Hold For Sound: Part 2

“Hold For Sound” is an excerpt from my first book, Down and Out in California. You can find part 1 here: Hold For Sound: Part 1

The next morning before I am awake Rebecca and her husband have already gone on a long distance run. They have almost no bodyfat on them. She is trying to lose five pounds for a race, but isn’t committed to it. I have already lost fifty pounds but get that the lower the weight and the shorter the person, the bigger the deal these are. She wants to lose them for running, she says, to help her racing times, not for aesthetics. I wonder what the difference is, really. 

Her husband Jake rides in the car with me. I like him. He’s soft spoken, intelligent, and not shy. He’s direct. I am beginning to have a closer, more psychic relationship with Micah. He is the one behind the camera, and I am the one recording sound. It requires a nonverbal communication. We’re good at it, we’ve developed it already and are using it even when the camera is off. 

I’m sure that it’s because we are both Cancers, and we discuss this over breakfast. I’m surprised when everyone involved is into astrology. I ask for everyone’s sign. Rebecca is a Leo and her husband is an Aries. Perfect.

Being around her makes me want to go to law school. In my twenties, everyone tells me I should be a lawyer. In my thirties, everyone tells me I should be a writer.

We go to Lucas’s house and Rebecca and director show him and his mother the agreement that they had worked out. Everyone approves, though Lucas makes it clear that he wants to be seen as having a more guiding role in this. Everyone we talk to wants to have a guiding role in this. We’re told over and over that they “know what black audiences want”, by various people that have never worked in production. I’m impressed that Micah never mentions that this documentary is not targeted towards black audiences at all. 

We walk around the neighborhood with Lucas, now it’s just me, and Micah, and Lucas showing us his turf. The sound isn’t as great as I’d like, it’s windy, and even with the windsock on I’m unable to get the quality I got the day before. We go to the basketball court where Lucas played ball growing up. We take a meandering route through some of the government housing, and pass a few nearby houses and apartments of his friends. All the while he’s looking over his shoulder and telling us that we should as well, because this is Lincoln Park territory. 

“I grew up here. It was dangerous. It still is. We had to fend for ourselves. We had to defend ourselves. Sometimes we had to use violence. But that don’t mean I’m a murderer I never killed anyone.”

He shows us how to throw the LP gang sign with our hands. He shows us his small neighborhood in amazing detail. After a couple hours of this we circle back to the house.

While Micah getting ready to pack up the equipment into my car, I catch something I wish I hadn’t. I have the microphone on and Lucas whispers to someone “this is for that yay”. 

I look over and see him passing them money, clandestinely. Shoot a look at Micah, who sees it but doesn’t hear it, and he looks at me quizzically. I’m glad that he witnessed it too. Later he tells me that it worried him, and asks me what was said. I tell him.

I don’t know how to feel about innocence and guilt. Of course if it’s drug sales I can’t fault Lucas. He’s got a few mouths to feed and the construction job can’t pay much. And it certainly doesn’t mean that he’s a murderer. 

Except here, in Lincoln Park, it’s a company town. You can’t sell drugs on the side. You can only sell them if you are affiliated with the gang. And being affiliated with the gang means being affiliated with murderers. It also, in many cases, means actually being a murderer. I like Lucas. I question whether I’d stop liking him if he were a murderer, and realize it doesn’t make any difference. 

We finish with the day and look back at all the dailies. They’re sufficient.

Rebecca, director, and I go out to eat at a Greek place and I have some delicious salad. I like the people I’m working with and it makes a big difference in my commitment to my work. It’s nice to be recognized for something. It’s been a while since I’ve done honest, skilled work. I remember how skilled I am in anything I put my mind to, and how unnecessary and stupidly dangerous it is to engage in the black market.

I’m rekindling my relationship to the knobs and faders, and to the delicate positioning of the microphone. I have missed recording. Getting something down perfectly for as long as someone preserves the media or backs up the information. Being the conduit of temporary to stored, that tense, present state of listening. It’s like having a superpower, a hidden talent. Ears of steel.

I finally bring in the sleeping bag and am warm at night. I sleep well. 

The next morning we are up early and meet Lucas at his home. Today we’re going to two churches, because churchgoing is a political act for Lucas. He wants to be seen as a fine, upstanding member of his community, and these two churches represent two overlapping yet distinct communities.

We first go to his boss and son’s church with him. Micah and I record, and I get some terrible sound. The source music too loud, it distorts no matter what I do. I’m not ready to shoot an amplified Baptist church, I don’t have the right equipment. We give up and wait for Lucas outside.

I’m self-conscious of our position, as we are two white liberal intellectuals appalled by the preacher’s sermon blaming the recent shootings in schools on the separation of church and state. Micah goes off.

“Yes, of course, it’s because you Americans got rid of God in your schools. That’s why people are shooting each other.”

Micah tells me he is a pagan. I feel an odd peace with him. He’s a little insecure, I think, needs approval and for others to back him up. 

We go to another church, Lucas’s other church, which I like better and get better sound from. We have fun, sort of. I have been watching basketball and for Tommy Boom-Boom’s birthday I got us tickets to see the Lakers vs. the Clippers. We went. We sat right near the part of the court where the players come out at the beginning of the game. I saw Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant up close and personal. Shaq was gigantic. 

When I’m left in the church basement with the deacon and his assistant, they begin discussing the game. I chime in, because I have something to talk about. Micah is very impressed when he returns to find us laughing and joking about last night’s game and them slapping me on the back like old friends.

It’s from this I see the purpose of sports or pop culture – it allows people to connect across wildly different personal experiences. I try to make a point of keeping up on something, anything, in hopes it will normalize me with my coworkers and get me through life. 

After church we drive down to the bay near Fiesta Island and meet Rebecca, who conducts an in depth interview of Lucas. I convince them to sit far enough away from the water that it won’t be too difficult to record and edit the interview. When something is recorded against the background of the continuous sound of waves, and then a piece of it is cut out, one can easily hear the edits. I get some recordings of the water as well, from a few distances. 

We’re sitting at a round cement picnic table with an umbrella above. The air smells of salt, with a slightly fishy note. Micah sets the camera up on a tripod and holds a bounce board to get more light onto Rebecca’s face. She looks good on camera, and sounds good on mic. She has a hard-hitting voice, and Lucas is soft and sincere under her scrutiny. I use the boom, and cover it well. I get great sound, crisp, close, and present, but not too sharp.

We stand up to leave and Micah and producer are talking to one another, and then Lucas, off-camera, tells us that he is impotent from being raped in prison. 

“But that’s not all of my dick problems” he says, and then further shares that to combat the impotency he had a doctor give him a shot which gave him a forty-eight hour hard-on. It was excruciating, and when he finally went to the hospital they told him he had blood clots and gave him three stitches on his nut sack. 

Then he pulls his dick out to show us. It’s scarred like the rest of him. 

“I want my dick back.” Everyone is silent.

“Thank you for sharing all of that with us.” I say, smiling. He looks at me. He puts his dick back in his pants.

“You alright.” He says, and then gives me a hug. At this moment I believe that he did not kill a police officer. I believe him that he never killed anyone. 

On the way back to the car Micah puts his hand on my shoulder. “Thank you.” He says.

“It’s pretty sad how traumatized he is.” I reply. “I really hope what we’re doing isn’t exploitative” 

Micah sighs. I sigh.

(If you liked “Hold For Sound” please buy a copy of my first book, Down and Out in California, or support me on Patreon for a free copy)

Hold For Sound Part 1

Hold For Sound Part 3


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