Golden: part 11

After a week of disappearing, Nick finally reappeared. Sam was able to reach him, and just as we had thought he was in California, but not in the way we were hoping. She girlfriend’s divorce was being finalized, but this only came up after a long and elaborate story about meeting with producers and the show being bought by a studio. Sam passed us word and a meeting was scheduled a few days later.
The Skype call was pointless. Nick was walking around a house with his iPad and kept losing signal and there were large patches of the conversation where we couldn’t hear him and wondered if the call was lost. We couldn’t hear the information we were being given and as far as we knew the job was almost done. We sat back and waited.
Nick said the meeting had been cancelled. He retreated back to Bellevue and the project continued. In the meantime he continued to pressure me to write the novels for him, the book versions of the show we were working on. It didn’t make any sense. The plot and the season weren’t even near completion and he wanted me to start writing a book that wouldn’t fit the end product of the show. After my last refusal Nick found someone else.
Two people were brought in around this time, a man who had worked in television doing commercials for different companies and a writer like myself. The director I was not familiar with and had never seen any of his material. He seemed to be a nice guy that knew what he was talking about and was very professional during our meetings. He also, to his credit, made it a point during the meetings to reduce time by cutting off Nick and focusing the conversation on the task at hand. Nick did not like this at first but the risk of losing someone who currently did work in television was too great. A few weeks later, with too many projects on the table, the director left and things started to unravel.
The writer was a retired gentleman who had written over 30 westerns on Amazon and was doing well for himself. Nick had never read any of his books but thought a western was a close fit with the show we were making. It wasn’t the writer that pissed me off in the end it was Nick trying to get rid of me.
“He has over 30 books Matt, how many have you written?”
“12.”
“How many did you say you have sold in a day?” Nick asked the new guy.
“Oh, I’ve seen a hundred sold in a day.”
Nick acting like this guy was Stephen King compared to me. I couldn’t compare myself to this guy and Nick shouldn’t have been either. He was retired, money coming in that he didn’t have to work for anymore and all the free time in the world to continue writing without the worry of bills being paid. And yet, Nick acted like I was a failure because I was not like this guy.
I couldn’t believe how agreeable this new guy was. He was excited to be brought into the project, he kind of reminded me of myself when I started. The real kick in the pants came when Nick assigned me to show the new guy where all the files were in the system with character profiles and the several versions of the plot that had never been finalized. Everything was up in the air and waiting for Nick’s approval until he had some moment of genius on the toilet changing everything again.
“This isn’t the time to start working on a book.”
“This is exactly the time.” Nick argued. “I want to have this out when the show it about the air.” Even if the show had been bought weeks ago the soonest it could have aired would have been a year and most shows are shelved indefinitely for years until they are forgotten about. Nick couldn’t publish a book because the studio would have bought those rights as well. He had no idea what the fuck he was talking about or doing. The meetings had gone back to Nick’s rants about AA and his capitalist ambitions. My own book sales had dwindled and I wasn’t close to having anything new in print.
I never showed the new guy where the files were. Sam was in charge of organizing the information and he lived with Nick. The only purpose of Nick doing this was to rub it in my face that I had turned it down and I am still glad to this day that I had.
I sent an email the next day that I was done, going back to writing on Amazon, I would no longer be working on the show. For once Nick was humble in his response. An email was sent to the rest of the group, remember I was being carbon copied for all emails, wishing me the best. After that everything went downhill.
For over a year I was still getting emails about the project, meetings, and possible investors. Pictures of Nick with middle eastern men and white guys with gold chains hanging just above their hairy bellies started to appear in my email. Then silence.
Sam contacted me a year after I had left the show. Nick had disappeared again and wasn’t returning emails or phone calls. Todd was still working on the script but without the leader there was nothing they could do. Sam tried to bring me back into the project to have Nick’s attention and finally finish things. The night we were supposed to Skype and play catch up I became violently ill and canceled less than an hour before the meeting. It was never rescheduled and a week later there were emails about Todd leaving the show.
“If that guy thinks he doesn’t need our money while he’s driving Uber to pay bills he’s mistaken.” Nick wrote in an email. “I understand that things are tough but he’s not worth what he’s asking. Low ball him, he’ll fold and take what he’s offered. He’s desperate.”
To Todd’s credit he didn’t fold. He made his offer to what it would cost to stay on the show and when they didn’t agree he left. Todd was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet and that was his downside as well. Things might have been changing for him. As someone who would always agree to what was being offered being in a financial hotspot was making his spine grow and I knew that he had learned something while working on this project.
There was a long list of insults and complaints once Todd left. The shit talking had reached epic proportions. Suddenly Todd was the worst human being on the planet and wasn’t worth the work he had put in. Nick was convinced they would find somebody else and they would be a real professional this time, but it never happened. That was the end of the show. Emails continued, mostly sending questions about the cable bill to Sam. The show was never mentioned again and soon the emails stopped as well. Either Nick was no longer using his email or he stopped linking me and everyone else to his account.
