The end of an era

Last week was my daughter’s second birthday. Unlike the year prior I had to wait a few days before visiting the NICU where she had stayed for 91 days to drop off some doughnuts and say hello. I went to the local Sweetwater’s Doughnut mill and picked up two dozen of the city’s best treats. Zoey had a clean bill of health the day before on her two-year checkup. For being born four months early she was doing great.
We drove downtown and found a spot before going inside. Everything looked the same as it had two years ago. The elevator took us to the fourth floor and I realized this was the first time Zoey would be walking onto the floor by herself. We run into her old nurses from time to time and they tell us about her picture taped to the desk at the end of the hall where she stayed. The doctors still talk about how well she did and how fast she had recovered. At the desk was a woman I didn’t recognize. I told her Zoey was there to visit and that it was her birthday. I was given an odd look as I set the doughnuts down on the counter.
The greeter wanted names of nurses, the hall that we stayed in. I gave her a list and mentioned that Rob had been given the Daisy award for taking care of her. Normally the greeter would call the charge nurse and say Zoey was there to visit, word would spread and people would come out to say hi. That didn’t happen.
I was told that none of the nurses were working, I didn’t know who was in charge. Nobody came out to grab the doughnuts for the breakroom. In the waiting room I played with Zoey and watched the clock tick by. The greeters changed shifts and when the new girl asked about the doughnuts a vague answer was given and the new girl set them on a table behind the desk and forgot about them. Staff came and went, people I didn’t know waved hi to Zoey but nobody talked to me again.
Zoey is no longer a preemie. The one pound six-ounce baby had grown up and we were no longer patients. She had been replaced by the newcomers, the ones who were in the NICU now. After thirty minutes I figured it was time to move on in more ways than one. I’m sure that many of the staff had moved on and transferred to other departments. Zoey was another face on a wall and while people recognized her from her picture there wasn’t that connection anymore. I can’t keep thinking of my daughter as the tiny hobbit baby in a plastic box. She has other priorities now bouncing balls, birds, cars, and Elmo. When problems arise, they wouldn’t be of the NICU variety.
I left without saying goodbye, there was nobody to say goodbye to. I can’t say I will miss seeing those double doors ever again. I felt guilty for not taking the doughnuts in on her birthday but I have a feeling that emotion will be gone next year. I get to take my daughter for walks now, letting her see the vast world that she is now a part of and maybe it’s time to leave behind the tiny world that she had come from.
We rode the elevator down, walked down the halls as people’s heads turned talking about how cute she was and left the hospital for the last time. I still wonder if the NICU ever got their doughnuts not that they would know who they were from but I can always hope.

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Time for Plan B

I had a plan for this year, one that would hopefully put me back where I was a few years ago but times are changing and I am having trouble keeping up. I spent weeks coming home from work and recording an audiobook for Audible in the hopes of reaching a market that was out of my reach before. I enjoy audiobooks, hell for the most part it’s the only way I get to read these days. I spent more grueling hours editing the material, making sure it fit the specifications for the site and in the end, there were issues with the files. This isn’t the end of the story.
I still have hours of material that is waiting to be heard. This Sunday some friends and I will be recording the first of what could be many podcasts. It’s a chance to hang out, have some fun, talk about what whatever we want and plug our stuff in the meantime. Originally, I thought we would have to go through SoundCloud, an expensive site that I had used in the past and manually connect the podcast to Apple, Spotify and all the other sites, a huge pain in the butt. Then someone on Instagram pointed me towards Anchor.fm where they connect you with sponsors and connect your podcast to all the other outlets for listeners. In the end dear reader, you ended up with not one but two podcasts for your future enjoyment.
I started the Typing Piper Classics podcast where every week I upload a new segment of my audiobooks for your listening pleasure. The first episode is available now. I’m starting out with Daisy the book that I spend so many hours recording. I have a backlog of material at the moment which means I can focus on writing new material in the meantime for this blog and Amazon. I hope that you will join me on this new adventure and maybe something special will become of it. Who knows, in the future if things go well, I can afford to have some professionally produced audiobooks created in the future.
Also, Golden will be released on July 1 on Amazon as an eBook and in print. It’s a Novella length memoir and if you have been reading this blog then you might have already read it. There isn’t that much new material, the original post have been cleaned up and I will be happy when I have a printed copy sitting on my shelf at home. Daisy and Motherf*cker, my year as a degenerate cook, are still scheduled to come out early June.
While all of this is happening, I will continue to work on the 5-year anniversary editions of the After the Day series and those will start being turned into serialized podcast later this year. My schedule is full and if you don’t see me on here for stretches of time know that I am likely working on something new. Outlines have been written for an upcoming trilogy, working title is After America. My plan for this is to have the whole trilogy written when it is released. I figure if people can binge watch Netflix why wouldn’t they want to binge read a new series? These will be longer books than what I have been producing lately so don’t expect it any time soon. Know that there will be material coming out in the meantime but something big is one the way.
-Matthew Gilman

