Recently it occurred to me that both “phases” of my professional life have something in common: a ton of gear.
Case in point . . .
Phase One, 1987-2007: The Musician Years
I was a guitar player in several, very loud rock bands when the obsession with gear, and not just any gear, but the best, (and the most) I could afford began.
There was much in play here. Ego? Certainly. “Look at that guy’s rig! Wow!” “Your guitar tone is amazing!” Insecurity? Absolutely. I was never a particularly talented guitar player so I hid my lack of talent behind ear-splitting volume and top dollar tone.
I used to “schlep” aka “hump” aka carry 500-600 lbs of amps and guitars . . . to club gigs! Loading in and out usually by myself as I was typically the first one to the gig. Remember that great lyric from Jackson Browne’s, The Load Out? “ . . . they’re the first to come and the last to leave.” That was me. Drummers were often early on set as well as they always have a ton of stuff too. Thank you to every drummer I ever played with for taking pity on me and helping me with the truly heavy stuff! I carried a ton of drums in my day in return.
Amazingly the only damage I did to myself was screwing up my hearing. One would think I’d have chronic back problems, arthritis, etc. No, by some miracle these old bones can still hump a ton of gear. On the other hand, Tinnitus and high frequency hearing loss are no fun . . . but it was SO worth it.
Phase Two, 1991-present: The Tech Years
The first few years of this phase I didn’t have to carry anything. I was “chained to my oar” aka a CAD workstation. Then I got interested in land surveying and I was loading tons of stuff in and out my truck again. As time went by and I started travelling all over the world, laptops, projectors, and personal luggage were always with me. Not a bad load but still a pain in the ass (and many other places) to schlep everywhere. In 2006 my load increased dramatically. To the laptop, projector, and personal luggage RTK GPS surveying gear, then laser scanners, then SLR cameras, then drones, and all the supporting gear were added. I’m fairly close to several hundred pounds again.
Adding in air travel, (pre and post 9/11) FedEx, taxis / Ubers / rental cars only complicates the schlepping but I’m an old hand at all this now.
The looks on the faces of the agents at check-in and TSA . . . the EPIC fees I have paid for excess baggage . . . managing the piles, and piles of gear as the two phases overlapped – stashed in my garage, basement, storage unit . . . insurance . . . training . . . Crazy? Nah, I truly love it.
This isn’t a complaint. Instead it’s more of an observation. What can I say? I love gadgets and, more often than not, the difference between success or failure is having the right gear. So, I bring it all. Failure is not an option. The show must go on.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. The sore muscles, the bruises, blood, bad language, just like my shredded hearing, are worth it. I over plan, over pack, over worry. When things go wrong I adapt, improvise and overcome – more often than not by buying more gear. No doubt ego and insecurity are still at work but they’ve served me well. In almost 40 years I’ve never cancelled a show, a presentation, a gig, etc.
Luckily this old guy can still manage it all. A good thing as more gear arrives today from FedEx.