Episode 4 of the drama anthology Pacific Television Theater, performed and live broadcast from Community Television of Santa Cruz on May 27, 2017. Oasis is a half hour drama about a dispute over a community garden. The people of the neighborhood want to save it while the owner of the land has different plans. Selena and her father Diego meet with Roger, who works for the land owner, to find out what’s going to happen to their community garden, and if it’s possible to save it.
Jason hurried along Santa Clara Street as the glaring, late summer sun heated him from above. The unfamiliar feel of his necktie stifled him. He loosened the knot as he was moving, unbuttoned the collar, and let the heat out. He turned south onto Market Street and crossed through shadows cast by mid sized office buildings. He then arrived at an oval island of grass and trees two and a half blocks long from north to south in the middle of Market Street. He ran across the northbound lanes between traffic and onto the sidewalk.
Jason anxiously looked around for Christine as he walked alongside the park. He spotted her sitting on a bench on the other side near the park’s southern end, and felt some relief. He went across the park toward her as she looked the other way seemingly unaware of him. He thought back to the first time they met, when he saw her across the room at a party as she was talking to friends, momentarily unaware of him until he came to her and introduced himself.
As Jason was approaching Christine finally saw him. She smiled at him, and he managed to smile back. He dropped himself onto the bench next to her and let out an exhausted breath.
“So how did it go?” Christine asked.
“Worst job interview ever.”
“It was a goddamn sales job!” Jason fumed. “Should’ve known.”
“Really?” Christine said with surprise. “The ad didn’t say that.”
“Of course not, that’s how they lure you in.” Jason replayed the whole event in his mind.
“First, they crammed all of us into this room and have us fill out this one page application that looked like it came right off the copier. And then before anyone can finish filling it out, some loudmouth jerk walks in and starts giving us this spiel about making sales, closing deals, and fleecing people. And then some other clown walked in and gave us the same bullshit speech, but even louder and more obnoxious!”
“That sounds nerve wracking,” Christine said.
“I swear, he was like the evil twin of the Downtown Datsun guy,” Jason complained. “Whole thing was like a weird, bad dream. But what gets me were all the applicants who just sat there and bought the whole song and dance, and then they joined in all the noise like sheep! What kind of a person acts like that?”
“It does seem that a lot of people are going into sales these days,” Christine pointed out. “Lots of want ads in the paper for sales jobs, guess there’s a lot of demand for it.”
“Not for me,” Jason rejected as the memory of the event became less haunting. “I can’t bullshit for a living.” He relaxed a bit more. “Remember how the ad in the paper sure made it sound like a once in a lifetime opportunity? What a load.”
“I guess it did sound too good to be true.” They stared out across the park silently.“Something better will come along,” Christine finally said as she put her hand on Jason’s knee encouragingly.
“Yeah, but I’m going to need something more than ‘some college’ and just a few skills to put on my application. I guess I’m going to have to lie more.”
“It does help make getting a job easier.”
“It’s funny,” Jason observed, “when you’re a kid, your parents and teachers and all the other adults are always telling you to not lie and to be honest. But when it comes down to it, you do what you have to get by, even if it means lying, and everybody is fine with it.”
“They should teach that on Sesame Street,” Christine joked.
“And you know what else is bothering me,” Jason continued. “Even if I did find a good job, how do I know that place won’t get bought out, and then they start firing people and making new rules and all the other bullshit that’s happening now at my current job. No way out.”
“At least you’re still working,” Christine said optimistically. “No need to grab the first thing that comes along.”
“Yeah, that helps. I just hope something comes along soon. I don’t know how much longer I can stand it there.” Jason stared out across the park. “You know, I always thought that showing up on time and doing a good job was all it took to make it through life. No one said anything about the office politics and ownership changes and the closed door meetings where your future is decided. Too complicated.” Jason looked out over the grassy field, then up a new twenty floor hotel across the street from the park as he tried to figure out his options. “You want to get something to eat?”
“Sure.” They got up and started walking up the concrete path that crossed the middle length of the park. Christine linked her fingers into Jason’s and their hands held onto each other. They walked along and approached a fountain to their right. About two dozen jets of water shot up from the flat, square sectioned concrete. The water came up to just above Jason’s eye level then flowed back down in a foamy stream. Children in soaked T-shirts and shorts ran in and out of the water in front of watchful adults. “Looks fun,” Christine commented as they stopped to watch.
“Yeah,” Jason agreed. While watching the flock of children he looked into the sun sparkled mist and saw glints of color. He thought back to when he was younger and all the long carefree summer days spent at backyard swimming pools or hanging out at the beach. “Wouldn’t mind being a kid again,” he said partly to himself.
A mother holding an infant emerged from the ring of adults and carried her child into the
fountain. She cupped her hand into one of the founts and then gently applied the water onto her child while the playing children tried not to bump into her. Jason looked upon the scene while still feeling preoccupied, then noticed Christine watching the playing children intently.
“I saw Randy the other day,” Jason said.
“So how’s he doing?”
“Well, he took me out for pizza, and paid for everything, with beers. He said he owed me.”
“Sounds like he’s doing better,” Cristine said. “Right?”
“One minute he’s broke, then suddenly he’s flush,” Jason replied.
“Where did he get the money?”
“I asked him, but he wouldn’t say. And you know what that means.”
They stood quietly against the sound of the splashing water and playing children. “How do you know?” Christine finally asked.
“What else could it be,” Jason replied. He looked upon the fountain scene as he thought of that day and remembered how Randy didn’t give a straight answer when he asked how was doing. “I have been ragging on him lately about not being able to hold a steady job and never having any money.” The mother cradling the infant rocked her child a little more while the children played around her, then sauntered out of the fountain. “Maybe I pushed him to it.”
“You can’t blame yourself,” Christine insisted. “It was his decision.”
“I don’t think he feels he has a choice,” Jason said.
“I know, it’s terrible, and I feel for Randy,” Christine said, “but he is an adult now, and he’s responsible for his own actions.”
“I wonder if he even knows what responsibility is.” They watched the children play in the
fountain for a little more then moved along. They walked up the east side of the park and the sound of the splashing water faded away as they came alongside a wall of traffic noise. “You know,” Jason began, “I actually used to be jealous of Randy. I always had chores to do, a little sister and brother to look after, had to be home by a certain time, but it seemed Randy could do just about anything he wanted, could come and go as he pleased, could stay up as late as he wanted. I thought he was so lucky.”