The show was never bought, it was never completed, and while I had worked on it for years, I have to admit it was something that I never would have chosen to watch if it was on television. I learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way. When you smell bullshit run away. Know what your time is worth. Do not work with people who can not focus on the task at hand. If you find yourself feeding someone else’s ego run away. Don’t work for someone who knows less than you.
Nick’s advice for life would boil down to one thing, marry rich. Out of all of his stories, comments about his hot daughter, the gaining and losing of money over the years, the one thing he always went back to was not marrying the rich Jewish girl. Nick had a habit of directing his attention to anything other than what he should be working on. I could only imagine what that would have been like if you added your dick as a wingman to the situation. These days you can find Nick on a cruise ship or in southern California. The show is a forgotten relic, Walden has been abandoned, my writing career is still recovering. Nick had dreams of being a Vegas star at one time, memorizing the American song book and recording his own album, and while he gave the appearance of being a man of the world it became obvious to those who knew him, he was more like Dolemite than Sinatra. A human tornado came to down, upended my life, filled my head with promises and fantasies of greatness, and in the end left with little to show for it.
In the end all I got was this blog post and a flannel shirt.

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Golden: part 10

I met my wife through an online app, no joke. I was working for the county and while cleaning the old Nazareth College campus I hid in the main ballroom, watching the deer eat from the lawn and opened the Tinder app. It didn’t take long for her picture to appear. She was cute with dark brown hair and green eyes. There was only the one picture and her name with nothing written in the profile. I swiped and moved on. Twenty minutes later she popped up again. This had never happened before.
There were five pictures this time, a written profile and the words American Splendor popped out. Not only did she know of the classic American comic book but she added it into her profile. I had to meet this person. I swiped again and we instantly had a match. The rest of the night we messaged back and forth. Working opposite shifts it would be a while before we could meet in person. This waiting game would become our regular routine.
With an increase in Skype meetings there was talk among Todd and I about a pay increase. Nick didn’t like it at first, treating the topic like we were forming a union. We were receiving the same low pay for ever increasing hours and a rise in verbal abuse. These days nothing seemed to be satisfactory. Todd and I were assigned to put together character profiles with little more to go on than the characters ethnic background. We were expected to create a character out of thin air that would fit with the show. we Skyped a couple times that week, went down some profile sheets to create a background, strengths, and weaknesses. When it was time for the next Skype meeting, we spent 20 minutes going over the profiles and explaining who these people were. In the end, Nick expected more.
Here was the trick with Nick. What he wanted was what he envisioned in his head. He didn’t want to put it on paper but have someone else do it. To be slightly off from his image was to be completely wrong. That was the meeting where I told him “do it yourself next time.” Todd and I had worked to squeeze in meetings for this one project and all we heard was “I was expecting better. It’s flat. There is no substance. What the hell were you guys doing?” That was when we started demanding more money. It came slow at first. Nick was trying to assigned a number of tasks to us and as if we had the same thought, we started saying no.
There was a long list of uncompleted assignments that kept lagging behind and Nick would move ahead as if the scene in question didn’t really matter. Each of us would be given three to four assignments and the more we were given the sooner our next meeting would be. We were coming close to have full time jobs with this project on $300 a month. We had better things to do.
“If you could rewrite that scene, do these three characters profiles and clean up that file folder by the next meeting I think we could make some headway.”
“No.” I said. “I’ll rewrite the scene but the other stuff needs to go to someone else.” Sam had a knack for creating his own task and Nick went along with it. We were constantly changing online storage systems and switching to different programs for things. It was confusing and just as we became accustomed to using one platform it would change because “this is better.” The explanation never fit and we were left using something that was completely foreign to us.
The books I had uploaded to Amazon before joining the project were starting to sell. I had money coming in from several places and this was paying the least amount from them all. I had some leeway on what I wanted to do and should be doing.
I met Sarah at a local bar downtown. Her friends were going to a concert for the Fried Egg Nebula and when I arrived, I notice the boyfriend of the other girl was someone I went to high school with. Casey was a character straight out of Dazed and Confused and the first thing that popped into my mind was having a music class with him. He had done a report on The Doors and while giving the oral presentation he jumped off a table and yelled “Mom, I want to FUCK YOU!” according to him this was an actual event in Jim Morrison’s life. We shared stories and before the first hour was over, I knew that I wanted to see Sarah again. I wasn’t fully confident of my bullshit meter but a common thing that would happen with meeting someone new was the cringe of hearing someone talk. Was there substance, was her IQ higher that her shoes size, did she watch reality TV? In the first few words I could tell if this was someone I could have a conversation with. I had friends in the past that would say “you don’t fuck her mind.” These people now have kids with people they can’t stand, life is not going well for them.
Few months later I was being paid a little more. Things were going well with Sarah and the show. There was talk of a meeting with producers to have it picked up. Nick made promises of working as a writer after it was bought but I did my own research, rarely did the people who created the show work on these things. The company writers were brought it to make necessary changes, it became company property and the last thing they wanted was someone else coming in and telling them what it really was. I just wanted out.
