The Emigration To California: Epilogue

The day after we landed, Trevor took off again.  You never saw a guy so jacked up on adrenaline and caffeine for the entire duration of a 2,000 mile road trip. That plane ride home must have been a sleepy one.   He had a layover in Salt Lake on his way back to Chicago.  I don’t think Utah will ever be the same for him.

Ten or so days after that, our stuff arrived from the shitty movers.  They had not been careful, and much of it was either damaged or destroyed.  They are shitty, shitty movers, and I hate them.

We’re still not fully unpacked, but at least we’re in California, in our little place by the beach.  Our daughter is now a California girl.  Born in Chicago, she’ll be a California girl with California parents from now on.  That’s how we wanted it.

So.  Life.  All of it.  Permanently changed.

To say that a little dust has been unsettled is like saying Mt. Saint Helens chucked up a little dirt.

But it’s falling into place, speck by speck.

So, here we have the end of Operation: Move to California as Soon as Possible.  It wasn’t easy, but it was fast.

What to do now that we’re here?  Primarily: raise Aliena to be the best possible human being we can raise her to be.  Secondarily: chip away at those writing projects.  Diligence, patience, and constant learning will be the keys in both endeavors.

Also, I have a surfboard I’ve been meaning to take out on the water.  Someday soon, I’ll get around to that.

Trip takeaway – beer list:

Recap:
Prologue
Trying To Leave Chicago
Chicago To Kansas City
Kansas City To Denver
Denver To The Middle Of Utah
The Middle Of Utah To Southern California

The Emigration To California: The Middle Of Utah To Southern California

On Saturday, I woke up feeling fresh, the way you do when you realize that the events you thought happened yesterday were all just some silly bad dream.

Trouble was, the events were all real, and Trevor and I were still in Richfield, Utah, without a working vehicle.  And it was still fucking Pioneer Day weekend.

Through a multitude of phone calls and inquiries we were able to set up an appointment with a mechanic who begrudgingly agreed to come into the shop to take care of our car.

Our guys at AutoZone confirmed that a rebuilt alternator could not be provided, since no one anywhere in the nation seems to have one.  I’d have to get a brand-new factory-direct alternator, which would cost at least three times as much.  They also confirmed that my shitty old battery was, in fact, shitty.  So there was yet another expense.

They were very nice about it, though, and they really did everything they could, so I took their word when they said the mechanic we were going to bring the car to was a shady douchebag.  I agreed to let them take the car to Mike’s Auto Clinic instead.  Mike was a buddy of theirs.  They also encouraged me not to do the polite thing and let the other mechanic know I was blowing him off; they said he had it coming.  Who was I to argue?

The last thing preventing us from leaving Richfield was the fact that we couldn’t get a rental car.  There is only one rental company in the whole city, and they were closed for Pioneer Day.  Also, they were apparently all out of cars to rent.  We walked there to confirm they were really closed, and sure enough, a handwritten sign on the door explained they’d be closed till Tuesday.  So I dumped my shitty motel coffee into their mailbox. They had it coming.

We then walked next door to the Ford dealership to see if we could rent something from them, and the Ford dealership was also closed. Again, just a handwritten note from them and some impotent rage for us.

In desperation, we walked into a neighboring Honda/Suzuki motorsports store.  I don’t really know what we were thinking – even if they could rent us a motorcycle, I don’t know how to ride one.  I guess we were just hoping that they had some connections in town or some leads as to where we might borrow a car for a week.

And there, in that shining moment of glory and cosmic harmony, the man we were talking to confided that he was, in fact, co-owner of all three business – the motorsports, the Ford dealership, and the rental company.  He ordered an employee to come into the rental office on his day off.  He even made sure that someone returned a car so they’d have one to rent us. I suddenly felt slightly bad for pouring my coffee into their mailbox.

Once again, I have to declare my amazement at the quality of customer service in Utah.  Those guys may enjoy their long weekends, but they’ll still help a human being in need.

