Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hard Times in Mineral Wells, Texas

One of the worst things about this job is despite all the locations you go to is that you rarely have a chance to explore. If you ask me how Kansas City or Dover was, I'd say, "looks pretty much like your typical interstate exit. Same restaurants, same hotels, same everything." I'm determined to make my last day here different. But of course, work got in the way.

Mineral Wells, Texas -- you wouldn't know it by looking at it -- holds a pretty awesome secret. Supposedly, the waters of the nearby "Brazos River" have a curing power. They call it, "Crazy Water." Travelers making their way west discovered this, probably adopting the myth from the nearby Native American population they probably helped eradicate. As cattle boomed in the 1800's and around the turn of the 20th century, Mineral Wells benefited greatly by the success of larger cities nearby like Fort Worth.

The crazy water legend exploded and all sorts of nearby Texans made their way to Mineral Wells, which at that time had become one of the earliest tourist spots in America. A great hotel was built and called, "The Crazy Water Hotel" and it soon became one of the most happening spots in the Texas social scene. When a chance fire burned the hotel to the ground in the 1920's, a big hotel man by the name of Baker, from Dallas, rebuilt it at an enormous cost and nearly triple the scale as the first one. The new Baker Hotel opened two weeks after the stock market crash of 1929 and in 1932, closed for several decades until being reopened in the early 1960's. Like the legend of the crazy water, the hotel too has its local myths of ghosts and good times that still seem to go on. Nowadays sitting vacant, abandoned, and with nothing but an empty shell; all that remains are the ghosts.

Our last day at the ranch we've been shooting at is a photo shoot. The rest of the crew has gone home and it is just me and the associate producer who're left to stay and be on hand for our cast. Everyone is very laid back and the day goes pretty much without a hitch. I'd never been on the set of a big photo shoot like this before so it was pretty impressive.

Having made a vow to participate in the local allure, needing to be cleansed, I wanted to make my way to the Brazos and dip my feet into the water. Despite our laid back schedule, I never got a chance to do that. It's a very meditative day and I feel a number of thoughts that have bubbled up which I'd never felt before. These last few weeks of non-stop work have bumped loose some clarity.

My last drive through Mineral Wells is sad. While more and more of these small towns are starting to look the same, there is some kind of past grandeur about this place, whose current decomposing state, looks particularly out of place.

On a show, this show or any show, we go into a place, get what we need and leave. We do our jobs and then get the hell out. It's seems now more than ever, the actual reality of what we're doing and what's going on behind camera is more real and more compelling than anything going on in front of it, but to tell THAT story... I'm starting to really notice the exploitation. Our own is no different from that of anything else going on here and I can't help but feel guilty.

The vagueness of this rant is probably getting pretty unbearable, particularly since I can't really disclosed many of the details, so I'm going to wrap it up. We leave to go to Dallas in a few and then I get to be on a plane, alone and unbothered by the toils and salty tears of the production.

Amen to that.

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