Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Job

It just occurred to me that I forgot to ever mention that I've started working.  So I was going to write "I help run the LightSpace floor over at McDermont on weekends", but then I realized that 2 out of the 3 proper nouns in that sentence would be jibberish to most people, so let me start at the beginning.

Lindsay is a packing town.  Ever heard of Lindsay Olives (its a brand that is sold at a lot of Costcos, among other places)?  That's us, we're that Lindsay.  They're are two sets of railroad tracks that run through town (rather than living on the "wrong side" of the tracks, we live between them).  Right next to those train tracks are multiple packing houses.  Most of them actually pack oranges and various other citrus--lemons, lime, grapefruits, etc--rather than olives. Right across the street from our house is a large packing house that sat inactive for a lot of years. In 2004, a delegation from the City of Lindsay took a trip to Manhattan to meet with a development firm (at least I think that was the reason) and while on their trip, they took a tour of Chelsea Piers.  For those of you not familiar with Manhattan (which I imagine is just about everyone),  Chelsea Piers was a very successful adaptive reuse projects, where several old inactive shipping piers were converted into a large sports complex. One of the city councilman said to the our city manager, "Lindsay needs a Chelsea Piers".  Well, of anyone I have ever known, Scot Townsend, the Lindsay City Manager, is the strongest believer in big dreams.  And the idea for McDermont Fieldhouse was born.

Doug was an intern for the City at the time, still working on his graduate degree.  But he worked remotely from San Luis through the school year and what he spent a good deal of his time on was using SketchUp (a computer modeling program, essentially)  to take photos of the abandoned packing house of McDermont Fruit Company, and create virtual model of what it could become as a family sports center.  Its come a long way since then.  The original two buildings have been successfully converted into a sports court (full size basketball/volleyball courts), impressive lazer tag basement (it really is pretty awesome), dance studio, concessions stand and a currently mostly empty arcade that will be filling up soon.  So far it houses multiple Xbox 360s. On top of that, a third building is being constructed (we're watching is progress daily) that is twice the size of the original structures and will house a few regulation size soccer fields, a dance/game floor, a bigger than life size redwood tree that will have party rooms inside it, a five story rock climbing wall, a fitness center (gym), a waterfall where smaller McDermont fans will be able to pan for gold, and a zip line that will be higher than I ever care to be just attached to a rope.  There are also three levels of catwalks (the highest one being about 4 1/2 stories up, I think) that will go around the whole thing and also serve as observation points for watching games and all the goings on in the building.

So this last September I went with Doug (he's the Operations Manager for this place) and a few other management folk to a trade show in Vegas where they have arcade games and activities, prize suppliers, even some carnival rides that are small enough to put inside large activity centers.  Anyway, apparently last year when they were at the same show Scot and Brad (Doug's co-director) had seen this thing called a LightSpace floor that they really liked, and were hunting for it since this year they were ready to start buying.  It is a square floor, about six feet square, that is made of lights and is pressure sensitive.  You can use it as a dance floor, as the software that they've created for it has various light shows and patterns that you can play alone, or will sync to the beat of music if you hook up something like an iPod.  You can also add a second effect that will show a different light pattern everywhere you step, so you create sort of a wave or ripple effect on the floor as you dance.  Its pretty trippy.  But it can also be used to play games.  There's Dodgeball, which is just what it sounds like except instead of an actual ball, you have to try to not get hit by the digital ball of lights that chases you around the floor.  Or there's Bug Invasion, where the "bugs" (balls of light on the floor) of various colors run around the floor, and you chase the ones that are your color, stomping on them before they get away or disappear.  There are lots of other games, but you get the idea.

Like I said, Scot is a believer in big dreams, so I wasn't surprised to hear what he had to say to the two smooth salesman from Boston who were at the show, nor was I surprised to see the look of both excitement and bewilderment on their faces as he spoke. As best I can remember, Scot said he thought a six foot floor was a great idea for the arcade, but couldn't you make a floor about four or five times this size, so you could have a whole dance studio with this as the floor?  They replied that they really hadn' t ever made a floor that big.  So he said, "But could you do it?".  They told him that they could make the floor any size, but that the software that runs the light shows and games was designed to run a floor this size.  So of course he asked if they could somehow amend the software to run a bigger floor.  So they looked at each other and said, "I guess we could figure it out."   As I sat there looking at the salesman and Brad standing there looking at Scot, I wanted to tell our new Bostonian friends, this is what Brad and Doug's job is like everyday.  Scot has these incredible ideas, this great vision and then just kinda says, "Make it work".  (Don't get me wrong, he works harder than anybody in the city, he just has a different job than they do).  It always seems to come together in the end, though.

So that's where I come in.  Until Building C is complete and a 30'x30' floor is installed as a sort of aerobics center/dance club is created where a boxing ring was originally planned, there's a 21'x16' floor between the sport courts and the lazer tag basement where we are running games on Friday and Saturday evening when lazer tag is open.  So sometimes Friday, sometimes Saturday, sometimes both, I don a McDermont staff shirt and get paid $10/hr to manage the chaos.  Hey, if it involves wearing a wireless mic, a computer and occasionally getting to play a round or two myself, I'm in.  I've only been doing it for three weeks, but so far its been a lot of fun (except for the occasional young delinquent in the making who seems to sense that I feel more pity than anger for him and decides to attach himself to my side for the evening).

And it couldn't have come at a better time.  Doug offered me the opportunity with the idea in mind that I could use the money I make to do all the things I wanted to do, like buy birthday presents for family members and artwork for the house and spoil the kids with more stuff than they probably need, and I'll still do some of that.  But I just found out that we're expected home in Montana briefly next fall, a trip we may very well be unable to make otherwise.  Now I should be able to save enough money to buy plane tickets for the four of us.   I'm grateful for the opportunity.

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