Sarah and I were hanging out with my friend Steve one night. He asked how my books were doing and when I looked it up on my phone, I was about to receive a $3000 payment from sales three months prior. Things were going really well. This should have been a news flash. I should have quit the show and went to writing novels full time. There were a lot of things I should have done. After investing so much time, a trip to Seattle, and putting up with incompetent leadership how could I walk away with nothing more than a small paycheck?
Every week we heard the same thing, the meeting was coming. It was like watching Game of thrones every week and waiting for winter to arrive. This was starting to appear as a bullshit gimmick to motivate us to work. Then Nick disappeared.
We didn’t hear from him for a while. Sam thought he had gone to California to make a deal but how could we know for sure? With our jobs done until the next meeting there was nothing else to do, we sat back and waited.

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Golden: part 9

It took time to recover from the journey home. It was the weekend and I didn’t return to work until Monday. I went to the local brewery and people were curious about my trip, wondering if I was going to be moving anytime soon. Samantha, one of the bartenders and a friend at the time, asked about the trip and all I could do was shake my head with a look of disappointment. She asked if I had seen the space needle, the troll under the bridge, Pike place market… the list went on and on. I continued to shake my head.
“What the heck happened?” she asked, thinking I was going to have this great story.
I wen through the process of obtaining a passport a few weeks prior to leaving with the hopes of going a few places and starting to see the world. Things were opening up for me and yet I was still at home. That passport still sits in my dresser, unstamped and soon to expire.
I told her everything, all the things you read until now came out. I never saw the one place I wanted to go and the places that any tourist would have been taken to remained a mystery to me after a week. After drinking my beer, I went home feeling like a disappointment to myself. I sat at my computer in my dining room turned writing studio, and looked at a blank page. Instead of working on the show I decided to focus on something different, my next book.
Later that week, after going back to work and returning to the grind of cleaning courtrooms and offices, we had another Skype meeting.
“We are scrapping the season. We’re going to focus on the pilot and make sure that is fine tuned to perfection.”
If I had hair, I would have pulled it out. The cameras were off. Skype was a glorified conference call. I shook my head in disbelief and wondered why the hell I was brought all the way to the other end of the country to begin with. We were literally backing up to a place before my trip to Seattle.
Even with my frustration I decided to stay. The extra $300 a month wasn’t bad for a few hours of work but I would learn later how much Nick was expecting from me. What was a few hours a week turned into more meetings, more projects assigned and soon he was trying to add more shows when we couldn’t get one moving along.
Nick wanted to add more characters, add some random thing for no reason here and that’s what we were working with. Everything had to be in the first season. Before I knew it was working more hours on the show than I was on my own books, the real money makers and I wondered what the heck I was doing. A script writer was brought in and Todd was in charge of writing the pilot episode. I felt bad for the man, not knowing what he was getting involved in. during our meetings a came across as a good man, someone who was agreeable but didn’t stand up to unrealistic expectations. He was a father with two kids and while he was trying to become a television writer, he worked other various jobs to get by. What he was being paid wasn’t worth the time he was putting in. during our emails back and forth on certain topics I tried to warn him about what he was getting into but like me when I first started, he was promised the glitter and glory of Hollywood. Neither of us could see the forest for the weeds.
It was around this time that Nick started to have the project funded by his girlfriend, the wealthy soon to be divorcee, he had met on a cruise the year prior. She was unhappy in her marriage and started shacking up with Nick to get away. California laws were tricky so they kept their affair a secret until the final papers were signed. She received a 3-million-dollar payout along with annual alimony. Convinced by Nick to invest some of the money they started a company that only existed on paper and payroll was set for the next few years. Nick had finally corrected his mistake from decades before by nailing a rich woman to set him for the rest of his life. At the time it appeared that the project would move forward and we would eventually sell everything and move along to something else. As time went on the expectations became unrealistic and we here running around with our heads cut off trying to figure out what the hell Nick wanted. He was becoming harder to contact and when he did pop up there were frustrated tirades about nothing being done. Meetings would go on for hours, the majority of the time spend listening to Nick talk about some story in his life we had already heard several times before. I didn’t want to hear about Norway, the textile factory, the production company, his AA meetings. That ended up being the last straw.
After 2o minutes of hearing Nick talk about the everything but the project he started discussing his time in AA and how it turned his life around.
“Glad it worked for you. It doesn’t work for most people.” It was three am and I wanted to sleep. I knew that AA would be another 20-30 minutes and my time was being wasted.
“It works. How would you know if it works or not?”
“the success rate is 13% and AA wouldn’t know that because anyone who doesn’t stick with the program isn’t tracked. They have false statistics to make themselves look good.”
“that’s bullshit. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I needed a higher power to get me through and come out sober in the end. AA saved my life and you think you know better than someone who was in it? Where do you come across saying these things?” Sam and Todd were silent. A button had been pushed and all I wanted to do was go to bed already having nothing to work with from the meeting.
“You said yourself you had to stop smoking to stop drinking. That’s not a higher power, that’s thinking.”
