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?”
“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Golden: part 5

The first evening started when Sam arrived at Walden after work. Sam had a dark complexion, jet black hair, and big brown eyes. He was on the chubby side and was enjoying civilian life after a stint in the armed forces either in the Army or Marines, I don’t remember which. He was a busy guy working several part time jobs, starting his own company, and also working on Nick’s television project. I was in the downstairs recreation room setting up for the meeting of the minds when Sam and Nick started talking in the hallway.
“This guy,” Nick said. “he thought I owned the park. It’s hilarious. I have him wrapped around my finger. He doesn’t know.” Sam snickered at my ignorance. “Let’s get this started I have a feeling we are going to get a ton of stuff done tonight.”
Should I have thought any differently about the situation? I was given the impression that Nick was well to do, the house was his, the land around it was part of the property. Had I really read into things so wrong?
I tried to brush the comments aside. I was stuck here. There was no option to go home. I had to ride it out until my flight in five days. We went over the first draft script for the pilot episode. There wasn’t a layout for the first season. Character profiles had not been written up. Other parts of the world we were creating had not been written out, just general descriptions that left a lot of interpretation. The only thing that had been thought out was the opening scene and even that we went back and forth on with constant changes and Nick, always a day later, deciding that what was set in stone was not good enough and we were starting over. This was a running problem with the show. We would have our starting point and then after hours of work the pilot would be scrapped and we were back at square one.
The initial script, written by Nick, was rough. There was some good dialogue, the relationships between certain characters were being established and it looked like changes could be made with the rewriting of different scenes without changing some of the other aspects of the script.
That first night went late, with an audio recorder documenting the whole thing. We decided how many episodes there should be, the length of each show, and knew there should be a grand finale leading up to season two. Nick and Sam went to be and I prepared for the morning ahead.
I woke up early, likely still feeling jet lag and my internal clock being four hours ahead. With my old job I would go to work at 7am and I was still on that clock. Nick and Sam slept while I jumped in the shower. For five minutes I adjusted the temperature and the water never turned hot. It was ice cold and I jumped in wanting to clean up for the first time since my flight. I scrubbed down and jumped out after a few minutes shivering and wanting to warm up as soon as possible.
Upstairs I made coffee and drank half the pot while running around the recreation room with post it notes naming episodes and looking over notes from the night before. I had a list of characters on the left-hand side and ran the episode titles across the top. The middle section was the events that would take place. There were details about the show that I had to ignore. Some of the characters had biblical names that nobody, especially a good Christian, would ever name their kid. It would be like a German naming their child Adolf after WWII or trying to wear a small mustache with greased over hair. The symbolism was fine but the names were not needed to portray it. Once I had the first season laid out, I sat down with my laptop and worked on the script.
I rewrote the opening scene, something that had some confusing elements to it and played around with the interactions of certain characters. I added a love interest that I would later write a profile for. There were other things that I added and subtracted and for some reason there was this idea that was supposed to be overlooking all of it about something that happened a hundred years before. Tying everything together wasn’t easy and in the end it never worked.
When Nick woke up, it was almost noon, he woke in to find the season laid out, a script sent to his email and half a pot of coffee upstairs. He didn’t say much and we left for breakfast at Gilbert’s on Main St.
The morning routine consisted of Nick reading that day’s newspaper, playing on his iPad and parking his car in a no parking zone in front of the deli. It had been dropped off that morning and supposedly fixed. We ate outside on the patio and watched the six figure cars drive by.
“This show works out, and it will, I have the utmost confidence that everyone will be interested in this, you will be driving one of those in a few years. When this is picked up, I’m going to make sure you are one of the writers. How does that sound?”
“That sounds nice,” I replied. I had already done my homework. I knew that when companies bought projects like this it was all or nothing. They would do with the script and characters as they please, they brought in their own writers, and in the end the person who created had little or no say in the project itself. I didn’t tell Nick that I knew this.
