Golden: Part 2

Working from home wasn’t the dream job that I thought it would be. Working second shift and getting out of work at 1am made the weekly meetings through Skype more difficult than they should have been. There was catching up to do on the project and I was stuck reading through files online and trying to create character profiles with little to go on. I learned early on that there were filing cabinets of information stuck inside Nick’s brain. During our meetings he would explain how he envisioned characters and scenes that weren’t in any of the documents online. To come up with something new for the show was becoming difficult, often shot down from the beginning because it didn’t fit into the world that was in Nick’s head that only he could see. The assistant who lived with Nick in Seattle, Sam, only encouraged this behavior often referring to Nick as “the master” or a “genius.” Meanwhile I was finding it difficult to know what my job was in a field that used visuals to tell a story and all the images appeared to be stuck in one man’s head.
After several weeks of Skype meetings, sharing ideas and figuring out how to move ahead, Nick decided it was time to have everyone with the project fly out to Seattle and stay at the place he called Walden. I had only flown once before, a trip to Phoenix with an ex-girlfriend and her family. While I didn’t have any problems on the trip there was the moment that TSA pulled her family aside because she had baby food in her bag and proceeded to pat down and tear apart the bags they had packed. I watched as the idiots in charge search half of the family, some stupid rule about suspected explosives, and let the other suspected terrorist on the plane with no problem. All the real terrorist would need to know is the procedure so that Bob is searched while Tom lugs on the C4. I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to fly again.
I had to approve the trip with my new employer, the County Government. I was still on probation and to my surprise the trip was approved without any issues. They were kind of excited that someone in the department was working on a “Hollywood” project. The tickets were purchased online by Nick and I had to pick them up at the airport desk. There were many things I had to figure out before I left. Where do I park my car in Chicago? What happens if my flight is delayed? What is there to do for the three-hour layover in Utah? Who has fun in Utah?
I packed my bag making sure to only bring clothes. I would buy any toiletries in Seattle after I arrived and leave them there when I left. I wasn’t going to give TSA any reason to treat me like their own personal blow up doll. The drive to Chicago was non-eventful, listening to an audiobook called Impact and trying not to fall asleep at the wheel. Between the drive there and back I went through half of the book and never picked it up again. I should have listened to some Chicago hip hop, at least there would have been some interesting lyrics to write about.
The toll roads were the biggest obstacle I came across with exits that were labeled in five different ways sometimes appearing to have labels on top of labels. I could see the airport but every exit would say that I had to have a pass or pay some toll to get off the highway. I already have an issue with charging people to park their car downtown where I live so to pay to get off a road sounded exactly like highway robbery. Noticing that I was going to pass the airport with no free exit in sight I turned right, went up a ramp, looked at the camera taking my picture and gave it the bird as I went through the light heading towards my destination, a long-term parking garage.
The operation looked like something you would have seen in one of those 1980s car theft movies where people pay to have their car stolen and cut up for parts while they were half way across the world. I didn’t like it and while I had already looked over every review on Google, I had this feeling like “this is too easy” or I would come back to an empty tank of gas. The shuttle took me to the main entrance and I found my ticket waiting for me at the desk.
The entire time I was driving to Chicago I worried that this was some elaborate hoax. Some guys on the west coast read one of my books and decided to pull a prank for some YouTube channel that I didn’t know about. Worst case scenario, Ashton Kutcher walks out telling me I was punked. But the ticket was there and things still appeared to be sending me to Seattle.
I had to take a bus to another terminal in order to board my flight. It never occurred to me how big and airport was, especially O’Hare. There was an international influence that I had not anticipated in the middle of the Midwest. Signs were posted in several languages an it was easy to see we were technically not in the United States anymore.
While waiting for the flight I pulled out a copy of Jim Harrison’s A Good Day to Die, reading this book was the only task I had planned to do during the flight with a different book on the way back. I knew this was a popular thing to do on flights with the high number of plane tickets I have found over the years stuffed between the pages of a book I purchased from a used bookstore.
Paranoid I sit facing the desk worried I will somehow miss my flight, a task that only an idiot could accomplish with all of the warnings given before loading the plane. The people surrounding me, waiting for the same flight, consisted of a motley crew that represented America as a whole. There were the middle-aged white Christian men and women in their button up shirts and blue jeans to the tan international students from around the world showing me the United States that I know and love.
