Saturday, July 08, 2006

Yes, Mister Peabody!

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for May 18th, 1980.

It was a beautiful, clear, sunny Sunday about 26 years ago. I was fast asleep in a motel astride Route 20, The North Cascade Pass. I was, at that time, First Assistant to Klaus Lucka (heard of him before, have you? See This Could Be The Start Of Something Big) and we'd been on the road about two weeks as he was shooting an ad campaign for Raleigh Lights cigarettes.

This was a big shoot. We had a large crew including a stylist, two models, another assistant/location scout (Mark Scott out of Los Angeles), a truck driver, a brand new custom painted Kenworth tractor and Freuhoff trailer, three cars, the art director, a couple of account people, a couple of guys from Raleigh, Klaus and myself..... and we were all sleeping in that morning, or so we thought.

I was rudely awakened by a loud knock on my motel room door, sounded urgent. Mark and I woke up (I was sharing a room with Mark) and I went to the door and opened it. I honestly expected to see Klaus there to inform me that 8:00 AM was sleeping in enough but instead I was standing there in the open doorway, in my underwear, looking at a parking lot devoid of life. I went back to bed.

A couple of minutes later we were again awakened by the same knocking. This time we both jumped up and went to the door as the knocking was louder and more urgent sounding. This time Mark and I were both standing in the open doorway in our underwear looking at the parking lot but this time, so was everyone else!

Well, something was obviously happening so we got dressed and went to the restaurant for breakfast (I guess 8:00 AM is late when you're used to waking up at 4:00) and that's when we learned that Mt. St. Helens had blown her top... about 300 miles west of our position. We woke the rest of the crew and had a quick meeting over blueberry pancakes to decide what to do. The plan was to head west but that was certainly out of the question, so we drove east instead as Mark had scouted some good alternate locations near Spokane.

Well, we didn't get very far, only to Grand Coulee where the Washington State Police had closed the highway, it was snowing gray volcanic ash. We found another motel with some vacant rooms and checked-in for an unscheduled stopover (funny, two weeks earlier we got snowed in at the Government Lodge atop Mt. Hood in Oregon).

The game of the day was collecting ash in empty film cans along Route 20. An occasional truck would blow by us as we did our thing in the middle of the road (top picture). It was inconvenient as far as the shoot was concerned but we were collecting the coolest souvenirs to bring back home.

I don't know about Mark, but later on I was giving away little cans of volcanic ash left and right. We spent a few weeks in Los Angeles after the Raleigh shoot to work another cigarette campaign and my cousin Mo and his wife Barb were living in Westwood at the time, so they got the first can. It really was a popular souvenir and I was bummed because I inadvertently misplaced a vial I'd saved for myself. Fourteen years later I was married with a child and I told him about Mt. St. Helens and also that I had a vial of ash around here somewhere.....

Fortunately for me, Mo is better at holding on to things than I am because twenty years later I was in his living room in Maine (he moved) with my seven year old and three year old boys and finally I could prove that I wasn't daft: I had saved some ash... here, look at Mo's!!

Yesterday, in the clean-up, Alex found my vial of ash in the shoebox with the aforementioned SX70 pictures. Vindicated at last!


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