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.

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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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