And while I’m at it, I’ll take this opportunity to point out what a tremendous human being Mr. Trevor Watkin is.  Not only is he good at teaching music, he’ll buy you steak and beer when you’re having a rough day and he’ll be the first guy to slap down his credit card for a car rental company to hold when you rent a car for a week.  He’s a goddamn American hero, that’s what he is.

And so, after a long and painful stay in Richfield, dealing with very nice people and their somewhat indescribable Utah accent, we got in our rented Ford Focus and sped off.  And I mean sped.  We couldn’t get away fast enough.

Richfield is right at the intersection of the 70 and the 15.  The 15 signified the last long interstate freeway of the trip, and the energy picked up again just like on that first day out of Chicago.

Like a duo of proper Californians, we made a brief stop at the first In-N-Out we encountered (it’s in St. George, UT) and then kept flying, straight through Las Vegas without any hesitation.  No desire to pop a head in and pull the lever on some slot machines.  We didn’t stop.  We didn’t even slow down.

We hit the last state border around sunset.  California looked the same as ever on the 15.  You cross the border, the quality of the tar beneath you changes slightly.  The dirt beside the road looks slightly browner, but the bushes look slightly taller.  You feel more comfortable stepping on the gas pedal a little harder.  You get inside the state and it’s like there’s no activity more noble than driving.

Down the 15, through the mountains, past those little desert towns, out the Cajon pass, and you hit the 210, and then just a few speedy minutes to my parents’ door in Rancho Cucamonga.  A quick visit with them turned into a long-ish visit with them.  They had set the deadliest trap of all: pie.

And then another stop at Trevor’s parents’ place in the same town.

And then, one more hour west and we landed in Agoura Hills.  Devon’s parents’ place.  It was there we would stay until we could properly move into their beach condo in Oxnard.  We made it.

Boosh.

Sleep.

Next: “This is not my beautiful house…”
Previous: “Houston, we have a problem.”

The Emigration To California: Denver To The Middle Of Utah

 

Thursday was the day of bad burritos.  Friday was far, far worse.

It didn’t start that way.  It started with a beautifully scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains.

My iPod died on our way down.  Instead of open road songs streaming from my speakers, I got the little Macintosh frowny face and a URL for online support.  Still, I remarked, if that’s the worst thing that happens on this road trip, we’re in pretty good shape.

Then my car’s alternator died.

This happened in the middle of Utah, before we reached a town called Richfield.  Richfield is the biggest city in central Utah, and it’s not even big enough for foreign car dealerships.

The stretch along the 70 in Utah is a gorgeous tableau of red rocks, rocky crags, swooping canyonlands, and clear blue skies.  But the landscape goes from breathtakingly beautiful to annoying as hell in about as much time as it takes for the red light from the electrical systems warning icon on the dashboard to travel to your eyeballs.

Once we were aware something was wrong with the car, I didn’t care how pretty it was.  All I wanted was some assistance to help get us past all that natural beauty.

I learned from this experience that the car can still run after the alternator dies, but when that happens, the battery powers the car all on its own, and no battery can last too long doing all that.  Certainly no factory-installed battery.  My car is about three and a half years old, and no one was surprised to learn that the battery was pretty much incapable of holding a decent charge.  Everyone, however, was surprised to learn that a Toyota-built car like my Scion xD should lose its alternator after such a small amount of time.  Obviously, Scion thought that might happen, since my car was about six months past its warranty.  So much for the fucking reliability of a fucking Toyota, I thought.  Then I thought the word Fuck some more on a loop for a while.

We crawled into Richfield on a Friday afternoon.  That particular weekend, of all weekends, was a long one for the state of Utah.  Utah holds its own self-important holiday called Pioneer Day, and they celebrate it by taking the entire weekend off of work.  So, no mechanics.  No rental services.  No car dealership service departments.  So much for fucking Utah, I thought, and then I thought Fuck really loudly.

I couldn’t wait around five days for the weekend to wrap up and a mechanic to come back to work.  I had to start work in California the following Monday.  Even if we could order a new alternator, it wouldn’t get there till Tuesday at the earliest.  So we racked our brains all night to find a solution.  I looked up the KBB value of my car, subtracted the cost of an alternator, and seriously considered a straight trade for a used piece of junk from one of the domestic dealerships in town.  A 2001 Taurus is a really nice car, I thought, even with a hundred thousand miles.

