Monday, November 27, 2006

"It's Only Rock'n Roll, but I Like It"

The Stones wrapped up their "Bigger Bang" tour in Vancouver over the weekend. I was there with my son. It was my second Stones concert. It was my son's first concert ever.

Back in 1998, our family had just finished unpacking from our cross country relocation. The big city was a strange and new kinda place. One that offered many more entertainment options than we had been accustomed to back East. (For those of you who don't know me , back "East" means the Maritimes.) When I arrived in August of 97 I learned that the Rolling Stones would be making a tour stop in Vancouver in January. For me the Stones in the city area where I lived seemed odd. The closest Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie ever played for us in the Maritimes was either Boston or Montreal. Either way it was a nine or ten hour drive to Montreal or Boston. Out of the question except for the most die hard of fan.

Anyway I was able to get some tickets for the 98 tour, Bridges to Babylon. Not only was I able to score tickets but they were 14th row floor tickets. When my wife arrived later that fall, I surprised her with the tickets. It would be our first Stones concert and we were jacked about it.

My memories of our first Stones live experience are still vivid to this day. BC Place is a large stadium, perhaps not by American standards, but large none the less. The place went dark, there was a large cheer of anticipation. I was wide eyed and anxious. Then suddenly the sound of a familiar riff. Lights begin to come up and there larger than life is Keith in a leopard patterned gunslinger like coat, cig lit and hanging from his mouth, striding to front stage playing "Satisfaction". Mick appears as almost by magic, again larger than life from our 14th row seat. We are on our feet and cheer like little school girls and just like that the Stones spectacular begins. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We both had smiles on for the rest of the evening. It truly was a magical night for the two of us as we witnessed the spectacle that is the Rolling Stones live experience.
We were both amazed at how Mick would run from extreme stage left to extreme stage right. You couldn't take your eyes off of him.

Now nine years later, they were back. I was away when tickets went on sale, so I missed out. Before you know it the place is sold out. I was able to get my hands on a pair of cheaper seats, which I no doubt paid too much for, but it was about being in the building for me. I would take my son on this occasion. And when we climbed into our seats, I realized just how bad they were. I did my best to hide my disappointment to my son as this would be his first concert and I didn't want it to be a bad one.

As disappointing as our seats were, they did give me a perspective which was totally missed during my 14 th row view of nine years ago. That of just how big the show really is. It seems that the Mick, Keith and the lads have figured out how to play to the entire venue.
I couldn't make out any facial features from the back. Yet thanks to a massive screen center stage, you seldom missed anything. We were surrounded by first time Stones goers and I guess you could say that their excitement of being there kinda made up for my rather poor ticket selection.
Again I was in awe of how Mick would sprint from one side of the stage to the other. The guy never stopped moving. For a man of 63, it boggles me as I was winded just getting up the stairs to my seat. There were several great moments in the show. When Mick introduced the band, there was a long and thunderous ovation for Keith Richards. He seemed genuinely moved by this and as he approached the center stage mic, he said in typical Richards form, "I've forgotten what I'm supposed to do. It must be brain damage." The crowd went wild. And I will give credit to the Video director and one of the camera guys but at that very moment the shot in the big screen switched to a crowd shot of a guy holding an inflatable palm tree. I laughed my ass off. It was a great moment.
Keith went onto perform 3 numbers giving Mick a rest back stage and no wonder. The man must have run a half Marathon in that first half of the show. When he returned to the stage the best part of the show was to begin. Again as in the Bridges' tour the lads migrated from the main stage to a center stage located in the middle of the venue. This time instead of walking over a bridge, they gathered near Charlie's drum kit and the stage began to move forward. All the while playing "Miss You". The mini mobile stage moves about 70 yards down field giving all of us in the crap seats a good look and a great performance.
They wrap up the mini stage "B" portion with 'Honky Tonk Woman", the stage begins to migrate back to the main stage, the crowd is going wild and out of the giant screen comes this maga inflatable mouth/tongue. I glanced at my son, who was now really enjoying the visual barrage that was before us.
Mick performed "Sympathy for the Devil" after the return to the main stage. It was classic. Flames from the top of the 9 story set, Mick in his red and black belting it our, again never still for more than 2 seconds. It was truly the kind of moment that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

Before long after a couple more numbers, Mick said' Thank you Good Night Vancouver!"
My son said "Is it over?"
"No" I said, "they will do one encore. and the last song will be "Satisfaction".