As we went to leave there was a puddle under the car and Nick spotted it right away. I crawled on my hands and knees and touched the oily liquid, the red tinted smudge on my hands told me again what it was.
“Your transmission is leaking,” I said seeing a look of fury on his face.
“that fucking cocksucker! He told me this was fixed. I’m going to ream that son of a bitch. I want this shit fixed today.” People looked around as the flurry of words escaped his mouth. We hopped in the car and drove back to Walden to wait for the car to be picked up again.
“If there is anything you want to see you can take the mountain bike.” Nick was being the optimist, I think. We were miles away from anything and Seattle was a ride over a bridge. I hung out at the house and worked on the project. I should have been working on my next book but decided it was best to keep those projects completely separate. I worked on the character profiles and we would have much to talk about that coming night. This was day two in Bellevue and we were already ahead of schedule. Little did I know that everything would change in the near future.
I roamed out in the woods by myself, traveling the trail and finding deer tracks and other signs of life in the middle of town. My phone had been sending me notifications all day about pushed likes on Tinder because I forgot to turn off the app while out of town. Apparently, I was a hot commodity on the West Coast. The only good thing about it was knowing that if things in Kalamazoo continued to go downhill, I had the option of starting over somewhere else where women actually wanted to meet me. This was a complete change of pace from the back and forth messaging with the sudden disappearance of the people I was talking to and never having a date from the app. Everyone had on their profiles that they weren’t looking to “hook up” and that included me, but when it came to meeting people, they fled like they had gone into witness protection. Seattle appeared to be the exact opposite.
While driving through town I never saw the hot Asian women that Sam had been talking about. Everyone looked the same. Thin, long straight hair with the same cut, t-shirts and jeans, it was like they were being mass produced in a factory. If that was what Sam was into then he was in heaven. I saw this kind of thing everyday in a college town and I had no interest in hearing about where to get the perfect latte, how long they have been a vegetarian, or what social justice groups they were a part of. Everyone dressed to impress, flashing their name brand clothes and having their hair styled every couple of days even if it was to make it appear messed up, but professionally messed up. Even the local Goodwill had outrageous prices for the simplest of things and people ran around trying not to be seen or noticed as they shopped and tried to find those rare name brand clothes with the tags still on. It wasn’t about getting the deal it was about finding something for a fraction of the cost and still being able to say you bought it at the mall. If you are not rich, try to look rich. In other words, fake it until you make it.
It was becoming obvious that that was Nick’s philosophy. There were many things about him that I was led to believe were true. He was a successful businessman, and at one time that was true. He didn’t own the house we were staying in, instead he managed the property for an investor from China who bought it for the rent money. The car, while it appeared to be a future classic, had the usual problems of any lemon. The world of Seattle was something that Nick and many others could hide in. Hustling their way along until they had that much sought-after break and could cash in for a little while until it was time to score again. Seattle was a city of junkies waiting for that next fix of cold hard cash. I hoped that after leaving here I wouldn’t have to go to rehab.


Golden: part 4

Every morning started out the same, I would awake early having not adjusted to the new time schedule, make coffee and wait for Nick to wake up. For a man in his late sixties, he was always on the go and busy trying to make some deal happen. Breakfast was always at Gilbert’s on Main in downtown Bellevue. Nick and the owner had a history, a story I never heard. The owner was a raging alcoholic who would down a pint of Vodka in a day and couldn’t function in society. Now sober, he owned Gilbert’s, a deli with fresh bread and breakfast meals served inside or on the sidewalk patio. People lined up behind us as we stood in line waiting to see what the specials of the day were.
Ferraris and Lamborghini drove up and down the street with their loud exhaust, older men trying to attract younger women. You could smell the ocean in the air and if you were on the right street one could see the water in the distance. Gilbert’s reminded me of a few delis from my home town, with murals on the wall and young girls working behind the counter. In the back, near the restrooms, there was a wall lined with posters advertising events that would be coming up in the area. On the wall was a shelf of books and one of them stood out. I had never seen a hard cover copy of Kitchen Confidential Even though the book was a best seller on the NY times list it quickly went to soft cover and has continued to sell since. I pulled the book out and discovered it was a first edition. I couldn’t find a price on it and took it back to the table.