Luckily, the AutoZone in town was open, and those men are just about the most customer-friendly bunch I’ve ever seen.  They made all sorts of phone calls on my behalf, pulled some favors, got a guy to take my car that weekend, and told us where we could get various services.  Human decency scored a victory that day.

It relied on availability of other people, though.  The plan we decided upon was to rent a car and travel on to California, leaving the Scion behind, and just come back again the next weekend to retrieve it.  We’d have to deal with these things in the morning, though, so the last thing to do that night was eat dinner and drink beer.  This was definitely a time when I felt like I needed a beer.

Only we were in Utah.

But the Mormon God took pity on us that day, and the steakhouse attached to the Motel 6 in Richfield does indeed serve beer.  Beer and steak.

You can surely destroy a massive boulder by chipping away at it with little rocks.

Zen.

Next: “I like to call it ‘Lost Wages.'”
Previous: “Every state has at least one winery.”

The Emigration To California: Kansas City To Denver

There is another side to Kansas City. The Kansas side.

KC seems to be to Missouri what Chicago is to Illinois, but the Kansas side is viewed as poorly as East Chicago, Indiana.  I’m not sure why that is, since our only experience with it was a fast food breakfast and a freeway out of town, and I can’t really make any judgment calls based on that.

What I will judge, however, is the fast food.  I judge harshly.

The middle of the country has Hardee’s instead of Carl’s Jr.  As I understand it, Hardee’s existed and then Carl’s Jr. bought them out, which accounts for the difference in menus and the gap in quality.  It was very early in the morning, and there was a rusted mid-20th-Century Impala in the parking lot.  That doesn’t have anything to do with anything, just a curiosity of the trip.

We drove through and I ordered a breakfast burrito.  That was terrible burrito number one.

Long story short: character or no character, bad fast food at breakfast is just about the worst thing ever for a long drive.

Kansas marks the switch from the real Midwest to the Plains.  Driving through Kansas is just like driving through Nebraska, but with hills.

Topeka is Google’s headquarters, though they haven’t been there long enough yet to influence the physical look of the town.  As we approached, I half-expected to see large LEGO blocks in bright colors peppering the city.  Instead, it looked like any other mid-sized mid-America city, with some multiple-story buildings that you couldn’t call skyscrapers and a handful of pointy church steeples. Quaint, though; I can definitely see the appeal of Topeka.

We didn’t stop there.  The timing wasn’t right.  I was still recovering from that ridiculous Hardee’s breakfast burrito, and Trevor was recovering from whatever the hell it was that he ate.  We sallied forth to our next destination: Longmont, CO, a suburb of Denver.

At the western end of Kansas, we stopped for lunch.  Our choice of eats?  Taco John’s.  Because every now and then, you have to try a restaurant that sounds like a really bad idea just to experience it.  It’s like the freak show at the circus.

It was here I encountered terrible burrito number two.  This one was made with fried chicken and tater tots.

From both burritos I expected some culinary Mexican influence, based on the fact that they were burritos.  Both times I was wrong.  Neither burrito contained any salsa.  Both burritos contained gravy.  Lesson learned, Kansas.  I’ll just get the steak next time.

By mid-afternoon, we were across the border into eastern Colorado, and our ascent began.  Up the inclined plane towards the Rocky Mountains we climbed, leaving Interstate 70 the first time that day just before Denver, just as the mountainous region really began.  We cruised north of the Mile-High City until we found the house of Trevor’s kin, and there we stayed the night.

Trevor taught a quick music lesson to his nephew that night.  A brand-new trombonist, now on his way.  Trevor is an amazing teacher, in case you didn’t know.  You watch the guy at work and you can tell that he loves it, and his love is infectious enough for not only the student, but anyone watching, too, to get excited and want to pick up the trombone themselves.

The evening was capped with a trip via open-top Franken-Jeep to a local microbrewery, one of Colorado’s finest gifts to the rest of the nation.  Oskar Blues was the joint, and their pale ale (Dale’s Ale) is among the finest I have ever had.  I dare say it even topped the outstanding pale ale from Boulevard Brewing Co. I had the night before in Kansas City.  As beer across the country goes, this was perhaps the best trip I’d ever been on.

