Living on the edge

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During my first month at Cashwave I worked hard and was hopeful that my job at Cashwave would last for more than a year and slowly became optimistic that I would be able to get financially stable enough to have a social life and invest money into my art and start selling the artwork I had made over the previous years.

My job at Cashwave was very easy, all I was required to do every day was call businesses in the area where Cashwave ATM’s were located and sell them low cost advertising that appeared on the ATM screen when the customer transaction was being processed and on the ATM receipt after the customer finished their transaction. It was an easy sell and I quickly caught on and became very successful at it.

I enjoyed making easy money at Cashwave and looked forward to going to work every day when one day the easy money stopped and the company future didn’t look very bright. 

I arrived for work one morning to find all of the employees up in the conference room for an emergency meeting that Andy had called. Everyone was over anxious because Andy hadn’t heard from or seen Andy in weeks and we weren’t sure why he called the meeting and what his important news was going to be.

Andy arrived to the meeting looking tired and more worn out than usual and all of the employees became silent with dread as we sensed that he had bad news to tell us.

“How’s everyone doing?” Andy said casually.

“Doing a lot better than you, are you sick or something?” Mike asked.

“It’s nothing that a bottle of Scotch can’t cure,” Andy said with a wry grin.

Everyone in the room laughed.

“Anyway, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I’m here to tell everyone today that Cashwave is going out of business,” Andy said.

The room fell deadly silent as the employees around the room began to contemplate Andy’s announcement and what it meant to their financial futures.

“As everyone knows after 911 Cashwave lost a lot of business due to several of our big customers going out of business and the domination of the ATM market by companies like E-Trade Financial. I’ve also lost millions in costly lawsuits and protracted litigation and my finances are severely drained.” Andy said.

“You’ve been living on the financial edge for to long now Andy. You can’t afford to keep it up much longer.” Howard, the accountant said.

“What are you saying Andy?” Mike asked.

“I’m saying that all employees of Cashwave are going to be laid off immediately until further notice,” Andy said.

“What about the ATMS that we still own? Who is going to service those machines?” Mike asked.

“I’m in the process of selling off those contracts to E-Trade so I can save what assets I have left like this office building.” Andy replied.

“What am I going to do? My husband is laid off and I can’t loose this job,” The secretary said.

“I’m so sorry. If I don’t reorganize my business now I won’t have any opportunity left to rise from the ashes in the future,” Andy said.

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Andy liked to think of himself as a mythical Phoenix that rose from the ashes after it burst into flames. This wasn’t the first time one of his business ventures had gone down in flames and it wouldn’t be the last.

The meeting continued for several more minutes as Andy answered questions from the employees until everyone was allowed to leave to clean out their desks and go home.

As I left the room Andy called Mike and Steve, the outside sales manager back into the conference room and he closed the door.

I didn’t think anything of their private meeting because I was depressed like everyone else at the prospect of losing another job and I walked back to the sales office to clean out my desk of one month and go home. I quickly cleaned out my desk and talked with Herb and Lupe about what they were going to do for work next when Mike walked back in the office looking grim and more stressed out than usual.

“Did Frank already go home?” Mike asked.

“Yeah he’s gone, it’s not like there’s anything for us to do here,” Lupe said.

“I’m sorry guys, I didn’t see this coming,” Mike said with sadness.

“What are you going to do now?” Herb asked.

“I don’t know, probably cash out all of my credit cards, sell my Corvette and spend the next 20 years on an island somewhere,” Mike said.

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“Sounds nice, can you take me with you?” Herb asked.

“I’ll send you a postcard,” Mike said.

“I can’t believe I have to find another stupid job again! I hoped that this job would at least last me for one year and it’s barely lasted me for a month,” I said.

“Well everyone, Andy asked me to close up the sales office so I got to lock things up,” Mike said.

“So you’re kicking us out too?” Lupe asked in mock surprise.

“No Lupe, it’s not like that. I love you guys.” Mike said.

“Come on guys, let’s get out of here and let Mike close up the office,” Lupe said.

As I prepared to leave the office with everyone Mike stopped me from leaving the office, closed the door and locked it.

“What’s going on Mike?” I asked, surprised.

“Jeremy, how do you feel about staying with the company for a little longer?” Mike asked.

“Doing what? We can’t sell ATM advertising anymore because Andy has sold all of the ATM’s,” I replied.

“The reason why Andy had that private meeting with Steve and I upstairs is because he’s going to start a website company and wants us to stay on and help him run it,” Mike said,

“What does that mean for me?” I asked.

“You have the most experience in the sales office with computers and the Internet, you pick up new concepts easily and I don’t think you will have any problem selling Andy’s website product,” Mike said.

“How much will the position pay?” I asked.

“Same as now except you will have the opportunity to earn more commission after the new company has been afloat for more than 90 days,” Mike said.

“Did Andy say he wanted me to be a part of the new company?” I asked.

“I’m the sales manager and can hire anyone I want.” Mike replied.

“What about Herb, Frank and Lupe? Don’t you want to keep one of them aboard because they’ve been with the company longer?” I asked.

“Jeremy, I want you because you have the youth and energy that they don’t have and most important of all you have the computer and Internet skills to help us launch the new company,” Mike said.

I sat down in my chair acting like I was seriously thinking about Mike’s offer when in reality I would jump at the chance to help start a new company.

“What do you say?” Mike inquired.

“I’ll do it if he gives me a raise to $13.00 per hour plus commission,” I said.

“You’ve only been with the company for over a month, you can’t ask for a raise already,” Mike said.

“It’s a new company and it’s going to require a lot of time and commitment,” I replied, smugly.

“Alright, alright I’ll talk to Andy and make sure he gives you a pay raise to $13.00 per hour plus commission,” Mike said.

I got up and shook Mike’s hand with a big smile on my face.

“If you use half the skills that you used to work me over for a pay raise you’re going to be very successful selling websites,” Mike said with a laugh.

“When do we get started?” I asked.

“Tomorrow morning, 8 a.m. We’re going to have a meeting in the conference room so don’t be late,” Mike said

“I won’t be late!” I said.

I put my things back in my desk and left the office unsure of what the next day would bring and was optimistic and excited at the thought of being a part of the new company and a bright future.

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On the job training

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Anytime I’ve looked for a job over the last few years I’ve had my best success using the good old local newspaper. Shortly after I was laid off in October of 2001, I sat at the kitchen table, in the duplex that I shared with my cousin, circling job ads from the “help wanted” section of the newspaper.

I was circling every interesting sales job and telemarketing job I could find when I came across an ad for a telemarketing position, with a company called Cashwave, selling ATM receipt advertising to businesses nationwide for a local ATM company in San Diego.

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The job sounded more interesting than calling homeowners to sell them long distance calling plans, cable TV, windows or vinyl siding so I decided to give the phone number on the advertisement a call.

The line rang for a few seconds and then a gruff voice answered the phone.

“Cashwave, this is Mike, how can I help you?” Mike said.

“Hello Mike, my name is Jeremy and I’m calling about the telemarketing position in the newspaper,” I said, trying to sound positive.

“What do you want to know?” Mike said.

“What would I be doing, where is the company located and how much does the job pay?” I asked.

“You will be selling ATM advertising service to business owners nationwide. Any business that has a product or service will want to advertise on our ATM receipts because as you know, after a persons ATM transaction is finished they receive a receipt and that receipt is usually blank but has the potential to hold one to two ads,” Mike said.

“That sounds great, what does the job pay?” I asked.