There was an eruption on the other end. Sam jumped in trying to calm Nick down. While Nick went on a rampage I sat back and listened. It was the only joy I would get out of this meeting and it all happened because he could only focus on himself and not the show.
“we’ve been on this call for three hours and for the last 30 minutes all you have done is talk about yourself. I don’t know what you do during the day but I need some sleep and I have to go to work tomorrow. Stop wasting my time!” I finally said it. I was expecting to be fired. I wanted to be fired. I was begging to be let go. For once Nick listened.
“You’re right, I’m not respecting your time. Let’s wrap this up and start again in a few days.” There was a sigh of relief from Todd’s end and I signed off without saying goodbye.
The next morning, I started receiving the emails. Nick had added me to his carbon copy list at the beginning of the project and I would receive emails about everything from bills to be paid and the show. It also included messages back and forth with Sam. Shit was starting to get real.
“If that son of a bitch starts that shit again, he’s gone.” The messages continued all day as Nick and Sam discussed what to do with me, and I read everything. I wasn’t the only person they were talking about. Todd was viewed as the suck who was working for less money than he was worth. Nick started looking for other writers to replace me, and I was glad. I would continue to receive payment until the last day, at least that was the plan.
“I’m bringing another writer into the project,” Nick said at the next meeting. He was in contact with a woman from the Seattle area that he wanted to hire. The next day he was bitching through email that she had told him to contact her agent to arrange a deal for the job. Nick lost his shit when he demanded to negotiate with her directly and she stopped responding to his messages. He didn’t handle rejection very well. I was still the only writer he had to work with and the demands I was making were viewed as obscene. Don’t waste my time. Focus on the show. Finish one thing before going onto the next. No, I’m not writing your books for a show that hasn’t been thought through yet. If I’m working on more than one show then you are paying me an equal amount for each show. we had come to a crossroad and neither of us would budge. We stood there going nowhere and that was where the show would stay until something changed.

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John Wick 3: redefining action movies

The following article will contain spoilers and my thoughts on certain scenes within the movie. If you have not seen it yet, what the hell are you waiting for? That includes you Tai.
The opening scene starts out where Wick 2 left off, John has less than an hour to prepare for a 14-million-dollar contract to be opened on him and every assassin in the world wanting a piece of the reward. A checkered cab picks him up from the street like the one from Taxi Driver, the DeNiro movie with an odd ball character who knows John. Wick’s dog is taken to the Continental to stay as a guest and Wick is dropped off at the library to pick up an emergency stash. A book about Russian folktales contains the items he will need to push him through the rest of the film. Wick comes face to face with a man who thinks he can honor the contract early only to pay the price for jumping ahead in line. To say that the man was tall is an understatement. More like a white Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the man is slow and tries to use his reach to kill Wick but that turns into a huge disadvantage. It is clear that John knows how to do more with a book than read.
We learn a bit about john when he goes to visit the Russian side of the mob. The guards demand all of his weapons including his belt, this ends up playing a role later. It becomes clear that John was an orphan raised to be an asset to the mob, the women trained in ballet and the boys are practicing Judo and Sambo. Wick cashes in a ticket and is branded for life to never return to his home.
In Casablanca Wick meets up with someone who it isn’t clear what her ties to him in the past is. Not likely a former lover, Berry aids Wick in meeting with her boss, the man who creates the gold coins that is used for currency. Berry has two trained German shepherds and these dogs are weapons no different from the guns and blades they carry. Berry turns on her own boss after he shoots her dogs, something that doesn’t turn out well for anyone who harms a canine. The boss isn’t killed but she leaves him with something to remember after the dog already mangled his family jewels.
There is a spiritual aspect to Wick’s journey. He goes out into the desert to seek the man who started it all in order to make amends. After being found half dead Wick awakes in a tent and sees the man he was looking for. In order to save his life, he has to pledge his loyalty to the Elder and only work for him the rest of his life. To seal the deal Wick cuts off his ring finger and offers it, plus his wedding ring, to the Elder. While this is a Japanese tradition it is for some reason used in the desert with an Arab figure. The first contract Wick has to fulfill is Winston, the man who runs the Continental in New York.
While Wick is trying to save his own life, other people are finding their positions threatened by the High Table, the group who runs the assassin operation world-wide. Winston is having the Continental taken from him and the head of the Burrows, the underground group run by Lawrence Fishburne, is losing their king for handing a gun to Wick in the second film. Clearly mistakes are made and before taking care of the Wick problem the High Table decide that everyone is to be held accountable at the same time, creating alliances they should have expected.
Don “the dragon” Wilson plays a character named Zero who’s hero it turns out is Wick. Why you would send an assassin to kill his hero is beyond me. Zero’s men and himself have several opportunities to kill Wick throughout the film and don’t treating the job like a game. Two of Zeros men are played by Malaysian martial artist best known for the Raid movies and in one scene with motorcycles they try to kill Wick using Katanas like a scene out of Kill Bill. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that Wick 3 is unoriginal because they do have their own take to the scenes that still leave you breathless in the end.
