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.

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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.

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