Beer is best when you don’t feel like you need it.  And to this point, the road trip was smooth and, barring a couple of worthless burritos from the plains, a trouble-free journey.

But no good thing lasts forever.

 Next: “Houston, we have a problem.”
Previous: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

The Emigration To California: Chicago To Kansas City

Wednesday was a brand new day, in a Broadway musical kind of way.  The sun was shining, and we were up before the heat really settled on us.  We felt strangely rested, and we were on the road nice and early.

A stop at the donut shop and we were off.

A poop in the cat carrier and we were stopped.

Poop tossed into an empty parking lot in Uptown, and we were off again.

Lake Shore Drive, the only road that competes with Pacific Coast Highway for Prettiest Road In America, took us to the 55 South through downtown Chicago.  No traffic, the best way to experience it.  We waved so long to the quintessential images of that Midwestern metropolis – Millennium Park, the skyscrapers along Michigan Avenue, Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, the Field Museum, the Addler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, Soldier Field, McCormick Place, adios.

The driving itself was largely uneventful. The first day of a road trip is always packed with energy and excitement, and the miles to that first stop destination just fall away like lemmings off a cliff.

I’d been on the 55 in the middle of Illinois before.  I once took a late-December gig as a PA for some commercial shoot in Peoria.  I drove a cargo van all the way there in the middle of the night.  It’s a very different drive in the dead of night in the dead of winter – the landscape is lit only by stars and the moon, and the smoothness of the snow-covered fields makes leafless trees stick out like forks in pudding.  It’s creepy.

On the other hand, in the middle of the day in the summertime, the trees fit the grassy knolls like Robert Pattinson’s hair on Robert Pattinson’s head.  It was all so very green, despite the heat wave.  So quintessentially Middle America.  That’s Illinois for you.  Once you exit the city of Chicago, you have a small circle of suburbs and then it’s just green fields all the way down.

We hit Interstate 72 at the state capitol and turned west.  Sorry, Springfield, we’d have to catch those Illinois history museums another time.

We crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri, and were greeted by a friendly stone image of Mark Twain.  This is not a joke, it was a real thing.

The stretch of Highway 36 we took to Kansas City was mainly farmland, very similar to the farm country in Illinois, but somehow different.  The way I think of it is this: imagine a small blond farmboy from the middle of America.  That’s Illinois.  Now imagine that boy has a little brother who looks an awful lot like him, also blond, but with a flattop haircut.  That’s Missouri.

We got to our hotel before sundown and had some time to meet up with some old friends.  We smuggled the cats inside and jacked that thermostat for all the A/C the Super 8 had to offer.

I don’t know what I expected from Kansas City, but I don’t think my expectations were high.  As it turns out, KC is rad.  Way rad.  Downtown is a very hip and mature area, with international as well as heartland-of-the-country cuisines all together in one place.  There are steel and brick buildings all over the place because that’s how they made them, not because they were cool.

There’s a laid back atmosphere, and a wholesome lack of pretentiousness even in a neighborhood called the Crossroads.  It’s charming without being annoying and without lacking modern technology to attract modern people.  The few friends I had in Chicago who had recently moved to Kansas City went there to advance their careers.  Their tech-based careers.

And those ribs are goddamn delicious.

The takeaway: if you’re looking for a fresh start and a new job, give Kansas City a look.  It’ll charm you.

Next: “Every state has at least one winery.”
Previous: “We gotta get outta this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do!”

The Emigration To California: Trying To Leave Chicago

The day our professional movers showed up was the same day Devon, her mother, and her sister took Aliena out to California by jet.  They went ahead while my best pal Trevor & I drove the car across the country.

It was a scheduled four-day trip, and we were scheduled to leave the day before the movers came.  However, as we watched our next door neighbors’ professional movers taking two days to move all their stuff instead of just one, we worried that our own professional moving service might also take a long time.  So Trevor & I changed our plans to wait until the movers were truly done with it all.  We hung back a day, planning now to leave Tuesday afternoon, after they had all our junk packed in their big truck.