“what did you find?” Nick asked as I flipped through the book.
“A first edition of Kitchen Confidential was sitting on the shelf. I have never seen one before.”
Nick waved his friend over. The man looked at us through his glasses that made him look like the mole from A Wind in the Willows. Ni ck asked how much the book was. “Ahhh, it’s free. Keep it. I find stuff and put it over there for the customers to read. They take them home half the time. That’s the point.”
“Are you sure? I have cash.” I said ready to pull out my wallet.
“Nick doesn’t pay here. I tell him that all the time and he still tries to pay regardless. Take the book.” The man turned around and disappeared talking to other customers.
For breakfast I order the Smoked Salmon Scramble and it might have been one of the best breakfast meals I ever had. Fluffy eggs mixed with cream cheese and thin slices of salmon on top was complimented with grilled potatoes. The portions were huge, something you would serve the mountain on Game of Thrones.
After breakfast, we went around town for my supplies stopping at a local market. I picked out shampoo, soap, tooth brush and paste, coffee, post it notes and pens would be needed. Nick purchased the items and we went back to Walden.
“I have a history with Michigan,” Nick said as we drove down the highway. “I was seeing this Jewish girl, her family had more money than you could have imagined. We were supposed to get married and then I met this girl from Michigan. Ever been to Warren?” I shook my head knowing I had never intentionally visited there. “well, I don’t know what you guys are doing up there but I threw away a life time of security to be with her. She was amazing. You should have seen her.” His eyes drifted off longing for the pleasures of long ago. “but if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have my daughter. She is absolutely beautiful. Have I told you about my daughter?”
“No.” she had never come up before.
“I’ll show you a picture when we get back. She is gorgeous, takes after her mother. She moved out to New York and with in the first month she was on a billboard in Manhattan. I tell you she’s going places. Has a few jobs lined up. Maybe you’ll meet her one day.”
Nick only talked about his daughter. I learned over a year later that he had a son from a different marriage but he never talked about him. It was obvious who his favorite was.
His car was starting to act up. Once we pulled into the driveway, I took a look, being the amateur backyard mechanic that I am, and found a puddle under the motor. The red fluid on the ground said it all. “Your transmission has a leak,” I said showing him the pink tint on my finger.
“That son of a bitch. I’ve already had it in. they were supposed to fix that. He’s picking this up and fixing it today. I’m tired of this shit.” This was the first time I had seen Nick lose his temper. It wouldn’t be the last.
Inside Nick had called the garage and the guy was coming out to get the car. We would be driving in Sam’s car for the rest of the day if we went out. That day we didn’t. staying in and getting things ready for that night.
Behind the cabin was a small shack. “I picture that as Walden. I want to clean it out and turning it into a writing retreat. I want the whole cabin to be a retreat for writers like yourself. If you come out here, you’ll have a place to stay with like minded people.” Nick was being honest about his intentions.
I went back and forth about moving never truly thinking about it being a possibility. I had a house with an upside-down mortgage thanks to the 2008 financial crisis. There was all of my stuff and of course finding a job if I did. The $300 a month Nick was paying wasn’t going to cover my bills.
The shack was tiny and I could see there being a small desk and a typewriter inside. It would be something I would inspire to.
Nick took me on a hike that day. We went down the street and found the entrance to the trail. A tiny stream went through, something that flooded when it rained. He said that sometimes lost salmon would find their way up the pitiful stream. Seattle had been experiencing a drought for over a year and wild fires had even become an issue. I remembered reading about the fungus that was killing large numbers of salmon because of the high heat and the lack of water. This was the sixty acres of land that the cabin was built on, a public park.