“You’re the one who was lucky,” Christine countered. “He needed that kind of structure and guidance. He’d be a different person right now if he had.”
Jason noticed the concrete front steps and large white pillars of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in his right periphery as he reflected further. “Randy has been one of my best friends for almost as long as I can remember, and I thought it was always going to be that way. I just never imagined Randy not being a part of my life.” He dwelt some more as they walked along. “I know the smart thing would be to just let it all go and get on with my life. But how do you that?”
“It’s tough, I know,” Christine said, “but at least you’re concerned about him.”
“Doesn’t feel like enough.”
“You’ve done more for Randy than anyone else, and that’s all anyone can do.”
“I suppose,” Jason said. “I just wish he’d stop hanging out with Darren and all those other sketchy bastards. That’s a bad scene.”
“As long as you’re there for him maybe he’ll realize that. He can still turn things around,” Christine added hopefully. They continued walking toward the north end of the park. “I’m sure the next interview you have will be a lot better than that last one.”
“For sure,” Jason agreed. “I got one tomorrow and another one next week,” he said. “You
know what else is bothering me, when my folks got married they bought a house and raised a family on one paycheck. Now you need two paychecks just to get by. I’m not trying to make excuses, but how the hell did that happen? I thought life was supposed to get better.”
“I know. And do you ever notice how older people always talk about how hard life used to be and everything they had to go through? Which is probably true, but everything sure was a lot more affordable back then.” Christine wrapped her arm around Jason. “But you know what, something good will come along. And it won’t be like that place where you just had that interview from hell.”
“I’m over it,” Jason said and put his arm around Christine. As they came to the end of the park they saw a small plaque in front of a young tree. They stopped, read the plaque, and saw it was a memorial to a Vietnam veteran who was still missing in action. They silently looked upon it for a moment, then moved on.
©2017 Robert Kirkendall
Episode 4 of Pacific Television Theater will be performed and live broadcast tonight at 7:30PM PDT from Community Television of Santa Cruz. Tonight’s show is Oasis, a half hour drama about a struggle to save a community garden. Within Santa Cruz, Pacific TV can be seen on Comcast 27 and Charter 73. Elsewhere it can be viewed online at: http://www.communitytv.org/watch/ctv-public-access-2773/
Oasis, episode four of Pacific Television Theater, will live broadcast on Saturday May 27th at 7:30PM PDT from Community TV of Santa Cruz, Comcast 27, Charter 73, and live webcast at http://www.communitytv.org/watch/ctv-public-access-2773/
Oasis is a 30 minute drama about a dispute over a community garden. Selena and her father Diego go to see the owner of the land to see what his plans are. They are met by Roger, who works for the owner. Roger presents various plans that the owner has for the land, whereas Selena and Diego want to keep the land as a garden.
Pictured above are Francisco Oliva as Diego, Mariana Aroxa as Selena, and Christopher Fung as Roger
“You don’t believe me, do you,” Phil said impatiently.
“I don’t know, Phil,” Larry admitted, “ that all sounds pretty off the wall. And how do you know anyways?”
“Anyone can find out if they’re willing to look beyond the establishment mass media,” Phil restated.
“Here we go again!” Larry said with grand facetiousness. “We’re all just a bunch of brainwashed idiots because we don’t listen to all those radio stations at the far end of the dial.”
Jason sat at the other side of the break room table and looked upon the conversation while glancing at the sports page.
“Laugh all you want, but I’m telling you,” Phil lowered his voice, “this place was helped started by ex-Third Reich scientists.” He looked around the table expectantly.
“Well big fuckin’ surprise!” Kevin replied. “Our entire space and missile program was fortified with scientists that our military whisked out of Germany at the end of the World War II. Everybody knows that.”
“That’s what I’m saying!” Phil implored. “Doesn’t that seem suspicious? They used to work for the enemy.”
“But they weren’t politicians, or generals, or even soldiers,” Kevin stressed. “They were scientists, and some very brilliant ones at that. They just happened to be working for the wrong side, that’s all, so we fixed it. Their knowledge and expertise was extremely valuable to us, and still is.”
“Yes, I know, I saw Dr. Strangelove,” Phil agreed dismissively. “But you have to wonder about one thing.” He hunched down secretively. “Do they still have any loyalties to their old regime?”
“Hey, as long as they’re loyal to us who cares what they believe in,” Kevin asserted. “If we didn’t get them, the Soviets would have. Now imagine that.”
“The Soviets got the bomb anyways,” Phil reminded.
“We got it first, and used it,” Kevin said ominously. “That sent them a message.”
“It sent a message to the whole world,” Phil added. “You know, a lot of those scientists ended up at IBM. Big Blue is riddled with fascists.”
“Now you’re talking like a crackpot!” Kevin said angrily.
“Am I?” Phil countered. “Didn’t you see those visitors who came this morning? Wouldn’t you say they were a little shady?”
“So that’s what’s got you on this rant,” Larry said with a laugh.
“You think everybody in a suit is shady,” Kevin alleged.
Jason finished his coffee, got up and left the break room. He crossed through the warehouse to his work area, then looked up at the window of the second story office and saw it was occupied with more people than usual. The men in suits who had arrived earlier did most of the talking while the supervisors listened.
Jason watched the meeting for a moment, then looked around and saw Stan nearby writing on a clipboard. “Hey, Stan.”
Stan looked up from his clipboard.
Jason walked up to him as he nodded toward the office. “Who are those guys?”
Stan glanced up at the office. “The corporate shock troops, I assume.”
“So who are they?”
“People way above our pay grade,” Stan said and went back to his clipboard.
“They do look kind of important,” Jason said as he looked up at the office again.
“Why, because they’re wearing suits?”
“I suppose,” Jason said, “plus the limousines they arrived in.”
Stan looked up again from his clipboard. “And then they breezed right through and didn’t even say hi, just straight to the head office like they own the joint.” Stan moved along and Jason followed him.
“Yeah, that was pretty rude,” Jason recalled.
“You know why, of course.”
“Because we’re below their pay grade?”
“It’s because they don’t want to get too close to anybody in case they need to terminate some of us,” Stan said as he took the papers from his clipboard and put them away into a steel filing cabinet.