Out they came, with "You Can't Get What You Want", Mick taking the opportunity to sprint again both stage left and right and then down the stairs back out to the stage "B" site saluting the fans in all directions but especially those up near the ceiling, pointing, acknowledging those of us who didn't get the good seats.
They finished with "Satisfaction" and with that my second Stones concert was complete. Sitting in the rafters enabled me to see just how incredible a performer Mick Jagger is. He played to the entire stadium. Fifty Five thousand people went home happy. My son, his first concert, a STONES concert. Yes they are the greatest Iconic Rock 'n Roll band of our time. I feel fortunate to have experience their live show, not once, but twice. I cannot compare this experience to my 14 row ,, yet I got to see the show from a far and you know, "you can't always get what you want, but you get what you need!"
I got what I needed. A different Stones experience.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Beer and a Bison Burger

Although last week's assignment to the Grey Cup was work, our crew did manage to have a bit of fun. Like most road assignments a crew, and ours was no different, will get together for drinks or dinner after the work is done. With the backdrop of Grey Cup festival there were certainly no shortage of potential venues for entertainment.

There are a couple of true-isms about the Grey Cup. There's people from all over Canada, there's plenty of hops, and when the party goers need to eat, they eat meat. Now keeping this in mind, people watching at any of the watering venues is of course entertaining. After my first day and we coiled up the cables after our live hits, we thought we would go and grab a mug and check out the Grand Hall at the Convention Center.
The place was packed and there was a line waiting to get in, but our media accreditation's enable us to all jump the que. We were lucky to find a table and sat down to enjoy a hard earned beer and listen to the thump, thump of the live band playing. You could barely hear yourself think.

Jazz and Kink just after "raising the glass"

We hoisted our glasses in a toast to having made air. That first sip is always the most satisfying. Now all I need is something to eat. We decided as a group to move on to a sports bar near by as we could get some supper. Just as the lads were about to leave, I run into an old colleague from my days back in the Maritimes with ATV. It's Janet Stuart. I haven't seen her in 10 years. I stay behind and tell the gang I will meet up with them in a few minutes.

Janet and I posing for a photo. It was a nice surprise to bump into her.

Janet and I catch up with the each other. We speak of our time back at ATV and exchange what each of us is up to in the here and now. It was great to see her and learn of how much she loves living in Winnipeg.

I was able to catch up with the lads at the restaurant. But that too had a long line of people waiting to get in. Kink had called me, to find out where the hell I was. I was stopped by the door by the doorman.
"Hi, I got my crew inside they have a table and a seat and are waiting for me"
He looks at me and says, "You'll have to go to the end of the line, we're at our limit"
Now I may have paraphrased his answer, and I didn't add the rude tone to his voice. "Friendly Manitoba", my ass, I thought.

A quick call to Kink on the inside and the blockade was breached. I was in , Camera and all.
It was there that I tasted for the first time a thing called a bison burger. It was dry, but very filling and very tasty. Before the trip was over I would return for two more.

From there we returned to the Convention center for a nightcap. Along the way we are laughing about a story that Kink was telling about his exit from the convention center earlier in the evening.
He was of course hungry as he left and instead of going out the crowded exit he decided to go out some emergency doors. There were supposed to be alarmed, but with the noise of the band, the alarm went unnoticed. As he exited the others seeing him leave follow. Kink is about 10 seconds a head of them. He rounds the corner and heads down the stairs and to his surprise, shock or perhaps amazement, he happens upon a young party goer in a squatting position, undies around her ankles, relieving herself.
"Are you alright?" He asks not knowing what is happening.
She apparently is too embarrassed to answer, realizing that this is maybe her most awkward moment of her life.
Nope, that was about tens seconds later when, suddenly the rest of the posse comes around the corner. Now it's the worst moment in this young lady's life.

Of course Kink tells the story much better than I but you get the idea.

Dave and the boys from 54-40 entertaining the masses during night 3 at the Convention Center

As we are walking out of the Convention Center for the final time of the evening, we are relaying war stories and the like when we notice a police wagon and some guys speaking to police officers. Nothing unusual. Then one of the officers says "OK, hurry up and get in back , we'll take ya"
Suddenly several fellows get into the back of the paddy wagon, voluntarily. As it turns out, the police drove these guys, there was about 10 of them to another party. They went from Police to cab, free. Not bad. Maybe this was Friendly Manitoba after all.