Keanu gives a nod to the Matrix movies when the Continental is under siege and it is up to him and the staff to fight off an army sent to kill them all. “I need guns, lots of guns.” Wick arms himself in the old way and finds that he is not prepared for men with full body armor. Wick and the Host go back to the armory and pick out shotguns with armor piercing rounds to do the job.
The mirrored room comes back for Game of Death but with a three-dimensional, three story, room of glass. The tricks are different here, the men acting more like ninjas and they play games with Wick not killing him when they have several opportunities. After a long fight Zero is finally killed and looks to Wick for acceptance at a good killer. “That was a good fight wasn’t it?”
In the end Wick learns who his true friends are when Winston appears to kill Wick on the roof in order to get control of the Continental back. One can be led to believe that this was preplanned. Wick’s body disappears and he is saved by Fishburne for what is a clear motive of revenge.
There are several Easter Eggs hidden in the film making it something to watch several times over in search of all of them. The belt comes into play when Wick removes it from his pants to fight two men at the same time like Jet Li in Fist of Legend. While I could go on, I hope that you will take the time to find them for yourself.
John Wick 3 might be one of the best action movies so far made during this century and with so many failing to do more than blow stuff up and have crappy dialogue it was a breath of fresh air. I would like to point out that in the past couple of years this was the only one I went to watch in the theaters with everything else being brought home on DVD and mostly likely falling asleep to. I hope Wick turns into Keanu’s Zatoichi.

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Golden: part 8

The last day in Seattle started out like all of the others. This morning a jazz band was playing in the corner of the deli and when they asked for requested, I suggested something from Kind of Blue, the Miles Davis classic. Without a horn in the group the electric guitar took over the role and played the piece for ten minutes. I was impressed and the head of the band told me that the guitarist had really improved over the past ten years. Nick added afterwards that he had recorded some of the American song book with this group but others in the band were not up to his standards for the job.
We sat at the counter with the picture window overlooking the street and patio. Nick read one of the local papers and discussed how the governor of Washington state was meeting with President Xi of China. Some people were suggesting that the Governor might run for president but I knew that role was already going to Hillary. I knew nothing about local politics and sat silent eating my meal listening to the conversations around me.
Out of the corner of my eye I watched a woman walk into the deli. I had been repeatedly told about the beautiful exotic Asian women living in Seattle but after a week of staying there and seeing little of Seattle I took the information to be a local myth I should disregard. I few women I did meet were just like the college students I saw in my own town with three universities. Young naive and consumed by pointless over charged educations, with a thirst for consumerism, the women I saw in Seattle were clones of this model, until this day.
The woman who walked in was very different from anything I had seen at home or abroad. Wearing a blue sundress, her hair was pulled back into a pony tail as she stood in line only a few feet away. Dark red lipstick emphasized her smile and when the owner of the shop walked up to say hello her eyes squinted as she smiled. She knew the owner and continued her conversation as I sat silently watching from afar hoping she wouldn’t notice me. The sundress did little to hide her curvaceous body and I fought to remember the details of this rare beauty. Thick calf muscles teased there way into view between the brown boots and the skirt. Thick thighs blended into wide hips and a healthy attractive midsection. Completing her curvaceous figure were her full breasts. These details I was fortunate to remember and looking away from her simple and classical face of beauty was a task upon itself. Big brown eyes and thick red lips filled her oval face gave her a constant expression of kindness that wasn’t faked or forced like so many I had met before. The girl at the airport bar in Salt Lake City came to mind.
The woman was called to order her coffee and just as fast as she appeared, she was gone. So, the mythical women of Seattle are actually real and just like any unicorn, snipe, or bigfoot you have to enjoy them for the few seconds they are there before they are gone.
I asked Nick bout the girl afterwards hoping to have a name to go with the face. He had never seen her before but by his recollection she might work for one of the local advertising agencies in Bellevue. Flying back to Kalamazoo later that night there was no point in pushing the issue.
Nick had this strange idea that I needed an iPad. He had a second device that he wanted to give me and that was our mission for the day. The second iPad belonged to his girlfriend Jan who came to own it from buying a new Cadillac. She used it once, set the pin number and after two years of sitting in the closet she forgot what the number was. Nick drove to the local mall where there was an Apple store.
The mall was no different from any other except for the Tesla car store in the middle. Nick was fascinated by these cars and thought these must be a rare breed in the land of Detroit muscle. The car by itself was odd, no motor, exhaust, gas tank, transmission, or cooling system. Everything was touch controlled and the car talked to you. I thought of Nightrider.
At the Apple store we spent an hour arguing with an employee about the resetting of the iPad.
“Unless you have the code, we can’t help you.”
“But we don’t know the code because it’s forgotten. Are you telling me that I own an iPad that I can’t have fixed if I forget the code?”
“do you have the receipt?”
“it belongs to my girlfriend and she got it from buying a new car.”
“Well unless you have the receipt, I can’t help you.”
“I want to talk to somebody else.”
This went on for more than an hour and this was how I spent the last day in Seattle, sitting in a mall surrounded by stores I don’t go to and people I don’t like. I could be doing this at home.
