Having lurked in the shadows of an edit bay for the better part of a week, I was delighted today to bathe in the rays of a glorious Piedmont morning. It was no walk in the park. Rather, it was a pleasant enough schlep through the dismantled wastelands of what used to be one mother of a textile plant. I'll get to the details in a minute, but first check out the trippy landscape in the picture to the right. If that doesn't bring to mind a certain Pink Floyd album cover, we must not have traveled in the same rusty Camaro circles back in the day. But with enough with the flashbacks, I'm here to talk hard hats.
I hate 'em. Not the look so much, but the way the strangely perched headgear bumps into the side of the camera when I shoot. It's a trivial enough matter I suppose, but ask any cameraman to list the most impeding shooting garb and the lowly construction helmet ranks right up there with the frozen-stiff winter mitten. Nonetheless, I was more than happy to don the molded chapeau today - if not for the fashion, at least for the access. You see, David Griffin wouldn't let me on the multi-acre remains of the Kannapolis Pillowtex Plant without the damn thing. A real stickler, that guy.
But then again , what would you expect from a man whose family business oversaw the clean-up of the World Trade Center? These cats didn't become a globally-known demolition giant by cutting photogs slack in the safety department. Besides, who'd wanna catch a flying rivet to the forehead on a pretty day like this? Not this camera dork. I gladly made like Barney Rubble to Griffin's Fred Flinstone as the demolition bigwig took time out of his busy schedule to give me a personal tour. Not bad for a guy who could level my house in seven seconds. But Dave (I'm sorry ... Mr. Griffin) would never do that. He knows me far too well from stalking him at the semi-recent Burlington Industries Implosion.
That structure drop was quite impressive but it pales in comparison to the methodical take-down he's staging at this old textile fortress just north of Charlotte. For 18 months he and a crew of 80 tough guys will spend six days a week carefully dismantling six million square feet of former factory floor space. Along the way, they'll recycle 75 percent of what they recover - from hundred year old brick to steel beams to giant maple planks, these guys throw precious little away. My one hour excursion was a videographer's dream: unfettered access, repetitive action, staccato sound. To top things off, Griffin even insisted I keep the hard hat at the end of the tour - a bean pod I'll proudly sport at the next rubble pile, or maybe even around the house, now that my hairline's receding. I figure the kids'll dig it more than the mullet.