Monday, October 13, 2008

Last Chance to Shine

This entry in my blog details the most aggravating day of the fall, followed by the most extravagant.


First of all, I ought to be shot.

Saturday very well could have been the last beautiful day we'll have in Southern Wisconsin for six months for all I knew, and certainly the most beautiful day we've had in almost a month. Villain that I am, I took a young man in his prime and made him spend the body of it sitting in a closet lined with blankets, with all sound from the outside world drowned out in headphones as he stared at a small screen that showed him snippets of the same video clips over and over and over and over.

Had I been Eric Plantenberg on Saturday, I would have shot me. As it was, I wanted to shoot me anyway for keeping myself inside all day, and I wasn't the one stuck in a closet. But this guy troopered it out, and he deserves mad respect.

Eric's the leading man in The Big Film We've Been Working On, and with a fine cut pieced together, it's my job to fix the dialogue that didn't take the first time around. For that, there's the highly repetitive process known as ADR, which we sort of managed to pull off at my house.

Basically, lacking any budget at all, I took a little utility closet in my one bedroom flat and lined it with blankets to reduce noise bleed and echo. I ran a microphone from the closet into my digital recorder, and a computer monitor in from my laptop. Somehow, I managed to find room in the closet for Eric and a chair, set up some speakers to output from the digital recorder, and we were able to roll tape.

I was really happy with the final product we had. The audio is as clean as if we'd recorded in a full-fledged recording clean, in fact, we'll probably have to muddy it up some so it doesn't stand out from the rest of the audio when we dump it into the mix.

But I must have counted down, "3-2-1," I estimate, somewhere on the order of a thousand times. We bagged 138 lines, at an average of 7-8 takes a line, and it took us a good six or seven hours to finish it. I was happy with how productive we were, but nursing a hangover and sleep deprived as I was, I was mostly just a crotchety bastard by the end of the day.


Contrast Saturday, cooped up inside with a grudge against the world, against Sunday, and it's like I had a bipolar weekend. As a rule, I'm convinced there's something magical about the last day before winter sets in, and I'll usually go out of my way to spend it outdoors if I have a hunch the end is near.

My buddy Kyle and I gassed up the bikes (read: motorcycles) Sunday and headed southwest into Green, Iowa and Lafayette Counties. If you've never been into this part of the state before, know this: there's nothing there, save a few small towns and the rolling hills and valleys of the driftless region, marred only by the snaking ribbon of Highway 151.

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For the sake of scenery, we avoided main roads like 151, choosing instead to improvise a route along the more rural roads. Let's face it: they're more peaceful, they're prettier and they're a lot more fun to ride. Leaning into turns, climbing, banking, falling, weaving, it's probably the closest I can ever get to being a fighter pilot with my political views, my conscience and our nation's political climate.

We chose Darlington because Kyle said he had a friend, Silas, whose family had a farm down there. He said we were invited to drop in, take a look around and maybe grab a bite to eat. I have some rural roots myself, and I never shy away from the chance to get a bit of shit on my boots.

Turns out, the family had a "farm" there, and a gorgeous one at that. Silas's parents are very well-established in the Darlington community. His mother is the Lafayette County District Attorney, and his father is part owner of Lafayette County's Memorial Hospital. While the "farm" did have livestock and crops, this was no plant-the-proceeds operation struggling to get by. It was an estate, a rural paradise, and we were welcomed with open arms and a healthy dollop of small town hospitality.

Silas's mother greeted us in the kitchen, clad in denim bib overalls and a red bandana. As she cooked (we offered to help prepare the meal, but she said everything we could have helped with had already been done), she told us the household had been living off its own produce for the past couple of months. For the basics, they still had to rely on the grocery store in town, but the only thing in the meal we ate that hadn't been raised on their land was the rice and the spices.

The meal itself was divine. Silas fried up a hamsteak the size of a boogey board, then divied it up on a serving plate. Another friend of his, an Indian grad student, whipped up some authentic curry that I could have eaten by the pound had it not been for the polite company. Some rice, fresh greens and home-bottled sparkling water topped off the setting.

As we were carrying plates out to the picnic table, the phone rang. With a glance at the caller ID, Silas's mom shrugged off the phone call. "It's about the campaign," she said nonchalantly, referring to her own bid for re-election as DA. Clearly, this was a family that feels the way I do about the last day before winter sets in.

Silas's Dad, an MD, "came in from the fields" for dinner as well. He had been out working doing some trenching on the land. After dinner, the young twenty-something contingent of our troupe walked the back pasture, looked at the cattle, hiked down along a crick and scoped out a four-ton oak that had blown down in a wind storm and needs to be removed. When I left, I was heartily able to say I was pleased to have made their acquaintance.

The day began with next to no expectations. By the time I put the bike in the shed for the night, I had ridden 150 miles through gorgeous autumn countryside, met some good honest hard-working people and fallen in love, again, with the state I've grown up in.

Now, as winter closes in, I'll find new reasons to despise it, but I'll never really be able to hate living in Wisconsin. I think that's part of the beauty that is life here. The lows are pretty damn miserable, as last winter's record snowfall will exhibit, but they only serve to elevate the already dizzying highs... higher.

I miss summer already.


Bryan Kerrigan said...

Dusty, you're making me miss WI all over again. Can't wait to be back over xmas, just bought my plane ticket.

Shine on you crazy diamond.


Anonymous said...

This fall has been really fantastic, and last weekend was definitely a good one. Probably the last really good day of the season. And I was dreadfully hungover.