It was 7pm in early October. The sun had set a while ago. It may as well be midnight the sky was so dark, but that’s good. Dark was good.
We were in all black. We rented a 14ft U-Haul, and that U-Haul was positioned in an alley next to a Mobile station. It was Tegan, Curtis, and me. I wanted to wear my mustard pants but Tegan wouldn’t let me. That’s why we were in all black. Then my buddy Mark showed up in his 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle and the most dangerous photoshoot of my life had officially begun.
In front of us, towering in the sky, was the biggest building in West Hollywood, a building nobody could ignore. It’s because of that we had to overtake it, and I had staked out our spot perfectly… Nobody would catch us.
Curtis carefully backed our U-Haul further into the narrow alleyway by the side of the gas station on Santa Monica and Highland and turned the engine off. My heart thudded with excitement and power as I kept all the equipment from toppling over in the back of the truck. If the gasoline-powered generator fell over, or any of the other equipment, I’d end up bankrupt, if I hadn’t already by the end of this. There was absolutely no more debt to be had; one more dollar and it was a wrap.
Once the U-Haul stopped moving, Tegan opened the garage-like back door and fixed herself up as Curtis came around and made sure his police scanner was working.
“How do I look?” Tegan asked in her skin-tight jumpsuit.
I had to be careful of my answer. In my new way of life as a sober man, I was not about to even bridge the pavement of cheating on my new girlfriend whom I had worked so hard to get.
“You look efficient,” I told her.
“Efficient? That a new word for smokin-ass sexy?” Curtis mumbled as Tegan went to ask the gas station attendant if we could leave the Uhaul where it was while we “grabbed some dinner” at Subway, exactly as we had planned her to do.
“Gotta keep focused,” I told him.
“Yeah but still though, girl got ass.”
He was right, but that’s not the point. If we got sloppy we’d end up in jail. I think.
Tegan waddled her way back and told us the guy said no problem.
Great. So, we walked across the street to the Subway, ordered four sandwiches and waited for the sun to completely set. Outside the Subway, Mark set up his camera on his tripod about three hundred feet away from the U-Haul, and after confirming it was positioned properly, he packed up and met us inside. He sat down without saying anything and began eating.
“We good?” I asked impatiently.
“I’m good. Are you?”
“Yeah man, we’re more than good.”
“Cool. Now if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna politely distance myself from you three for the rest of the night. I’ll send you the photos tomorrow, provided you’re not in prison.”
“Prison?” Curtis asked.
“If anything jail,” I told them.
“If you get me sent to jail I will never speak to you again.”
“Tegan, you love me.”
Dammit, that was flirty. Stop that shit. Darkness arrived. We crossed back over and snuck into the back of the truck and put our flashlight from our iPhones on and began the setup. A C-Stan, one Leko light with a stenciled gobo, three lenses, and a gasoline-filled generator.
Curtis turned his police radar on again, we lifted the generator outa the U-Haul and onto the pavement, and Tegan got in the driver’s seat to keep lookout.
“Let’s do this shit,” I said.
“Ready dog, let’s go.”
and Curtis tugged the generator with all his might as I aimed the projector straight at the top of the building and…
Carpe Noctis illuminated the side of the biggest building in Hollywood. Our logo was big and bright and centered so that all of the rush hour traffic would see it. The entire city will know who we are. And THEN… poof.
It was gone.
“Fuck happened?! Turn it back on!”
“You think I ain’t know that shit? Shit turned off! It’s broken or some shit…”
Then BOOM! It was back!
Then POOF… It was gone again.
The light kept flickering on and off. The generator must be broken, or the projector. Fuck.
“What do I do boss?” Curtis asked me.
“Just let it go on and off, fuck it. We got no choice. Let it flicker, fuck it. Flicker that shit all night till we get some footage, or till we get arrested. Maybe we should get arrested? You know, just to make headlines.”
Tegan was came around to the back.
“Cayea thinks we should get arrested Tegan, how you feel bout that?”
“Greg. I’m serious. I’ll leave.”
“I was kidding.” I wasn’t, but Curtis and Tegan did NOT like that idea. So I abandoned it. “Tegan, go see—can you see if Mark is getting this?”
