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Taipei Days Ten and Eleven

December 27th, 2010 · No Comments · Grucci

e on the 82nd floor of Taipei 101 – slightly better weather today! (12/26)

We’re in the shit now, boy I tell ya! It’s unfortunate, but various delays and problems keep cropping up that force us to curse whatever fireworks god has a decided to take a dump on us for this show. Despite the mumbling and grumbling, people are buckling down and we’re doing what needs to be done to get everything ready to go on time and as planned. Despite a massive snow storm that hit the east coast of the US right after Christmas, all of the remaining Grucci crew were able to make it off the ground without any major delays, which was really the one break we needed – we have enough people coming over (they landed tonight) to start working around the clock in 2 shifts. There are of course some people breaking down, but there are limits to anyone and given the work we do, it’s downright dangerous and irresponsible for someone to be working on the job past the point of exhaustion. You don’t think poorly of the guy who decides he has to go home and go to bed – unless he does it constantly of course.

Yesterday the 26th was the first long day we pulled. I tried to wake up early to have another Skype video call home (called home the night previous, which was Christmas morning back home) but decided I needed to bank some sleep – boy was I right! Today it was straight to 101 to finish installing the 82nd floor props. We had only managed to complete one face the day previous, and wanted to finish off the level today. The morning went well, and we managed to bang out an entire face before lunchtime. Weather was also improved – though still chilly there was no rain and the clouds stayed above us. It even got even better as the afternoon wore on and the sun breaking through the clouds provided for some awesome atmospheric shots. Check the gallery below.

The reason I was able to take all these pictures is because I spent a large portion of the afternoon waiting around, since we had decided to do two faces at once to finish off the level after lunch. Unfortunately that didn’t work out as well as we planned, so while one face was busy getting sorted and raised, I just chilled with the group at my face and snapped photos – we wanted to go around and help the other group but would have just been in the way. Unfortunately this also meant that by the time we were well into the final face, it was getting dark out. So we broke out the lights and kept on chugging, eventually finishing off the level around 8pm.

Still hard at work after the sun has set

Work wasn’t done yet, however, as we still needed to make sure we had the props to install on the 64th floor tomorrow morning – two faces worth. So since the workshop was still behind in producing the props, we all piled into cabs and got dropped off at Dajia to lend a hand where needed. I ended up at “quality control” which means I had to test to make sure the prop was assembled correctly, all the product was wired in, the cues were properly set, and the right amount of cable was attached. Having a full level of install experience and seeing all kinds of messed-up props we had to fix on-site, I was happy to be making sure things got sorted out here rather than at the building. The unfortunate thing about the Giant Show people (I’ve been calling them Big Show here – ooops!) is that they seem to rotate a lot, so the prop shop has had to deal with a lot of new workers that churn out error-ridden props.

During the night, while checking props, I suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of fireworks going off. It was fairly distant, but your rational mind doesn’t react quite so fast and I almost had a heart attack thinking all this product around me was starting to cook off. After a few fleeting seconds of panic, I realized they were about half a mile upriver and when one of us went to check, we found an empty consumer cake some group of people had just decided to set off.

Fireworks in the near distance at Dajia scare me half to death!

We finally finished off the last of the props that we needed the next morning and were able to head home at around 11:30pm – mind you I got up to start the day at 6:30am. Because we needed to get all the props unpacked at 101 and set up before the riggers arrived so we would be able to lift ASAP, call time for the next morning was 6:30. The only benefit to working so late was that I finally got a lot of decent night photos from 101.

The next day (today), 6:30am came way too soon – that was actually the time we all started piling into cabs, mind you. Overall the day was as rough as yesterday, the only improvement being the weather, which was partly cloudy and sunny and not much of a breeze while we were tackling the 74th floor faces. Despite the quality control a lot of us installers put into props last night, we got there well after many had been already checked & boxed, so several props today were still missing cables or had bad cues that needed to be hunted down or were made slightly incorrect (but thankfully nothing we couldn’t fix onsite). We also continued to have trouble with the riggers getting two faces going at once, so we kind of hopped back and forth to optimize time as best as possible. I also heard we were getting some rotation in the rigger personnel as well, although I’ve always had the same guy around me.

On the 74th floor of Taipei 101 – you can finally see the mountains!! Great weather today

I was also fortunate today to really get to know some of the Giant Show guys better. My new buddy is PJ, and the guy is a hoot. He’s like 6 feet tall, which is petty huge over here, and says he works out with free weights every day. His English is pretty damn good although he refuses to admit it despite me trying to tell him how little Chinese I know in comparison. But while we worked together to install and lift props, we began to teach each other words in Chinese and English. I learned light, good, okay, no, on, off, up , down, and money. I remember maybe half of them 😛 I’m so bad at languages!! Anyways it’s nice to have a local to hang out with – I just wish we had time to do it outside of work!

There was a third member of our lift team today, Tatsumi. As soon I heard his name I said “Nihongo?” which means Japanese and he smiled and nodded. His English was pretty good too, better than PJs, so all together we made a pretty sweet team. Even crazier was Tatsumi wasn’t even a pyrotech! He was the assistant to the artist that did the design work on the building for the show! He just wanted to do something while he was here that wasn’t sitting in an office or meetings so I was happy to oblige, and he was very helpful and had no problems catching on to what was needed of him. Plus I got to use some of my very limited Japanese and talk some Japan stuff with him. I felt bad that I kept asking PJ for more Chinese words while not bothering to ask for the same word in Japanese from Tatsumi, but I’m in China right now instead of Japan and, more importantly, I can barely handle learning anything new in one language!

Even though install problems still cropped up here and there, we generally could throw a prop on the back plate in 8-10 minutes. It felt a lot like a Nascar pit crew operation. Every prop had the same basic steps, and by the end of the day the three of us and our rigger all knew what we had to do to get a prop installed and ready to lift. The only times this was messed up was when I needed to dismantle things to fix whatever problems occurred. Still, when you consider all 7 columns having prop issues every now and then, the riggers working to keep pace and still having to attach two horizontal cables, time still drags out and despite a good early start we didn’t finish the first two faces until around 2pm. However, that was also due in part to a labor inspection during which we could not work for around an hour – another one of those turds getting dumped on us. So although we finished off floor 74, it wasn’t until 9pm. Then we tried to do a face of 66, but couldn’t get the riggers to set up in time and ended up calling it a day around 10.

My awesome lift team, Pijou (PJ) on the left and Tatsumi on the right

Although PJ will be sticking around throughout the week, unfortunately Tatsumi of course won’t be coming back tomorrow, but we did exchange business cards to keep in touch. Hopefully another Giant Show tech I worked well with yesterday will be back as well (he wasn’t there today). These are great people and I enjoy working with them.

The pressure cooker is set on high, and it will be interesting to see how the next few days will unfold. Everyone is telling me this is the hardest show they’ve been on, and I sure can believe it. I’ve put myself into crunch mode many many times before, but that was mainly to complete personal projects – this is the first time I’ve been in a crunch with other people as well. One thing about crunch is it really brings out the core essence of a person. I know I’ve toughed it out admirably so far, but I’m wondering if I’ll be reaching my own limits before show day arrives.

To cap off the night, while waiting around for the riggers we heard fireworks going off again. It was interesting to spot them and realize they were bursting so far below us 🙂

Luckily this section of the city is devoid of Vegas-like lighting so it’s a bit easier to spot the burst of fireworks in the center of the photo. We’re so high the angle means the spot in the photo you see the burst is also practically the spot they were shot from.

Until next time – whenever that is!!

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