Jason was taken aback. “So this is it?”
Stan slid the cabinet shut. “Don’t tell me you’re surprised.”
“Sure, I heard some rumors,” Jason admitted, “but I thought that was all BS. You know how people like to talk, didn’t think any of it was true.”
“Well, it’s not a done deal yet,” Stan said as he started toward another section of the warehouse, “but I wouldn’t wait too long to get your resume together.”
Jason was taken aback as he tried to assess the new information. “So now what?”
“All I know is that once Alice and I sell our house we’ll have more than enough for a house up in Grass Valley. The hell with this place,” Stan said as he walked down an aisle of inventory.
“So you’re moving away?” Jason asked as he followed Stan. “That’s sudden.”
“Not really,” Stan replied as he stopped in the middle of the aisle. “We’ve been planning on moving out of the Valley for a while now. Price of living is going through the roof, and it’s getting more crowded every year. Most of the people we know have moved away over the years, whole city is full of strangers. Even our kids are thinking about moving away. This isn’t the place it used to be, and Alice and I just don’t have a lot of attachments here anymore.” Stan continued walking down the aisle.
“That seems to be happening a lot,” Jason said as he followed Stan. “One of my friends from the neighborhood moved all the way to Modesto, but he still works here. He commutes two and a half hours each way every day, we never see him anymore. The affordable houses may be far away but the good paying jobs are still here. No way I could handle a commute like that.”
“Well I don’t have to worry about that,” Stan said as he stopped again. “Already got a job lined up,” he said confidentially.
“Dispatching for a freight company up there,” Stan revealed. “A buddy of mine from my trucking days helped set me up.” He continued walking down the aisle.
“Sounds like you got it all worked out,” Jason said as he followed Stan. “Guess it pays to have connections.”
“Yep, the more the better.”
“But I don’t know if I could leave home just like that. My life is here.”
“Yeah, it’s home all right,” Stan said as he turned down a walkway at the edge of the warehouse and came to another stop, “but have you seen the price of a house lately? A couple hundred thousand for a two bedroom hovel? Alice and I bought our first house for a tenth of that price, and it had three bedrooms and a big backyard. What are you going to do when it’s time to buy a house?” Stan said then continued along the walkway.
“You mean I have to worry about that too?” Jason said with new apprehension. “I thought Ihad to get a new job first.”
“You can worry now or you can worry later when it’s too late to do anything about it,” Stan counseled as he came to the doorway of a glass walled office. “Even a good job isn’t enough. Now it takes two paychecks, and who knows what the price of a house is going to be by then. And I don’t know if you plan on having any kids or not, but if you do that’s going to cost you a whole lot more.”
“Well thanks for all the good news,” Jason said half seriously as he followed Stan into the office. “I sure have a lot to look forward to.”
“I’m not not trying to bring you down, I’m just telling you what’s up.”
“I know things aren’t what they used to be, but this is my home. Everyone I know, everyone that’s important to me, is here, and I’d seriously miss them, even if I did leave because of some better job somewhere else.”
“Not just a job but an affordable place to live,” Stan pointed out.
“It’d still be painful to leave home.”
“Yeah, that’s understandable, but home is where you make it,” Stan said as he stopped in the middle of his work. “You know, I used to love it here. Everybody knew everybody, plenty of open land, you could do all your shopping downtown, anything you needed. Just like a mall, but better, before it was full of homeless and crazy people. You could also fish in the reservoirs, hunt rabbits down by the foothills, and you could always get some spending money by picking fruit or working at Del Monte or one of the other canneries. Tourists actually used to visit here just to see the orchards when they were in bloom. Now look at it, my hometown turned into an overpriced little LA, all spread out and crowded with strangers. Time for Alice and I to pull up stakes and go somewhere quiet.”
“You know, downtown isn’t as rundown as it used to be,” Jason defended. “It actually has some cool hangouts these days.”
“But it ain’t like it used to be, and I’m too old to hang out with yuppies and college kids.”
Jason tried to figure out a new line of discussion. “So what’s your new place like?”
“A nice, cozy little home right by a lake and a forest. It’ll be Eden compared to this place.”
“That sounds relaxing and all,” Jason said, “but what’s there to do out there? You’ll go crazy with boredom.”
“I’ll be living in the great outdoors,” Stan reminded, “can’t beat that. And there’s Lake Tahoe and Reno nearby, and lots of woods and small towns with friendly people. We’ll only be a couple of hours away from the Bay Area so anyone who wants to see us can come and visit us, especially during the skiing season.”
“You going to charge them? Make a little extra on the side?”
“I might. You know, San Jose was a small town at one time, or at least a lot smaller when I was growing up, and we didn’t think it was boring. We had plenty of fun. Back in high school, we used to soup up our Chevys, Fords, and Dodges and cruise Monterey Road looking for girls. Gas was only a quarter a gallon back then, those were the days,” he reminisced. “Now gas is over a dollar and the cruisers are all gangs.”
“Guess I can see why you’d want to leave here,” Jason said, “but why leave the Bay Area? This is where everything is at.”
“That’s the problem, people keep pouring in. Traffic is a mess, the pressure to get ahead makes everyone neurotic, and it’s only getting worse,” Stan pointed toward the main office, “not to mention big brother always looking over your shoulder.”
“But you were able to get that new job because of experience you got here. If I went somewhere else I’d have to go back to square one.”
“But with less competition you can rise up the ladder faster. Jobs like what you do here come and go, and they tend to have an unknown future. You really ought to look for other opportunities while you’re still young.”
“One time Christine tried to get me to work for her uncle.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s a contractor.”
“Really, you should consider it,” Stan suggested. “Never a bad idea to learn a trade. Any skill you learn can only help, and the more skills you have, the more options you have. And contracting is the kind of work that if you do it long enough you can go into business for yourself.”
“Those all sound like good ideas and I appreciate the advice,” Jason said, “but I also want to stick with school and try and get a degree.”
“Well now’s the time to decide which road you want to take,” Stan said as he returned to his work and typed a few keys on the computer. “Meanwhile, I’ll be far away from this headache.”
Jason began to leave the office, then thought again of the activity he saw in the main office. “So what do you think those guys are talking about up there?” he asked.
“You know what we do here, right?” Stan said.
