The Great EA Adventure, Part 2
Grandma was four under par by the time I had finished eating some cold pizza. I awkwardly asked someone if I could go outside for a quick smoke. "That's what the badges are for," she said, pointing at the "Visitor Pass--Escort Required" card clipped to my shirt. I left the conference room that housed the dying rehearsal party and walked past the security guard, pointing at my badge like I knew what I was doing.
I stepped out into a cloud of Florida humidity, sat down on a bench away from the door draped with banners advertising various familiar games and lit the first cigarette since the plane landed in Orlando. I retraced our journey thus far in my head, ignoring the lizards running around like squirrels on the fountain facing EA Tiburon.
The plane ride down was uneventful; aside from the woman who lifted her kid to stand on the tray rails at the Sbarro in Cleveland Hopkins and an unintelligible taxi driver who got us lost going from the hotel to EA using what might have been the most annoying, audible GPS unit ever (TURN RIGHT; TURN RIGHT; TURN RIGHT; TURN RIGHT; TURN RIGHT... "Hmmmm, we seem to be going in a circle...") there wasn't much to look back on. The sense of urgency to get to this place had deceived us, I think. Pack quickly--Drive to the airport quickly--check in quickly--fly around the storms (can you fly more quickly?)--get to the hotel to check in--secure the room--hail a cab--get to the rehearsal party--WHAT WILL THEY THINK OF US IF WE ARE LATE?!
And yet everyone was groovy. No worries. "Have some pizza! Hi Grandma! Would you like to play some games? Are you thirsty?" The quiet casualness of it all hit us like a fire hose. I needed to relax. I needed a cigarette.
I went back inside with the others.
The first thing you notice about EA Tiburon is that damn near everybody still there at 7:30pm is dutifully wearing polo shirts branded with the EA logo like they were uniforms at Footlocker. The atrium is a large, glass place with vinyl tapestries draped from the ceiling proudly showing ads for Madden and NASCAR like museums promote upcoming exhibits for The Bronze Age and dinosaurs. Beyond the security desk with the young looking guard are doors lining the hallways that go to god knows where.
"No, you have to scan that badge before you can go back in..."
At the end of the hall was the conference room where the rehearsal party was held. On the left were collapsible tables with pizzas, soda, and chicken wings. In the center were five or six dev-kit or debug Xbox 360s playing the various games to be used in the commercials. A family was playing Tiger Woods 09' on the right. A couple guys were playing a fighting game I didn't see on the left. At the center was Grandma and a dude with WK and EA who had grew up not far from us in Ohio. In the back corner of the room were freelancers working for WK, typing away on a couple laptops.
It felt like a low-key Counterstrike LAN-party in the back of a student center at college.
When the party ended, we took a cab back to the hotel. Less traffic this time, yet impressively-- this taxi driver was even more misunderstood than the last.
"So where'y frm?"
"Clvlynn!! Man, y'shud check th' Mimi's Place in Universal Studios."
"Mimi! Drew Carey, y'know? I used't drive 'im this one time. Good meatloaf."
I can't really recall the rest of the conversation; Grandma and I could only detect the meaning of sentences by the pitch of his voice towards the end of any given string of words. If the pitch rose, it was a question.
"Given' try flood basketball, jumpin' roun' gettin' all hungry and that?"
-"I couldn't say, really. Maybe."
If the pitch fell, it was a statement. Statements are easily agreed with.
"Pineapple! Fish is gonna' get iodine man' you up there makin' squirts."
-"I know just what you mean."
If the pitch rose or fell but was followed by laughing, it was wise to simply laugh in response and say "I hear ya'."
Somehow we made the thirty minute drive from the Maitland Blvd. to International Drive gabbing away at each other and having a good ol' time without actually saying anything at all. The phenomenon was fascinating.
Back at the hotel, we were isolated without a car. Luckily there is a TGI Friday's just across the street from The Doubletree Universal, where we were staying. This particular place doesn't close until 2am. Grandma ordered some mesquite chicken and I had a couple shots of bourbon to ease into the fajitas.
"Alright. Your call time tomorrow is 8:30am."
"It just means that's when you have to be there."
"Somebody is going to meet us in the lobby of the hotel tomorrow at 8:00 sharp, and take us across the street."
-"In Universal Studios?"
"Yeah. Apparently they actually have studios at Universal Studios."
"Well, I mean they actually film shit there."
-"Well, that's the idea."
"I knew they had a theme park; I knew they shot game shows and shit- but I thought it was like King's Island when Paramount owned it. I didn't think the studios played as much of a part."
-"It's probably a bunch of warehouses."
"Probably. After we get there, I don't know what's going to happen. Probably wardrobe, but who knows. The call time for you might be different than for somebody else, it might be the same for everyone; I honestly don't know."
-"How many other people are going to be there?"
"I don't know. There were maybe a dozen at the party last night, maybe less. It could be a long day tomorrow. Are you excited?"
"Nah, fuck it. You'll do fine. Just be yourself."
"Everyone has been really cool so far. I don't know what Errol Morris is like, but in everything I've read about the man over the years, I've never seen anything that suggests he's an asshole. He's probably the same as everyone you've met. They just want to see you do what you do. They won't bite."
-"It's not so much that.. it's just, I'm afraid I might fuck everything up. I've never done this before."
"You did it for MTV."
-"Yeah, and I sucked."
"You didn't suck. You're just not an actor. They know that. If they wanted actors, they'd hire them."
The next morning a PA met us in the lobby holding a sign that said "Barbara & Peter." I introduced myself. "Is 'Barbara' Barbara St. Hilaire?"
-"Yup! She's for the commercial?"
"Yes. My name's Timothy."
-"Yes. We're just waiting on one other person here in the hotel- Peter. He's another one for this shoot."
[to be continued!]