Sunday, December 13, 2009

So Quiet

Things seem so quiet, and they are indeed.  I was recently on the Walt Disney Lot for lunch with a friend.  We ate in the main commissary, outdoors since it was a sunny day.  I was surprised at how few people were walking around Mickey Lane and Dopey Drive, some of the main studio streets nearest the commissary and employee shops.

It was a testament as to how many people have been let go from Walt Disney.  They started the process of cutting jobs way back in 2001, when I was working on Treasure Planet.  I remember the first round of layoffs involved a lot of our Layout Artists. These were artists who has spent years going to art school and studying the masters of illustration, life-drawing and composition, who were now being let go in two weeks. 

I specifically remember a layout artist named Jeff who was a very tall, broad guy with long hair and who had a woodsy way about him.  He was a tough man, and a straight shooter, and someone you’d want to watch a good ball game with.  He was a fine artist proven by the fact that the head of our layout department relied on him very heavily on a day-to-day basis.  And yet, he was one of the casualties.  I could see the pain in his face after he was told. I wasn’t in the meeting, but he walked through the hallway back to his office, and I knew him well enough to know how much he hurt just then.  It was really tough for me to witness.

It looks like the studio has cut jobs all over the place, because I literally checked my thinking cap to verify that it was a Friday, and not a weekend that I was there.  I know what Fridays were like on the Lot just a few years before; the bustling of employees to get some food, then hit the Disney employee center for tickets and upcoming events and to retrieve their laundry, then to do a quick check of the Disney consumer products side with high-quality Disney sweat shirts, plush toys, costumes and other goodies.  And on this day, it was dead.

Now we’re in the Christmas season.  The malls have a lot of people in them, but not to the extent of recent years.  Shoppers don’t surround the kiosks selling impulse items with three or so workers working the kiosk, and the food courts aren’t completely insane.  We should be thankful because it makes the experience easier.  But it’s also a sad sign of how deep the economic problems still lay in California.

As I write this, I am waiting (again) to show property to a potential buyer in Canyon Country, a newly developed area about twenty minutes North of Los Angeles.  And all around me are for sale signs, many of which have hanging riders attached that say either, “bank owned,” or “short pay” (short sale).

It’s such a hard time for everyone.  My friend says now is the time to feel good about being self-sufficient.  That’s a great attitude, and I wish I had more of it.  My family’s priority right now is to get the rent paid, get the water and power bill paid, feed ourselves, buy some gasoline for our autos, and hopefully keep the cell phones on.  Anything beyond that is a luxury we have to do without.

I’m looking forward to when this period is passed, and maybe my friend is right.  Maybe I’ll feel good about having gotten through it like Barry Manilow sings in, “I made it through the rain.”