For anyone who works professionally in the film industry, travel is a necessary evil. While we don't put down as many frequent flier miles as George Clooney did in Up in the Air, we certainly work our miles a lot harder.
After all, he breezes through security with slip on shoes and one roller-bag. We often travel with 10 to 25 cases packed full of heavy, expensive equipment all of which has to be processed through the nightmare from hell that is known as airport security.
But it does have it's lighter sides as well.
When I get to the hotel it’s maybe 1am. I have to get up at 6am and work a long-ass day, so getting to bed as early as humanly possible is the order of the day.
Now anyone who knows me understands how nuts I am about my equipment. I’m very protective about it, maybe even a little crazy. So now I have a choice to make – leave my lights in my car for the next six hours or so and risk them getting stolen, or use up precious time (not to mention effort) bringing them to the room with me.
If this was some suburban hotel where the nearest neighbor was the Applebees, I'd leave the stuff in the car. But this is downtown Pittsfield, MA which seems to be a little on the gritty side.
So I decide to be extra cautious, load my magliner up and drag my lights into the hotel.
I grab my few, pathetic hours of sleep and wake the next morning to pack up. Only now I can’t find my briefcase. This is bad, as my briefcase contains my laptop. Not that my laptop is worth all that much, but it has a number of stories I’ve been working on recently on it that haven’t been backed up to my external hard drive.
Best I can remember, I had my briefcase when I checked in. I seem to remember taking the strap off my shoulder and laying it on the floor so I could get at my wallet. Yeah. That makes sense.
I go down and ask the clerk. No briefcase. The think method has failed. Hmmm. The only other option is I left it in my car. I was worried enough about the neighborhood not to leave my lights in the car, and now I may have left my much more thievable laptop bag in the car instead.
So I hurry my ass out to the parking lot, praying that my beloved briefcase and my even more beloved laptop will be there waiting for me.
Only not in the car, mind you, on top of the car.
Now I remember. While unloading my lights the night before, the ones I was terrified of leaving in the car overnight, I put my briefcase on the roof and just left it where any passing vagrant could have run snagged it without a second thought. All night.
Well, at least it didn’t rain.
We run up to the counter, IDs ready to show the ticket lady.
"I'm sorry," she says. "You're too late."
Major bummage. We all look at each other in horror and despair. This is the nightmare scenario as missing a flight often means catching the last one out that night, or being forced to stay the night in some crummy airport hotel. Not to mention some of us might have another job the next day. So we are extremely unhappy, staring a particularly unhappy fate right in the face.
"Are you sure?" The producer asks.
"Yes," she says. "The flight is closed."
And then, a miracle. A door on the wall behind the counter flies open. There's a large, beaming man standing there, angelically back-lit in a bright halo of fluorescents. "Flight is closed?" he practically shouts. "Like hell it is!"
He storms the counter, practically hurls the other woman out of the way. "I need IDs in my hand and I need bags on the belt. Now!"
We hop to in a big way. We hand over our IDs and hurl the twelve bags up on the belt. He prints our tickets and tags our bags at lightning speed.
"Are you sure these are going to make it on the plane?" I ask. After all, what good is us getting back to New York if our baggage doesn't make it.
"That plane isn't leaving until every damned bag is on it. I promise." he says. And I believe him.
Then, tickets in hand, we sprint for the gate. He meets us at security and lets us cut the line. We make it to the plane just as they're closing the doors.
And what the hell, our bags do make it.
Submarines smell like nothing else. It's mostly a mechanical smell of metal and machine oil, with a hint of dirty sweat-sock thrown in. After you've been on board for a few hours, you get used to it.
Another cool thing about subs is the food. The food in the military is generally pretty basic, but on subs, they pull out all the stops. Figuring that the guys are suffering enough by being cooped up in what is essentially a giant pipe for months at a time, the Navy makes sure they're fed well. The menu while I was on board included T-bone streak, crab legs, fried chicken and a particularly delicious pork tenderloin. (Oddly enough, the favorite food of the submariners we talked to was cheeseburgers.)
Add to that cakes, pies, cookies, puddings and it's no wonder the average sub crewperson puts on five to ten pounds on every cruise.
After filming for two days, we're preparing for our arrival in Virginia. I'm on one of the upper decks when I suddenly smell the most wonderful scent I've ever experienced. It smells like cake, candy, cookies and everything sweet and lovely all rolled up into one.
I turn to the Chief of the Boat and asked what delicious wonders the galley is cooking up that's creating such a heavenly smell.
"That's not cooking," he tells me. "They just opened the main hatch. That's fresh air."
Fresh air. Wow.