“$12.00 per hour plus commission and benefits after 90 days,” Mike said.

“Can I come in for an interview?” I asked.

“Do you have any sales experience?” Mike asked.

“I can sell ice boxes to Eskimos in the winter,” I said.

“Typical bullshit salesman answer, what are you doing at 1 p.m. today?” Mike asked.

“Interviewing with you?” I said, with hope.

“You have guts, I like that, I’ll see you at one p.m. today okay?” Mike said

Mike gave me the address and directions to Cashwave’s office in San Diego and I promised to be there for the 1 p.m. interview.

I hung up the phone and took a quick shower and then emptied out my closet, looking for my old suit coat and tie so I would look dressed up and professional for the interview.

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By 12 p.m. I got into my beat up 1987, Toyota Celica and drove to my interview hoping to get there early and make a good impression on Mike and be his pick for the new sales person in the company.

When I arrived at Cashwave’s office I was impressed, the company owned a large office building in the Mission Valley area of San Diego, over looking the 8 freeway.

I parked my car next to several trucks with the Cashwave logo on them, straightened my tie, looked in the mirror to make sure I didn’t have any boogers in my nose and I went inside for my interview.

Inside the building I walked to the receptionist’s desk and told the old woman working the desk that I was there for my 1 p.m. interview with Mike.

“Kinda early aren’t you?” She asked.

“It’s 12:45, It’s not that early,” I said.

“I hate it when people arrive early for appointments,” She said, as she paged Mike in the sales office.

I walked over to a chair by the elevator and waited quietly until Mike came downstairs in the elevator ten minutes later to show me to the sales office. Once inside the sales office Mike showed me to his desk and he began the interview, interrogation process.

“So, why do you want to work here?” Mike said lazily as he glanced at my resume.

“From our phone conversation and the ad in the paper, the job sounds like a good opportunity,” I said.

“You don’t have any experience,”

“I know that I haven’t worked in sales for years like a lot of the other people that you interview every day but, I’m a hard worker, fast learner and I’ll work my butt off to learn this job,” I said.

Mike put my resume down and looked me in the eye and said, “You’re hired, I wish I could find more salespeople like you that don’t think they know everything when they start working here because those people are always the one’s that end up causing the most trouble.”

“I breathed a sigh of relief and said, “When can I start?”

“How about tomorrow at 6:30 in the morning?” Mike asked.

“I’ll be here!” I said, excited to start a new job.

Mike showed me around the sale office and introduced me to Herb, a man in his late 50’s with a love of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis, Lupe, a small Mexican woman in her mid 30’s with five children, and Frank, a man in his early 60’s, semi retired, with a love for nudist camps and the swinger lifestyle.

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Mike showed me to a desk with an old computer from the mid 90’s and a telephone that I would use to make my sales calls.

“Well, this is your new home, away from home. I would stay far away from Frank after lunchtime because he loves bean burritos and has a bad habit of stinking up your side of the office,” Mike said.

Mike showed me out of the sales office and left me with a warning, “Just make sure you show up tomorrow, I can’t tell you how many salespeople I’ve interviewed that said they were going to start working for me and end up flaking out on me.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow by 6:30 a.m.,” I said.

The next day would be my first day working for Cashwave and also my first experience with Andy, the owner of the company and the true incarnation of the term “crazy boss”.

Andy drove many employees of Cashwave away with his wild management style and pension for starting new companies to keep his existing companies out of bankruptcy.

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Nobody in the company knew what Andy was thinking from one minute to the next and wasn’t surprised if he was away from the office for weeks at a time, only to return with a new girlfriend, and a business idea that would keep the company afloat, and potentially make him another million.

Little did I know that Andy was planning to start another company, launch a new product and I was going to be there right in the middle of everything, like it or not….

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9-11 – The world went upside down in one day

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The day was September 11, 2001 and the world changed forever.

It was a Tuesday morning and my day was starting out normally just like it always did. I woke up, shower, dressed and as I prepared to leave my house for work, my boss called.

“Are you watching the news?” He asked.

“No,” I said.

“I don’t think we will be working today.”

“Why?” I asked.

“We just got attacked! Turn on the TV!” He said.

I hung up the phone and like millions of Americans that day, turned on the television and watched the carnage in New York as the two planes hit the World Trade Center, causing its twin towers to implode. Never in my life had I seen anything like it.

I watched the T.V. like a zombie as the news covered every horrific angle of the tragedy in graphic detail. I felt scared, shocked, and horrified to see it happening live and knew that, right then and there, our world had changed.

I knew that the years of ease and prosperity of my youth were over, and that a whole new world was dawning with dreaded new effects for everyone.

Growing up, War was a foreign subject to me and other than what I saw of old news clips and interviews of Pearl Harbor survivors I had never seen anything like 911.

After September 11, 2001 we could no longer expect to live our lives in peace without the fear of terrorism and destruction.

Things were changing and everyone my age and younger was uncertain what would come of it.

Would there be a bigger attack?

Would it be nuclear?

Would there be a war?

Could I get drafted?

These were the fundamental questions that went through the minds of everyone, especially those in their early 20’s like me who wondered how this event would change our futures.

Over 3,000 people both young and old lost their lives that day due to this act of terrorism and I knew that I could be the next victim of terrorism or I could lose my life fighting for my country.

911 brought out a wave of patriotism like I had never seen and many people my age enlisted in the military.

Men and women, enlisted voluntarily because they wanted to fight for their country and avenge the lives of those that were lost on September 11th 2001.

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Flags were flown everywhere, citizens were united in the grief and for a few days even the politicians were united in the support of the United States and stand against terrorism.

It took only a few days for the truth to come to light about who was responsible for 911 as the media showed pictures and video of the hijackers before they boarded the airplanes that day and informed the world the a terrorist group nobody every heard of called Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombings.

The Governments response was quick and they sent troops into Afghanistan to seek out and destroy the Al Qaeda and its leader, the mastermind of 911, Osama Bin Laden.

Over the coming months war and loss became a part of my life for the very first time as causalities of war were reported on a daily basis from news networks worldwide.

After 911 everything changed. Many companies went out of business because with the loss of the World Trade center, the nation’s financial sector was rocked to its core and the stock markets were shut down for almost one week and transportation grounded to a halt.

The company I worked for also had to downsize and cut back it’s workforce after losing millions in contracts and new business and I was laid off a few weeks later and once again searching for the elusive, “dream job.”

A few weeks after 911, Andy Lakey called me, but this time it wasn’t to talk about art, he was all business and was only interested in if I was going to invest in the Do it all Travel business opportunity or not.

I tried to turn the subject back to art and he lost interest in the conversation and promised to call me back in a few weeks.

I considered investing in the business opportunity because I still craved the opportunity to be involved in the same circle of influence as Andy but after losing my job I was having a hard time paying the bills and decided to pass.

I never heard from Andy Lakey again…….

And a few months later I learned that Do it all Travel went out of business due to the fact that, after 911, people were afraid of flying and the travel industry took a major hit.

I realized that this was a sign that I should stay out of the travel industry and I accepted the decision that it wasn’t for me.

After the letdown of seeing my relationship with Andy Lakey fizzle and my business opportunity in Do it all Travel go up in smoke I searched harder than ever for a job, any job where I could work and get back on my feet.

One of my friends suggested that I get into sales and since I had tired every other career path seemingly known to man I entered the world of sales and found my niche in life and was able to hone my skills working in the best job that I would ever have.

