This past few days for me has been about Manhattan…the tv show about the Manhattan Project which created a town that did not exist on a high plateau in northern New Mexico near Santa Fe. The town is Los Alamos. In those days, it was a post office box. Manhattan: the atomic bomb project, not the island along the Hudson River I’ve lived on most of my life. I was contacted to write a part of a diary of a Russian spy for a prop for the show. I was contacted because I am old enough to write “old school” handwriting: cursive. Sometimes age is a benefit.
I picked up the diary (several in case I screwed up) and 5 fabulous pens at the warehouse where the Prop-master, is making props. I walked in and jumped back. “My God! That’s an atomic bomb!” Yup…that’s what he was working on. This week they are filming the Trinity test. I knew what I was looking at having recently been to the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos. Yes, I had braved the checkpoint and driven into the town “on the hill.” And what went on “on the hill” 70 years ago STAYED on the hill. At least until two days in early August, 1945.
I had a great kibitz with John. He says I am “adorable.” I’ll take the compliment. (remember, I got the gig because I am old enough to know how to write cursive!!)
I took it to them early Monday and was on set, which is on the campus of
Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where I have a faculty meeting on Thursday…
for about an hour. I was walked through the “checkpoint/gate” to the town that had no name,
and I watched as they geared up for the day’s shoot. 1940′s cars, old army vehicles, actors in costume (army and civilian), and lots and lots of technical equipment in that dusty street between barracks, science labs, the old telephone booth and that gate with its big sign: What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, STAYS HERE. Los ALamos, 1945.
Various people looked at the diary and it was decided more pages were needed. I’d been given some text…with the entry for Feb. 4 needing to be at the top of the right hand page about three quarters through the diary. They all decided that my handwriting looked great, but more of the book needed to be filled. So I went home and after getting the final “yes” from the final-say-guy, I made up more entries. I had great fun adopting her tone, dropping in the code names of the guys she’s spying on, and bitching about “Athena” who is always “stirring the pot.”
Tuesday early early my alarm woke me in the middle of a dream I was having about Siva.
I staggered around, had a cup of strong black tea before I left the house. Neither John nor assistant prop-master Doug were there on set when I got there. I was asked to wait for them if I could.
For sure! Willie (local guy, prop guy) said…help yourself to coffee or anything. So I got a cup of crew coffee with sugar and ate a cliff bar and then when John showed up I had a Dunkin doughnut with him. When in Manhattan, do as the crew does. I’m wired on sugar. caffeine. and 11 grams of protein in that cliff bar.
Again various people looked at the diary and OK’d it. It was then given to the only black person I’d seen
on set…a woman wearing a Brazil soccer jersey…who was instructed to take it and AGE it. I was thanked and told to send an invoice billing “Atom Productions, Inc.” Of course. What a caper!