It’s great to be back! And by that, I mean back in Tucson (in time for the lovely fall weather) and back writing for The Voice of Tucson. I’ve been absent from The Logical Lizard, not through lack of affection, but because I have been working every single day since May of this year on Season Two of my television series Meteorite Men. And I thought the first season was hard work.
Last year we were given a tall order by Science Channel: produce six one-hour episodes in seven months. We weren’t quite sure how we’d manage but we did—barely. The final episode was delivered to the network just five days before its air date. Five of those episodes were filmed in the US, and one in Canada. It was exciting, challenging, occasionally dangerous, sometimes hysterically funny, and often exhausting.
For Season Two we were given just five months to produce eight one-hour episodes, and five of those were to be filmed overseas. So, since late June, I have traveled more than 60,000 miles; walked on four continents; visited eight countries; seen ten states in the Union plus the District of Columbia; completed over twenty interviews for radio, print and social media; encountered extraordinary wildlife including camels, llamas, eagles, thousands of wild parrots, a lizard the size of a dog, kangaroos, emus, and a three-legged cat. Oh, and we got to guest star on American Chopper.
As Douglas Adams noted in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “How ever fast the body travels, the soul travels at the speed of an Arcturan Mega-Camel.” In other words, while I was filming in the Arctic Circle, my overstimulated brain had not finished processing my adventures in the high Atacama Desert of Chile. While dozing in a tent in the Australian Outback, I had dreams that I was still exploring salt flats in the American West at 103 F, during a previous shoot. A couple of nights ago, I woke up in utter darkness at about 4:30 am (our call time on shoot days was typically 6 or 6:30 am) grabbed my alarm clock and thought to myself: “Which hotel am I in? What time is my flight!” before realizing that I was, in fact, at home in my own bed and there were no more flights. At least for this season.
Only one of our field team from Season One joined us for our 2010 “world tour,” and she—Senior Producer Sonya Gay Bourn—has always been the most indispensable member of the road crew. So, if we could keep just one of the original team, we wanted it to be her. During our first night on location for Season Two, we had a meet and greet with our new director, co-executive producer, director of photography, second camera, sound men, and camera tech. I raised my glass to Sonya and said: “If I found myself in the middle of the screaming wilderness during, say, the 19th Century, with thousands of ferocious warriors descending upon my position—weapons raised for attack—and could only have one person standing next to me, that person would be Sonya.” No disrespect to my stalwart co-host Steve Arnold, and I promise you, he feels the same way.
I have never met anyone like Sonya, and I am quite sure there is nobody in the world remotely like her. Brilliant, sassy, unconventional, striking, fearless, and resourceful, she is also an accomplished director, writer, and former stand-up comic. She also seems to know almost everyone on the planet, well, almost everyone worth knowing. Steve likes to joke that if we got into a serious jam—in the most desolate corner of the world—Sonya would know somebody at the local helicopter outfit and, with the aid of the sat phone and Blackberry from which she is never separated, would arrange an airlift for us in less than thirty minutes.
One of my favorite shows on television these days is Animal Planet’s Whale Wars—a gripping documentary series that chronicles the ecological group Sea Shepherd’s hair-raising attempts to curtail illegal Japanese commercial whaling. It’s one of the few programs that holds my attention from the first frame to the last. Those guys have nerves of steel and big eco hearts. Imagine my delight, therefore, when I discovered that two of the brightest lights in our 2010 crew were the cameramen from Whale Wars. We camped together for four nights in one of the most inaccessible parts of the Australian wilderness and they enthralled me—as we sat around the campfire—with harrowing tales of their adventures on board the Sea Shepherd vessels. Now that is a fireside chat.
Once I finally returned to my desert home one of my friends asked: “So was it fun? What did you see?”
I paused for a moment—jet lag trying to convince the parts of me traveling at the speed of an Arcturan Mega-Camel that I was still at least partly on the other side of the Earth—then replied: “Everything. I’ve seen everything.”
Meteorite Men Season Two premieres this coming Tuesday, November 2, on Science Channel and Science Channel HD. Air times here in Tucson are 6 pm with a repeat at 9 pm (Cox Digital); and 7 pm with a repeat at 10 pm (Comcast Digital).