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Artsy fartsy

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After my conversation with Glen and Andy I grabbed all of my recent artwork and crammed it into my old art portfolio case from high school, took a shower, threw on my Sunday best clothes, jumped in my car and raced for the business meeting.

As I drove over 80 miles an hour on 5 South I kept replaying my conversation with Andy and dreaming of what could be. “You remind me of myself when I was your age, I also loved the same things that you do and didn’t conform to any accepted style in art or truth that the teachers were teaching. You know I might be able to show your work to a friend of mine in L.A. that owns a gallery up there; if he likes your work he might be able to show your work”

Being able to be a full time, working artist was everything that I ever wanted and I was going to do my best to win over Andy Lakey and hopefully get any opportunity to show my artwork.

I arrived at the Hilton in Del Mar an hour early, parked my old car in the parking lot next to BMW’s, Mercedes and other vehicles that cost more than I would make in three years salary. As I left the parking lot and entered the Hilton I joined a group of over 150 people who were attending the same business opportunity meeting as I was.

I quickly realized that “the meeting,” wasn’t going to be any intimate opportunity to learn about a new business opportunity and talk art with Andy Lakey. The meeting was a “cattle call” and I was a part of the herd corralled into a room for the indoctrination.

As we were corralled into a large ballroom I tried to spot Andy or Glen but was unable to find them because I was given a number and pushed into a seat.

Once everyone was inside the lights quickly dimmed and a video presentation for Do it all Travel came on the screen and we watched a video of interviews with various members of the company that had made a six figure income with the company, bought a new home, cars and taken many fabulous vacations.

I soon became bored and looked at my watch and wondered when the video was going to end. The video finally ended thirty minutes later, the lights came on over the stage and a balding man in his early 40’s, wearing an Hawaiian shirt ran to the stage.

“How you all doing, does everyone in this room want to make more money?” The man asked.

“Yes!” The crowd replied.

“Does everyone want a new car?” The man asked.

“Yes!” The crowd replied.

People sitting next to me actually started to cry with excitement and the atmosphere quickly started to resemble a tent revival meeting.

“Does everyone want a new home or the ability to take nice vacations?” The man asked.

“Yes!” the crowd screamed.

“Good, my name is Roger Smith and I’m going to show everyone in this room how they can do all that and more with Do it all Travel” He said.

For the next 45 minutes Roger Smith and a series of managers and successful people in the company came on stage to share their success stories and sales pitch on why attendees like me should invest in the business opportunity. By the time the meeting was over I was emotionally wiped out, physically exhausted and like a new convert ready to hand over my credit card to invest in the company.

I reached in my back pocket for my wallet and credit cards and realized that I forgot it in my rush to leave for the meeting and smiled because I knew that I just saved myself $300.00 by not purchasing the quick start business kit.

I waited around for Glen in the ballroom, for a few minutes after the presentation and when I was prepared to leave a short, bald guy walked up to me with an excited look on his face.

“Jeremy! Glad to see you, I didn’t think you made it! I’m Glen!” He stuck out his hand and I shook it.

“It’s great to meet you Glen.” I said.

“How did you like the meeting tonight?” Glen asked.

“It was great. I’m very interested in the business opportunity,” I said, trying to act excited….

“Are you ready to invest tonight? The company had marked the quick start business kit down to only $300.00! It’s a steal.” Glen said.

I thought of my rent due the following week, bills and an upcoming car repair and thought of the best excuse in the sales world.

“I’d like to think about it,” I said.

“No problem, just don’t wait to long to get involved with this opportunity because you can get in on the ground floor now but in a few weeks that opportunity will be gone.” He said.

“I know, I’d still like to think about it.” I said.

“No problem, I’ll just give you some tapes to listen to keep you motivated until we talk again in a few days,” He said.

“That would be great, thank you.” I said.

I could tell that Glen was quickly growing disinterested with me because I didn’t want to purchase the “quick start business kit,” and he wasn’t going to earn a commission on the sale tonight. Glen quickly grew depressed and was prepared to leave when Andy walked up to introduce himself to me.

“Glen, this must be Jeremy with you right?” Andy asked.

Glen perked up, “It sure is, I was just talking with Jeremy about the importance of investing in the company tonight,” Glen said.

“Oh, you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity, Jeremy, you won’t find a ‘ground floor’ opportunity like this again.” Andy said.

“I know, I can’t invest tonight, because I forgot my credit card.” I said.

“That’s ok, we can take a check,” Glen said with desperation.

 “I’d still like more time to think about it,” I said.

“I admire a man who knows what he wants,” Andy said.

“Me too,” Glen said as he acted depressed again.

“Jeremy, have you had dinner yet?” Andy asked.

“No, not yet,” I said.

“Good, I’m going out to dinner with a few people involved with the company and I’d like you and Glen to come along,” He said.

“I’d love to, where are we going to?” I asked.

“My favorite restaurant, Jonathan’s by the bay.” Andy said.

Jonathan’s by the bay was a high priced restaurant with nothing on the menu under $15.00 and with only $10.00 cash in my wallet I wasn’t sure if I could afford it but I also knew that the opportunity to show Andy my work might not come again so I decided to accept the invitation.

“I’d love to go to dinner with you guys,” I said.

“Great, you can follow me to the restaurant.” Andy said.

I followed Andy out to the parking lot and was about to get in my car when Andy invited me over to his Lexus SUV to show me his latest paintings.

“Come and see my new work,” Andy said.

Andy opened up the back door to his Lexus SUV and pulled out several different paintings that he had completed within the last week.

“What do you think?” Andy asked.

The paintings had all of the elements of color and shape that I loved about his work and I didn’t know what to say.

“Beautiful,” I said.

“I thought you would like them, did you bring your portfolio?” Andy asked.

“Yes sir,” I said.

“Good, you can show your work to me after we eat dinner, let’s go because I’m starving!” Andy said.

I got in my old 1987 Toyota Celica and followed Andy in his brand new Lexus SUV and several other BMW’s and a Mercedes to the restaurant. We arrived a few minutes later and I parked my car in the parking lot next to a Porsche, and I felt like I didn’t belong there.

“Don’t worry Jeremy; I don’t like eating here either. I only like coming here for celebrations.” Andy said.

“What are we celebrating?” I asked.

“It’s been a very good year for me in art and business and I want to celebrate.” Andy said.

I smiled at the thought of being able to dine in any restaurant in ease to just “celebrate” like Andy without a care in the world.

“Don’t worry about dinner Jeremy, I’m buying!” Andy enthused.

“Awesome! Thank you so much.” I gushed and followed him into the restaurant to enjoy a fine meal and good wine.

Glen and his wife and four other people from the conference also attended the dinner and Andy paid for everyone’s meals and after we had desert and coffee, by 10:30 p.m. and asked me to show him my art portfolio. I ran back to my car and brought it back to Andy, eager for him to examine it.

Andy looked through my artwork quickly and paused as he looked at a few of my best paintings. I waited with heavy anticipation for the verdict when he finally told me what I wanted to hear.

“I love all of it and I’m going to talk to my friend that owns the gallery up in L.A. and see if I can introduce you to him.” Andy said.

I was ecstatic and Andy saw it in my eyes.

 “Don’t get too excited yet Jeremy, it takes a lot of work to break into the L.A. art world but I’m going to do my best to get you a shot at it ok?” Andy said.

“Thank you!” Were the only words I could say as I felt like my dreams just came true, I gave Andy my phone number, address and e-mail address and he promised to call me with news from his gallery friend the following week.

