Friday, February 26, 2010
That's me inside the Gunga diner set. Photo by Thanatos.
What can I say except -what an incredible day. I would say it was almost a spiritual journey, an RLSH day of enlightenment. Instead of peyote or meditating with sitar music, though, it was fueled by sleep deprivation and Burger King coffee. We were all to be amazed by the things we would see.
ON THE STREET WITH THANATOS
While I was catching some sleep, the crew picked up The Irishman of Seattle and got together at the pub. There they were approached by a man who asked if they wanted to buy some “cheddar.” He had it man, he had the “cheese,” he had the “cheddar.” Sure a drug deal was going down, Knight Owl, Motor-Mouth, Victim, and Irishman watched as the bartender ejected the man for dealing.
Later a woman was offering the same product. It was, actually, cheese. The good stuff, the gouda. Not street slang for anything other than an orange brick of dairy product. Motor-Mouth asked where she got the cheese from, and she admitted they had stolen it and were now trying to sell it on the black market.
She was selling the cheese to make some bread.
I was told this story around 4AM this morning in the parking lot of the Owl Hutch. Thanatos, Knight Owl, Motor-Mouth, and I are riding in the Thana-Van and Victim and Irishman are staying in contact with a walkie talkie, following behind in photographer Peter Tangen’s car.
We are all up at this hour because we are joining Thanatos on one of his (approximately) monthly handouts to the homeless. Once a month, Thanatos wakes up at this hour, assembles packages of supplies (in this morning’s case cereal bars, water, and plastic tarps- lots of rain lately) and delivers them to homeless. Some of these are new people, and sadly, there are new faces all the time. Others are people he sees on a regular basis. He has about 12 people or so that he knows where to find, and his green skull face is a familiar sight to them, as evidenced by our first stop.
A man has set up camp in the doorway of a Quizno’s. Thanatos says hello. Lying on the ground, the man fist bumps Thanatos, then seeing who it is, stands up to give him a hug.
“Oh yeah, bro!” He shouts. Thanatos stands and talks with him a few minutes, asking him how he is, and if he’s been able to get enough food. He gets back in the van.
He spots a woman in the doorway of a bicycle shop, sickly thin, shivering. He gets out and gives her the cereal bar, water, and tarp, and introduces himself. She says her name is Carina. She “could be better, could be worse” she tells Thanatos when he asks how she is. He notices that she’s had to punch several new holes in her belt. She’s rapidly disappearing.
As we head to a highway overpass, Knight Owl kicks up his feet and shuts his eyes. He’s had a lot of experience travelling and has learned to get a few seconds of sleep where he can get it.
Under the overpass, Thanatos finds William. At first, William didn’t have much to say to Thanatos, but the dark avenger kept stopping by and eventually William opened up to him. Thanatos, Irishman, and Motor-Mouth go to check out another overpass while the rest of us stand around. A police cruiser stops, and the guys explain what’s going on.
Back near Hastings and Main, we stop at a church. There are two homeless camped out in the doorways on both sides of the corner. Motor-Mouth and Knight Owl talk to one and Thanatos, Vicitm, and Irishman talk to the other. There’s more. And more.
Thanatos shakes hands and makes a connection with a man camped out in the storefront of Payle$$ Meats. In an alleyway he finds a man has a shopping cart propping up a cardboard wall in a doorway near a sign that reads “Keep clear- fire exit.” The cardboard wall is his only protection from the outside world. Thanatos peeks over the top, and talks to the man, delivering the supplies. After ten drop offs, we get coffee and sit around and talk at a Burger King.
We stop at the Owl Hutch, where we have an hour or so before we’re to meet back up with Peter Tangen at a studio nearby. We all try to catch a cat nap on the Owl Hutch floor.
In a warehouse studio he has borrowed, Peter takes some photos of the crew. Peter is working on a major artistic project involving the RLSH and this shoot will supplement work he’s done in Los Angeles and a previous shoot in Vancouver.
