Life Among the Dirty: First Impressions

At this very moment I’m “working,” i.e. sitting in the sun with fuck-all to do and some attractive ass for a view. Life is good.

This is my very first time as an intern so I’m not perfectly sure how to handle it. It’s kind of like voluntary work, except things are expected of you and “no” is not taken for an answer. That bites because I do have other hobbies- friends of mine have asked me to film for them again (the first production is now finished and will be published shortly) and I keep missing out on capoeira trainings. I hope we can come to some kind of agreement but I did say I was going to do this to the hilt, and not be a tourist here that walks out when things get uninteresting. I’m supposed to carry part of the responsibility and work independently, but on the other hand I don’t take Tuesdays off like the other technicians here so I do feel I’m entitled to a few days off in those two months.

unIMG_6179The head technician here, whom I will continue calling “mentor” because it sounds simultaneously corny and awesome which is exactly what he is, is a tall man nearing his fifties, with long white hair and cowboy boots. He spends all day not giving a fuck and has 9 children- pretty much what I hope to be when I’m his age. And like everybody else here, there’s something quirky about him, though I haven’t quite figured out what it is. It could be that he’s the type of person who will say a random word of his current train of thought (quite like me), so conversations will go like this:

“There’s a meeting tomorrow at 10, you’re expected to be there.”

-“No problem.”

-“Manatee.”

-“Vuvuzela.”

unIMG_0223The company is located in the poorest part of town (looking about the same as the best parts of Brussels), which has a unique kind of charm and comes with an infinite supply of odd individuals dropping by, especially now that the sun is out. While I was taught to ignore these “marginals” since I was a kid, they seem welcomed here, with surprising results. I feel stupid for putting so much energy into trying to fit the “normal” mold while here, that’s just another way to be- and certainly not the most interesting.

Many of these people are artists, or at least consider themselves to be. And while I try hard to vent some inspiration through creativity, I noticed a fundamental difference in their way of thinking. My mentor for example, is an art photographer and will collect a small army of naked women in a park to have them perform some wiccan ritual with dead goats. When I was looking through his pictures and held them up asking what he did with them, he gave me a stare. “I photograph them.”
That’s just what he does, without proper reason or motivation other than to “make art.” It’s not that I am jealous (keep telling yourself that) but it certainly isn’t my way of working, which might explain how he manages to collect an army of naked women in the first place. Did I mention I want to be him when I grow up?

unIMG_0193On technical level, pretty much any choice of internship would have been better than with the Gasten. The budget is low and equipment is terribly expensive, so is kept to a bare minimum. There’s theaters scattered around the city with gear far more professional and frankly, representative for the market today. Maybe, just maybe, I could have made a better decision there.
I’ve been working as a stagehand for 6 years, in the biggest venues Belgium has to offer, dragging desks the size of a king sized bed. I’ve seen my share of penile compensation and if I ever have the skills to work with those, I guess I can call myself an accomplished technician but I won’t have any more of a job than I would have here. I started this whole thing hoping to find some alternative for life on the road. I wanted to work with people rather than equipment, for a change. And here? Just the kind of people I was hoping for. This place, with all its technological shortcomings, is in many ways richer than the rest of the city combined.

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