I had to eat the cost of a hotels.com hotel, because hotels.com will not let you change the date on a reservation.  You have to just get another room another night, at that other night’s rates, so you could potentially pay more than double what you intended to if your plans change.  BEWARE OF THIS FACT WHEN USING HOTELS.COM.

But Tuesday afternoon arrived with no end in sight for the movers. Devon & her entourage had to leave for the airport, so it was definitely a good thing Trevor & I held back.

As Tuesday afternoon slowly turned into Tuesday evening, it became clear that Trevor & I were not going to leave at all on Tuesday.  We would have to leave Wednesday.  Which meant another change in hotel stays, which meant another eaten cost from hotels.com.  They are cheap, but those nights add up REAL fast.  There is no way around this.  Trust me, I spent 45 minutes on the phone with those assholes.  Wouldn’t budge.

Speaking of companies to avoid, New Planet Moving & Storage also totally blows. Idiot dispatchers sent only two guys to pack up and load an entire two bedroom apartment during the worst heat wave Chicago had seen in ten years.  To say that we were all rather sweaty would be an understatement.  If you could freeze-frame a shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark at about halfway through the face-melting process the Nazis suffer at the end of the movie, you’d have a pretty good picture of what we looked like.

Imagine going into a coffee shop and the guys behind the counter are dying of heat exhaustion to the point where they can barely function. So you have to go behind the counter and brew your own coffee, and they are making a mess and it’s all disorganized, and when your coffee is finally ready, they charge you for a large when you asked for a small, because all they had available were large cups.  And then you had to leave a tip in the tip jar or else you’d feel like an enormous douchebag.  Now multiply that by two thousand, and that was pretty much our experience with New Planet.  They suck.

The movers were on the road by 11:00 PM.  They had been there for twelve and a half hours.

Now, I love Chicago, so if there was one day of toil and shit that could make me happy to leave it behind, it was this.  Goodbye, apartment, I thought, it’s been a hot oneTomorrow I’ll say goodbye to the skyline, but tonight, it’s just goodbye to this cramped little century-old third-floor Lincoln Square apartment.  Goodbye.

 Next: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
Previous: “My empire is cumbling!”

The Emigration To California: Prologue


Several weeks have passed since the mini-apocalypse crashed what was otherwise a manageable life, and I remember it all, despite my efforts to forget, or at least remember it differently.

First of all, the greatest thing ever happened.  That was the start of my troubles.

My daughter, Aliena Evelyn Gaines, was born exactly on her due date.  As labors go, you couldn’t ask for an easier time.  Quick and complication-free.  Magnificent.

Details here are disgusting, so I’ll wrap up that topic by mentioning that for the last three months, she’s been a bright and shiny star, just the absolute cutest and most well-behaved baby the world has ever known.  This is not an exaggeration.

The very next thing that happened was the second greatest thing I could have asked for, and that was really when things turned horrible.  Literally ten days after she was born, I got hired by Edmunds.com and was given about three weeks to pack up and move from Chicago to Southern California.  When you say it nonchalantly, it doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do, but keep in mind a) I had a job still that I wanted to give two weeks’ notice for, so I had two weeks of still working to take time away from getting ready to do any prep work at all for a big move, and b) I had a brand new baby to figure out.

So.  Three weeks.  Two weeks at work, and an estimated four days on the road.  New baby, very little sleep.  Friends to bid farewell to.  Utility accounts to close.  A hoarders’ apartment’s worth of closets to sort out.  Biggest heat wave the eastern half of the US has seen in a decade.

Stressful?  Yes.

Exciting?  Also yes.

Obstacles?  Bring ‘em on, I thought, I’ll kick their ass.

I probably only thought this because of the sleep deprivation.  I had no idea what was coming.

Spoiler alert: I did kick their ass.  I moved my new little family out to Southern California.  We made it.  But it took a whole team of pro-Gaines vigilantes and technicians, and I owe the splendor of my new life to some people who may never fully realize how amazing they are for it.

Next: “We gotta get outta this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do!”