Of course we noticed the dropping temperatures as we walked back to our vehicles. We are from the West Coast, cold temps are something that we have heard of but we have to got to the mountains to find them. We're such wusses when it comes to weather and the cold.

Jazz learns the hard way about the freezing point of his tongue after a double dog dare

Monday, November 20, 2006

Game Day minus 2

After a breakfast fit for royalty,I returned to my room to cut a piece that had be shot the day before. We had some time before we had to depart for the field. The edit went very well and the surroundings in my room at the Fort Gary Hotel were 100 times more comfortable then editing in our room back in the media village in Torino. The edit was done in very short order.

When we left the hotel, Perry and I headed over the CTV Winnipeg. This first morning for me on the ground at the Grey Cup would be one of getting my barrings and getting organized. First stop CFL HQ to get an accreditation photo. It turned out to be a very trouble free task.
Next on the agenda was to get out to Lion's practice at the stadium.
"Perry, we need to stop on the way and get me some gloves or mitts"
I knew I would forget something in my haste in packing of a day earlier. That something was a pair of 1/2 mitt-1/2 fingerless glove combo. I love these things. They keep my hands were comfortable and allow me to use my fingers on my right hand when shooting.
"Marks Work Warehouse is just across the street from the field." He said.

The stop at Marks only took a second. Now I had the full meal deal. My hands would be cosy. Now off to the field.
We arrived. Got our shots. Chatted with the others assembled to cover the game. There were many familiar faces. The temps were cooler than what we get back in our part of Canada. But as most Winnipegers know: We're all weather weenies on the west coast.

The temps were not too bad, bat standing around you begin to feel the cold. We grabbed our clips (interviews) and b-roll of the players we needed and bid the assembled gang, good day.
We departed back for CTV and met up with Field Producer Joan, Camera/Editor Jazz and Reporter Kink. It was the first time the five of us were together. They too had just returned from shooting a piece, but the Video gods had dealt them a body blow. Jazzman's camera went down. I gave him mine and they ran off to get what they needed with time becoming a factor.
I had put the finishing touches on the item I had cut earlier and assembled some bonus clips to be sent to Vancouver. Perry and Joan discussed what would be required for our 5 and 6 PM shows back in Vancouver. Perry would do a hit for 5 and then again for the Sports at 6. Kink would be cutting his piece for 6 that is if he could once again move the time /space continuum.

This is what Grey Cup is all bout, Drink Tokens. This shot at the Convention Center the hub of festivities for the fans and the site of our first live hit adventure from Winnipeg

Once we were fed we headed over to the Convention Center where we met up with the Truck. This would be the sight of our live hits. The local CTV truck had just done hits for their show from that location so that kinda determined how the live hits would unfold. The convention center was the entertainment center for Grey Cup week. So it seem like a good idea.
The first hit barely made it. Cabling/Liability issues became very apparent. When you have hundreds of party goers, and a long cable run, you know that there are going to be problems.
The first hit we were forced to set up away from anything substantial. That coupled with an IFB problem (namely there was no IFB). I was able to use my Mike phone to contact and communicate with Vancouver. Jimmy L was sitting in the seat back in Vancouver and provided the control room with our status. Jimmy/Perry and I formulate a plan to circumvent the IFB all together.
Jimmy cues me, I cue Perry, nobody at home knows the difference. Perry is such a pro, it goes off without a hitch.
Jazz arrives with Kink a few minutes later and it is decided that we will relocate to a better position. Joan hustles some colorful "guests" for background. Jazz and the Truck Operator from Winnipeg move the cables. Kink gets ready to do his hit for 6. And I set up again hand held and we are ready to go. This time we have found the IFB problem, its a faulty cable. The IFB doesn't become an issue for the rest of the trip.