Andy and I shook hands like old friends, said our goodbyes and I drove home on “cloud nine,” more excited than I had been in years, feeling like I was on the road to accomplishing my life’s ambition and nothing could stop me.

I felt happy and euphoric and was not prepared for how the world would change the following week.

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Recovery

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Losing Becky again hurt. It was a pain that ate away at my heart every hour of the day for the first months after my attempt to bring her back from Oregon and I couldn’t get over it.

I couldn’t understand why she wanted to go back to the abusive relationship she had with her parents when I had tried so hard to save her and give her a normal life. I felt sad, betrayed, abused and could barely move or think.

After I mourned her and spent a long time in anger and denial I slowly began to recover. After a while the pain began to fade and I started to see things clearly again. One day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and told myself that I was going to pull through and survive the pain I had just been through.

I knew that it was time to move on from her and I finally signed the divorce papers and ended our marriage in court. Once I was single again, I took a good long rest and gave myself plenty of time to evaluate my life and emotions.

A few months after the Oregon trip I started to hear from Becky every few weeks when she was able to send me the occasional letter. Life for her was hard. After I left her at the airport in Portland she called her parents and begged them to pick her up. Of course, they came to get her but once she was home, they severely beat her and punished her for weeks.

The last I heard from her, she said that they finally let her outside without supervision from her other brothers and sisters. She continually professed her love for me in her letters but I never wrote her back or spoke with her again because I knew that if I tried to go after her again it would only lead to the same results.

In retrospect I think Becky was in love with the idea of being in love, but when it came time to do the actual work involved in a relationship she was immature and ran from it. I grew tired of the drama associated with her and finally closed the door on our relationship. As months passed I had time to rest, relax, think, and recover from the experience and I started to feel young and healthy inside once again.

One day my cousin, Brian, who I hadn’t heard from in a couple of years, called me to say that his parents planned to give him a two bedroom duplex, that they had owned for years, in Spring Valley, which was only a few miles away from the old house I grew up in.

He said that he was looking for a housemate and I was the first person who came to mind. I instantly liked this idea because I missed my old home town, the familiar streets, places, people, and I also looked forward to living a bachelor lifestyle with my cousin.

Brian and I had always had a great relationship so I immediately accepted his offer and a few weeks later I moved into the duplex and became housemates with him and his Labrador, Tyson.

Once we were together we reverted to our old youthful ways and enjoyed many nights together staying up late, watching movies, playing video games, reading comic books, partying with friends, and enjoying the freedom that came with youth and ignorance.

I was happy living with my cousin and living in the duplex I could regroup and gather my ambitions for the future. The best part about living with my cousin was the art that I created at that time. I finally had a space to work once again for the first time in years and took every advantage of feeding my artistic hunger. At that time nothing could shatter my dreams or break me emotionally again.

As I worked harder on my art I also reconnected with my love for business after I became reacquainted with several of my high school friends that started their own home based businesses and were reaping the awards of the roaring economy of the late 1990’s.

“You have to start your own business! You will never make any money working for someone else!” They told me. I looked at their new cars, homes, vacations, clothing and decided to try starting my own business.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000 the economy was still roaring along, enjoying the prosperity that the country had seen during the Clinton years and in spite of a new president taking office in 2000 everyone, including myself believed that the economic prosperity and peace of mind we enjoyed would continue for many more years.

With this in mind I scoured the internet for home based business opportunities and attended workshops that promised riches from real estate, vitamins, get rich quick books and vacations. After reviewing every business opportunity and get rich quick scheme known to man I decided to pursue a business opportunity in the travel industry with a company called Do it all Travel.

One day I filled out an information request form on the website for Do it all Travel and within a few hours I received a call back from a sales representative in the company named Glen Ferguson.

I talked with Glen for several minutes, answering all his questions about my life, financial situation and ambitions when he asked me the famous question, “What do you want to do with your life?”

“I want to be a full time, working artist,” I said.

My response excited Glen and he told me that he had an artist working in his “down line” and would call him and ask him to join our telephone conversation. Glen put me on hold and I wanted for a minute while he called the member of his down line and within a few minutes he was joined on the line with his guest.

“Jeremy, I’d like to introduce you to Andy Lakey. He’s a member of my downline and has been involved with Vacation Dynamics for almost one year now.” Glen said.

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RIP: Andy Lakey 1960 – 2012

 

Once Glen said the name Andy Lakey,” I knew who he was instantly because he was well known for his famous life story and angel paintings that were sought after by rich and power players in Hollywood.

“Mr. Lakey, it’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m a big fan of your work,” I said, gushing into the phone like a teenage boy talking to a rock star for the first time.

“Glen tells me you’re an artist, what’s your style of art?” Andy asked.

I didn’t know what my ‘style’ of art was because I wasn’t showing any artwork at galleries yet so I said the first thing on the top of my head, “My style is abstract expressionism; I love color, shape, architecture, archeology and design.” I said.

“You remind me of myself when I was your age, I also loved the same things and didn’t conform to the theories or styles of the day.” He said.

“Jeremy is also an aspiring businessman and is interested in Do it all Travel,” Glen said.

 “That’s good Jeremy, because as you know artists need to make a lot of money to live off of and create our art on a full time basis.”

“I totally agree Mr. Lakey,” I said, still blown away that I was talking to an artist of his caliber. By that time in his career Andy Lakey was making millions per year selling his paintings all over the world and enjoying the fruits of his labor after many years of hard work.

Andy talked for a few more minutes and he told me about his successes in the art world and the wealthy clients purchased his paintings until he brought up the possibility of inviting me to the business opportunity meeting for Do it all Travel.

“Glen I think we should invite Jeremy to the ‘meeting’ tonight, what do you think?” Andy asked.

“I think that’s a great idea.” Glen said.

“The meeting,” would be my introduction to the business and my opportunity to meet Andy Lakey and show him my art.

“Mr. Lakey, could I show you my portfolio after the meeting tonight?” I asked.

“I’d love to see your work Jeremy, why don’t you bring it with you and I will take a look after it after the meeting is over.”

Andy said goodbye to Glen and I and clicked off the line leaving Glen and I to our conversation.

“Great guy huh?” Glen asked.

“Awesome, I never thought I’d get the opportunity to speak with him.” I said.

“Well you’ll get the opportunity to do more than that tonight.”

“I can’t wait!” I said.

“The meeting is at the Hilton in Del Mar, 7:00 p.m. tonight.” Glen said.

“I’ll see you there!” I said.

I said goodbye to Glen, hung up the phone and celebrated for a few seconds before getting my portfolio ready to show Andy in the evening. What would he think of my artwork? Would he be able to recommend me to any galleries and help me realize my dream of becoming an artist?

Even though I was supposed to be attending the business opportunity with a mind to get involved in a home based business, my sole purpose for attending was meeting Andy Lakey to see if he might be able to open the door for me to start my career in the art world.

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Life Story – It Was Decision Day And A Chapter Of My Life Was Ending..

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Life Story

 

After a few hours of restless sleep I awoke at 5:00 a.m., quickly got dressed, packed my suitcase and drove to Becky’s house for our early morning rendezvous.

The sun was barely cresting over the mountains, the hills were covered with new snow from the night before, but I couldn’t enjoy the beautiful sight because all I wanted was to get Becky in the car and speed away with her as quick as possible and start our life story together.

I couldn’t wait to get Becky away from her parents and back home to San Diego with me, where we would finally begin our life together.

A good job, a small house, nice car and a solid life waiting for us when we got back but most of all I was prepared to take up the responsibilities in front of me and be a husband and a real man.