“Yeah, basically we create images that are taken by satellites.”
“And what kind of pictures do you think those satellites take?”
“I know they’re used for map making.”
“Studying clouds and weather systems.”
“Anything else?” Stan probed.
“Well I assume some pictures are of other country’s armies and navies,” Jason guessed, “what
they’re doing, their movements, keeping an eye on them. Right?”
“Right,” Stan replied. “The Berlin Wall is down, the Soviet Union finally has a decent leader, the Pentagon budget actually went down for the first time since Pearl Harbor, but we’re still busy as ever. Doesn’t that seem a little curious?”
“I don’t know,” Jason said. “Guess I never really thought about that.”
“Most people don’t,” Stan pointed out. “All anybody really wants is a paycheck, just as long as they get it from somewhere.”
“Well I like to think of this place as more than just a paycheck,” Jason maintained. “The job is interesting, the atmosphere is friendly, most of the people are cool, and management has been accommodating around my school schedule. Is that all going to end?”
“It will if it interferes with the bottom line, which it probably will.”
“Didn’t know we were such a burden,” Jason sulked.
“Now you’re getting it,” Stan joked. “You know, they say there are satellites up there so accurate that they can take a photo of a Russian’s newspaper while he’s reading it in Red Square.”
“Yeah, I remember hearing that.”
“So what’s to stop them from taking a picture of you or me or one of our neighbors while we’re having a cookout in our own backyard?”
“I don’t know,” Jason doubted. “That’s sounds like the kind of paranoid thing Phil would say. Why would they want to do that to us anyway? We haven’t done anything wrong.”
“But they could if they wanted,” Stan emphasized, “and we can’t do the same to them. And I’d bet a year’s pay that they figure out a way to survive this peace craze, probably already have.”
Jason tried to comprehend. “Well now what do I do?”
“I’m not trying to get you down,” Stan appeased, “all I’m saying is be a realist, look out for
yourself and the people around you, because you sure can’t trust them,” he nodded toward the upstairs office. “They’re only looking out for their themselves, and we’ve got to do the same.” Stan went back to his job.
“Guess I’ll get back to work.” Jason left the glass office and headed toward his work area. As he was walking back he glanced up at the office window. He looked at the meeting and the men in suits were still addressing the supervisors. He wondered for a moment what was being said, then he moved along.
©2017 Robert Kirkendall
This is a short video of a sketch I wrote and appeared in for Community Television of Santa Cruz. The event was a social mixer that was held last Friday March 17. The sketch is a humorous look at challenges that a CTV producer may face. I hadn’t planned on appearing in sketch, but I couldn’t find an actor in time. Looking at this I realize that I could definitely lose a few pounds.
Inspired by a prompt from Two On a Rant
Source: 99 word prompt: honeymoon
The young couple checked into the hotel and quickly dashed to their honeymoon suite. Fresh from their wedding and brimming with lust, they ripped at each other’s clothes as they commenced to make love. Their bodies entangled as they writhed around passionately on the heart shaped bed. Their hot, gyrating flesh formed into a single mass as they became connected body and soul.
“Oh, Sandy darling!” the man cried out. “You’re the best. Don’t stop! You do this so good!”
The woman abruptly stopped and looked at her husband crossly. “Dear, why are you screaming out your own name?”
Jason leaned over the grill and radiator at the front of his car and reached downward with a new hose. He tried again to slide it onto the intake nozzle of the water pump. He struggled to fit on the rigid hose in the cramped engine space and was getting more frustrated. He then heard the door from the house to the garage open and close. He looked up from under the hood, saw his father, and felt some relief from his irritation.
“How’s it going?” father asked.
“Just trying to wrestle on this new hose.” Jason pulled himself up from underneath the hood. “A little tough to get to, though. Everything is jammed in so tight, I lost my grip trying to pull off the old hose,” Jason said as he looked at a scrape on his hand.
“That’s why I heard you swear,” father kidded as he looked at the scrape. “The things we do to save a dollar.” He placed his hands on the side fender and looked down onto the engine. “They sure don’t make them like they used to,” he observed. “It used to be that you could look under the hood of a car and all you saw was the motor, the radiator and the battery, and you could fix just about anything with a wrench and a couple of screwdrivers. Makes me wish I still had my old ‘56 Chevy.”
“Sure wish cars were still that simple,” Jason longed. “Nowadays you can’t even do a tune up unless you’re a professional.”
“Ain’t that the way,” father agreed as he stood back up. “Now you take that old Valiant station wagon we used to own. It didn’t have all that extra shit that modern cars have,” he said as he pointed at the engine, “but those old slant sixes ran forever. I’ll bet someone’s driving it around right now.”
“Maybe I should drop one of those motors into this thing.”
“If only it was that easy,” father chuckled. “Cars these days, with all the fuel injection, air conditioning, catalytic converters, belts, hoses, wires going everywhere. And now all the cars with the front wheel drive that make everything under the hood sideways, can’t even see the ground underneath
anymore. What’ll they come up with next?”
“Seems like everything gets more complicated,” Jason said as he stared down at the loose radiator hose. His earlier preoccupations came back to mind.
They stood and looked at the engine together as father leaned in a little closer. “I suppose there’s something other than car problems that’s bothering you,” he finally said.
“Oh, you know,” Jason replied, “the usual stuff.” He looked up from the car and stared outside the garage at nothing in particular.
“Let me guess,” father began, “Christine wants to get more serious, your job wants you to work more hours, and now you’re wondering where all the good times have gone.”
Jason felt somewhat unburdened. “So I’m not the only one,” he said. “I think I just need a break in the action, or at least from working on this thing,” he said as he indicated his car. He wandered toward the front of the garage and his father did the same. “Today it’s just a hose, but I don’t want this car to turn into a money pit.” They stood at the head of the driveway and looked out at the suburban neighborhood.
“It’s the age old struggle. Man trying to figure out how to make his way through the world.”
“Wish I had a head start,” Jason said half seriously.
“You know,” father began as they leaned back against the trunk of the car, “when your mother and I moved into this house, there was a cherry orchard right there.” He pointed down the street at a block of tract houses silhouetted against the setting sun.
“I think I remember that.”
“Remember what they looked like when they were in bloom? Like big, pink cotton candy trees.”