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The Catch 22 of political correctness in the workplace

In the few places I have worked over my lifetime I have seen a rise in the enforcement of politically correct policies in recent years. While these may appear to be a good thing at first it raises questions about where we are heading as a society and how the work place will function in the future.
Traditionally the social structure of a company was determined by the value of the employee on par with how they worked and how much a company made from their labor in exchange for the cost. Let’s face it, a company’s job is to pay its employees the least amount of money for the most amount of work. There is an agreement, an exchange here between employee and the company. The employee may enjoy what they are doing for a living and so the job is its own reward. The company, if it is smart will look for people who thrive in their chosen business with the hope of maximizing profits through these employees. The formula wasn’t complicated, until now.
With the workplace becoming more diverse policies are changing and there is a new generation of people coming in demanding a change from the old system. Criteria for jobs are changing but nobody seems to know what they are. There are odd classes with names like “hidden racism” and “proper use of pronouns.” The last one is kind of funny and I will explain in a moment. There is a re-education happening and while we look at places like China and cringe at the thought of people being put into camps to learn how to be a better citizen the same thing is happening here but under the threat of losing your job. Adapt or find new employment.
The pronoun game is for those who don’t understand language. The most common versions are he, she, and they, although there are many more that are being added all the time. What I find to be the most interesting about this topic is that people request to be called these pronouns, fair enough. When was the last time you referred to the person you were talking to as he? Or she? Or they? Why would you use these words when they have a name? these pronouns are for when you are talking to someone else about that person. “she said this.” “they did that.” “He is out of his mind.” The person is not present when you use these words. A person can request, or demand, how others talk about them while they are not present. Personal conversations are now subject to the public court of law.
There is another change in HR policies that is shaking things up, the use of hearsay and rumors is now being used as evidence for termination or disiplinary action. How a rumor looks can caused HR to hold a meeting to address how to move ahead. “This looks bad” is now cause for alarm as opposed to “is this true.” What would not hold up in court is good enough for a company to do something. There doesn’t appear to be due process anymore and with the “right to work” laws, a complete BS name, workers can no longer sue for unjust termination and employees can be fired for no reason at all. In fact, it is best to terminate an employee and not give a reason, leaving the company free from retaliation.
I don’t know where things are going with this. There was a time when talking politics at work was taboo but lately I have seen people carrying “I love abortion” backpacks and talking about being oppressed by white people, with some of this coming from white people. I sit back and scratch my head. I can see now the desire for people to work on their own, the desire to become one’s own boss and be free from such a strange social structure. When your very existence is always in question and everything you say or do can be interpreted in some strange way why would you want to work in that kind of environment?
I understand where the social justice movement came from. The desire to make the world a better place for everyone is a goal that we should strive for. Having people be accepted for who they are sounds like a good idea, but at what cost. Trying to force people to change who they are does the exact opposite of what the SJW movement says they want to do. Instead of creating one culture with a single goal in mind it creates an us versus them mentality that causes more division in the workplace with some people going into hiding rather than be exposed as the person they really are. In the end people are being hurt for the sake of not hurting people. This is why utopian novels turn into nightmares by the end.
There was a time when the country came together for one cause. There was no religion, race, or social background. Chaplains had to learn the rights of all religions as part of their job. Jim bob from corn country worked next to john smith from corporate America. These people had one goal in mind and differences were set aside to achieve that goal. We can look back and say “ya but they were killing Nazis and Japs” but keep in mind if that didn’t happen, we wouldn’t have had the civil rights movement. Do you think those years of just being Americans didn’t change things for the years that followed?
If the SJW movement is going to do anything besides piss people off they need to have one goal in mind. These petty little battles do little in the way of changing society and in the end, they resulted in the election of Donald Trump. Thanks a lot.