By 6:00 a.m I arrived at her house, parked the car up the street, and waited for her to come out just as we had planned.

After waiting ten minutes she didn’t come out to the car and I began to worry.

6:30 a.m: I noticed the lights come on in her parent’s bedroom and I knew that they were getting up to shower, and prepare for work. By 6:45 a.m. as I sat in my car I watched through the kitchen window as her father walked into the kitchen and sat down at the kitchen table to eat his morning breakfast.

As soon as I saw her father come into the kitchen I ducked down in the seat of the car because her father would flip out if he saw me and call the police.

7:00 a.m: I was growing more depressed by the minute as I realized that Becky wasn’t coming so I started the car and prepared to drive away, never to see her again when the side door to her garage opened and Becky quickly came outside, carrying a large, green carry on bag. She quickly walked up the street with grace, got inside and we left.

Success! I was thrilled as we sped away from her house, and away from the prison of her parent’s home. Becky and I traded kisses and held each other as we speeded down the country roads. She looked at the odometer and said, “You better slow down because there’s cops out everywhere along these roads.”

“I know,” I said, laughing.

The further away Becky and I got from her parents, the more we relaxed and began to talk about the events of the last few months and everything we had been through.

We discussed how we wanted to make the relationship work and were going to do everything we could to stay together.

“I love you and I’m so sorry for everything,” Becky kept saying.

 “There was nothing to be sorry for. Everything that we’ve been through over the last two months is history and the most important thing is that we’re finally together!” I said

Now that we were finally together I felt like we could finally move on with our lives. Or would this be the end of our life story?

Emotionally, I was still on edge and wondered if we would get back to the airport together and end up back in San Diego together. So many things had gone wrong over the previous few months despite my efforts to make our relationship work.

As we got closer to the airport in Washington, Becky and I stopped looking over our shoulders for any sign of her parents coming after us and started to relax. We eventually arrived at the airport a few hours later, turned in the rental car, and promptly got in line to wait to board the plane.

Everything was working out perfect and, while we waited, I decided to call my parents and tell them the good news. They were elated. They couldn’t believe that everything had worked out exactly like I had planned and hoped it would.


My parents told me that they told all of our friends and family about my journey and that everyone was praying for Becky and me, anxiously awaiting our arrival home and eager for us to begin our life story together in the warm Southern California sunshine. 

At about 1 p.m. we boarded the plane that would take us back to Portland, Oregon, where we would wait until 3:30 p.m. and board a commercial airliner that would take us back home to San Diego. As we boarded the small plane Becky began to shake and started to cry.

I asked her what was wrong, but she wouldn’t say a word to me. In actuality I knew why she was crying and I that I could get her on the plane and home to San Diego before she could change her mind again and ruin our plans.

Once everyone was on the plane, it departed without delay soon flying over snow-covered fields and mountains on our way back to Portland. Oregon really was a beautiful state, covered with miles of countryside that would make any artist like me go crazy with the desire to paint it. I didn’t have time to stop and enjoy it, though, because the last phase of my plan awaited us.

We arrived in Portland by 3:00 p.m., entered the airport terminal and went looking for our final flight. When we found the commercial jet plane I handed over our tickets and we boarded. I breathed easy and sat down with Becky, dreaming of what it would finally be like when we could be alone together, that night, as husband and wife.

As we sat on the plane, waiting for it to take off, I told Becky of the home I had made for us, and everything I had done to prepare for her arrival but it was evident that she wasn’t hearing a word I was saying. I looked into her eyes and knew that emotionally, she was still home in Lostine, worrying about what her parents were saying about her and doing at that very moment.

Sadly, Becky was still a scared little girl, afraid to venture out on her own without her parent’s approval.

Even though she was 21 years old and legally considered an adult, she was still a child on the inside and I couldn’t reach her…

As we approached 3:30 pm, the flight attendants on the plane readied the passengers for takeoff by putting away their bags and serving peanuts. That’s when Becky told me that she was going to the restroom, abruptly got up and rushed towards the exit. I unbuckled my belt and went after her. She wasn’t heading for the restroom, the door of the plane still ajar, and she was running for it.

“Becky! Where are you going? The plane is about to take off!” I shouted.

She kept running and made it through the door as it was closing and I squeezed through and continued running after her as she raced up the tunnel back to the airport terminal. Once we were back in the airport terminal she stopped running and when I caught up with her she was shaking and crying.

“Becky? What is it?” I asked

“I shouldn’t be doing this!” She said.

“We broke my parent’s rules and demands, God’s laws and will got to Hell for it!” She sobbed, not realizing that this wasn’t supposed to be the end of our life story, but the beginning….

The plane took off without us, there was no way we were going to make that flight and my plans were stopped again, by her. She didn’t want to be on that plane and had bailed on me at the very last second. What else could I do? Give up? Go home and leave her there?

After fighting so hard to make our relationship work since we had been together only to have our plans fall flat time and again by circumstances out of our control or by other people and this time she was the one keeping us apart.

I grabbed Becky’s hand and walked over to the airline counter to exchange our tickets for a flight later in the afternoon and once our next flight was confirmed I was determined to spend the next few hours trying to talk her out of giving up on our relationship once again. I tried every tactic I could think to convince her to stay with me but she didn’t want my love or comfort, and only desired to rejoin her family.

Over the previous months since her father had broken us up and exercised his controlling ways on her I quickly realized that Becky was deeply mentally and emotionally abused by her father and didn’t have and strength of her own to defy him.

Once we were together in Oregon and finally on the plane back to San Diego that I imagined that her father’s emotional grip would be broken and she would willing leave with me but her fathers grip could not be broken and she was running back to him once again.


We found a secluded bench in the airport terminal and for the next two hours I did everything in my power to try and build her up again emotionally so she would board the plane with me again to go to San Diego but in spite of my pleadings it was like there was an emotional “brick wall,” between us and she wasn’t accepting anything that I said. I didn’t understand how she left with me so willingly that morning only to leave me on the plane and walk out on me again, that afternoon.

Finally out of frustration I said, “Becky, you’re killing me, don’t you know that you’re driving me insane?”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she pleaded with me.

“Why did you lead me along over the last two months and make me think that you wanted me to come and get you?” I asked.

The longer I sat there on that bench with her, trying to break into her “emotional Hell,” and convince her to come with me, and begin our life story together, I felt like I was slipping into her abyss of confused thoughts and knew that if we weren’t on that next plane to San Diego I would stay with her in Oregon rather than leave her again.

Becky knew that if she didn’t leave with me her only option was to go home to her parents and face her punishment for defying them for the second time in her life, but in spite of the punishment that lay in store for her she desired to rejoin them once again.

“Becky, you don’t have to go back! Your parent’s don’t own you!” I said to her.

“I shouldn’t have defied them, we never should have gotten married and did what we did today,” she said.

Her mind was made up, and she was going to walk out on me again. I was blown away by what she was doing to me and just sat there feeling dead inside.

Finally, by 5:00 p.m. the next plane was ready for departure, so I got up and headed over to the gate to board the plane that would take me, and only me, home. Becky walked behind me silently knowing the fate that awaited her and also knowing that she would never see me again. When I got to the ramp I turned around, grabbed her arm, and pleaded with her to come with me.

 “Becky don’t do this!” Doesn’t our love mean anything to you?” I desperately asked.

“Your parents don’t love you and will only make your life a living Hell when they get you back.” I said.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” She sobbed.