We found large dead tree trunks from pine trees larger than anything I had seen in Michigan. The bridges appeared new and the trail was kept clean. You could tell that the area was taken care of by either the city or the locals. We emerged from the other side of the trail and Nick said it was the first time he had ever gone the whole way. I find that it is the people who are surrounded by great things who never appreciate them.
Back at Walden I made a pot of coffee, cracked open one of the 20oz beers and started my laptop. It was going to be a long night.


Golden: part 3

Flying out of Salt Lake City reminded me of the kind of wasteland I was surrounded by. The Great Salt Lake lived up to its name and unfortunately the Dead Sea was already taken. A circular pattern extended out from the lake. I imagined it was salt collection from the sand as the sun evaporated the undrinkable water. The Cathedrals of the Mormon church appeared tiny, insignificant, from up high as the plane tilted showing me the city one last time.
The Seattle airport was a copy of O’Hare with the international signs and matching Starbucks at every corner. Chinese Hanji was added to the European phrases that littered Chicago. As I stepped off the plane, I pulled my cell phone out and turned it on. I sent Nick a Text stating that I had landed and would be waiting for pick up. Luggage pick up was next to the doors where cars pulled up and people jumped inside. I grabbed my bag; thankful it had appeared. In Salt Lake City the crew demanded that bags were checked in. I had heard the nightmares of people losing their bags and wanted to refuse. The stewardess grabbed my bag from me and not wanting to cause a scene I said good bye to it thinking I might never see it again. The plane didn’t look any smaller than the previous one but the crew was paranoid about available space. There was a family on board that made people’s heads turn and I had no idea who they were. The pilot even thanks the so and so family for flying with them and the passengers cheered. I assumed they were some reality tv stars.
As I sat on the bench waiting for my ride, I realized I had no idea what Nick looked like in person. The Skype meetings had grainy pictures and back audio leaving some mystery to who one was talking to. I didn’t know what car to look for or who would be with him. I sat on the bench and waited.
A Jaguar from the 90s pulled up, swerving over two lanes to reach the curb and causing horns to honk. Middle fingers flew and voices yelled only to be muffled by the traffic. I stood up with my one bag and laptop case. The car was a two door and I had not crawled into the back seat of a car like this since I was ten years old.
“Matt! How was your flight. Did they treat you well? Let me get that bag.” Nick took my luggage and tossed it into the trunk. From the window I could see abandoned buildings, strips of road with food chains and the usual pharmacy stores. In the distance there were skyscrapers in strange cubic designs. It reminded me of Blade Runner, without the smog and gloom, but there were Asian people running around with electronic cigarettes so it wasn’t that far off. “We are taking you out for a treat. Doing a proper welcoming party. There is this place with great food called 13 coins. You’ll love it.”
From the outside it looked like any steakhouse from the 80s in my home town, a brown box with hidden windows and a door on the side of the building. Walking inside there was the front desk where people waited for assigned seating or paid their bill. To the right there was a row of chairs with tall backs and the sides wrapped around encasing the person into their own little world. It was an ingenious idea. A couple could sit at the bar, watch their food being made and presented by the chef themselves, and have a private conversation with their chairs facing one another. We sat in a booth.
When I first saw Nick, he was wearing a back jumpsuit with white stripes running down the sides. His car, while it was a Jaguar, was bought second hand and had superglue holding together some of the paneling on the doors. I was starting to question what exactly was going on and wasn’t sure what I should order while looking at the menu.
As I sat across from Nick, I finally got a good look at him. Thick white hair covered his head with a wet shine to it, slicked back with some body left to it. His beard was struggling to keep some of its color, an older Moses appearance with a recent trim keeping any stragglers at bay. His cheeks had a Santa jolliness to them and his belly completed the costume if he chose to wear one during the holidays. The rumble of his voice told people he was a man who wanted to be heard and he never ran out of opinions.