I Don’t Get Lost, I Go Exploring

I took a little trip last night across the border.

I waited until dark and then I drove into the village of Skokie, IL.  I had a package to pick up at a FedEx shipping warehouse.

I figured while I was out there, I ought to pick up something I needed from Babies-R-Us, which is also out in the burbs.

So I hopped in my car with the box of wine I picked up from FedEx and drove further north and further west.

Once I realized I had taken the wrong route, I also realized I was in a place I’d never gone before, in a strange part of a town I rarely travel through.

Luckily, the street I was driving on is straight east-west, so it was just a matter of traveling back south and east.  I turned around in the parking lot of some suburban box store, and made a right at the next major-looking streetlight.

That’s when things turned weird.  As I headed south, the road forked and I took the eastern-pointing direction.  I wound up on a dark and winding residential track.

As I traveled through this no-man’s-land of driveways, lawns, and slight curves in the road, I lost my sense of direction.  The true-blue Chicago grid was both behind me and in front of me, and I wasn’t sure anymore if I was even going in the right direction, let alone on the correct path.

The streetlights grew further apart, and still the road twisted and turned.  I may as well have been in the middle of a forest on a cloudy, moonless night.  Trees obscured my vision, wind howled, and small animals ran amok in front of me.

I suddenly became aware of a pair of headlights that had been a safe distance behind me the whole time.  My blood ran cold.  My scalp started to tingle with fear and paranoia.  I wasn’t sure if it was just my mind playing tricks on me, but I could swear I saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road.  I zoomed past him without a second thought.

I leaned on the gas pedal.  I figured if I can’t outrun the murderous driver behind me, and if I’m just heading deeper into a jungle of my own despair, I may as well get it over with.  Or, similarly, if I was going the right direction, I’d get to Babies-R-Us faster.  In either case, it was better to speed.

Just then, in typical anti-climactic reality fashion, I found the street I was looking for.  I made a left and half a mile later I was in the right parking lot.

And since that night I’ve been thinking about the wild-turning road with no streetlights.  Who travels such a road but locals and Google Streetview trucks?  Certainly not passers-by such as myself.  At least not often.

But Devon and I are hoping to move to California someday soon, and when we do we will most likely wind up in a small town with twisty roads.

That’s a glimpse of the future, I keep thinking.  Only it will be warmer and less creepy.

Locals know the local roads.  Just like I know the potholes that make you turn your wheel to and fro in a city laid out in a straight grid.

They say home is where the heart is.  I say home is where you know the roads.

 

These guys know a thing or two about roads.

Sharkblog: OrsonSharktopus vs. HydraHeston (Synopsis)

Sharkblog OrsonSharktopus
OrsonSharktopus
OrsonSharktopus

Various stolen ideas have paved the way for a screenplay I’m tentatively calling “OrsonSharktopus vs. HydraHeston” and it’s exactly what you think it is.

OrsonSharktopus is a mythical beast, not only because a shark with the tentacles of an octopus and the head of Orson Welles is not (yet) a physical possibility, but also because “OrsonSharktopus vs. HydraHeston” will play out as the sequel to an as-yet-unwritten screenplay.

That’s right: I’m skipping the original (just “OrsonSharktopus”) and going straight for the match-up between a seemingly equal yet wildly different creature.

HydraHeston
HydraHeston

HydraHeston is basically a seven-headed sea monster, and each head is Charlton Heston.  Advantages to having seven different heads of Charlton Heston include multiple beard/mustache/baby face configurations and fourteen rifle-scope-keen eyeballs.  OrsonSharktopus has only two eyes and one mustache, but it does have eight bitchin’ tentacles.

The dialogue’s going to have to be as hard-boiled as I can make it.  Style will play an important role.  As will wooden acting, if I have anything to say about it.