Kink thinking up something brilliant just before going Live. Or could it be the near aneurysm his story gave him when the camera crapped out on his crew mate Jazz

Joany had hustled up some colorful background charactors: The Booze Brothers, they have been coming to more Grey Cups than most of them remember. They are from all over Canada

When it was all said and done we pack up and go up stairs at the convention center to share in a celebratory beer. It would not be the only one of the evening.
Not a bad first day. The night, well stay tuned.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Assignment: Winnipeg

This has been an incredible week. It began like most others except this one would take many twists and turns. I had received a call asking about whether I would be game for a road trip. Not just any road trip, on to the Grey Cup game in Winnipeg. I figured we would be sending at least one crew possibly two since the CFL team, the BC Lions advanced to the final with a killing of the Riders of Saskatchewan.
For those of you readers to the south, the Grey Cup is kinda like the Canadian Superbowl, but a hell of a less corporate. Its a celebration for the die hard fans of the Canadian Football League. I was kinda pumped for it.
The original plan was to leave on Thursday morning and file for Thursday, Friday and the weekend. Seemed good.
Tuesday brought a day of sober second thought and it was decided that we would scale down our coverage and that would mean I would not be going. No problem really. I have been lucky, I had a trip earlier this year to the Torino Olympics, so not going was not going to be a big deal.
"You were not meant to be in Winnipeg!" Sage words from Momma Murman, in a telephone conversation I had with here after getting the news.

Little did I know however that fate would deal me a different hand. I the got a frantic call late in the afternoon on Thursday. It was a day off for me and I had just returned home from a seminar.
"Murman" the familiar voice said on the other end of the phone.
"Yes Dave, whats up?"
"I need to get you on a plane for Winnipeg, there is a situation." He said.
I will not go into any specifics except one of the crew was dealing with a family emergency.
From the time I got the call to the moment I walked through security and took my seat on the plane only 2 hour and 15 minutes had passed.

As I sat there waiting to board, sweating up a storm, I thought : God have I forgotten anything.
I would be using gear left for me by the crew member I was relieving. I was worried about stupid things, like tape supply and lighting kits. I felt so naked boarding a plane , going on assignment without any camera equipment.

I flew out with a plane load of the team's cheerleader squad so there was no shortage of "eye candy". But excited cheerleaders, well they can make lots of noise, and there was certainly no shortage of sound waves in the cabin.

Before I knew it I was in Winnipeg. A city on the Canadian Prairie that I had not been to since 1977. I looked for a familiar face. Perry our sports guy and the person in which I would be spending the majority of my time with over the next few days. He was there waiting for me.
"Just let me pick up my bag, Perr"
Wouldn't you know it was the first one off the conveyor. That never happens for me. So far so good. I had been in the Airport of less than 5 minutes.

Our drive to the hotel downtown would require a pit stop at the hospitality room nearby. It was put on buy the the folks from Alberta and it was called the "Spirit of Edmonton". There was no shortage of Grey Cup fever in that place and it was there I began to understand what the "Grey Cup" experience would entail.

We only stayed for one quick "pop" and then headed to the hotel. Perry briefed me on what our day would involve for tomorrow.
We'll have our breakfast, and the Lions are on the field at 1PM. That should give you some time to get settled. We'll also check in at CTV Winnipeg and meet up with Jazz, Joan and Kink."
Sounds good.

It had been a whirl wind kinda day. One that began with an early morning seminar in Vancouver, and one that ended with me lying in a hotel room in Winnipeg, Manitoba wondering what the hell just happened!

Monday, November 06, 2006

When the Levee Breaks

It has rained hard in the Vancouver area for the past 4 days. It figures, my first day back on air duty and the rain would be heavy, the cloud would be low and the winds strong.
As I drove in this morning listening to Iron Maiden's "The Trooper", I figured that I would be spending the day on the ground, below VFR. (Visual Flight Requirements)
Rain is never too pleasant to shoot in anyway as the lens doesn't have a wiper. The best you can hope for is to zoom though on filter # 2 with 1/4 ND. Although this kills your f-stops, you can usually make out an image without raindrops shaking around the lens housing.

All that rain, more coming,,, hmmm, me thinks flooding could be in the cards. Nope. The first call is for a search for two hikers, teenagers , up on the back side of the Lions.
I look at the weather. The clouds are low. Ronn one of the fine pilots at Talon Helicopters, tells me he is on standby for the search. Talon has the contract for air search operations with the North Shore Search and Rescue crew.
I let the desk know what's happening. Before I get off the phone with the desk, Ronn lets me know he is on his way. The desk tells me to stand by. A few minutes go by, the weather to the west looks more promising. I get the word to launch.