We left the mall with Nick promising that he would have the iPad unlocked and mail it to me. I didn’t want the iPad. I didn’t have WIFI. I didn’t and still don’t like Apple products. The iPad, even when it did become mine would become a useless pile of crap taking up space with little or no use to me. Nick never listened to me.
“You don’t know what you’re missing. Once you have it, you’ll like it.”
Back at Walden I packed my bags and carried everything upstairs to wait by the door. I had been awake for almost 24 hours at that time and it was another 12 hours home, flying overnight to Minneapolis and then to Chicago after a three-hour layover. I was hoping to sleep on the plane but knew that would be near to impossible.
When went to a local Hooters in Seattle close to the airport. The three of us sat at a table ordering beer. I didn’t want any food, my stomach felt like it was filled with rocks and the discomfort was getting to me. A cute little Latina waitress was serving us. Her hair was cute to her shoulders with bangs, her skin glowed and she was polite even when others were not. She was fit and you could tell that she went to the gym regularly. Sam flirted with her and she said things like “that sweet” or “you don’t say.” These are the “I’m not interested, please stop being creepy” clues. Nick talked about asking her to be in a demo video for the show and Sam suggested they get business cards as producer or executive producer for getting laid in the future. The slapped each other on the back for the great idea and grew excited at all the pussy in their foreseeable future. These were not the kind of guys I would hang out with in any other circumstance. I kept looking at the time and suggested that we go to the airport.
Once I was dropped off, I made my way to the loading area and waited. There were little shops and I bought a rechargeable battery for my phone so that I could use it while flying back. Only problem was that you had to pay to use the WIFI on the plane. They didn’t even supply free WIFI.
I unwrapped a movie I had bought in town, Under the Red Hood, an animated Batman movie and popped it into my laptop. Myself and the two people next to me watched the movie with subtitles while the rest of the plane pretended to sleep.
On the top of the mountains below us were flashing lights that didn’t appear as far away as I would have liked. Small towns were glowing petri dishes in the dark. The lights condensed to the main street and gradually spreading out from the center.
Minneapolis was a great non-event. I recall nothing. I was now at 30 hours without sleep. The 1.5-hour flight to Chicago took five hours with you include the layover and waiting on the tarmac forever.
In Chicago, there was the wait for my luggage, again forced to be checked in at no extra cost. I took the shuttle to the garage where my car was still parked in the same spot, I left it. Leaving the garage, I set my phone for directions to Kalamazoo. It didn’t matter where I went the phone kept telling me to make a U-turn. Frustrated I tossed the phone in the back seat. I jumped on the highway and drove as far and as fast as I could. I lost an hour in town from a stupid app and now the trip back to my hometown was taking me three hours. Then there was the traffic backup.
Some idiot had jackknifed a truck and the traffic was at a standstill. Many people were jumping off the highway to take side streets around the accident. The side streets were their own traffic jam. I stayed on the highway and looked at the morons who were twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out how to move the truck.
I put the audiobook on and tried not to fall asleep at the wheel. Clear blue skies and a bright sun kept me awake while squinting the whole time.
I drove up to my house. Pulled into the driveway. Left everything in the car. Went upstairs and climbed into bed. I had just hit 48 hours of being awake and no it was time to crash. I wouldn’t wake up until the next morning. 14 ours of sleep was just what I needed.

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Golden: Part 7

It had been three days since my last shower. That first ice cold shower convinced me something was wrong with the hot water heater. After four days a Walden I noticed Nick and Sam never showered while I had been there. I was with Nick 90% of the time and he would come out of his bedroom combing his wet hair back and adjusting his black track suit, the same one he wore the entire time I was in Seattle. When I mentioned the hot water situation Nick asked Sam if there was hot water, they mumbled back and forth until nick decided to jump in the hot tub, relaxing for twenty minutes and hopping back out. I never went into the hot tub.
We drove to downtown Seattle that evening, passing the Microsoft building with Nick pointing out how much money there was in the city. We parked in a ramp and went into the lobby passing two Lamborghini’s and a Ferrari parked at a turnaround. The restaurant was the go-to place for Microsoft executives to have a meal or conduct business during lunch. A bar ran along the back wall with the rest of the place filled with tables to seat four or more patrons. The special of the day was the hamburger and today it was half off the regular price of $50. I wasn’t sure what was supposed to be so special about this burger. We had a place downtown in Kalamazoo that did a foie gras burger for $50 and it didn’t last long on the menu. The burger was nothing special and it wasn’t cooked at medium like I had asked. The head chef and owner was some world-renowned chef that I had never heard of.
“This room is filled with some of the wealthiest men in the city, in the country.”
I looked around and didn’t see anything special. Take off the suits and ties and they weren’t any different than me. The women looked uncomfortable in their shoes and wore dresses that didn’t flatter their bodies, relying on the name of the designer rather than what would match their profile. Most of the servers were more attractive than the people dining in maybe it was because you could see who they really were instead of who they wanted others to see them as.