I cooked up a basic synopsis while doing laundry this weekend.  Here is what I wrote down:

Setting: beach town

  • Idyllic, except when something goes wrong
  • People are completely ill-equipped to deal with adversity

Characters:

Mayor up for reelection

  • will do anything to get reelected
    — Clings to power like it’s fucking air or something; massive fear of losing power.
    — Cares more about election results than actual townspeople
  • Wants to have election day on the beach, with a barbeque
    — will produce higher turnout
    — will also sort of “bribe” townspeople to vote for him
    — Willing to risk lives to have elections on beach

Journalists in love

  • Work together as a team
  • Have to hide marriage from mayor (and everybody else) in order to continue working as a team
  • Are very close to the mayor
  • Man journalist is very reserved and cautious
  • Lady journalist is totally balls-to-the-wall troublemaker, a la Lois Lane (but less annoying).

Scientists with a common guilty past

  • Living with guilt of creating OrsonSharktopus and not destroying the monster
  • Reach out to journalists when Mayor won’t return phone calls
    — Mysterious note to journalists
    — Meeting in dark cafe prior to showing them the lab with OrsonSharktopus
  • Tell journalists about OrsonSharktopus with their promise they won’t publish findings
    — Only way they were able to stop OrsonSharktopus was to freeze it in Carbonite
    — Tell journalists best way to stop HydraHeston is to freeze it in Carbonite
  • These two were some of the main characters in the original “OrsonSharktopus”

Old Pirate General

  • Mayor uses this guy to head all military-type operations
    — Retired, but gets pulled out of retirement from time to time.
    — No one is really sure if he was a pirate or a general, but he certainly knows what he’s doing…
  • He wears an eye patch and has lots of tattoos, including a battleship across his chest and anchors on his forearms.

ACT ONE:
HydraHeston terrorizes the town. The journalists implore the mayor to close the beach, but he refuses because of the elections. He forbids the journalists to publish any news about HydraHeston, so they instead publish an article about how the mayor won’t close the beach because of the election barebeque; they fill the article with innuendo about how the mayor is willing to risk innocent lives and is also willing to censor the newspapers. The enraged mayor gets the two journalists assigned to an out-of-town assignment, but just as they are about to board a plane, they receive a mysterious note with a meeting request and promise of info re: HydraHeston…they decide to meet the scientists and stay in town to get the full scoop on the creature.

ACT TWO:
The journalists learn from the scientists of a possible way to stop HydraHeston, a plan that worked before…when they captured and froze OrsonShaktopus in Carbonite.  When the journailists present this plan to the right parties, i.e. the mayor and the pirate general, they give it a try.  Unfortunately, HydraHeston is just a little too bad-ass and the plan to freeze it in Carbonite totally doesn’t work.  The journalists go back to the scientists for more ideas, but all they can come up with is to release OrsonSharktopus into the water to fight HydraHeston.  They debate the consequences of releasing OrsonSharktopus, but the mayor shows up and orders it to be done…far away from the beach.  He charges them to find a way to draw HydraHeston out, away from the beach, where they could release OrsonSharktopus to fight it and kill it.

ACT THREE:
The plan is in motion: the scientists will take the frozen OrsonSharktopus in a boat out to a floating mass of garbage in the ocean, and the journalists will fly with the old pirate general in a chopper, throwing steaks along the way to lure the beast out.  Once near the floating mass, the chopper will land (on the garbage), the scientists will row to shore (of the garbage), and once together they will detonate explosives on the boat, sinking it, allowing the Carbonite to release the monster OrsonSharktopus.  Once released, the humans will all board the chopper and fly away.  The only snag comes as they are luring HydraHeston; somehow, the beast takes a piece of garbage and manages to throw it at the chopper.  It hits the chopper so hard, one of the journalists falls out onto the garbage.  She survives the fall, but is now lost on the garbage mass.  What’s worse, HydraHeston has figured out how to climb on dry land (garbage); it chases her and she evades to the best of her abilities.  The scientists detonate the explosives, starting the process to release OrsonSharktopus, but there’s no telling what will happen while HydraHeston is on land…as the journalist falls off a cliff of garbage into the water, it looks like all is lost — and as HydraHeston seems about to gobble her up by leaping into the water, OrsonSharktopus catches it.  There is a humongous fight scene between the two mythical beasts as the humans scramble to help the journalist and get everyone back to the chopper.  They nearly get caught up in the fight as the mass of garbage gets torn apart by the titans, but they eventually make it back to the chopper and escape.  Flying away, they can see that OrsonSharktopus has killed HydraHeston, but then swam away…As they get back to dry land, they tell the voting public about OrsonSharktopus and demand that the mayor be held accountable for his actions.