The wind is strong and the rain is coming down. We head up to Lions Bay where we believe Ronn and North Shore SAR will be working. The clouds are very low. It doesn't look good. But somehow we get ourselves into the back of the Lions. The air is turbulent. I find myself regretting that diet Pepsi I had this morning.

Ronn's A Star during the morning search area behind the Lions

There are searchers on the mountain, but the weather is so bad we do not see them. The only thing I was able to collect up there are some pictures of the low cloud, a shot of the helicopter and a couple of mountain goats. The mountain goat thing was pretty cool, I had never seen them before while flying.

A Shot of the mountain Goats, they seem to be dressed for the weather

A wide shot of the back of the Lions and the crap weather we were dealing with

We opt to head back to the airport. The flight back is rough. When we land I figure that might be it for the day as the weather looks like s h i t .

The phone rings just as I get my hot soup out of the microwave. Its the desk. They have heard that there is severe flooding in the Chilliwack area. Again we check the weather. Hedeyia, our pilot for the day, gets a code. We are off to the Valley. The ceiling has improved around YVR, but as we head east it deteriorates. We are at about 500 as we hit Langley. We adjust course and head to the river. As we get to Mission, the ceiling improves.

We head into the area where the flooding is reported. Actually we had seen a lot of flooded farmers fields along the way. We head up the Chilliwack River. Bingo.

This frame grab shows where the levee failed, this is at a bend in the Chilliwack River

A levee has broken and the river has reclaimed about 25 homes and has closed the roadway. The shots from the air are what you might expect. I notice one home that has water halfway up its lower floor windows. Geeze I thought, imagine coming home to that.

Notice the water half way up the lower windows, that's not good

We orbited for several minutes and then we decide to go up stream to see if there is anymore damage. I call the desk and let them know we should send in the ground teams. They have already dispatched the SAT Truck and two crews.
We return to the scene where the most homes are in danger. After a bit Heday suggests we get some fuel. So its off to the Chilliwack airport for fuel. Maybe after I call the desk, I'll run in and get some pie. For those of you who don't get to the Chilliwack airport, there is a restaurant that serves the best home made pies on the planet. Yes sometimes we fly for pie! But it was not going to be today.

My phone rings as we are fueling, its a member of the Chilliwack Search and Rescue. They ask if we are still in the area.
"Yes, we are just taking on fuel"
"We believe we have spotted a fire on one of the islands, we may have a person stranded"

He gives me the position relative to the SAR base.
"Can you check it out for us, we are unable to get a helicopter for another 30 minutes"
"Not a problem, we will be back in the area in 3 to 6 minutes"
He gives me some radio frequencies which I scribble down on my palm and pass them to Heday.
When we get in and start looking for a fire, but we find a makeshift shelter. We orbit very low and then out of the shelter comes a man. He gives us a wave and goes back inside.
Heday calls the rescue center and verifies at least one person stranded.
We also recon the shrinking island to find a place either to land or to have SAR's helo land. There are no suitable options. SAR control decides to mount a rescue via rubber raft.
In the end they bring two people to safety.

This is the shrinking island that the folks were stranded on

Chilliwack SAR mounts a rubber raft rescue.

Members of the Chilliwack SAR team after they have rescued the stranded campers as they traverse the river

Safely to the other side and higher ground. A job well done and we were happy to have helped out

With the rescue complete, we head back to fuel up once more. A call to the desk to give them a heads up for my feed of the flooding and the rescue and we're away.

Heading back to Vancouver I feed the material, my radio crackles with another change in mission. Head back to the Lions as they have found the teens. They are hiking down to a landing zone and Ronn is going to pluck them off the mountain.

Ronn's second attempt in the afternoon, to pluck the hikers off the back of the mountain

We dash to the scene. I follow Ronn's AStar into the area. They have a visual, but the clouds are dropping fast. The Heli rescue is called off by the ground crews with the boys. They will hike all the way down. Ronn breaks off, but we continue. We finally get a visual of the rescue team and the boys. They are no doubt tired and wet, but they seem to look good. I grab some shots and we head for home. I feed the material on the way back.

Members of the North Shore Search and Rescue team with the now found teens, descending the back of the Lions

At the end of the day, we flew 4.7 hours, saw two rescues, a flood and an overturned barge in False Creek. Not too bad for a day that I thought the weather would ground us.
Its supposed to rain hard all week, no doubt we will see more flooding. I better go grab some shut eye as it just might be an other very busy day tomorrow.