Sam talked about his start up and Nick discussed his previous business adventures. I said nothing. I never finished the burger; my appetite had disappeared after the morning breakfast at Gilbert’s. We left the Microsoft burger joint and went back to Walden for another evening of bashing our heads together. The days were starting to blend together and for every step forward it felt like we took two steps back.
The next day started out with coffee on the deck overlooking the woods. Deer were out grazing along the side of the house. The birds flew in the trees and looked for food in the feeders that had not been filled in years. I thought about my next book, what I would work on once I went home. Nick came out and joined me on the deck.
“you know once this thing sells, you’re going to have a lot of work coming your way.” Nick continued to sell me the project even when I was in it. “there is going to be so much money, and the women, oh I tell you the women…”
I didn’t want to go to Hollywood or sleep around. Fast cars and big house didn’t appeal to me. I wanted a little security and that was it. That day Sam worked all day and Nick had to go out for some errands. I was at the house by myself and there wasn’t anything to do for the show. We had come to a halt and by that time we were all burned out. I would be leaving soon and it looked like my one goal would never happen. I thought about riding a mountain bike to Seattle but it wasn’t mine and it wasn’t sure if I could trust it to go from point A to B and back again. I stayed at the house and spent that afternoon in the woods.
By the time I came back Nick was in the house and wondered if I had biked to town or not. The bridge to Seattle didn’t have bike lanes and it didn’t sound like a good idea to me. That night Nick and I drove to town. We were meeting Sam at a local bar but before then I was going to see the sites. There was Pike’s place market, which was closed because it was only open during mornings and afternoons. Then there was the gum wall, high school antics gone too far. We were told about a troll but didn’t know where to find it. The streets were hills running up and down in various directions. Nothing was flat. The place Nick wanted to go was closed, and had been for a while. Instead we went to an Irish pub called Kells. It was a classic bar with a wide selection of whiskeys on the wall. Nick was sober, several years post AA. He had discovered that if he smoked a cigar, he needed to have scotch. Once he quit smoking, he quit drinking.
“Do you know your whiskey, scotch and bourbon?” he asked.
“Not really,” I replied.
Nick asked the bartender to give me a taste of what was behind the bar. There must have been thirty brands waiting in their place in line. The first drink was smoky and I wasn’t sure what I was going to be able to taste afterwards. It went down smooth and Nick had this grin on his face while living vicariously through me.
“Next one,” nick said as he sipped his non-alcoholic beer.
The next drink was lighter in color. The bartender told me the flavors and smells I should look for but the first drink killed any chance of that happening. After three of four of this shots Sam finally arrived and we sat down to order some food. I couldn’t taste my beer that night or the food I ordered. Downtown Seattle reminded me of Chicago in some ways. There was the famous Starbucks that started it all. Shops I had ever heard of and a Déjà vu strip club that made sure Seattle was too classy. We wondered around not finding anything else to do and I sat in the back of the car with my head against the glass counting down the hours until I would be able to leave. We didn’t work that night and Sam had to be at work early the next morning. I fell asleep and woke up three hours later sober and wide awake. This was a common thing for me after drink hard liquor. I stayed up and surfed the internet until the sun started to rise and waited for everyone else to join the world. I sat on the deck sipping coffee again and was thankful to finally be alone and for once not think about the show. Kalamazoo was calling me and I wanted to go back to a land that I understood a little more than this place. Seattle was a city that was still dealing with puberty and didn’t know what it would be when it finally grew up.

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Golden: part 6

The show was moving along ahead of schedule. We had the first season mapped out. Nick was creating new characters and we looked at adding them in season two. Profiles were being created and maybe things weren’t as bad as I thought they were.
The daytime was reserved for Nick’s normal routine and going on adventures on an itinerary that only Nick knew. I had no idea what I would see on those days, we would leave Walden and cruise around town. When I brought up Bruce Lee’s grave Nick would say that Sam would take me and he would make sure it would happen. When I brought it up to Sam, he had a look of surprise and wonder revealing that he had never been talked to about it.
The Salmon fish hatchery was an interesting place, not exactly on the top of my list of places I would have seen while in Seattle, a place I would likely never see again. There were bridges and streams running through the park. In the center was a large box shaped contraption with windows on the side where you could watch salmon who had been trapped to spawn their eggs and die, trapping their future young for release into the wild keeping the species going for another year. A ramp went around the box leading to the center tank. Walking around the Salmon treadmill you could see fish jumping to the next level thinking they were going up stream to their final destination. In the end they fell into a tank of water with nowhere to go, the ultimate Secretary of State office where you waited to die and they took your first to last born.
In the shallow streams you could see the fungus that had been decimating the salmon population on their fins and backs. These fish were kept away from the rest and for good reason. The surrounding mountains reminded me of Tennessee with houses speckling the slopes hidden behind trees. Instead of the rounded tops the points were jagged and bear from trees and green foliage. There was an Indian reservation that I didn’t know about near the salmon hatchery. We went down winding roads, through narrow passageways and found a shop in the middle of nowhere. On the racks outside there was a sale for flannel insulated shirts with shiny snap on buttons that I had not seen since the 1980s. I picked one out and Nick bought it as a gift for me. The inside was a glorified tractor supply store complete with most items a farmer would need throughout the year.