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Price’s Law, why companies pay the price

I first heard of Price’s Law on a Jordan Peterson YouTube video months ago and something about it stuck with me. When he explained the principles, everything started to make sense. A small fraction of people does the majority of the work. I had seen this time and time again and never thought of it as some kind of law.
Here’s how it works, you take the square root of the number of employees and that is the number of people who do 50% of the work, which is a hell of a lot. Plus, keep in mind that means there are just as many, if not more, employees who contribute nothing to the company. The odd part is the people who do the majority of the work know who they are, most of the employees know who they are. Most of the time management doesn’t know who they are.
When a company starts to have a hard time, or the writing is on the wall to abandon ship the people in that bottom portion who are keeping things afloat are the first to go. They have options, they know they can get the same job or a better one for more pay elsewhere and they do. So now the ten people out of a hundred are gone and half the work is not getting done with the 90 people who are left. Things spiral out of control and the company turns to shit.
I watched this before when I worked at a hospital. The 13th year I worked there nobody got a raise, they were starting everyone at zero and depending on how you performed you could look forward to a nice paycheck. After a year the reviews started to come in. supervisors were bringing up things that happened years before, things that the employee had already been disciplined for and brought up in previous reviews. If you were sent an email reminding you about something you were marked down. Punch in a minute late during blizzard when most of the staff didn’t show up and called in, fuck you no raise. It was clear the hospital didn’t want to pay anyone more than they desired and the writing on the wall was to jump ship. This hospital was the titanic and I knew how to row a boat.
I was the guy who was sent the email reminding me of a meeting. I didn’t ask for an email, there was no reason to send one, but my supervisor did and so I was marked down. My raise that year, 5 cents. I quickly did the math I my head and told him that didn’t even cover inflation and that I was making less than last year. He nodded his head in agreement and went on with the review. I didn’t pay attention. I refused to sign the review, and in the end, turned in a three-week notice. “Find somebody to replace me, you’re going to need it.”
Within a week 12 more people turned in their notices to the same supervisor and the same thing was happening across the hospital. Everyone was jumping ship and leaving as fast as possible. I don’t know if this was their plan all along. I heard stories during those final days of the most worthless person on the floor getting a four on their review while the people pulling their weight were marked down for the dumbest of reasons. The scoring for these reviews were odd.
There were different categories and you could score 1-5. A 1 meant you sucked at your job and were looking at being fired. A five was deemed impossible to achieve, nobody got a 5. 3 meant you were doing what you supposed to be doing and a 4 was going above and beyond what was asked. Of course, nobody was allowed to talk about their reviews with other people but word spread and the hospital turned into a total clusterfuck of chaos.
I ended up taking a job with the county after that for the same pay and I wasn’t cleaning up body parts off the floor. A year after that I almost doubled my pay at my current job.
The year of FUBAR at the hospital wasn’t the only example I came across of this behavior. I watched people bid for jobs they were qualified for and be turned down for some office politics that did not take into account the most qualified person for the job and instead used some other criteria that nobody could figure out. When you work hard and do mare than is asked and are turned down for a position you start to wonder what is the point.
Canada had a program to bring in highly skilled people from other countries through there immigration policies. These people applied and from their skills they were brought in and made citizens of the country. It was a high honor that people strived for. Then the policy changed, numbers needed to be filled regarding race and gender. Suddenly the most qualified were being rejected for reasons that didn’t make any sense and the program started to be viewed as a joke.
A few years after I left the hospital, I ended up being a patient there. My daughter was in the NICU and everyday for 91 days I was there and could see how the quality of work had dwindled. Don’t get me wrong, the room was clean and the staff working with her was amazing, but the elevator was broken for a majority of the time we were there. The hallways were dirty. Cleaning staff was rarely seen except for the lunch rooms. I was one of these people, I knew what was expected of me back then. Somehow over the years, things had changed.
The people like me had left and found something better.
So, what is the lesson from all of this? If you are taken advantage of at your job find a new one. Go where your skills will be appreciated. If your job is telling you to be happy you have a job, that is a huge sign that they don’t give a shit about you. If you find yourself doing most of the work don’t be surprised when your supervisor has no idea what is going on. When they do know what is happening don’t expect them to stick around. The last good boss I had at the hospital was fired. The manager said they didn’t know how to do their job, then they were replaced with one of the worst bosses I could have had. If you know you are one of those people, those who do a majority of the work where you are, know that you have options. When things start to look bad, run. The two things that could happen is that you find something similar to what you’re doing, or you come across something better. Aim for better, don’t settle.

