I am a simple man, and I like simple things. Butts, mostly, and Star Trek. Pineapple on pizza and knobs on machines. Toothpicks and iced tea and mountains and friends, these are a few of my favorite things. ♫
I managed to hold my job as a stagehand because it was simple. And despite my personality and lifestyle then, I never got fired because I was good at it. Progress happened but it was slow, at my own pace, so that I could keep up and chances of anyone finding out that I was totally faking my skills and confidence were kept minimal.
So yah, after all that, when someone walks up to me and goes, “here’s a budget to invest in our lighting grid, pls upgrade the whole thang to LED in the spirit of a national, subsidized effort to lower the power consumption in the cultural sector. The proposal will be judged by 2 different committees so also prepare a defense in a month or 2 and did I mention the budget was small so yah make it count,” I have a LITTLE problem keeping the screams inside my mouth.
I’ve been diagnosed with all kinds of abnormalities, by professionals and not-so-professionals. Psychopathy, ADHD, I had one girlfriend pushing me to consider the possibility I was somewhere in the autism spectrum. Another friend called me a juggalo. I took well to neither.
Perhaps they’re all wrong, or maybe right to some degree. I just like to call it my warm and cute personality.
If there is one thing I might be leaning towards, I think it might be sociopathy. Especially when I was a teenager and young adult, I had the hardest time caring about how other people felt. It served its purpose well, keeping the influence of teachers and educators to a minimum while I walked my own path. Many thought I was lost.
Change is the name of the game. If you went from art schools to boarding schools, squats to an army base, freelancing stagehand to technician in a city theater, you’ll know what it means to adapt to the situation. One survival strategy will not work in another environment and unless you get to changing your behavior, you will start moving in the opposite direction from where your goals are supposed to be.
Friends who know me long enough often mention that I’ve changed in just about every way, several times over. And when I thought I was finally comfortable in my skin, a baby boy was born and I had to start all over again.
One of the doubts that I had before applying for my current job was the fact that I would be closely confronted with the inner workings of a social-cultural organization like De Vieze Gasten. I knew I wasn’t going to like what I saw, because aside from the amazing results that can be objectively quantified in the immediate area (and god knows this area can use those results), there are less beautiful aspects to such an institution.
Inner struggling, monetary problems, stress caused by the social nature of an inclusive place. All these exist with literally every cultural project but nowhere more than places like ours.
I was shocked to learn that many of my colleagues are suffering from it, much worse than I previously assumed. They are a solid team and mentally very strong, but the pressure can’t be distributed perfectly evenly and sooner or later, people crack. And to save themselves, they have to step back for a while, leaving a large problem to fix for the others. This is not a choice they make: it is the result of an issue of world-wide scale. (more…)
I think I saw the ‘Propere Fanfare van de Vieze Gasten’ [The Clean Band of the Dirty Guys] for the first time at some event or other in Ghent and though I don’t remember exactly where, it’s safe to say I liked them from the start. An incredible, colorful, rag-tag bunch of weirdoes building a party like you’ve never seen before. The were marching around, carrying their director on a bass drum on their shoulders. My mind has never been unblown since.
I saw them a couple times more, without ever knowing where they were from or what they were about. I could recognize them from a distance, and never missed a chance to push in closer and watch their silly dances with a grin on my face.
A lifetime later and a world apart, I was sitting in classroom “Brazzaville” in Brussels. Tasked with the impossible matter of choosing a location to intern at. I didn’t know anyone working in any venue, and neither had I been acquainted with the inner workings of any of the endless list of addresses in the folder before me. So I started with shallowly reading over them all, in case any one stood out.
We said goodbye to you yesterday. In the most heart-wrenching, wholesome way, we built you the feast that you deserved. Not dozens, but hundreds gathered together to mourn your loss and celebrate your presence. My friend, you should have seen it. You would be proud of us.
The love, Marc. I had never seen anything like it. People hugging in groups of threes and fours. Or separately, almost secretly, one person and another. I have never seen so many people locked in embrace, and I’ve been to Burning Man.
And the sadness. So incredibly much. I pray that you felt as loved as you proved to be this day. Not one of the many present was unmoved by your passing, least of all me. I haven’t cried this much in twenty years. Every time the understanding of your passing sank a little deeper, hearts broke all over again. How we will miss you. How you will be missed.
“I’m thinking of working part-time here, and focus more on photography.”
I grinned. “You should, photography is awesome. In fact, you should go do photography full-time. And let me know when you do, so I can come and take your job.”
-“Looking for a full-time job, then?”
-“Hell, no.” We stood on the balcony, overlooking the festivities. Another job well done, and another job laying in wait when the day would end. It hadn’t struck me until that very moment.
“But if I did, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else more than here.”
From that day, I have been lurking passively, keeping an eye on the public forums for the odd chance that a job would become available, at De Vieze Gasten or some similar organization.
Life turned out differently, however, predictable in its unpredictability. I ended up working for the state, in a city that isn’t my own. And it’s a great job, don’t get me wrong, for many reasons. But it’s no life among the dirty. Still passively, I was always keeping an eye on my friend, so I could take a discreet step forward if he ever decided to step back.
He wasn’t supposed to fucking die on me, though.
But he did.
And there was Light. And God saw the Light. And it was Fucking Rad.
I signed my contract yesterday. After 2 separate temporary contracts they officially hired me and though nothing changed outside the drawer of some worker at the HR section, it felt like a really big deal. On my way to the city hall, I remember thinking, “Last chance to back out, now. The choice is made right here.”
But really, there was no honest choice involved. This is the way things will go, the continuation of the events that I set in motion when I decided that I would be there for my son, and that have only picked up in speed as I set my shoulders behind them. Today, I can beat my chest and say that I am almost there- almost to the point where I can face myself and say without shame,
I am a father. I am a stage technician. I have done the things necessary to lay the foundation for the life that follows; my own and that of my son. What happens next, nobody knows, but I can face it with my head held high.
Perhaps one of the most risky things about getting a job is the fact that you become part of an organisation and represent its political tendencies and convictions. This may not be that important for your average concrete manufacturing plant, but in some cases this is a thing you might want to be aware of. The moment you sign your contract, you agree to work together for the profit of whatever thing you are employed by and you better consider your boundaries well before they are reached, lest you do things you’ll regret.
Again, for the average worker (like you) this is a pretty trivial thing. But what if you were asked to perform your tasks not just for, but with some party that you strongly disagree with, supporting their propaganda? Perhaps you can imagine that, as an employee of a city theater, you better have your principles in order or you might find that you crossed them in retrospect. (more…)
When I am involved in a production and fill in the archetypal role of the technician (I prefer to call it “the specialist”), I have no inhibitions to step forward and contribute actively to the end product. Many will know, I would literally put my hand in the fire for most jobs I’ve had so far. I take these things very personal.
But as a house technician, things are different. When you have a new production passing through every day and sometimes even multiple, you can’t keep up the sprint that you put down as part of the team. If you want to keep this up for 7 days, a whole season long, you have to eat. You have to sleep. At some point, you’ll have to put your foot down and say, “No. Now I take a break and those things you are panicking about, are your problem, not mine.”