I’m leaving El Paso and on my way to Dallas / Fort Worth for the recording sessions with my siblings… currently flying over the great state of Texas. I collected everything in El Paso that I could (letters/tapes/home videos)… I’m looking forward to going through the tapes and seeing if anything is usable. Though some of the following tale is not directly related to my project, I think it is an interesting anecdote that describes the life of a producer.
I woke up this morning at 6a. Though my flight didn’t take off until 10:35a, I was having trouble sleeping. Today is my first intense recording day, and I only have an hour or so to put everything together once I land (because of the schedule change, the sibling dinner / recording session is happening at 3:30p and must be done by 6p). I also was supposed to get my full paycheck today (I hadn’t been getting all my pay because taxes on tuition come out of my checks… this is a detail that has all sorts of backstory and a host of irritating minutiae). I wanted to get my checkbook balanced before getting in to Dallas (I don’t think I’ll have a free moment once I’m there). Turns out Emerson’s lovely Finance office made a mistake and reported $919 for a ninth credit that I am not registered for, leaving my paycheck (for the ninth week in a row) at around $160. Since all reason pointed to me receiving a full paycheck today, I have all sorts of bills coming out (and rent is due in Boston tomorrow, January 1). So, by 7a, I had already sent an irate email and cried to my parents. My parents are not the richest people in the world (to put it diplomatically) and it is a big stress for me to be financially dependent at all. But, miracle of miracles, Tom/Mom had saved $500 for my graduation gift. I will be receiving this gift early so I can pay living expenses. I had originally intended to purchase a Tascam DR-100 field recorder. Looks like that won’t be happening. In any case, I get packed up… Equipment shoved in my North Face backpack, laptop in a second carryon, and everything I can muster in my suitcase to be checked. I can tell it is overweight, so my fantastic step-father and I start weighing our options. It comes to Tom saying… “Well, we’ll just have to pay it, but I only have a credit card.” Okay. We hit the road for the El Paso airport. Pull up to the Skycap.
Them: Your bag is ten 11.5 pounds overweight.
Us: Okay, we’ll pay the $50.
Them: You can’t pay here. We don’t take cards.
Okay, so I head inside and Tom goes to park the car. I call Tom elated that there is only a short line (so unlike airports) and he can just circle the place and come back so I can return his credit card. Miracle! I check-in (I have about 30 minutes until takeoff at this point) and check my bag. Put it on the scale.
Them: There’s an issue…
Me: (cutting her off, I admit it) I know, but here’s the card. I’ll just pay the fee.
Them: You can’t pay in this line...
Me: (realizing that I did not actually get a boarding pass, but a printout that said I must head to the gate to get one) Wait, what? I don’t have a boarding pass?!
Them: No, you are late checking in, so you need to go to the gate…
Me: BUT I HAVE TO GO STAND IN THAT OTHER LINE?!?! Please, please. You have to help me. I have to make that flight.
I considered telling her all about my master’s project and how I will shortly be talking about divorce (and recording it all) for about 15 hours over 3 days, but I relented and just gave her a frustrated look (with a touch of desperation, of course). The wonderful Southwest Airlines employee said something to the effect of “Forget it” and just put my bag through. I will forever be grateful to her. It is now about 20 minutes to takeoff and I still need to get through security. Shoot. I take off running (now only burdened with two bags and my pig neck pillow named Jamon [“Ham” en espanol]) and make it to security. I take off my boots and belt buckle, take my laptop out of its case and throw everything on the belt. Thinking I got off scot-free, I rejoice and start putting my clothes back on. Unfortunately, the backpack doesn’t make it (this is the one filled with field recorders, microphones, XLR cables, and a weighty mic stand). The TSA need to inspect it. Oy. I tell them what is in the bag (even added the detail about how much an AKG 414 mic costs), but they still must go through it. I beg for them to be gentle. They’re not. I am now dangerously close to missing my flight. Finally, all my crap is given the go-ahead and I dash off to Gate B6 (so grateful this all happened in El Paso where the airport is not gargantuan). And, suspense over, I MADE IT. I even had time to call Tom (my trusty sidekick in this debacle), my Mom (to thank her for saving me with that $500), and my sister who will be picking me up at the airport in Dallas. I’m on the flight. My equipment is safely stored in the overhead compartment. My laptop is functioning. I have a Diet Coke. Oy vey. Let’s hope the recording sessions have nothing in common with this morning (other than the Diet Coke part).