Peter even generously offers to take some profile pictures of me, so ooh la la next stop for me is the runways of Paris. It’s great to see him work. He gets down on the ground shooting pictures of Thanatos, trying to map out how it will look later on.
Peter has a pretty awesome surprise for all of us- he will be showing us all of the work he has done up to date. What followed was pretty much many long minutes of a room full of people (myself included) shouting OH MY GOD! AND HOLY (expletives deleted) THAT (more expletives deleted) RULES SO (etc.)HARD! Yes, that is how incredible the pieces were, everyone was filled with rapture and the craftsmanship that went into the pieces. Like I said, a moment of enlightenment. Peter filled us in with other plans for the show and you will be surprised to hear that [DESCRIPTIONS DELETED].
Knight Owl is not sure if he can get leave to make the show’s opening in June.
“I’m going to have to arrange a death or something.” He says. Thanatos points at him.
“I can make that happen.” He says, to much laughter.
As we headed back through the studio, we got to see a photo shoot with a firebreather. And she was a total "HOTTIE". Hanging out with RLSHs, watching an attractive and talented firebreather. Not bad, considering it wasn’t even noon.
THE CRYPT OF THANATOS
After this, Thanatos welcomed us into his home to talk about the meet up.
Thanatos has a full size coffin in the corner of his living room, where he keeps all of his RLSH related gear, masks, weapons, organizing materials. A cow skull rests on top of the coffin. As Lady Catacomb brews us coffee, Thanatos shows off his extensive tattoos and his nunchuck skills. The room also has a smaller coffin for a coffee table and a sarcophagus for a computer table, a toy set of the characters from Watchmen, Godzilla waving a “Go Canada!” flag, and a plastic skeleton on the wall.
That is not to say this is a creepy place. It is a small and cozy apartment, and in addition to the macabre decorations, there’s a lot of everyday stuff- a recipe for chocolate chip cookies and smiley face magnets on the fridge, knick knacks, and a Yoga Cat poster on a cabinet (I can haz inner peace).
We all talk about the last 4 days, and at one point circle around and talk about our favorite point. I say very honestly that I appreciate Thanatos taking us into the run down parts of the city so we can see where and what he is all about.
The thing about Thanatos is, he knows he is not going to clean up Main and Hastings. It’ll continue to be that way, and I hate to say this, maybe forever. He knows that dropping off tarps and blankets will keep people warm and dry for awhile, but that they’ll still be waking up in a tent in an abandoned urban lot the next morning. He knows his hand outs provide a temporary need.
But he knows something more important than that. He knows that by making a real connection, by treating the people he deals with respectfully, by just showing some compassion, some unselfishness, he is offering these people something they really need- a spark of hope.
SOME KIND OF MECCA
Rewind a few days earlier. We were walking on the street and Thanatos pointed out a couple of buildings used in the movie version of Watchmen. Then he added that he was pretty sure part of the set built for Watchmen existed on the outskirts of Vancouver.
Yep, it does. This place, which won't be around long, is a mecca of sorts, for sure. A three dimensional tribute to a storyline important to a lot of people in this scene.
We circled around the barb wire, peeking in. Some of the sets had been rearranged, but it was definitely it! We found a worker who nodded us to an entrance. When we entered, Knight Owl and Motor-Mouth took off like two kids at recess. Inside I shot a photo of Knight Owl on the set of his namesake’s brownstone entrance, Dan Dreiberg’s front door. We found the alleyway where Dreiberg and Silk Spectre found themselves having to kick some ass. We later identified the subway entrance as the one next to the newstand in the movie. There was Rorschach’s apartment, and the Gunga Din diner. The seats were gone, but the lunch counter and a giant picture of Mount Rushmore was still inside. It was a surreal experience.
After this, Irishman and I boarded a Greyhound for Seattle. Customs was much easier going out than coming in. I got a chance to talk to him for a bit, and we parted ways at the Seattle station. I headed toward my hotel, using the Space Needle as a compass.