I continued to pull her with me to the ramp but she kept sobbing and shaking her head, “No” as travelers around us watched the scene we were creating.

Becky was like a prisoner who wanted to go back to the “hole” and serve more punishment. I was offering her freedom and the chance for a normal life and she didn’t want it.

Before I boarded the plane, I turned to her one last time and held her tightly, knowing that I would never see her again.

This was the last time I could hold her in my arms, caress her beautiful face, smell her long dark hair and look into those bottomless brown eyes.

“You’re breaking my heart,” I cried.

“I’m so sorry!” Becky said sobbing.

“I thought you loved me, I thought you wanted us to be together! That’s why I’m here Becky; it’s my love for you that brought me here! Don’t you get that?” I asked.

“I can’t go with you.” She said.

“Becky, if it takes my entire life I’ll never understand you and I’ll never stop loving you.” I said.

Just before the boarding door closed I grabbed her again, passionately kissed her, and let her go.

“I’ll never forget you,” I said as I walked through the door.

We were so close to being together but in reality, we never had been so far apart. Our life story began and ended in that hotel room on our wedding day.

My journey was a failure, she walked out on me again and I was going home a broken man. I felt more tired and more beaten up than ever before. And at 24 years old, I felt like a tired, old man.

Our short relationship brought nothing but heartache and pain. And now I wanted to lie down and die because I didn’t know if I would ever get over her, and I couldn’t understand the depth of mental and emotional abuse by her father that drove her to leave me for the last time and go back to her family.

Over the next few months I would mourn her absence and deal with the deadness that she had left inside of me.

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The Journey

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Christmas arrived quickly for me and on what was supposed to be one of the most wonderful times of the year; I was worried sick about the journey that awaited me. The planning and all of the little details involved took weeks to finalize, and as my relatives and friends learned about my plan I gained wide spread support especially after everyone learned the true about who Becky’s father really was and how he treated her.

On Christmas morning my parents drove me to the airport, gave me hugs and kisses, and watched me board the plane. And as I traversed the terminal I mentally went through every last detail of my trip and prepared myself emotionally for what it would be like once Becky and I would finally be together as husband and wife.

It had now weeks since we had spent real time together and yet I could still remember what it felt like to hold her hand in mine, to smell the scent of her hair as she sat next to me, to look into her eyes and have her know my desire for her without saying it. It was those things about her that kept me going during the long weeks that had passed since we were last separated. and it was every other thing about her that made me hunger to return to her once again.

The plane ride to Portland, Oregon only, lasted a couple of hours and before I knew it, I was searching for the next gate where I would sit and wait once again before boarding another small airplane that would take me to a small county airport in La Grande, Oregon, which was very close to Becky’s home.

I felt like a spy on a secret mission to retrieve a priceless jewel from my enemy.

I was on a long journey to an unfamiliar city where I had to navigate my way in the dead of winter through snow and ice to rescue my wife from her vengeful father. By 3 p.m. the next plane was ready for me and the other passengers. We boarded the plane and sat there for a few minutes before the pilots voice announced on the intercom that our plane would be delayed for one hour because of snow and ice. We would stay on the plane and wait it out, hoping that the plane wouldn’t be grounded for the night. I began to grow nervous.

We waited on the plane until 4 p.m. when the pilot announced that the weather had cleared and he’d been given go ahead to fly. I began to relax and wondered about what I would have for dinner that night.

The plane took off. It felt like it was flying smoothly for a few minutes when it began to shake and the pilot advised us to buckle up due to turbulence.

“Shit!” One of the passengers next to me said.

I started to freak out and pictured the plane crashing into a small field, with my parents learning about it the next morning from an early phone call from the F.A.A.

“This can’t be happening!” I thought as the plane was tossed back and forth like a flimsy trashcan.

The other passengers on the plane were also visibly shaken and holding hands. Some were even saying prayers when the pilot’s voice came on the intercom again.

“Folks, as you can see, we’ve hit some bad weather this afternoon and will have to divert to Washington for the night.”

“No shit!” Said the passenger sitting next to me.

“Please keep your seat belts buckled because we will be landing in a few minutes.”

Washington?

After more shaking and rolling, the plane finally touched down in Washington. We exited the plane and were greeted by a heavy snowstorm that blanketed the area with snow and ice. I walked inside the terminal with the other passengers and stopped to look out of the windows facing the runway. There were dozens of other planes that were grounded by the heavy winter storm. When the pilots and flight attendants walked into the terminal I went over to ask them if they thought we would be able to fly to Oregon the next day.

“I don’t think so, sir. The weather report is saying that this is the worst winter storm up here in 20 years.”

“We might be grounded tomorrow,” The pilot said.

My plans were falling apart, again.


Feeling depressed, I went to look for my bags unsure of my next move. Airports were typically happy places for me, full of people eagerly coming and going to different destinations and cities but on that afternoon, the airport in Washington was full of displaced people who all had a glazed-over look in their eyes as they sat around waiting for welcomed news of departures. After searching and grabbing for my bags I found a corner of the airport and decided to lie down and rest. It was going to be a long night. So I accepted my fate and fell asleep.

I slept for a few minutes when someone started to shake me awake. “Son, you better get up.”

I opened my eyes and was greeted by an elderly looking cowboy who was holding his hand out to help me up.

“The airlines chartered a bus to take everyone to the hotel up the street where we can stay for the night,” He said.

I got up, rubbed my eyes and remembered that it wasn’t a dream, and that I was really one 1,000 away from home in the middle of nowhere.

“You look like a man on a mission,” The man said.

“You’re right.” I said.

“I can always judge a man by the look in his eyes,” he said.

“My name’s Angel Johnson,” he said as he positioned his hand for a handshake.

“My mother named me Angel in the hopes that I would stay out of trouble as a kid, he said, laughing.

Angel looked like the classic 1970’s T.V. character, “McCloud”. He was dressed in faded blue jeans, rough-looking boots, a long winter jacket, and a cowboy hat.

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“Let me help you with your bags,” Angel said.

“Thank you,” I said, feeling at ease.

“Where you heading?” Angel asked.

“Lostine, Oregon. My plane was supposed to land in an airport in La Grande, Oregon, but it was diverted here because of this winter storm,” I said.

“You have family in Lostine?” Angel asked.

“Yes,” I said.

What I didn’t tell him was that I was on a secret mission to save my wife from the hands of her psycho parents who forced her to accompany them.

“So you’re far away from home?” Angel asked.

“Yes. I’m from California.” I said.

“How about you?” I asked.

“I’m from La Grande, Oregon.”

“I’m heading back from a yearly fishing trip that I go on with old friends,” Angel said.

We walked over to the bus that was waiting for us and were driven to the hotel that was conveniently right up the street from the airport. Once we arrived at the hotel I was feeling more exhausted than ever, and walked over to the front desk and paid for a room for the night. As I walked to my room, Angel came up behind me pulling his luggage and said, “Son, the hotel manager just informed everyone that the airline is going to make another attempt to fly to Bend tomorrow, so everyone is supposed to meet at the front desk by 7 a.m. for our 8 a.m. flight.”

“That’s great news!” I said.

“Just thought I’d let you know,” Angel said as he opened his door.

“See you tomorrow!” He said.

I found my room and once inside, called my parents to brief them on where I was and what had happened that day.

“What’s the weather like at home?” I asked as I looked out the window at the heavily falling snow landing outside.

“Santa Ana, It was 80 degrees in the shade today,” my dad said.

“Save some warm weather for me, okay?” I asked.

