Monday, January 19, 2009

Production Is About Taking Care

I love production.

Eventually I'll start putting up some of the many photos we've taken; probably an entire page dedicated to photos so you cans them all, not just the ones we'll use in our posts. Right now however, I'm managing my energy carefully.

For days it's been 1-2 hours of sleep. Some nights -- at least twice in the last week -- literally it has been no sleep at all, going 50-55 hours with maybe a fifteen minute cat-nap sitting up somewhere, nodding out.

LM jokes about perhaps twice, ever, finding me asleep lying down. (We're roommates whenever we're on the road, plus I'm staying at his home in New York City.) Normally he finds me asleep sitting up, half-slumped over the keyboard, fingers just off the keys, in the middle of whatever. It isn't that I don't want to lie down; it's that before I manage to lie down, I just fall out.

So far this trip -- New York City to Washington D.C./Arlington VA (where we're staying)/and back to New York City -- we've been VERY lucky/the production Gods have smiled on us as these events go. We had a few VERY bad things happen which could have blown up the whole trip -- starting with my car electrical system which you wonderful readers saved us on -- which had luck, some good choices, and sometimes some lucky good choices, not broken our way, we'd have been up the creek.

We've also discovered some key tools and benefited from the kindness of strangers without which our entire coverage would have collapsed, or gone seriously awry.

  • Car rental trouble - saved by the rental chain manager being wonderful.
  • Renting a scooter for me as per Sara's - otherwise yesterday would be a FAIL; way too far to go. Even with the scooter the physical demands were intense. Being able to sit down and rest made it barely possible. If I'd had to walk, I'd not have made it half an hour, let alone stood up for the two plus hours of the concert.
  • We had credentialing problems - the PIC were great with us in terms of fixing them once we showed up. The fact I was in my scooter may have had something to do with it. None the less, I'm very appreciative of how drama-free, rapidly, and properly they took care of us. The PIC has been WONDERFUL across the board. In contrast to those bastards at the Senate Press Galleries.
  • We have a GPS. Oh, what a joy. Punch in an address, follow the instructions, and we're there. It also has saved us many times.
  • The wonderful folks we're staying with. They've taken care of us, opening their doors, breakfast table -- BLUEBERRY PANCAKES, yo! -- and hearts. As well as the enormous amounts of electricity necessary to keep two bloggers and their cameras, video devices, multiple computers, telephones, the scooter, and assorted other weird devices all charged and running. I have at least six outlets going right now, and I'm sure some devices aren't charging currently.
  • The people at Emily's List were amazing as well. More on them when I write my Emily's List post.
  • Washington D.C. Metro employees whom have been helpful to us in the midst of chaos.
  • And at least 5-6 other incidents I can no longer remember.
What I'm present to is how fortunate we've been this trip in people being nice to us, taking care of us, and in the choice of the correct tools, often seemingly by chance, but in retrospect our choices put us on paths which were just... right.

Today we slept in. I got ten hours of sleep. I can't remember the last time I got ten hours of sleep.

There are photos from last night. I have stories to write, about the Lunch yesterday at Emily's List, about the Concert (the Opening Ceremonies.) About what is is like to be back in New York City for the first time in a quarter-century. But today I had to sleep, try and get some energy back, just recover. I've been on the go, pushing pushing pushing, for at least 10 days, maybe longer.

My job, you see, on these events, is to get it done. There are no excuses for a failed event. Here, in Denver, and at other times, where ever GNB's goes to bring you a story, my job is to make goddamn CERTAIN that everything works right, no matter what, that our reporters and their needs (and the needs of everyone we come in contact with) are taken care of, leaving us available to report and file stories without anything getting in the way. If our reporters have their attention on production issues, I'm not getting my job done.

For example, this afternoon I and our host, drove to the Metro station LM and I are using in the morning and scouted where we'll park, if it's free or not (for disabled parking it is, everyone else pays), if there's a cut in the curb for my scooter, if there's an elevator. Then we drove into town to the ballroom where we're going tonight, looked around till I found the recommended parking structure, two blocks away and kind of hidden. It would have been HARD to find in the darkness. But now I have the street address and can program the GPS to find it no matter what. And I know about street cuts for the two blocks to the ballroom door. LM and I leave in less than 15 minutes from now. That kind of prep work is managing production. (And I'd already looked at one of those sites, as well as much of tomorrow's by overhead photo weeks in advance.) Plus I've been studying maps of tomorrow, writing down access/egress notes, and possible power recharging locations for the scooter, which is my biggest known problem for tomorrow, all morning.

Taking out the possible surprises. The one's you can't manage will be more than enough. *laughs*

Tonight (in minutes) we're going to the Netroots Nation ball at The Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington. Five hundred of the top bloggers and their friends in the country. Not even bringing a computer. (Well, my BlackBerry doesn't count, does it?) Taking the night off and just relaxing. We won. Time to have a night with friends and celebrate, dammit!

Tomorrow morning EARLY we're going to the National Mall to cover the Inagural. IF we can, afterwards, we'll swing over to Pennsylvania Ave and try and get some parade coverage (but no promises.) The ENTIRE National Mall has NEVER been filled. Last night the estimate was about half a million and from where we stood, able to reach my hand out and touch the stage-left corner of the stage (which I did more than once) the Mall looked packed. However beyond my view, at the GW Monument, the crowd ended. Tomorrow the prediction ranges from 3-4 million with EVERY part of the National Mall filled from one end to the other. Never happened before in history and may never happen again. This is the real deal, blueberry-baby-cakes. Place will be PACKED.

If you are attending tomorrow, DON'T BRING ANYTHING YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE. Security is intense. The checkpoints are through. They won't save anything for you, and you ain't getting whatever it is, through. Don't hold up the line; leave it at home.

If you want to watch either the inagural or the parade, be IN LINE no later than 8 am. Metro opens at 4 am. Be on the Metro by 5 am at the latest. We're going to be on the Metro at 4 am and in line by 5 am-ish. Why? Because to do otherwise is to risk being trampled under millions of people who are late, or to miss the event. Security (and the Metro) simply don't care if you're late, and can only process so many people an hour.

The key to warfare is logistics. The key to production is managing pieces, managing logistics, that is, making sure you are in a dance with the world and people as it and they show up. That way you're not surprised, and can keep dancing towards the committment you are that shall be. The bottom line to all of it is, taking care, paying attention, communication, giving people a safe space.

Our writing will continue over the next days as we bring you coverage. It won't all go up all at once, both because that isn't GNB's style, and because there are only two of us and we have living we have to do in the midst of this all including driving back to New York City tomorrow evening after all this is done. (We're not staying for the balls.)

More as we have it.

From the GNB Newsdesk in Washington D.C., this is Jesse Wendel. We're covering the inaguration of President-elect Barack Obama, now with under 19 hours to go before Mr. Obama is sworn in as 44th President of the United States. (Wow, try saying that last little bit outloud. It feels GREAT.)

Good Night.