For some reason the book weighs heavy in my hands, more of a novella than a novel,  the book caught my eye at the library bookstore, and with the title I thought it would be funny if something happened during the flight and my corpse was found with A Good Day to Die. I had been reading Jim Harrison for a while now and his works before and after Legends of the Fall never stopped amazing me with his attention to detail that bring the characters alive on the page. Being a man from Michigan I couldn’t help but notice how fast he had pulled himself from a State that bragged about high unemployment and poverty. Of course, he did this long before the automotive shutdowns of the 1980s and the rise of unemployment in the 90s, but I have to give him credit for being from the state. Of course, other writers had lived here and had written about the upper hand of the country. Hemingway was an influence on me for a while until I ran out of his material to read.
The terminal by itself was boring and the only thing of note was the tiny Asian girl who didn’t look old enough to be flying alone. By first impression she appeared to be in her early teens and had hello kitty accessories dangling from her carry-on bag, with headphones on and a copy of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 in her hands. A taller white man was standing with her, hair was blond but showing gray hair and a slight belly adding to his age. He hovered over her in a protective manner and yet when the passengers started to organize to board it became obvious that they would be boarding separately. The tiny Asian girl would be flying by herself. I didn’t see her during the flight but she passed my seat finding hers far behind mine. I assumed she would be reading 1Q84 during the 3-hour flight to Salt Lake City. That book was a good choice, Murakami has a knack for transporting his readers to another world and making time disappear faster than they had anticipated.
Unfortunately, my book wasn’t the same trip. Three people on a road trip to blow up dams across the country. It appeared to be Harrison’s version of On the Road with a love triangle that didn’t have to take place and a trip that was destine to end in tragedy.
In the new time zone, I arrived in SLC two hours before leaving Chicago and had to wait another three hours for my next flight. There wasn’t much difference between the flight and the airport except in the plane I was moving from one place to another. In the airport I was stuck and unable to leave. The only thing to accomplish was burning time. To shop in an airport meant adding weight to what you were already carrying. Window shopping seemed to be the preferred pastime and it was something I was good at.
To my surprise there was a bar in SLC. A week or two before my trip I had lunch for the first time with my biological father. He shared with me a story about one of his uncles having an ice delivery service in SLC. Part of his job was to drop off ice to high ranking members of the Mormon church where they had their own personal bars in their basements enjoying the same sinful substances they preached against. I was not surprised by this after growing up Catholic. Preaching one thing and doing another was something I was familiar with.
I was relieved by the normality of this bar in a strange land. I had heard horror stories about Utah, the most common was drinks being taken away mid flight because they were in Utah airspace. I considered this to be an urban legend, a medieval law that would be impossible to enforce. Here I was in Utah at a real bar serving real beer with a decent alcohol content. I ordered the pumpkin beer that was in season and sitting next to me was the tiny Asian girl sipping on a beer. On the counter was 1Q84 and her bags sat next to the stool. Her headphones rest around her neck framing her long shiny black hair around her face as she played with her cellphone releasing sighs of desperation from a low battery. I recognized the book but had not read it, this was the first and only paperback copy I had ever seen but I had read most of Murakami’s other works. The case for her musical instrument I didn’t recognize.
For a few minutes I relaxed sipping my beer and wondered what I could say to initiate a conversation, I picked the book of course and asked if she had read any of his other works? She said no and that she wasn’t that far into 1Q84. She asked if I had read it and confessed I had not but was working up to his 1000-page opus. Eyeing the outlet on the wall, I asked the bartender if there was a place I could charge my phone, and she points out a metal strip under the bar with outlets. The Asian girl became excited as if she had been rescued from her own personal hell and plugged in her dying phone. I smile, grab my charger and spend the rest of the visit making small talk. The Asian girl is going to San Francisco for a concert to play her violin, while I fly north to Seattle. I will likely never see her again.
I take pictures of the beers I drink and post them to Facebook for people to see. On the opposite side of the bar an airport employee is sharing with the bartender that she caught her boyfriend cheating. Dramatic exchanges take place and I realize these two are very familiar with one another. The Asian girl grabs her bags and hands money to the bartender. I was curious what venue she was playing or for what event but I never asked not wanting to sound like some generic asshole at the bar. There was zero chance of that conversation going anywhere, remaining the single serving friend that Tyler talked about in Fight Club. The Asian girl left and I never saw her again.
The blonde sitting behind the bar continued to tell her story of betrayal for everyone to hear. With all the plot twist and drama, I’m not sure how she kept the story straight, but somehow, she did for the bartender to offer her two cents. To help kill the depression of the event unfolding before my eyes I asked the bartender to add the blonde’s drink to my tab. The blonde smiled and nodded. Half genuine and half “I was hoping that would happen” she drank her beer without a thank you involved in the interaction. I paid my tab at the bar and left feeling like a sucker.