A step back in time…
Oct. 1, 2009
It’s 2:13 AM, and I am trying to make my way through the darkness of the old train concourse with the silence of a ghost. It’s cold and lonely in this place, with the exception of flashlights faintly illuminating walls and pathways at the other end of a span that’s the length of a football field. The investigators are standing in one figurative end zone, and I, in the other. This is a ghost hunt, from the perspective of a non-hunter.
At this point, I have been on the road for 24 days, and our current stop is in Buffalo, New York. This is stop number three on a five-city tour. It’s exhausting, shooting at night, then turning around to capture daytime, b-roll footage of all these towns and cities. Cast interviews are also peppered in the mix when time permits. On nights like these, we sometimes nod off in the shadows, as our duty during filming is to remain quiet and out of sight. At the same time, we are forever on call. A live walkie-talkie feed intermittently buzzes directly in our ears with requests for fresh batteries, new camera tapes, and water.
“Exhausting” in this context means that we put so much time and effort into the work, and have such an inconsistent schedule, that it seems Casper’s evil twin could pick one of us up – and violently twirl the person around overhead – and hardly anyone would take notice. This is the life of TV production. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s extremely difficult. Sometimes it’s a bit of both. In this case, the big reward comes through getting paid to travel, making new contacts, and working with the hosts of the show again. And when it’s all said and done, it’s great knowing that this production will provide an outlet for some viewers and hopefully enhance their lives in at least a small way.
This is the second of a three-night investigation. I have really become keen at silently gliding through the darkness, despite wearing heavy, steel-toed boots. On a couple occasions now, I have unintentionally startled some co-workers by silently slipping into a room they are in, for them to realize my presence when turning on a flashlight for a moment. “How the hell did you get in here/How long have you been sitting there?” have earned me the nickname “Creeps.” It seems that, in most cases, such a name would be derogatory but, in this case, I take it as a cordial shout-out to my ninja-like attributes.
Investigations normally starting wrapping up around dawn. That should be the case tonight, as this place is surrounded by windows that would reveal a bluish sky and subsequent daylight beginning to peak through. In contrast, a couple weeks ago we were shooting two levels below deck on a battleship. The investigation was going really well and, with no way for the sunlight to make its way in, we continued to film until the team felt it was the right time to wrap things up. THAT was a long night.
The low temperature tonight is 41 degrees. We must have reached that point long ago. When we flip on flashlights, especially our headlamps, the warm air from one’s breath swirls around in the beam. And it’s especially blustery when you can feel wind gusting down the corridors.
There is a certain vibe to this place. It’s easy to imagine its former prominence, beginning in the late 1920s. You imagine these things – the bustling corridors, the vendors, the noise, the smell of food – and you open your eyes and nothing is there. It’s like the part in Forrest Gump where Jenny, dressed in all white, walks across the front lawn and eerily disappears.
It’s obvious that the giant train station has been slowly crumbling for a long time now, but a conservancy is slowly working to restore the massive property. I don’t know what the music scene is like here in Buffalo, but the main concourse would make for a really, really cool music hall.
Although this place seems so quiet and empty, we all know it’s not. People are around, somewhere…people that aren’t with us. Among the odd rooms downstairs filled with trash and odd, unrecognizable machinery, also strewn about are old clothing and a sleeping bag. The “KISS rules” graffiti adorning one wall makes me believe some parts of this building have been untouched for quite some time.
Eyes are growing heavy. Time to dream another dream, probably yet another about driving. It’s not escapism… rather, it’s just what I have been doing a lot of lately, more than ever. Signing off from the Empire State.
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