Golden: part 6

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

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Rob’s Lament

I don’t remember where exactly I met Rob for the first time. I assume it was in the parking lot of the Meijer supermarket we used to work for. We spent long hours walking back and forth pushing rows of shopping carts into the store. It was mindless manual labor and for a young man of that age it was exactly what I needed at the time. I didn’t fit in with the other kids I went to school with, not for a lack of trying from some people to bring me into the loop. Having a job is joining a tribe with a goal. Most people fail to understand this. When people aren’t pulling their weight and the chief of the tribe doesn’t appear to care, the tribe can fracture and you end up with sub groups within the tribe. I hated bagging groceries and so my tribe ended up being the cart retrieval crew, a group of young men wearing reflective vest, sunglasses, and carrying nylon rope to hold the row of carts together. We had our own language and culture out on the pavement. We were doing things with shopping carts most people had not seen until Jackass aired on MTV. Cart surfing was a fun pass time, riding the side of the cart and balancing on two wheels while cruising down the hill.
For safety we were paired up and sent out in teams. There had been multiple stories of abductions and assaults in that parking lot so were wore beepers that would sound an alarm with security if we saw something that needed their attention. Rob and I would team up, grabbing carts, talking comic books and movies, our taste in many things were almost identical. This was during the great comic boom or the roaring 90s, that time just before the crash when people had invested thousands of dollars into over printed magazines with fake fans and inflated prices. Rob and I were some of those shmucks that bought into the boom with hopes of cashing in or joining the ranks of those in the industry. I wanted to be an artist but found my calling with writing instead. Rob on the other hand possessed a natural talent for art and even sold pictures at work to co-workers with the cash. Juvenile cartoons with a hint of realism were his trade. One bagger paid him twenty dollars for a commissioned piece of a man penetrating a squirrel. It sounded funnier at the time. While I studied art and graphic design at the local community college, Rob sat at home with his sketch book learning on his own how to draw.
There was a sad mood that hovered over Rob. When you looked at him you would see a young man, dirty in appearance, malnourished, and a sense of style that could have been pulled from a Quintin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez film. To look at him one would not thing he had much to offer, to listen to him was to find out otherwise. He was smart, a sponge of useless knowledge that would vomit from his mouth and leave people mystified and feeling dumb. There were people that loved him and others who despised him for the reason of wasted potential, but that was all of us. To be a young man without direction wandering out into the world could only lead to three things, self-destruction, sloth, or success. At any given time, we were guilty of all of these things.
Rob grew up out west on an Indian reservation. I won’t pretend to remember which state he lived in because I don’t remember. I had no idea he was native American until he told me, he could have passed at Italian or Greek. His parents weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed and had a long list of horrible mistakes in their past that they expected their children to fix. I was hanging out with Rob one night when he asked to stop in to see his family. I was the only one that owned a car at the time. We pulled into the Airport Inn where his mother, father, two brothers, sister, and nephew were living in a one-bedroom hotel room. His mother didn’t speak much an had a scowl on her face that would make the average Russian woman of the Stalin era appear chipper. It was up to the kids to pay their way and most of them had dropped out of high school to find jobs. Rob earned his GED at 16 and therefore had an advantage over his other siblings. Paychecks were handed over and money was used for rent, food, and cigarettes. When big purchases were made the parents were the soul decider and the kids were to keep their mouths shut. For the life of me I can’t figure out what his parents were thinking. The kids left one by one as they discovered their independence causing a divide in the family. Whoever left was shunned and not allowed back until nobody was left. The youngest brother left first when he was hired in at a local factory. When their parents demanded the pay check he told them to “fuck off,” found an apartment, bought a van, and moved out. The pressure to make up for the loss was put onto Rob and while he supplied the family with money it wore on him and eventually, he was kicked out. That was how he ended up as my roommate.
Let’s back up shall we. Rob had met Nate before I started to work at Meijer and Nate left not long afterwards. I didn’t remember ever working with Nate but he was fond of telling me they thought I was a stuck-up asshole when I first started working there. Rob was a follower and while he had the potential to be so much more, he decided to be the side kick to Nate’s world of debauchery. If they could be compared to anyone Nate was Jay and Rob was Silent Bob with it being unclear who was leading who. It was the easy path and it was the road we all preferred at that time. We didn’t have a cause, a great war, something to motivate us to do anything. Nate and Rob were caught up in the MTV world of seeking out “bitches and money.” The cold war was over and there was no 9-11, all we had was a blow job in the White House and people constantly reminding us we were poor. Fight Club would later become our religion.
Coming from a nomadic people, Rob was constantly shifting through jobs, leaving and coming back always thinking the new job was going to be the big one, the money maker, the job to solve all of his problems. The job itself never mattered it was the pay that was motivating factor. In between, Rob would pick up shifts at Olga’s as the dishwasher and in his words, “I get paid and there is free food.” He wasn’t referring to screwed up orders from the kitchen either.
I think there is a time in most people’s lives when they are permanently scarred and while they don’t realize it, they never move on. Rob’s taste in women goes back to the reservation, a place with little to offer and few options for the young. Rob had a girlfriend when he was 13 and they soon found themselves pregnant. Trying to do the right thing, Rob took a job at the local Seven Eleven to save up for his coming family. The naïve delusions of youth can be a powerful thing until your world comes crashing down. While leaving work Rob passed the dumpster, heard something inside, and found his girl inside, wrist cut and bleeding to death. He climbed inside with no help on its way and watched her die taking their child with her. Later, he would try to join her and was sent to a psychiatric institution. I learned all of this years later on a drunken night where we tried to out do one another on who had the shittiest story for a game I would like to call Victim Porn.
For a while it looked like we were all getting our shit together. Rob was out of his parent’s home, he had a car, a union job at the local trash company, and there was talk of him becoming a tattoo apprentice. I landed a job at one of the local hospitals. Nate was still being Nate and that was what needed to change. The moment any of us started doing well the hammer would fall and we were beaten back down to the lowest position in the group. If Nate wasn’t doing well nobody would feel like they were doing well. Of course, it was a woman who would end the group. I met my ex-wife at the hospital and while we all hung out together there was a divide taking place. For Nate and Rob to be single while I had somebody was unacceptable. Rob sided with Nate trying to make Christie feel like shit and it was over. One night, Nate and Rob stopped by and while Nate stayed in the car Rob came to the door asking if I wanted to hang out. “Oh, porking the pig?” he asked seeing Christie walk to the kitchen. “Fuck you Rob.” I said before telling him not to come back. Nate stayed by the car yelling some crap about “bros before hoes” and they never came back to the apartment.
Rob and I once attempted our own comic book, an action crime thriller with vigilantes and drug kingpins. I wrote the script and worked on inking while Rob drew the panels and penciled the characters. We were about three pages in when Rob stopped working on the project. To this day I still have those pages filed away just in case…
I ran into Rob years later. His first question was “so when did you get divorced?” At the time his assumption was wrong and Christie and I were still married. Meanwhile, Rob told me about the stripper he married named Scarlett and how they split when she went back to work to pay their mortgage. There was a pattern, a lifestyle that Rob was accustomed to, and it wasn’t feeling secure. Rob had finally started that apprenticeship and was on his way to become an artist. A few years after that, when I was divorced, I spotted Rob at a local coffee shop. He had large gaged earrings, multiple tattoos, piercings in places that looked uncomfortable, and a perfectly shaved head. I don’t know if he recognized me as the new bald man that I was. We never spoke and to this day I wonder how far he had gone on his adventure to become an artist, the only one of us still following that path.

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