“Christine’s parents talk about how they used to pick plums, prunes, apricots around here every summer when they were kids.”
“Those were the days,” father reminisced. “Fruit trees everywhere, more farms, less crowded, no traffic jams, slower pace of life. Now it’s all expressways, strip malls, tract houses, two story office buildings. They’ll probably build on or pave over every square inch of this valley.”
“Sure seems like it.” Jason thought of all the changes that happened in the Valley. “I remember when I was little and we’d drive by an orchard, and I’d look down all the rows of fruit trees, one after another, sometimes we’d count them,” he recalled as he got caught up in the same nostalgia. “Doesn’t seem to be hardly any of them left anymore.”
“That’s too bad,” father said regretfully. “No more produce stands either, have to buy everything from the store. You know, this is some of the best soil on earth, and all they do is keep building all over it. And they never build up, it’s always tilt-ups and business parks that cover as much land as possible, makes no sense at all. Bad planning. I mean, who thinks up with all this?”
“Someone looking to make a quick turnaround?”
Father laughed some more. “Now you’re learning.”
“When you look around now,” Jason said, “it’s hard to believe there was a time when this wasn’t the Silicon Valley.”
“Yeah, the old Valley of Heart’s Delight. Those days sure aren’t coming back,” father lamented. “Price of land is too high and it keeps getting higher, only the high tech industry can afford it now. There just isn’t enough money in agriculture anymore.” He folded his arms as he looked out across the neighborhood. “That’s the thing about real estate, they’re not making any more of it.”
“At least in your day you could buy a house with one paycheck,” Jason said. “I don’t know anyone who can do that anymore.”
“True,” father admitted. “It was a boomtown when I first got here, houses were cheap, the
weather was nice, the skills I learned in the service helped me get a decent, secure job. And once I met your mom I knew I was staying.”
“Maybe I was born at the wrong time,” Jason sulked.
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” father corrected. “There are a lot of positive changes happening right now. This is a good time to be alive, even if it has gotten too expensive.”
A new thought came to Jason. “You know, with all the changes happening everywhere, it seems like that’s going to affect business here in the Valley, especially defense jobs, like mine.”
“Technology will always be in demand, it’s human nature, ever since man figured out how to use tools. And another thing about technology is that it’s always being improved, so there’s always going to be opportunities somewhere. Something will come along your way. I was just lucky enough to move here at the right time, that’s all.”
Jason pondered the timing of his situation. “It’s funny, you know. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong. I’m not some screw up, but I’m also not sure I’m doing the right thing either. I keep wondering if there’s some next big thing that I’m missing out on, because if there is, I don’t want to find out when it’s too late.”
“You’re not doing anything wrong,” father assured, “it’s just the inflation, that’s all. The rising tide that was supposed to lift all boats also lifted up the cost of living, so now demand and supply are out of whack. You’re generation just happened to be caught in the middle of it. But things will work themselves out, they always do.”
“Don’t want this thing to sink me further into debt,” Jason said as he glanced back at his car.
“When I was your age you could by a running car for fifty bucks. Talk about inflation.”
“At least I’ll be out of the red pretty soon, then I can move back out of the house.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” father said. “You were just living it up and ran into a little trouble, you’re taking care of it,” he said as he clapped Jason on the shoulder reassuringly.
“Yeah, things aren’t so bad,” Jason tried to convince himself. “Now if I could just get started.”
“You’re on the right track,” father reaffirmed, “but I gotta admit it used to be easier to get
started here. You could walk into any place, they’d hire you, train you, pay you a decent wage, and you had a career that allowed you to buy a house and raise a family. That kind of security is sure hard to find these days. Now it’s all specialized. Every man for himself.”
“At least you get to retire pretty soon.”
“Looking forward to it, then I’ll have all the time in the world,” father anticipated.
Jason sensed his father reflecting, and he found himself seeing life through his father’s perspective in a new way. “You know, I hear some people are saying that we may be at the end of history because history is all about conflict, and now the last big conflict is over. Do you really think it’s going to be like that, no more history?”
Father leaned back some more as he appeared to recall a new memory. “You know, I was just talking to one of my friends in the aerospace industry. He was telling me about this big meeting his company just had. Everybody was there, board of directors, main stockholders, upper management, all these East Coast types, and they were all trying to replan their strategy for the post Cold War era or something like that. Anyways, the CEO gives some big speech about how they’re going to change the focus of the company to meet the challenges of the new world politics. One of the lifers with the company asked what that meant exactly since their whole business was about was making aerospace equipment for the defense of the country. The CEO then says that they will be in the business of making the one thing they have always been in the business of making, money.” Father laughed to himself. “As long as there is a dollar to be made someone is going to make it, and that’ll always drive things.”
Jason let the irony sink in. “At least work hasn’t been a problem, but you know what it feels
like right now at work? Nobody seems to know what’s going on or what’s going to happen next, so now everyone is trying to figure out their next move before they’re forced to. Maybe management knows, but if they do they’re not telling us a thing. I’m starting to wonder how stable my job is.”
“Yeah, they sure do like to keep everybody in the dark.”
“Kind of a raw deal.”
“No, it isn’t very fair,” father agreed, “but I figure every generation has its challenges. You see, when you’re young you want it all, and you have all the energy and optimism of youth to take on the whole world. Then one day you realize you can’t have it all, and that you don’t need it all, because maybe having it all is more trouble than it’s worth. You know, I sometimes miss the days when I was younger and could travel lighter, definitely had fewer worries.” He surveyed the front yard. “At least we have our homestead.”
“So,” Jason began, “since I’m the oldest, I get to inherit the house, right?”
“Hey! I’m not dead yet.”
©2017 Robert Kirkendall
(This is the second installment of the Andrew chronicles; a hapless, comical figure trying to get through life. In the first installment, Diridon Station, Andrew runs into an old flame that he has a hard time remembering. In this story, we see Andrew at his workplace.)
Andrew left the break room after lunch feeling sated and slightly caffeinated then a hand grabbed him and pulled him into an empty office. He was face to face with three of his coworkers.
“Can we trust you?” Sterling demanded.
“Uh, what’s going on?” Andrew wondered.
“We ask the questions here!” Damien barked. “First you must swear not to betray us,”
“But what’s going on?” Andrew asked worriedly.