“You got it. See you soon, son,” my dad said.

I hung up the phone and wanted to go home that night, but instead, I stuck to my plan and kept assuring myself that it was going to work.

The next morning, I woke up early, showered, and ate breakfast in the hotel lobby. I went over the remaining details of the trip in my head.

Step 1 – Arrive in La Grande, Oregon.

Step 2 – Drive to Lostine, Oregon.

Step 3 – Arrange a meeting point with Becky.

Step 4 – Get Becky and drive like a madman back to the airport to wait for the flight back to San Diego.

“It’s going to work, it’s going to work,” I kept telling myself.

After I finished breakfast, I went over to the hotel lobby, checked out, and was greeted by my new friend, Angel.

“Mornin, I thought you might need this,” Angel said as he handed me a large cup of coffee to go from the hotels restaurant.

“You read my mind,” I said, smiling.

As we sat there talking, the other passengers from the night before began to walk up to the check out counter. Everyone waited anxiously for the bus to arrive and take us back to the airport. Angel and I chatted with ease like two old friends about everything, from bass fishing and country music, to politics and religion, when the bus arrived and we boarded it with the other passengers and to head back to the airport.

“Looks like were on our way now.” Angel said.

“Thank God,” I said in relief.

The bus quickly drove us through the deserted streets and made it back to the airport in minutes. I looked out at the town, wondering where everyone was.

“It’s Christmas day. Nobody will be out today especially in this weather.” Angel said.

“It sure is cold,” I said.

“Bet it’s not like this in San Diego,” he then said.

“How’d you know I’m from San Diego?” I asked, feeling like Angel knew everything about me.

Angel smiled and said, “We better get goin.”

We walked into the airport and were greeted by dozens of angry passengers who were shouting and screaming at airline officials.

“Damn! I’ve got a business meeting today at 3 p.m.,” a businessman said.

“I have to get home to feed my dog,” and elderly woman declared.

“You bastards are always screwing us around,” claimed a young snowboarder.

“Yeah, man, typical bullshit from the Man!” said another snowboarder.

“Screw it bro, let’s go find a bar and get drunk!” another  snowboarder said.

“Must have beer!” They all said in unison as they went looking for the airport lounge.

“I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, but the airline has informed us that there won’t be any planes coming or going for the next few hours because of ice on the runway,” the airline official said. “For those of you who can’t wait, we have car rental facilities inside the airport that can rent you a car for anywhere you need to go. For those of you who are going to stay and wait you will find our facilities comfortable. We have a Starbucks and McDonald’s in the terminal.”

“When is the earliest that we can get in the air?” I asked the airline rep.

“Probably not until 3 p.m. today,” he said.

That would screw up my plans and I wouldn’t be able to get to Becky’s in time.

“But that’s hours from now!” I exclaimed.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said as he squirmed out of my way.

“I’m never going to get to Oregon,” I said.

Suddenly, Angel appeared out of nowhere and said, “Looks like everyone is in the same boat.”

“No kidding,” I said.

“I got an idea. Why don’t you and me rent ourselves a car and you can drop me off in La Grande on your way to Lostine, Oregon. I’ve got plenty of cash and can pay for half of it,” He said.

I thought about it for a minute and once again, my overactive imagination pictured Angel murdering me and dumping me on the side of a country road.

I was prepared to say no, but realized that he was probably a lot older than my dad was and couldn’t possibly pull a fast one on me. Besides, I was out in the middle of nowhere, with no friends or family, and decided that having Angel, as my travel companion and guide on this trip was probably the best decision I could make.

“That sounds like a great idea to me,” gleefully.

“Good, because I sure don’t feel like hitch-hiking my way home today,” Angel said.

We walked over to the rental counter, rented a brand-new Ford Focus and quickly got on the road. During the first few minutes in the car, Angel instructed me on how to drive in the winter weather and navigate through the completely foreign weather conditions I had never driven through. Angel really was my guide that day and made me feel completely at ease behind the wheel, even though it was snowing again outside and we continued to pass cars that had gone off the road every few miles, reminding me how dangerous the driving conditions were.

After driving for a while, I started to relax.

“What kind of hobbies do you have, Son?” Angel asked.

“I’m an artist,” I said.

Even though I said it, I didn’t really feel like one because I hadn’t painted or made anything new in over a year because of my relationship with Becky and everything that came with it.

I just didn’t have the heart to touch my art supplies or create anything new.

“An artist, huh?” Angel grinned.

“What kind of work do you do?” He asked.

I told him about my love of modern, abstract art and artists like Picasso, Matisse and Braque and how some day, I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

“Sounds like you have a lot of talent, Son.” Angel said. “Have you produced anything lately?”

I sighed and said, “no”.

“Why not?” He asked.

This gave me a natural opening to talk about my story. I talked for over an hour with my new friend and told him everything about my relationship with Becky and why I was really in Oregon.

Angel sat quietly for a minute and finally said, “son, I got one question for you. Why the hell are you going after this girl after everything she’s done to you? Especially with all your of talents and gifts, it sounds like you can have any girl you want.

I thought it over and said, “I have to try and make it work one last time. All of my life I’ve given up on things when the going got rough and I don’t want to give up on my relationship with Becky, especially if there is any hope left,” I said.

“Well, I don’t envy you with the path you’re walking because you sound like you face a great deal of opposition from her parents and that’s not easy to deal with, especially now that you two are married. You know that what you want to do might not work out right?” He asked.

“I know,” I said.

“It might not work out,” had been one of the main topics of conversation in my family lately. Nobody wanted to see me fail and witness my hopes and dreams fall flat, even though at that particular time my dream seemed like just that: a dream.

“Can I give you a word of advice, Son?” Angel asked.

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what to expect.

“Don’t give up on your other hopes and dreams after your journey is over. Even if your plans with her don’t work out, don’t give up on your art when you get back home. God gave you those artistic gifts for a reason, and I don’t think he’d want you to waste them. Take it from a guy who’s walked in your shoes and seen it all, okay?” Angel said.

“I appreciate the advice, but I’ve got to see this journey through and give it my best shot.” I said.

“I know you do, I just don’t want you to come home a broken man if your plans here don’t work out,” he remarked.

“You sound like you’re speaking from experience,” I said.

“Son, it would take me a few days and lots of beer to tell you all of my stories. Unfortunately I can’t drink anymore and we don’t have a lot of time left together.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Look,” Angel said, pointing out the window to a sign that read, “Welcome to La Grande Oregon.”

I looked at the clock and realized that we had been on the road for hours. It was already 1 p.m. and time seemed to fly by quickly while we drove on the empty, icy roads.

“Why don’t you drop me off at the town hall? Then I can get you a map and show you how to get to Lostine,” Angel promised.

“That sounds great.”

“I can’t believe that we’ve been on the road for this long!” I said.

“Well, the Good Lord has been looking out for us,” Angel said.

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La Grande Oregon

 

La Grande, Oregon, looked like Mayberry and with the prevalent snow-capped rooftops it looked inviting to a tired homesick traveler like me. Once we found the town hall, Angel and I got out of the car and entered the warm town hall building and were greeted by friendly, cordial faces.

“Welcome to La Grande!” A girl behind a nearby desk said to me.

“Ma’am, this young man needs a map of Oregon so he can route out his trip to Lostine to see his family.”

“Well, you’re in luck! I just happen to have one right here!” The girl said.

She opened her desk drawer and pulled out a well-worn map of Oregon. She then proceeded to highlight the easiest route into Lostine. Things were now going exceptionally well and I was developing confidence in my plans once again. While she highlighted, Angel stood calmly next to me and when she was done, we thanked her and walked back outside.