On the way back to Bellevue, Nick continued to ask me if there was anything I wanted to see, we had time to kill and all I had to do was ask. I mentioned Bruce Lee’s grave and was met with resistance. I took my phone out and looked up local tourist attractions in the area. Jimi Hendrix grave came up. Only a few miles away and located between our current location and Bellevue we made a few turns and drove into the cemetery to find a large domed stone structure with images of Jimi etched into the marble surface. I had no idea Hendrix was buried here.
In the center was the small tomb holding Jimi’s ashes. Notes and flowers were still left for him and I went through his catalog of music in my mind. Nick had never heard of him, never listened to the music, the self-proclaimed social justice advocate was not familiar with one of the foundations of hippie culture rock.
Nick had moved away from the states in the late sixties, tired of the war and wanting to live in a society that wasn’t as blatantly corrupt he moved himself and his wife to Norway. The picture he showed me was of a young man in a boat with a smile of hope for the future. The etched brow and chiseled square jaw line never changed over the years. His hair was still thick but in the black and white photo it was much darker than it was now. I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish by running away, swearing to never step foot in the states again. He started a textile company, had a feud with Gloria Steinem, lost the company to investors after years of running the company and was back at stage one. This appeared to be a pattern in Nick’s life, gaining and losing fortunes over the years, never being able to hold on to something that he had created. Once his goal was achieved it almost appeared that a self-destructive nature would take over, inspiring to start over and go through the process again no knowing how to maintain the life that he had created. In some ways I felt sorry for Nick, always the lost boy in the boat looking for adventure but never able to let go of the boat and settle down in a place and live the rest of his life in peace.
I told Nick about Hendrix life, dying at 27, only working in the states for three years before dying of an overdose. Hendrix served in the army, went airborne, and supported the troops during a time that it was frowned upon. Nick appeared to show some interest and after a few photos we left and drove back to Walden to prepare for that nights meeting of the minds.
At this point we were shuffling around scenes from the season, creating new post it notes and placing them on the board to figure out what events would change afterwards. The cast of characters were growing and with each new addition the plot would shift. The grand finale of the show was set in stone, a Game of Thrones style mass extinction event to wipe the plate clean for season two. Things were coming together and to move ahead I started asking if these changes were set in stone, something we could forget about to move ahead in the project. I received a yes, several times and a day or two later it was changed to something “better” that wasn’t presented to the group. “we are doing this instead. Start over.” The changes would bounce around from the middle of the season to the opening scene in the pilot. The pilot was what drove me nuts the most, an episode that would rewrite the whole season depending on the changes that were made.
At one point I created a new female character, a strong-willed woman who could take care of herself and was tough as nails. There were two brothers on the show and she was a completing love interest, nothing new for tv and something that always worked. While I had her as a leading role, moving along in her own story and popping in when the time was right for other characters, Nick had other ideas.
We were going back and forth on the script, changing scenes and dialogue to fit the new layout of the episode. My new character was introduced filling a role that had been left out for some interactions and quickly putting her in as an important player in the show. Nick wrote his own version where she was quick to go to bed with one of the brothers as a way to pay her way out of a tough spot. I didn’t know we were making this show for the porn industry. I read the script in horror wondering what the hell Nick was thinking. That night I brought up the script and Nick had a look of excitement on his face to hear how great it was. I said everything to disappoint him. There was no build up, nothing that lead the audience to anticipate the moment, it was thrown out there as a fleeting act with my character turning into a cheap whore. In retaliation, the next day I sent a new script to Nick in the morning, Nick spent five minutes reading the 60-page document and came out of his bedroom belittling my dialogue, the way I described the opening scene, the poor use of characters, and the list went on and on. I pointed out the time that he took to read it with no way that he could have seen all that in five minutes.
“Your dialogue is horrible” he said. “I’m hiring a professional script writer.”
“I didn’t change the dialogue,” I pointed out. “It was all the lines you wrote in the original version. All I changed was the scene description and what the characters were doing.”
Flustered he tried to come back with something of substance. “I, well, no it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter. We clearly need someone else to work on the script.”
There was tension in the air the rest of that day. Breakfast at Gilbert’s was quiet. Nick didn’t say much about plans for the day. There was a rift taking place and while we were days ahead of schedule it was obvious that the project had problems. There was a strange desire for perfection on his list of priorities for the show, he couldn’t face the fact that nothing was perfect, there was only the best that you could do and you had to accept that. I had to come to grips that nothing would satisfy this man and to continue working on this project would ultimately be a dead end with a few paychecks along the way and a lot of grief. I didn’t see it then, too focused on the disagreement itself and hoping to smooth things over while saving the show. I had to get into Nick’s head, an open book with pages he wrote himself for how he wanted people to see him. You had to learn to read between the lines and be skeptical of anything you read. The best way to get in his good graces was to feed his hungry ego and make sure he thought he was the center of your world. I would have to kiss ass.

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