In better news, I had some time to organize the questions I plan to use as launching off points for the group session and individual interviews. I’m allowing for tangents, but this is the general structure:
Group Interview (all four of us…happening in about two hours)
I just finished watching the video of my baptism. The sound on the home video is bad, but I think it will be perfect for the piece. Right at the end, my family all breaks down and starts laughing. I don't know if you'll be able to hear it, but I can probably narrate that detail. This all went down on my 8th birthday, so my mom also sings "happy birthday" on it. Might be an interesting bit to include. At the end of my baptism on the video, there is a little bit of all of us kids in a GTE parade. The announcer says something to the effect of "memory lane 1992"... that might be a cool bit to use to introduce that section on the piece. I could start with their courtship, then the early marriage, then when we get to the divorce part, use that as the intro? Not a bad idea. I averted a major production crisis today (or what could have been). My sister-in-law called to tell me that my brother had to work on the night that I planned to record the conversation between us siblings. I kind of freaked out and vented to my mom about how "no one is taking the time for this and it is important and I only ask them for three days out of the entire year and blah blah blah"... it turned out fine. In fact, it probably turned out better. Originally, we were all going to chat over dinner after I had interviewed all three of them. Now, I'm going to record a conversation BEFORE any of us chat one-on-one. I think this will actually be good because we won't be sick of talking about it at that point. Ha. Also, it will get their brains in the reminiscing mode... ready to brain dump when we have our one-on-one recording sessions. My mom is being really supportive of this. My dad not so much. My siblings are all being super cooperative. I get easily stressed out. When the first plan went wrong, I freaked. And it actually ended up better. I need to chill.
I am in El Paso... looking through my three trunks of stuff still at my mom's home. I read through old journals of mine. I found a couple of gems from 1996-- one describing how I'd feel if I ever lost my mother and one about cooking her dinner after a long day at work (reminded me of those long days alone). I also found a box of letters from my Dad. I don't remember how I got these. I think my Dad had saved them and then gave them to my sister. She then gave them to me? In any case, I opened up the box and started going through them. Found some poetry he had written for my mom (and some she wrote for him), old anniversary cards, and THE BEST FIND OF ALL: cassette tapes he recorded for her while he was serving his mission. I am particularly excited to listen to one marked, "Honey, this tape has been given all my love and consideration - it will be best heard alone and in the dark - this tape communicates my thoughts about us. Love you very much, yours forever. Richard." I really REALLY hope these cassette tapes still work. It would be so amazing to have some audio from the time when my parents were in love. I'm not sure how I will work it in to the project (maybe in an intro part... describing how things used to be?), but it is SUPER awesome to have found these. I didn't even know they existed. Brilliant! I am going through home videos as well. Haven't found any hidden gems there, but I have secured the VHS tape of my baptism (the last real family event we had). My family sang together there and I anticipate ripping the audio from it. I haven't watched it in years, so hopefully it is useable. In crap news - I am getting sick. My voice is getting scratchy, I'm coughing, and I'm congested. It is making my voice sound like crap and I am worried that it will affect my interviews with my siblings that I have in a few days. Please bless this is gone by the time I need to record my voice...
I met with Tim McKenna on December 15 to reserve my equipment. All went according to plan, which I felt was a good omen. It was kind of remarkable to get everything I wanted for as long as I wanted (I picked up the goods yesterday and I do not need to return anything until January 6. Es un milagro!). Yesterday's pickup included: 3 XLR cables, Zoom H4 recorder, 722 recorder, 3 extra batteries for the 722, 2 lavalier microphones, a Beyer shotgun microphone, and a boom pole (for the shotgun). I had an appointment with Pierre today. I hauled all this stuff over to his office. We went through the logistics of recording a conversation (the 2 lavs and the 722). We figured out all sorts of issues and I am SOOOO glad we met beforehand. I would have freaked out and not been able to get the quality I'm after. Restoring the 722 to factory settings did the trick for most of it, and some of the buzz we heard in the headphones originally turned out to be the lav wires crossing over the XLR cable. After sorting out the conversation recording scenario, we went into the "recording around my sister's kitchen table" scenario. I originally got the shotgun for that, but as we tested it, we realized the mic's pickup pattern was way too narrow and it made for a crappy deal. So, Pierre came up with the AKG 414 on a table/podium mic stand. The EDC typically doesn't allow the 414's to leave campus, but Pierre made it happen. And Bruno Caruso lent me a table mic stand (the EDC doesn't carry those). The AKG 414 has an omnidirectional setting, so that will work much better. I returned the shotgun/boom pole (the less financial responsibility to the EDC the better [I'm already over $7k or so]). Tim McKenna worked with me to get the AKG... he said no one has ever checked it out before. It is a Christmas miracle! Another Christmas miracle: being able to leave my office and run all over and take care of everything. Working at Emerson is the only way I could have made this Master's happen. So, things are off to a decent start. I leave for Texas in two days... I shouldn't admit this, but I can't afford a new insurance policy for this equipment. Praying nothing happens en route (I'm transporting all the equipment as my carry-on luggage).