A charcuterie board was ordered for the three of us to share. Sam sat on the end boxing me in the seat and both of us were meant to pay attention when Nick talked. The story of the show was laid out, trying to sell me on an idea that I already knew as if he was practicing his pitch. “Enough of work, we have all week to work on this and I think we will get much accomplished.”
Nick proceeded to ask me what I wanted to see while I was in Seattle and I replied “I want to see Bruce Lee’s grave.” It was the resting place of a man I looked up to most of my childhood and teenage years and for me the pilgrimage would be worth it. There wasn’t much else I knew about Seattle. The short-lived show Dark Angel took place here but I believe it was filmed in Vancouver. There was the Space Needle but I have a fear of heights. I knew little of the Pike’s Market, the Gum wall, and people kept talking about some troll under a bridge. All I wanted was to see the grave of the man himself. It was the least I could do after years of studying Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Boxing, Judo, and Jujitsu. Those days were over for me but the lessons lived on. “Oh sure, that’s not hard. Only the one place?” I didn’t expect much and figured one drive to a spot for a picture wasn’t too much to ask.
“Do you like Asian women?” Sam asked. “we have some of the hottest Asian women. The city is loaded with them. If that’s your thing you’re going to love it here.”
“this city is loaded with money,” Nick went on. “there is money coming out the ass with Microsoft and Google. You know Bill Gates has a home here. You’ll see it when we drive to Walden.”
I wasn’t interested in money. I wasn’t interested in other people’s money. I had seen my own city become money hungry and start to exclude the working class from their own town. I heard Seattle was starting to do the same thing to their people.
We ate pieces of Salmon and cheese from the board with different styles of crackers. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t get in my own town. “The salmon is caught here. We have streams where you can watch them fishing to their spawning sites. I’m take you to the salmon hatchery so you can see it yourself it’s quite a sight.” Nick continued to sell me the city but after buying my old house I was a tough sell.
“Let’s head back to the house, we have something special waiting for you there.” We left 13 Coins and I squeezed myself into the back seat again. The drive took us over a bridge without towers or cables. It was like we were driving on the water. “the bridge was made out of pontoons. Really remarkable if you ask me. The only one of its kind. Keeps the place scenic. Over there is Bill Gates house.” Nick points to a house on the side of a hill overlooking the bay with large picture windows. I didn’t know if it was his house or not. In the distance was Mount Rainier, the peak was covered by a cloudy haze and the Pacific Ocean disappeared in the distance.
Walden was a cabin style home tucked away from the main street in the middle of town. The surrounding woods was a public park with trails that anyone could travel for a hike or walking their dog. The main floor had a kitchen immediately to the right, a bedroom directly facing the main door, and the living room was a personal gym with old weight equipment from the 1990’s. I know this because I used to own some of the same machines. The living room had picture windows overlooking the woods down toward the stream that ran through it. To one side there were empty book shelves and the other wall had a fireplace that I would later learn had never been used.
Downstairs was where my room would be for the week. A small ten foot by 15-foot room with a twin bed on one wall, a closet filled with someone else’s clothes and a desk I was told I could use. A tiny window looked out into the yard. Next door was Nick’s master bedroom complete with sliding doors to the yard and a large table facing out the windows where he would watch deer come up the house to eat. The back deck had a hot tub that I could use at any time and folding chairs for morning coffee. It was the ultimate bachelor pad.
The opposite end of the basement had a second fireplace and a pool table in the middle of the room. There was a drafting table and large leather chairs that we would sit in for our brain busting sessions. As they showed me around, I found six cans of local beers sitting on the pool table, large twenty-ounce micro brews that I had never heard of.
“I know you’re a beer guy so we decided to introduce you to the good stuff.” Nick was proud of his gift and it didn’t go to waste. I had the distinct feeling he thought it was an alcoholic. That night we talked about the show and the real work would start the next day. The hours of flying starting to hit me and I decided to go to bed and start the day off early. I was determined they would get their money’s worth.


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.