 

We outside looking at the snowy day for several minutes when Angel said, “Son I better get home because I’m dogged tired and, besides you got a long drive ahead of you.”

“You want to go get some lunch or something?” I asked.

“No. I appreciate the offer, but I think it’s time we get going,” Angel said.

Once again, the kind old cowboy and I shook hands like old friends.

“Son, it was great meeting you. Don’t forget what I said about not giving up on your goals or dreams if your plan doesn’t work out okay?”

“I promise,” I said.

“And if I’m ever back here, I promise that I will look you up and take you out for a steak,” I said.

Angel chuckled and said; “I’d take you up on your offer if my doctor would let me eat red meat. Those hippie doctors won’t let old folks like me touch that stuff anymore.”

We laughed and stood there for a few more seconds before Angel said, “You better get goin.”

I thanked him again and we parted ways. I walked back to the car while Angel started up the street towards the direction of an old hotel in town. I got into the car, rolled down the window, and looked up the street for him, but he was gone. “Thanks again Angel,” I said into the wind and continued on my way.

The drive into Oregon could have been a lot worse if I didn’t have an experienced traveler like Angel to guide me on the roads, and give comfort to me after I told him my story.

I was in La Grande, Oregon, only a few hours away from my wife, a few miles away from seeing her again. I was getting excited, so I raced along the snowy roads anticipating our reunion.

En route to Lostine I drove through the remaining little towns with ease until I finally reached Becky’s new home. The town wasn’t much to look at. With no major stores, buildings, developments, stoplights, or civilization around for miles, I could see why this town appealed to her father’s nature. He didn’t move his family up here because of the great weather and atmosphere. Fred moved his family to Lostine because he wanted to hide them from the real world, keeping them locked up in his own little world until the day he died.

Nobody knew who he was, people would easily fall for his deception, and neighbors would welcome him into their lives, appointing him their new religious leader. I pitied the people in this town and couldn’t wait to get Becky and leave immediately. I was already sick of the constant snow, cold, and steel grey skies. I wanted to see sunshine again; I wanted to get back to the blue skies and warm weather of San Diego with my wife by my side.

Once I pulled into town, I drove around for a few minutes and surveyed the scene to make sure that I knew all the towns’ roads and was familiar with the major intersections. I knew that if Becky’s family saw me outside their house, they would call the police to arrest me. Or even chase after Becky and I in the rental car. I didn’t want either scenario to happen and prepared myself emotionally for whatever was in store for me.

I found the old, beat-up house where Becky’s family now lived and slowly drove past her kitchen window, catching a glimpse of her inside doing the dishes. It was around 3 p.m. and I knew that her parents had asked Becky and her other sister to get things ready for dinner at 5 p.m. As I drove past her window, I waved, turned a corner, parked the car up the street from her house and waited. After a few minutes, she slowly came out of her house, walked up to my car, and got inside. She wasn’t excited to see me.

There wasn’t a passionate embrace or speedy exit like in the movies. Becky was indecisive again and giving me the cold shoulder. I grabbed her and kissed her, but she was like kissing a cold fish.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked, sensing what she was thinking.

“Becky? Hello?” I said, waving my hand in front of her face.

She just sat there, thinking over what to say.

“Jeremy, I don’t know if this was the right idea,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We broke my parent’s laws and God’s laws.” She said.

“Becky, I’ve just come 1,000 miles to get you because you asked me to. We’ve had this conversation again and again about what the right decision is, but the question isn’t what your parents want, it’s what you want. What do you want, Becky? The dream we had is now a reality and we can make it happen if you leave with me right now.” I said.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Becky kept saying, acting like she was doped up.

“Becky, what’s wrong with you?” You begged me to come and rescue you, and now that I’m here, you don’t want to go?” I said.

“I’m sorry, Jeremy,” she said.

“I’m sorry to,” I said.

“Can you give me until tomorrow?” She asked.

I laughed and said, “What’s a few more hours going to do? If your mind is already made up, I can’t change it for you in a few hours,” I said.

She looked at me clearly and said, “I don’t have a bag ready and will need one more day to get prepared,” she said.

“Alright, if I come and get you tomorrow morning, do you promise that you will leave with me?” I asked.

“I promise,” she said.

Suddenly, Becky’s parents pulled into their driveway in their old beat up station wagon.

“Oh no!” She screamed.

We slid down into the rental car seats and waited until they went inside.

“Alright, I’ll come back for you in the morning at 6 a.m. and you better be ready!” I said.

Becky agreed and we kissed quickly, and she exited the car and ran back inside her house. The plan wasn’t working out like it was supposed to, but plans often changed. And since I was here in her town, I didn’t plan on leaving without her. Once I was certain all of her family members were inside their house, having dinner I started up the car and quickly drove away in search of a motel.

Because Lostine had no major developments and no hotels, I was forced to drive to the next town a few miles away, where I found a nasty rat trap hotel that I could stay in for the night. The room smelled like cat piss and cigarette smoke, but it was a roof over my head, and once inside, I slumped down in an old chair and immediately fell asleep for the next few hours. I awoke around 11 p.m. that night hungry because I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. I decided to get in the car and go looking for the nearest restaurant. I couldn’t find any restaurants, fast food joints, all-night gas stations or any place to buy food late at night. Evidently, Oregon shutdown early, every night at and everyone was tucked away safely in their comfy beds. I was tired, hungry and homesick.

Lostine Oregon

Lostine Oregon

 

I didn’t know what else to do that night but drive so I stepped on the gas to see how fast the rental car would go.

Since the streets were deserted and there were no stoplights or other traffic for miles I went faster and faster until the car reached 100 miles per hour. After a few miles of driving at race car speeds I slowed down and was doing about 55 miles per hour along the country roads when a police officer pulled out from nowhere with it’s lights flashing.

“Shit!” I said laughing at the situation.

Here I was racing the car at 100 miles per hour a few minutes ago, through the deserted roads of Oregon and now this cop was going to give me a speeding ticket for driving at a measly 55 miles per hour? I hated getting a ticket but laughed at the irony and rolled down my windows as the cop walked up.

“You’re out here kind of late, aren’t you?” He asked.

“Yes, sir,” I replied.

“You know how fast you were going?” He asked.

“No, I’m from out of town,” I said, ready to laugh in his face.

“Don’t get smart with me, Son, you were doing 55 in a 35 zone.”

“Officer, it’s midnight. Unless there are cows out walking the streets at night, I don’t think anyone was in danger,” I said.

“Give me your license and registration, Smart Ass,” he said.

I handed it to him and he walked back to his car, never failing to keep his spotlight flashed through my back window while he checked my license.

Finally, he returned and handed me his notepad for me to sign his ticket.

“You’ll get your ticket mailed to you in 30 days,” He smiled.

“Excuse me, Officer Johnson; is there a McDonalds in this area? Because I’m starved,” I said.

“My name is Officer Smith,” He grunted.

“I advise you to go back to wherever your hotel is and stay there before you get into more trouble,” He said.

I mock saluted him, rolled up my window and drove away, leaving him standing out in the cold. When I got back to the crappy hotel I looked at my watch and it was 1 a.m. In a few hours, I knew there would be a final resolution: she would either come with me to the airport and we would go home together, or I would leave her in Oregon and never see her again. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if she changed her mind on me again, so I tried to keep such thoughts out of my head as I drifted off to sleep.

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