“I don’t think we can trust him,” Gwen said suspiciously.
“Dammit, you must swear!” Damien ordered. “You don’t want to piss off this one,” he warned as he pointed to Gwen.
“Okay, I swear,” Andy promised hoping to reduce the tension.
The three workers eyed Andrew intently. “I think we can trust him,” Sterling finally said.
“What’s happening?” Andrew finally managed to say.
“So how do you like working here?” Damien asked leadingly.
Andrew thought for a moment. “I can’t complain.”
“Hmmm,” Sterling pondered. “Interesting.”
“He doesn’t complain about anything,” Gwen mocked. “When we got a cake for him for his birthday, he took so long getting to the break room that we ended up eating the entire cake before he showed up. Remember?” she said to Andrew.
“Well, total strangers do walk up to me and tell me that I should lose a few pounds,” Andrew placated as he looked around his waist.
“That’s why we call him No Cake Andy,” Gwen continued.
“Oh,” Sterling said with enlightenedness. “I thought it was because of the hazing incident of ‘05.”
“Guys, I think we need to get back on track here,” Damien advised.
“Of course,” Sterling agreed. “Now to the business at hand.” He placed his hands on his hips.
“We’ve decided to stage a coup,” he announced as he looked directly at Andrew.
“A coup?” Andrew puzzled. “Where?”
“Here!” Damien added. “Aren’t you sick and tired of slaving for Mr. Weatherby?”
“Well, he’s not that bad,” Andrew replied.
“He is a dangerous, out of control demagogue!” Sterling declared.
“A dictator drunk on his own power!” Damien yelled.
“A multi-headed hydra that must be slain!” Gwen rallied.
“Figuratively of course, right?” Andrew queried.
Gwen appeared amused by Andrew’s question. “Of course.”
“So what brought all this on?” Andrew asked sincerely.
“Increased hours!” Sterling began.
“Stagnant wages!” Damien followed.
“Oppressive and uninspired work environment!” Gwen completed.
“But don’t some of those things have to do with the current world economy and are out of the control of Mr. Weatherby?”
“Don’t those things have to do with world economy?” Gwen mimicked sarcastically. “He’s the one in charge, he’s the one that needs to be taken down!”
“Have you thought this through?” Andrew cautioned.
“Yes,” Sterling answered. “With strength in numbers we’ll confront him and he’ll have no choice but to give in to our demands!”
“Which are what?” Andrew wondered. “That he depart into exile like an overthrown junta?”
“That he let’s us sit in on the board meetings,” Sterling answered.
“Oh, I thought you would’ve had a bigger plan than that.”
“Dammit, you have to start somewhere!” Sterling vociferated.
“So here’s the plan,” Damian began conspiratorially. “We’ll all march in together, shoulder to shoulder!”
“That way Weatherby can’t get around us!” Gwen informed.
“Let me finish,” Damian demanded.
“Who died and made you king?” Gwen shot back.
“Let’s stay on point, guys,” Sterling counseled. “Now here’s the plan. We’ll all walk up together. I’ll start in on him with how we have to work too many hours. When I’m done, Damian,” he said to Damian, “you address how we’re all underpaid. And Gwen, finish him off! By expressing how ugly and uninspired the workplace is.”
“What about me?” Andrew wondered.
Sterling grabbed him by the shoulders. “You’re the point man.”
“Of course,” Gwen answered. “You’re shorter than us.”
“You’ll go in for the first attack,” Sterling continued.
“I can’t do that,” Andrew argued. “I don’t want any involvement in this!” He pulled away from Sterling’s grip.
“You’re already involved,” Damian reminded.
“In deep!” Gwen added.
“But this is all your idea!” Andrew protested. “You dragged me in here against my will then told me all about your plan without me asking to know about it!”
“Ha!” Sterling laughed as he placed his hand on Andrew’s shoulder in a fatherly way. “Well you know all about it now.”
“And if I say no?” Andrew queried.
“Then you’ll be going airborne ,” Damian warned menacingly as he nodded his head toward a window.
“We’re on the ground floor,” Andrew reminded.
“It’ll still hurt!” Damian shot back.
* * * * * * *
They all stood forebodingly in the cramped elevator as it rose up through the building. Everyone looked straight ahead without saying anything. Andrew watched the floor number display count upward as his apprehension grew.
“Everybody remember what they’re going to say?” Sterling pierced the silence.
“I make the demand for increased pay,” Damian said importantly.
“I point out what a junk heap this once proud company has become,” Gwen declared.
“Great! And I’ll address his autocratic ways,” Sterling asserted.
“What am I supposed to say?” Andrew asked.
“You provide the backup,” Sterling answered.
“We need a regular person,” Damian elucidated.
Andrew was puzzled. “Aren’t we all equal as employees?”
They all chuckled.
“If it’s just us exceptional people,” Sterling said as he pointed to himself, Damian, and Gwen, “Weatherby will never buy it”
“That’s right,” Gwen agreed. “The three of us are known to be above the fray and able to see the big picture, and that scares Weatherby. But if we bring just a plain, regular employee, he’ll know we have a broad base of support.”
“And I’m just a typical worker?” Andrew pondered.
“So typical that you blend in anywhere,” Damian said.
“That is so true,” Gwen added. “Just a typical, nondescript, boring, bland employee, a person who isn’t remarkable in any way.”
“That’s right,” Sterling concurred. “People may say you’re dull as dishwater, but in this instance your dullness is an advantage.”
“Oh,” Andrew said with realization. “Well, glad I can help.”
The elevator dinged when it reached its floor, and the doors slid open.
“Let’s go,” Sterling ordered and they exited the elevator. Sterling, Damian, and Gwen walked purposefully through a corridor toward Weatherby’s outer office as Andrew kept up. Weatherby’s office grew larger and more daunting as they approached. An ominous looking secretary appeared on the right. She sat her desk like a sentry.
“Is Mr. Weatherby expecting you?” the secretary demanded as they came closer. She glared at them unpenetrably.
“No time to explain!” Sterling replied. “It’s too important for you!”
“Nobody gets past me without an appointment!” The secretary picked up a heavy glass ashtray and threw it at them like a Frisbee. Sterling, Damian, and Gwen dodged out of the way of the spinning object and it struck Andrew on the forehead. He staggered back as pain shot through his head.
