt that they had secrets. Secrets, that if shared, that would enrich my life like ingredients to the magic recipe that would likewise make me untouchable by the swarthiest ilk of the biz. I wanted the same immunity, but I didn’t understand it. And I discovered disappointingly that most of the secretive ones hid themselves for reasons less wholesome than I’d hoped. This was a subculture that attracted the alternatives, the misfits, the singularly motivated people of uniquely destructive qualities; creative at cross purposes. It was a place where the unacceptable was common, and reason for the individuality of expression we all crave as human beings. The quiet ones were never quiet for long. We wouldn’t let them, and so they were invited to become sunk with the rest of us. I know how much of a relief it was for so many of them to finally be themselves.
What the hell was I doing there?
Tyler asked me what I wanted from the biz.
“I want to rig”, I said.
“Really” he stated seriously.
“Really” I affirmed. “I have no fear of heights, and there are things about the gig that are second nature to me. And no one has totally said no. I think I’d be good at it”
“Good luck with that”
Tyler hadn’t been the first to speak that incredulous line in the face of my little dream. I was a woman. There were a few other women who’d been up there before me, but they were there with their husbands or boyfriends. They’d never have chosen it for themselves.
Groupies. Bitches. Tag-alongs. Someone to make sandwiches and occasionally get fucked. A paycheque that never had to be accounted for. A bit of leverage. Or cleavage, as the case may be.
I was a small woman, still a girl really. I had an intimidating lack of fear of the conditions, laid out for all eternity, that this was a man’s job. I didn’t care about that. It didn’t register with me that anyone else should either, even as I recognized the extra giver that I had to muster to qualify.
Good luck with that.
“Ya know,” I murmured to Tyler, “it’s a lot like jewelry, rigging is. It’s the volume of air that it takes that is the big difference. I can wrap my mind around the whole thing. And when it’s done, it’s beautiful.”
“Wow. You’re a poet. I don’t see poetry in this. It’s construction. It’s for show. I just can’t find a reason to really care, beyond the safety aspects of it. I dunno. I wasn’t planning on being here today. I’m just doing a favour for Thompson.”
As we reached our destination, a chalk mark on the floor, we paused. The mark is white, powder caked in lines where Danny had pressed harder, legs spread wide, bent forward, forcing the chalk against the floor. It was his vice; that we should arrive at that place to execute this work, orienting ourselves around the will of the Head Rigger (a term, as cocky as it sounds).
As we caught our breath, I looked up to see if I could spot Frank, the high rigger up on the beam. It was a sure sign that we’d reached the right point if the guy was already there waiting for us, dropping a rope, fishing for our assembled steel. It was a habit to rock forward on my feet, arch my body, hold my hardhat, and make a connection with the goings-on above.
There, in the air, a surprise. Softly floating, sliding through the air, tumbling and glistening, was a hair; a single blond hair.
“Stay still!” I said to Tyler. “Look.”
Indicating the strand as it fell within reach, he saw it too. Tyler held his breath as it landed on his shoulder. He smiled, tilting his head.
“Now that’s poetic” he whispered.
“I guess Frank is blond, huh?” I laughed.
Today the steel is wet. My harness will be wet later. All day, I’ll haul the weight of my water-logged clothes all over the site. There’s warmth in the wetness, my own environment between my skin and the layers. It’s this comfort I seek solace in. Dressing and undressing makes my teeth grit, but being there makes me happy. I’ll recover later, sleeping as my equipment dries, laid out in the hot spare room.
Gotta be tougher in this mist. The work won’t stop unless there’s lightning. They hate to stop, ever. The show must go on. The ledgers are slippery and the ropes are slick and sticky at the same time. Every time the weather’s like this, there are no-shows. So it’s all about picking up the slack.
The hours pass with rolling mists and clouds of droplets. Rain doesn’t have to fall on you to get you wet when you’re working in the sky. It meets you halfway like angels and solitude.
The heavy lifting falls to less people, the reduced crew. The gloves come out, the mud gets into everything. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” turns into “Here Comes the Rain Again”.