“He is, I texted him. He’s getting it. Why don’t you keep it on? It’s giving everyone driving a seizure.”
“We know, it’s not working.”
“Let me try it.”
“You gonna be better at it?”
“Just keep on it Curt, keep it flickering.”
The stench of gasoline was filling the back of the U-Haul. Then a helicopter flew by.
“That a ghetto bird?” Curtis asked.
Ghetto bird is slang for LAPD helicopters. Tegan was getting more antsy.
“Did they see it? Oh my God. They know we’re here. Guys, we should leave,” she said.
“No fucking way,” I told her.
Tegan got worried. “Guys. Please, let’s leave, we got it.”
“A little more,” I convinced them. Then even I got nervous. “Fuck it. We got all the footage we need, right? Text Mark again.”
“He’s gone,” Tegan said looking at where he was staked.
Curtis turned the police radar off. We were done. Mission accomplished. That’s when Mark ran over from across the street where he was hiding and said:
“Dude I got some CRAZY shots.”
“But now I’m out. Later,” and he took off in his muscle car.
“Okay guys, come on.”
“Tegan, relax, we’re fine.”
“You fine, we ain’t goin to jail for your shit.”
I was offended. “It’s all our shit,” I told him.
Then the helicopter came back.
“That’s uhh… come on, help me break this shit down y’all.”
We began breaking everything down in the darkness with only the flashlight from my iPhone illuminating the U-Haul bed. The helicopter wavered over where we had projected the logo.
“Guys? That’s def a ghetto bird.”
The helicopter got lower. It circled over the building. Then came a spotlight. It stopped moving and hovered over the exact spot we were projecting onto. And there on the side of the ghetto bird read: LAPD. The spotlight began dancing in the sky, looking for the source of the projection.
MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!
We threw the gas-filled generator back into the U-Haul along with its sixty-foot extension cord, which had been powering the projector.
“MAKE SURE NOTHIN FALLS!” Curtis screamed as he leapt outa sight and dove into the driver’s seat, leaving Tegan and I in the back of the truck with thousands of dollars of lighting equipment and a generator filled with gasoline wavering on its cruddy wheels.
“Is it following us?” I asked Tegan.
The helicopter circled our U-Haul. What a dumb idea this was.
“IT’S FOLLOWING US!!!!!” she screamed through the back of the truck so that Curtis could hear from the driver’s seat.
All of sudden Tegan and I and the equipment all JUTTED forwarded as the U-Haul peeled away. The door to the back of the U-Haul was still wide open. “SHUT THE DOOR!” Tegan screamed.
The projector swung back and forth, the lenses were scraping the floor, and the generator was clinkity clanging in all directions. I thought of the hundred grand on the line… If one more thing broke we were fucked… wait. Sorry. I was fucked. Bankrupt at twenty-eight. How embarrassing that’d be.
My life savings was gone and if the generator and all the projecting equipment—now rolling back and forth all over the bed of the truck—if it fell not only would it topple outa the truck and onto the street but we’d be soaked in gasoline. And maybe end up in the ER. Or explode.
I was lost in thought about all the possibilities.
“CLOSE THE DOOR!” Tegan screamed again. But the U-Haul was moving so fast I couldn’t grab onto the rope handle to tug it down. We both tried to grab the swinging rope to shut the door before he got onto Santa Monica Blvd, but the U-Haul was bumping up and down and twisting and turning and we couldn’t latch hold of it. “GOT IT!” Tegan shouted. She lowered the door as low as we could get it, but we couldn’t close it fully cause we were inside. You gotta be outside to lock it shut.
A bright beam snuck through the small sliver of opening of that millimeter of non-shut door and hit Tegan and I in the face. Curtis sped up. I had no idea where he was going. I could hear the helicopter. It was following us. Up and down and side to side the truck sent us. After ten minutes we came to a halt.
We were fucked.
Wait… no. We weren’t. We were parked in the back of a 7-11. We were safe. Curtis had done it.
We made the papers the next day and sold out the festival. But that didn’t help… I was still thirty grand in the hole with no way to pay it back. My days in LA were numbered as I tried to come up with a new plan, but I had no plan. I didn’t want to do…
So I set out to break the Guinness World Record Road Trip.