“We’ve been hit!” Damian shouted.
“Aw, shit!” the secretary shrieked. “Is that No Cake Andy?”
“Damn right!” Sterling said gleefully, “and his uncle is a high powered lawyer!”
“And we are witnesses!” Gwen chimed in.
Andrew held his head in pain but remained upright. “I think I’ll be okay.”
“We can’t take any chances!” Sterling declared. “You better get a first aid kit stat if you want to save this company from a lawsuit, or worse!”
“You’ll be going to the big house for assault and battery!” Gwen warned.
“You’ll be living Orange Is the New Black!” Damian added.
“Fine, I’ll look for the first aid kit.” The secretary ran off.
They waited until the secretary was out of sight. “Let’s go,” Sterling uttered. They walked up to the door leading to Weatherby’s office. Andrew was still shaking off the pain as he stood behind them.
“Wait,” Damian cautioned, “our point man.”
“That’s right,” Sterling agreed. He grabbed Andrew and placed him in front. “How’s your head?”
“Still hurting, but getting better,” Andrew answered.
“Here, have a Vicodin,” Damian offered. “I always carry these.”
“I don’t think I need a…”
“Take it,” Gwen ordered as she took the pill from Damian and stuck it into Andrew’s mouth. Andrew resisted then ended up swallowing the pill.
A second Vicodin appeared in Damian’s hand. “How about another just in case?”
“Better safe than sorry,” Gwen said as she took second pill and stuck into Andrew’s mouth. It slid down his throat and he started to feel numb.
“Now everybody remember what we’re going to say?” Sterling asked.
“Money,” Damian said.
“Work environment,” Gwen said.
“And I address the dictatorial nature of this workplace,” Sterling said.
“What am I doing here?” Andrew asked as he started to feel woozy.
“Backup and moral support,” Damian reminded.
“You’re everyman, remember?” Gwen reminded further.
“But…how do I?” Andrew’s mind started to become foggy.
“No time to answer that,” Sterling said as he pushed the door open. The spacious office was wood paneled and foreboding. The half open vertical Levolor blinds let in just enough light to show Weatherby’s face in half light and half darkness, like a heavy in a film noir. Andrew felt a shove push him forward into the lair.
“What the hell do you want?” Weatherby glowered.
“Uh, well sir.” Andrew looked behind him, and Sterling told him to say something. His impaired mind struggled to remember something to say. “I am here,” he finally began, “because I was enlisted to express grievances that some employees may have.”
“Are you the ringleader?” Weatherby accused.
“No, sir, I’m a…” Andrew struggled, and looked behind him again for an answer.
“I bet you are!” Weatherby reiterated.
“A concerned worker!” Sterling suddenly blurted and stepped in front of Andrew. “You see, Andrew here typifies the average worker who feel, how shall I say, oppressed.”
“Oppressed?” Weatherby said with shock. “This isn’t a banana republic!”
“Of course not, sir,” Sterling relented. “We live in a democratic state.”
“This isn’t a democracy!” Weatherby continued. “The only people who get a vote are the board
of directors! The rest of you are plebes who are damn lucky to have a job!”
“Of course, sir,” Damian agreed as he stepped in front of Andrew and next to Sterling. “It’s just
that lots of people are struggling, and a modest increase in pay would be very helpful. Andrew here
would like to visit his aunt in the old country, but he can’t afford to because he just makes enough to pay for his rent and bare sustenance.” Andrew tried to remember if he had an aunt somewhere in another country. “He still eats Top Ramen, it’s sad.”
“Well there’s nothing I’d like more than to give all you bums a raise,” Weatherby began as he stood up and emerged from behind his large oak desk, “But there are factors that have to do with the world economy, and are totally out of my hands! Did you ever consider that?”
“Yes, sir, that’s a good point,” Gwen agreed.
“Of course it is, I came up with it!” Weatherby proclaimed. “And what’s your beef?”
“Oh, I was just thinking about improving the overall work environment,” Gwen replied. “You know, a new coat of paint, maybe some artwork, things that would inspire the employees.”
“Artwork?” Weatherby blasted. “This isn’t a gallery!”
“No, sir, it isn’t,” Gwen concurred.
“And if you want inspiration think about your next paycheck!” Weatherby took note of Andrew’s intoxicated appearance. “What’s your problem?”
“He had a splitting headache so he took some pain pills,” Sterling jumped in.
“An agitator and a hophead,” Weatherby said accusingly. “I should’ve known!”
“He only does it out of medical necessity, sir,” Damian reassured. “We didn’t know he had taken too many.”
Andrew swayed as he tried to remain upright.
“I’ll make it simple,” Weatherby condescended, “No raises, no interior decorating, and no
democratic reforms. Now you four idiots get back to work before I fire your asses!”
* * * * * * *
Sterling, Damian, and Gwen silently exited the elevator at the ground floor as Andrew staggered along behind them. They stopped at their maze of cubicles and hesitated before entering.
“We tried,” Sterling finally said.
“Maybe we needed a better plan,” Damian suggested.
“We should’ve got more people involved,” Gwen said.
“Well, these things take time,” Andrew struggled to get out from his still narcosis fogged mind. “The fight for workplace equality is a long one, in which people had to overcome a lot of defeats to achieve their victories. And the struggle continues to this day.” Andrew was impressed that he was able to say all that despite his temporary impairment.
“If you don’t mind, Andy, we’d like to discuss this without you,” Sterling requested.
“But don’t you need more people?” Andrew asked feeling suddenly puzzled.
“Yes, but we just can’t trust you anymore,” Sterling answered.
“I have to agree with Sterling,” Damian said.
“Yeah,” Gwen agreed, “it was a mistake to take you in.”
“Because,” Sterling began, “you’re an agitator.”
“And a druggie,” Damian reminded.
©2017 Robert Kirkendall
I am counting the days until the season premier of a television show, something I almost never do. Season 3 of Better Call Saul will premier (finally!) on April 10th on AMC, and in a time of unprecedented turmoil and revolutionary foment, it is one of the few bright spots to look forward to in this crazy year. Those of you who are fans as well are no doubt eagerly awaiting.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! FOR BOTH BETTER CALL SAUL AND BREAKING BAD!