Damp spirits and wet cigarettes.
“Smoke On The Water”.
There are no issues today. Nobody had any energy for bullshit. The most irresponsible pricks stayed away, probably stayed home, living “the life”, to get fucked up on the couch. The truest, most notorious monsters in this biz come out in sunlight. They have nothing to fear in the light of day as the darkness of the industry is open-air. The weather chases them away ‘cause their lazy. When the money dries up, they make up excuses and crawl back saying someone did them wrong, appearing calm, cool and collected at all costs. Little lies for pocket change. I imagine them, skinny and energetic, always moving, always avoiding the pain, so pretty on the outside, with claims to fame, puddles of mud on the inside, no faith to stand on, treading water in their own filth.
I feel like a seagull on rainy days. My cheeks wet, misted, red from exertion, catch the first drops as I fly up to drop a rope. I wear my coil like a badge, a cape, a Grecian robe. Sometimes I wish I could just keep climbing, up and away from the crew, into the sky, beyond the skyscrapers, alone with the birds. The really high jobs make me happy because they’re so far-removed from the reality down there. My radio, my leash, squawks and talks but there is no real company. I light cigarettes, knowing that the air is all mine. I butt them out in cracks where I imagine no one is likely to ever see them again. I sing out loud ‘cause no one can hear, unless my radio is accidentally keyed, which is always a mistake. I don’t mean to let anyone know about the beauty of this place and how my soul shines here. The angry mother fuckers expect me to be angry too, tough as nails, wound up and cocky. Up here though, I am singing Donna Summer today.
“You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, Baby you’re no good.”
One of the great secret wonders of working in the air is that everybody sings. The Newfies sing the shanties of their youth. The guys with kids know all-things-Disney. The children-of-the-70s quote from their era with profound respect. The eighties children, masters of the “jingle bomb”, spout out the catchiest shit you never wanted to hear. Fun though. It’s not to say that we’re all happy, it’s more about being larger than life, taking up as much space as possible, being cool, showing off. I try, but can’t, hide my deep connection to the way music moves me. I’m a weirdo, I know, but I don’t really care. I wish instead that the others were more like me. My differentness makes me vulnerable. Once, I thought my swooning soul was a powerful defense, and it is. Just not here.
The same old rules don’t apply up in the monkey bars, especially the “golden” one. If I want to be treated a certain way, kindness won’t make that happen. My best tool is elitism, or at least the smooth façade of it. If I didn’t get to know the people on the ground, then my celebrity keeps them either at bay, or in good favor. Everyone knows who I am. My second-best tool is shame. No one wants to be shown up by a girl. How subtle and cruel a force of nature it is!
Such a wet day. Cranky riggers are so fucking whiny sometimes.
Round about lunchtime, one of them gets to barking like a small dog, abandoned in a tree, taking out his idiotic down-talking complaints on anyone within earshot, which, up here, means everyone onsite. I’ll bet he’s just cold. No comment about his character. I feel it’s time to break out into my most passionate rendition of Janis Joplin’s Cry Baby, at the top of my smoker’s lungs, probably more pleasant than the sound of a god-damned lost lap dog.
Fucker looks daggers at me, curled lip and all. Shame, shame.
The job is epic. The crowd had been thin and brave. I look back on this as mine. My gig. As I walk away from gigs, I look back to check my work from a distance, like laundry in the wind, hung with care. I imagine that everything I’ve done has turned to a different color for a moment, like a plan for a set with color-coordinated layers. I see the row of standards I put up, the blow-through on stage left, the spans in the entire main grid, the catheads. And of course, my toy, my lift, my Baby, the zoom boom is parked discretely backstage. We’d had a nice day together.
Thanks for reading! I appreciate your comments very much.
I’ll be posting little snippets here for you all to enjoy as I work on the book.
And! You’ll be the first to have the opportunity to purchase it when it’s ready to go.
All the best, Kayt.
For The Wordy Ones
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