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The Tale of Ninja Matt

It was a Tuesday night when my neighbor decided he was going to have a party in his car parked behind his house. I didn’t think anything of it at first knowing that on previous nights like this one the parties were short lived after he downed a bottle of vodka and passed out in his house. This night was already turning out differently from the rest.
I was upstairs in my office working on a story when the music started. The bass of the subwoofer vibrated the windows of my house and looking outside I could see the car rocking back and forth as the occupants hollered out the lyrics to a rap song. My wife came into the room with a window overlooking the backyard and alley and looked out at the car with smoke billowing out of the windows.
“Do you hear this shit?” she asked as the walls shook.
“Yup,” I said not wanting to deal with it. This kind of thing had become a regular occurrence throughout the summer and I wanted to see how long it would go on before calling the police.
“I’m calling the cops,” she said before I stopped her.
“That’s the one neighbor that likes us. We aren’t going to bed yet. If they are still at it in an hour then I’ll call.”
I didn’t take long for the guys outside to ruin their own party. Dennis lived in the house since the year before and I had learned from talking to him that his sister owned the house and let him stay in it. He owned the Cadillac parked behind it and I had no idea what he did for a living. Tonight, his job was to party and they were taking it very seriously.
“They’re throwing things in our yard,” she said in disgust and horror.
I bolted out of my chair and looked out the window to see a beer can soaring through the air into my yard. Next was a liquor bottle and other trash. This was a line they should not have crossed.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“Giving it back.”
I went into the bedroom and pulled out all the black clothes I owned. Head to toe I looked like Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and I snuck out the front door and into the back yard. I walked around picking up all the cans and liquor bottles of which there were already many. I walked over to the fence and tossed them back over without anyone noticing. The smell of marijuana was in the air. Dennis sat on his porch puffing away at his own joint while a second made the rounds in the car.
I sat back on a bench in my yard and waited for the next item to fly over the fence. Upstairs my wife watched and waited. Her job was to call the police if there was some kind of altercation during this adventure.
The music was cracked up and the lyrics “fuck that bitch, fuck that bitch” were repeated through the neighborhood. As the song was cracked up, the windows were rolled down and a red light flew over the fence, a burning ember like a shooting star across the sky. I ran over to it and found the cigarette still lit. I picked up the butt and flicked it back over the fence in the same direction it came from. I sat back on the bench and waited for the next thing.
What I didn’t see was that the lit cigarette went back through the sunroof if had been thrown through and into the car. A minute later all hell broke loose.
The following is the conversation I heard between four very drunk and high men from the other side of the fence. I don’t know who was speaking at the time:
“Ow, ow man, what the fuck man. Oh shit, get it off get it off. What the fuck!”
“What the fuck you doing in my car man?”
“Man, that cigarette burned my leg man.”
“Why the fuck you burn your leg?”
“I didn’t burn my leg. Why the fuck you throw that cigarette in the car man?”
“Why the fuck would I throw a cigarette in my own car?”
“I saw you throw that cigarette in the car. It came in through the sunroof.”
“Why the fuck would I do that? It’s my fucking car.”
“This hurts really bad man. This shit hurts.”
“Man, it’s a cigarette. Why you being a bitch?”
“Look at it, this shit hurts. What the fuck you want me to do?”
“Why the fuck are you guys throwing shit in my car?”
“How the fuck did we throw it in? we’re in the motherfucking car.”
“I gots ta go to the hospital.”
“You aint got to go to the hospital. It’s a cigarette burn.”
“Look at this shit. This shit hurts.”
“Fuck you.”
“Man, his pants are burnt and everything.”
“What the fuck, you want me to drive your ass to the hospital when we downed a fifth of absolute. Are you out of your fucking mind?”
“This fucking shit hurts man.”
“God damn it.”
I hear keys jingling out of a pocket and the car doors opening.
“Get in the fucking car.”
The car starts and the Cadillac slowly strolls out of the tight space and disappears into the alley.
I go back into the house where my wife is on the floor laughing.
“Oh my god, how the hell did you do that? That cigarette went right back through the sunroof they threw it through. What the hell happened?”
“It landed in a guys lap and burned him. They’re taking him to the hospital.”
We both laughed and started to enjoy the silence of the night. The yard was clean, the air smelled fresh and the sound of bats could be heard fluttering through the air. We finally had our night back.
The next morning, I saw Dennis in his yard mumbling to himself. I went out back and started racking the leaves that were already starting to fall from the trees.
“These lazy ass motherfuckers,” Dennis pops his head over the fence. “these motherfuckers come over to my house and trashed my fucking yard. Ain’t nobody got any respect these days.”
“Man, that sucks,” I had to force my laughter deep down to get through this conversation.
“Fucking liquor bottles, beer cans. Who drinks this shit? Those motherfuckers ain’t coming back here. Fuck this shit.”
Dennis’ car wasn’t there and I wondered what happened to it. He put all the bottles and cans into a grocery bag and set it by the house where it would stay. Dennis disappeared after saying a few choice words about his friends and I never saw him again after that. The car never returned and the house was declared condemned a few months later. I can’t say I miss Dennis, the man who would catch catfish out of the local rivers and dump the heads and guts behind the fence to rot stinking up my yard. The guy who would hit on my wife while sunbathing. The guy who told his friends to throw their shit in my yard the night before. That guy, fuck that guy. I hope they were pulled over, the car impounded, maybe his license taken away. When you act like an asshole, sometimes you’re going to get fucked. Do not mess with the ninja Matt, you will never know what happened.

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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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