Now when we last saw Jimmy at the end of season 2 of BCS, he had just admitted to his brother Chuck that he had indeed doctored the paperwork for the Mesa Verde project and bribed the employee at the copy store to keep quiet. And after Jimmy leaves Chuck’s house, it’s revealed that Chuck was secretly recording their conversation. At the very least Chuck has the evidence to get Jimmy disbarred, with possible criminal charges.
In BCS’s parallel story at the end of season 2, we see Mike Ehrmantraut about to kill Hector Salamanca with a high powered rifle from a far distance when he’s interrupted by the continuous sound of a car horn. As he investigates he sees that someone stuck a branch in his car to sound the horn and had left a single worded note on the windshield which reads DON’T. Since it’s been subsequently revealed that Gustavo Fring will be in season 3, it’s not to difficult to guess that Fring is responsible for the interruption.
So what’s going to happen next? And how are these two story lines going to intertwine? The Mike story seems a bit easier to figure out. Assuming it’s Gus, or rather one of his henchman (I’m guessing Victor) who sabotaged Mike’s assassination attempt, it must be because Gus has bigger revenge plans for Hector. But how did Gus find out about Mike? My guess is Mike ended up on Gus’ radar screen when Mike engineered the scuffle with Tuco that got Tuco thrown in jail. Gus no doubt watches every move the Salamancas make (their back story shown in Breaking Bad explains why), so when somebody out of nowhere gets one of the Salamancas sent up, that would certainly get Gus’ attention. At this point Gus would look deeper into Mike’s history and find out about his past with the Philadelphia PD. He also would have put a tail on him, otherwise he would not know about his assassination attempt on Hector. The only other way Gus would know would be if he had someone on the inside of Salamanca’s operation. Nacho Varga perhaps? I’ve seen this suggested on other BCS fan sites, and it seems plausible. Would Nacho really order a hit on Tuco on his own? If Tuco’s death allowed Nacho to rise up in the organization, that would make him a prime suspect. Either way Gus would see an ally in Mike, and with Gus’ protection Mike would no longer have to be a lone wolf taking on an entire organization. It’s safe to say season 3 will see an alliance between Gus and Mike, and a furthering of Gus’ chess like plans.
But predicting Jimmy’s story line in season 3 is a little trickier. We know Chuck has incriminating evidence on Jimmy which Jimmy is seemingly not aware of. We also know there’s the ongoing fight over the Mesa Verde account between Kim Wexler and Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill, which will probably go to Kim after Chuck’s embarrassing behavior at the banking commission hearing. And we also know Jimmy and Kim love each other, but that they also have a different set of morals. I predict Chuck will take the incriminating tape to Howard Hamlin first, then he, or they, will make a move against Jimmy. When that happens, Kim will then see the evidence proving Jimmy’s chicanery, then she’ll have to make a decision about her future with Jimmy. For the sake of her career and her future, Kim would probably have to end their relationship, which will be heartbreaking for both of them.
However when Chuck plays his hand, with or without Hamlin’s assistance, it is not necessarily going to mean the end of Jimmy, or his law career, and this will be when the Mike story line reconnects with the Jimmy story line. To be sure Chuck does have Jimmy over a barrel, but there people out there that need the services of a lawyer with flexible morals, people like Mike, and his future boss Gus. One of the looming conflicts will be between Chuck who wants to take revenge on his brother, and the Mike/Gus consortium that wants to keep Jimmy is business. There are a number of ways this can happen because there are other factors involved, like Chuck’s psychosomatic fear of electricity, or the reason why Chuck is no longer with his wife Rebecca, which could play out in the final conclusion.
I’ve also looked to Breaking Bad to find clues for what’s going to happen in BCS, but they’re sparse. In BB, we only see Jimmy as Saul, and we don’t see any part of his personal life. There is also no mention of Chuck, Kim, or Howard, and there’s only a brief mention of Nacho. This leaves it wide open for what’s going to happen in season 3. Do they survive into the BB timeline? And if so, is there still a relationship with Jimmy/Saul? interesting to speculate.
But with all this said, there’s still the one wild card of BCS which is hard to predict, Gene. Whereas with BB you knew it was going to end with Walter White’s death because BB was constructed like a tragedy (among other things), and he was dying of lung cancer. The ending of BCS, which seemingly will end in the Gene storyline, is a little harder to predict because it can go in a number of directions, all of which depend upon what BCS is. If Gene blows his cover somehow and gets himself killed, that would make BCS a tragedy. If Gene remains where he’s at managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, NE for the rest of his days, that would be like a tragedy in slow motion. If Gene gets caught by law enforcement, then BCS becomes more like a regular crime drama, or possibly a courtroom drama, with Kim coming to his defense (assuming her character is still around).
My prediction of the Gene storyline is that it will play out like an identity crisis. When Saul becomes Gene, it is at the same time that Walt disappears into exile in New Hampshire, so when we first see Gene it is simultaneous to the last two episodes of BB. But eventually Walt will get killed, and it will be national news. When this happens, along with the deaths of Jack Welker and his gang, the end of their meth operation, the finding of all the money they got from Walt, as well as finding out where the bodies of Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez are so they can get a proper burial, the DEA may go a little easier in their case against Skyler White. This will give Gene some more room to move around. He will follow the ongoing case intently, and when the opportunity is right he will reach out to someone from his former life. But which former life, Jimmy or Saul? Over the course of his life he has three different identities, and he’ll have to decide who he will be for the rest of his days. Each identity has its own risks, so it’ll be a difficult decision. He’ll have to look into his heart and find out who he really is.
All these predictions are conjecture of course. There are other BB characters who can still make an appearance (I read on another post that Robert Forester, the vacuum cleaner repairman/identity changer will appear on BCS), and there are still other characters and situations which are unknown now but may appear over the course of season 3 and determine the endgame for Jimmy/Saul/Gene.
And that’s what separates BCS from most other TV shows. TV is formulaic out of necessity. It must follow a tight schedule, satisfy the sponsors, and is therefore predictable. The good guys prevail in most crime dramas, and problems are wrapped up in 30 minutes in the average sitcom. BCS is not formulaic, and is therefore harder to predict. It also has an amazing cast, both the leads and all the interesting side characters, is well written, masterfully directed, has depth and dimension, unexpected plot twists, and in my humble opinion is one of the best shows on television today. Looking forward to April 10th.
No half measures.