The Mad Man I Stole From (Part 2)

White Piano

This is part 2 of a rememberance I began in Part 1 here.

So for two months, I worked for the mad man, and strangely I saw him very rarely while doing it. I was supposedly restarting his car company, chasing his dreams, but I was doing it mainly solo. The working arrangement went something like this:

  • When I could get away from my own writing, I would leave him a voicemail saying I was going to the office with the white Elvis piano. (I would never receive a response to the message.)
  • If it was the right guard at the front desk (which was only occasionally, sometimes if another guard was on duty when I left later they would have some questions on where I was coming from), I would sneak into the building and up to my own little office.
  • After playing a few chords on the piano (Who wouldn’t?), I would then go to my spot in the back, turn on the computer, write for a few hours, and print up whatever I wrote for his review.

The strange thing is he never reviewed what I wrote! Not even a word. The most I would hear from him was the weekly small check by the computer waiting for me and an occasional assignment.

Usually, those assignments involved me having to drop off a check someplace or making a phone call for him. On one occasion, I had to drop off a check at a government office, I was informed exactly which worker to meet with and a script of what to say. That experience took over four hours with nothing but old magazines in a waiting room for entertainment.

After the specific worker took the check from me (after listening to my excuse from Mr. W that the rest of the money would be in soon), he looked me up and down and asked, “What are you doing working for him?”

It was a great question. “I have no idea,” I responded. And I didn’t. Continue reading

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The Mad Man I Stole From (Part 1)

CarI needed money.

I had just moved out to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. I was going to get my Master’s in writing and I had dreams of screenplays and television pilots, actresses calling me and pleading for a role in my latest projects. I also imagined myself wearing sunglasses a lot. The LA dream!

Now, I did have some savings before making the move. I had even set it up so my student loans would cover my student housing, but as the weeks turned into months I saw that savings stockpile dripping away thanks to food and a car loan, and maybe one too many trips to Disneyland.

My initial hope was to find work at a studio, but anything I would have gotten would have been so entry-level I’d be surprised if they even paid me a dime. I would be working for the experience and the contacts, probably a good decision for my career, just not for my livelihood. Plus, I had no idea how to make coffee. I assumed such a job would involve coffee.

When I first arrived in LA I did my best to get to know each of the professors (thinking that each was a possible contact to someone in the industry who might want a young, ambitious writer like me). One professor was quite fond of me since I recognized her from an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. I even owned a copy of that episode and she was thrilled to see she was listed on the back of it as a guest star. After that she gave me a series of odd little jobs, including once transporting some of her sculptures (she was an artist as well) in the back seat of my car. One of the statues was of an angel fallen to the earth surrounded by little rocks. I still occasionally find some of those little rocks in my car.

After eating dinner at her house with some of my fellow students (she was always having us over), she told me about this man she knew. Eccentric, she called him, a real character (“You would like him.”) and he owned a car company.

“A car company?” That idea floored me. How does someone just own a car company? Was he Henry freaking Ford?

“Well, the brand,” she explained noticing the expression on my face. “He is an entrepreneur and he is trying to start it up. He needs a writer. Are you interested?” Continue reading