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.

Standard

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.

Standard

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.

Standard