 

I’m hoping to live near the beach when we move out to California (whenever that will be).  I trust any town on the beach could be considered “idyllic” and will be great for research purposes while writing this screenplay.  Also, great for surfing.  And terrifying, because of the threat of massive sea monster attacks.

Obviously, this is preliminary.  If anybody has any thoughts on story and/or characters, please let me know.  I’ll be happy to take all comments into consideration.  I’m good like that.

Otherwise, it’s all systems go on a full-length screenplay.

…And by “all systems go” I mean I’ll get to it in my spare time.

Style Matters

Maintaining a personal website is a tricky thing.  Blogs are fine, but I wanted a whole site that I could customize myself and call it what I want and put up more than just words and the occasional minimalist palm-tree-and-bicyclist image file.

Having the goals I have means this website must eventually become integrated with my life.  I’ve got a lot going on and a lot more coming down the pipeline, so I need to find a balance.

It’s early still, so I won’t beat myself up.

But style matters.  It does.  I need to get my head around what my style currently is, what I want it to be, and how to make the two join up.  I’m a big fan of Ernest Hemmingway’s advice, but I’m not a big fan of taking one man’s advice as undeniable truth.  I guess that means I’ll treat it as guidelines to stick to, but I’ll break those goddamn rules anytime I feel like.

I’m working on shorter paragraphs.  Can you tell?

I’m coming to a point where soon I will really start to push traffic here.  I’m not doing much of anything yet to get visitors, and my site stats will back that statement up.  When I do start advertising myself like some Las Vegas strip club owner, I’m not going to want “visitors.”  I’m going to want repeat traffic.  I’m going to want eager readers.  I’m going to want, for lack of a less narcissistic term, fans.

So when I really start hitting up social media and e-mailing everybody I’ve ever come across with the whole hey-look-at-me-I-have-a-website message, I’m going to want a strong start.  I’m going to want to impress.  I don’t want just another blog.  I want a destination website.

I want people to come here for something they want.  I won’t beg people to look at my website.  That’s not sustainable.

This website matters.

Content is king, but style creates the kingdom.

Sharkblog: For All Things Shark

BearsharktopusWelcome to Sharkblog!  This section of BilGaines.com is dedicated to all things Shark, but especially the increasingly daring experimentation in shark/other species hybridization.

“NOT ANOTHER BLOGGER TALKING ABOUT SHARKS,” you’re saying? Well, yes.

But.

There’s a twist. I myself am not so totally into sharks that I would create an entire blog about them for the sheer adrenaline rush of posting paragraphs with pictures of Jaws.

Sharkblog is, much like Sharktopus or Dinoshark, a hybrid monster created by an ingenious (though slightly deranged) mind.

Here is what I mean. I like sharks well enough, but really I just like sea monsters in general. Why, then, would I lead a readership into thinking I’m all about sharks and shark derivatives?

Simple: search engine optimization.

That’s right, I’m a mad scientist and I’m running a mad science experiment…an experiment in SEO. I’ve created Sharkblog for the purpose of gaining experience in how to attract online visitors.

So, to start with: shark sharky shark shark, sharky sharky shark.

Good luck ignoring me, Google.

What prompted this? A couple of things. I’ve been looking for a laboratory in which to play around with SEO, and I happened to see this SmartBlog article (and video) on how Discovery Channel went ballistic with social media for last year’s Shark Week. So sharks + social media and SEO experiments + love of combining monstrous things that shouldn’t be combined = Sharkblog.

This also fits into my plan to move back to California. I don’t want to move without a job, and I don’t want to take a job I don’t enjoy. And simply being fascinated by the statistical and behavioral sciences of SEO and social media isn’t enough to land me a job that I actually want in that field, I probably also have to know how to make it work and probably even have some experience doing so. Again, Sharkblog.

Follow me on this journey to the depths…if you dare!