Monday, January 7, 2008

Hollywood, Week 17: Boys and Toys

October 12, 2005

"It is in games that many men discover their paradise." -Robert Lynd

I can’t speak for the rest of the TV industry, and I’m too lazy to do the research right now, but the staff of Veronica Mars is peopled predominantly by males. There are six writers and their assistant, an office manager, Rob’s personal assistant, and nine post-production people who edit the film sent north by the San Diego crew. Of these 18 people, five are women; the rest are boys.

Please note that I did not say men. Although they sprout facial hair and are presumably decorated with the other male accoutrements, the penis-encumbered folk with whom I work are unashamedly boyish. And I love them for it—and not in a Mary-Kay-LeTourneau-7-years-at-Purdy kind of way. I love that they are playful and fun, in a way that the women that I worked with back in Burlington were. They have an energy and camaraderie and goofiness that make working at VM a bit like being the one sister in a family of Brady boys. On crack.

Because we work in close quarters for up to ten hours a day, sharing three meals, a kitchen, and bathrooms, the group begins to resemble a family of sorts—complete with all the sunshine and shit that accompany any collection of people thrown together mostly by chance. If someone has a fight with their wife or really bad gas or a skull-splitting hangover, we’re all party to the suffering. By the same token, when Rob’s daughter stands for the first time, or John buys a house or Dayna takes a fabulous trip to Ojai, we all get to celebrate.

Working with 13 “men” is a bit like having a baker’s dozen of brothers—they tease us about our hair, leave the fridge door open, use our bathroom and stink it up, and complain about the way we park. They can’t close a cabinet door to save their lives, or refill the coffee maker, or load a roll of TP. However, they do burn CDs for us, diagnose weird smells made by our cars, advise our pre-date clothing options, defend us when we’re romantically wronged (“I will hate for you!” one Y-chromosome-bearing co-worker told me after my heart had been squished), and are never stingy with the praise when we appear on national TV (“You looked fantastic!” my boss told me).

They are strange creatures, these professional brethren. I have yet to appreciate their passions—Keira Knightly—huh? and when someone wrote “Jessica Alba’s ass” on the weekly grocery request list, I could only scratch my head. And then there’s Ahundo, the bewildering, never-ending dart game that consumes virtually every moment of downtime for the boyfolk. The magnetic gameboard is stationed on the wall immediately outside the women’s restroom, so the ovary-enhanced have to pass through what I call the Sausage Gauntlet to attend to our needs, and on more than one occasion, I’ve been booed and/or hit in the nose with a dart for emerging from the restroom at precisely the wrong moment.

Ahundo is specifically designed to exclude women. At least that’s my hunch. For one thing, it employs a complex and impenetrable set of rules, accompanied by an even more complicated score-keeping system involving more math than I’ve cried about since ninth-grade algebra. The players have offensive nicknames that mock their a) ethnicity b) genitalia c) sexual prowess or d) all of the above. Play involves loud exclamations of delight/angst, dancing and/or collapsing on the sofa, and employment of The Tampon of Anger, which, as its name suggests, is a cardboard-encased tampon that is hurled to the ground by a player unhappy with his throw. Ahundo has absolutely nothing to do with, or attract, women.

The best thing about working with men is the music. Although I have female friends who are musically inclined-slash-gifted, there are few women with whom I actively dish about new bands. I rarely trade CDs with anyone except my guy friends. None of my female pals, as far as I know, has 15,000 songs loaded on her computer’s shared drive, as does my boss, Rob. Working in an environment with men, being able to talk about music is almost as useful as being able to talk about the designated hitter rule or the neutral zone trap or Jessica Alba’s ass. I have nothing to say about baseball, hockey, or The Female Buttocks (except that mine are too dimply), so it’s helpful that I’ve read the latest reviews of Death Cab for Cutie and Apollo Sunshine and My Morning Jacket. I burned a Derby CD for Rob last week—because he had never heard of them—and felt like I’d earned a ticket into the club. Please excuse me for a moment while I shave my newly sprouted chest hair.

The truth of the matter is that I feel as at home with the guys at VM as I’ve ever felt anywhere. Maybe because growing up on Azalea Place, I was surrounded by families of boys. My first best friend was Kevin Porter. I learned to ride a bike on Craig Knudsen’s hand-me-down. I played Advance-and-Retreat and rode on the back of a motorcycle long before I owned a Barbie camper. I learned to throw a spiral and knew what a first down was before I owned a baton. And then I owned baton and lasted only one session in the Rosettes before I wanted to leave and go build a fort in the woods somewhere.

I like to think I have the best of both worlds now—like my mother and my grandmother, I appreciate sports but also have a knack for baking and crafts (please, let’s not talk about sewing). Like my father and my brother, I love music and exercise. Like so many men and women in my biological family, I am devoted to words and ideas and books and laughter. Surrounded as I am, at VMHQ, by brilliant, funny women, and talented, hilarious men, I am aware that these worlds have converged—the art, the science, the sports, the sounds, the words and the wisdom—and I have, for the time being, an amazing and unusual new family.

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