Land of the Rising Mickey
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Another Day, Another Yen
The person relating his experiences in this article doesn't exist. Essentially, he's a number of people rolled into one. The name "Yamata Taro" is generic, much like "John Smith" is in America. His story, on the other hand, is real and very typical.
In our second episode,Yamata Taro talked about his work at Mysterious Island, almost got in some trouble, and passed along his experience working with Imagineers. Now his 10am break is over and it's time to get back to work...
Ok, here's how we make lava. It starts with a steel framework covered with chicken wire. I pour bags of cement mix into the top of these relatively small electric mixing machines and add water. After a few minutes I collect the ready to use cement from the bottom of the machine. I plop the cement onto a palette (a small board with a handle on the bottom) that I hold in my left hand. With my right hand, I spread it onto the chicken wire, using a trowel. Doesn't sound too difficult, does it? Well, it's hard work!
First off, cement is heavy. I'm used to that, though. I've been doing this for years. If that part of the job was a problem I would've found different work a long time ago. The real hard part is making it look real. It has to be lava. Before this job I would use all my effort to make perfect shapes - squares, rectangles, perfect edges - everything nice and flat and plumb. At Mysterious Island I have to forget all that training and experience and do the exact opposite. The big shapes are all planned out and already there in the steel framework, but the surface details are left up to me. Yes me! Wait a minute! I'm just some cement guy! Sometimes I think I can't do it. I'm not an artist. The F.A.D. are usually happy with my work though, so I guess I'm doing ok. I complain a lot about the F.A.D., but I have to admit, I've learned a lot of tricks from them. A lot of them are really good artists.
Speaking of F.A.D., I'll sound a lot like one when I tell you this, but I work the best when I think like nature - "If lava was pouring down the side of the mountain and then it hardened, what would it do? Well, it's pretty steep in that part, so it would run quickly and end up pretty smooth. But over here the angle is more gradual, so I think it would kind of ball up and swerve a little more. But some of the lava would be hotter and some of it would be cooler. Some would run fast even on a gradual slope and some would ball up on a steep one. And it's all running in little streams over lava that's already there... I better be careful or this part is going to look too much like that one".
Thinking like nature isn't easy. It makes me tired. But it's a heck of a lot more interesting than anything I've worked on before.
When I'm done the primer guys come in with their paint sprayers and give everything a coat of plain brown paint. After them, the detail painters come in and really make it look real (and I mean real).
After about 90 minutes as nature boy it was - Lunch Time!
If I was smart I'd give myself enough time to buy a lunch at 7-11 on my way to the train station. But I don't, so day after day I buy it at the site. And every day I get a little more annoyed. They charge WAY too much for food here at the on-site conbini. A box lunch s 7 dollars! (A typical Japanese "box lunch" or bento is a tray eight inches square by three-quarter inch tall that's divided into four sections. Half the tray is rice, one of the three equal sized smaller sections is a salmon fillet, another is stir fried pork or beef, and the third is vegetables, like a mixed green salad or boiled spinach). At a conbini anywhere else the same thing half that price! It's not like I'm poor, I bring home about $120 a day, but their prices are ridiculous. Yeah, I know it's my own fault for not bringing a lunch, but I wish they had brought in someone fair to handle the food here. At least most of it tastes ok and even though the line is long they use four or five registers going, so it moves pretty fast.
I bought my lunch, sat down on the ground, and ate like there was no tomorrow. I talked to my friend Hiro for a couple of minutes and then, like normal, I laid back and fell asleep (Did I mention I'm tired?). I woke up about a half hour later with a slap to the head from Hiro and some good news.