Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chapter 5--California!!!

Right at that exact same instant that I said I’d have to write it all out into a book was the exact moment the apprentice class teacher entered the room and naturally wanted to know what everybody had just been talking about. As far as I can recall nobody said anything to her as far as what we had just been talking about and I can’t say for sure if I hushed them up right at that moment or not, because I suppose it’s possible I might have just if nothing else to avoid going there, you know.

There were other great experiences both at my apartment in Hollywood as well as at Arrowhead Water and probably even one or two from all of those apprentice classes that I took while working out in California. One of my favorite ones from L.A. Apprentice Class was the food vendor style truck that would drive up at lunch time and the reason I recall that the best is because even still today I like to sometimes buy the lemon-line flavored Jarritos soda pop in the bottles, often old fashioned glass soda pop style bottles, but occasionally in the 1.5 Litros “Limon” since I had one right next to me as I was proofreading on the night of July 23, 2013 at 9:33pm.

One of my favorite memories from my Hollywood Apartment was at the height of summer where I used to swim in the pool as often as I could and one day this Italian Girl came running out and jumped in the pool swimming with me. She was from Sardinia, Italy, knew very little English, and was in the process of taking classes to learn. Great enough story right there so I’ll leave it at that.
There was another guy who enjoyed climbing on the roof and jumping off the roof into the pool and yet another who hung around sometimes at night and played his guitar out there next to the pool.
There were two guys at Arrowhead Water who were from Paris, France and the one, who I eventually got to work with didn’t speak any English at all. The amazing part was that it worked out ok and then at break I would have Patrick the boss translate everything about how we were doing and like how everything was going, etc. It all turned out well and Patrick translated everything right back for me but basically just that the guy was quite happy with the situation how it was working out well, and that about sums it all up.
Hooking up with the Carpenters Union and attending apprentice classes was not the first thing I did when I arrived in Hollywood, though. Beginning the day I arrived I was doing a lot of searching for apartments, checking out all the different neighborhoods around Hollywood, and driving up and down the coast checking out all of the beaches.

I looked at a lot of apartments and a lot of landlords complained to me that they had whole entire big giant stacks of applications and so I just moved on and kept right on looking.
It was the guy who carried his pet iguana around with him everywhere that turned out to be my ticket to Hollywood and the glam life I had always dreamed of to quote Nicole, the girl from apartment 17 around towards the shallow end of the pool and next door to the apartment managers apartment. Peter Paul was on the other side of the managers apartment and a guy who had actually been in a movie was in the next apartment, although I do not know his name off hand, Lori does, she’s the girl from apartment 23 who ran out screaming, “Earthquake!” in the last chapter.
So the guy who always carried Maestro around, his pet iguana, showed me apartment 22 and said he wanted to put some new carpeting in it and I told him it would be fine like it was. The advantage I got out of that deal was he gave me the apartment on the spot and allowed me to move in immediately! It was unfortunate they would go on to keep my security deposit due to the carpet being worn and dirty, though.
I don’t recall exactly how this all played out but I had to unload stuff from my car that traveled from Wisconsin, move the stuff such as my bicycle that I had already unloaded at my motel and move it up to my apartment which was several blocks east and maybe a couple blocks south and then there was still a lot of stuff like getting the phone and the D.W.P. going. D.W.P. is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and you want both of them, trust me. It was even very late at night when Fred, my D.W.P. guy arrived but he got the power turned on and I was up and running. Oh, never mind the cable, there was like fifty or seventy-five channels on antenna TV, so I just never bothered to even call them and enjoyed all the free TV I could pull in with just my rabbit ears. That included watching a lot of “Wally George” late at night, too!

All of the transmitters and towers for all of the Los Angeles TV and Radio were located on top of 5000 foot Mt. Wilson, also a great place to go and check out a lot of Great FM radio stations up there on “Audio Drive,” too!
All of this was going on to the tune of Ricky Martins “Livin La Vida Loca” which played over and over virtually that whole summer on the cassette player in my car! Oh, yes, and while those old Jack Benny tapes kept right on playing me to sleep every night in my brand new bungalow high in the hills of Hollywood!
Actually before I even got that apartment this next story happened first. The motel I was staying at was over on Sunset near Hollywood High School and I was probably walking back from the 7-11 on LaBrea which happens to be the same 7-11 as I go to when I’m in that apartment because the apartment is just two blocks North of the 7-11, and the motel was just three or so blocks east of that 7-11.

As I was cruising past the corner in front of my motel across from H.H.S., I notice one of those notice things with all those tear strips with the phone numbers on it and it says “Casting.” Wouldn’t you just know right there in the middle of Hollywood sharing a street corner with Hollywood High School would be a newspaper box with a casting notice taped to it! And one with tear strip style phone numbers on it, as well. So I tore one off and called the number and ran right over to the office on Sunset to meet them on like my first full day there in Hollywood.
I hardly no more than got my Polaroid taken and discussed all of my acting experience for a second and I was cast for a commercial shooting up in the Malibu Canyon area at Calimigos Ranch the very next day!
Of course I said I’d take it and that turned out to be one of the greatest jobs of my life!
My first job out in Hollywood was a spectacular one! The commercial starred Steve Garvey and there were probably a hundred of us playing volleyball and just basically hanging out up at the sunny, lush, and very beautiful Calimigos Ranch just outside of beautiful Malibu Canyon, a location where a lot of other great movies and TV shows are shot.
When it came time for lunch the cameras continued to role and we were all told to just smile and look like we were just continuing to have fun like that all day long! Met a lot of great folks there, too, and went on to work with a lot of them on many more things during my days in Hollywood. I also got the names of a lot of great agencies all around town and that was about the first thing I did when I left there that day after the shoot was completed was to start beating the streets of Hollywood to try and figure out what all I would have to do to really make it big!
I still have a picture I took with one of those old fashioned cameras like the kind that used to have 35mm film in them that you would either remove the film and take it to get developed or sometimes just take the whole camera in and get the whole thing developed and just buy another one. A couple of old fashioned photographs we’ll call them of me at the Santa Monica Pier after that shoot wearing the hat they let us keep with the name of the product I won’t repeat here due to not either having the right to say it, or not wanting to say it such as a laxative or feminine product name which maybe it was, I’m kidding.

Another particular time I was at the Third Street Promenade and for whatever reason I practically never do this and still today try hard not to, but I shoved a handful of miscellaneous cash into my pocket like when I got change back from somewhere, when I usually carry just singles like in a money clip style, although I lost the money clip long ago, so anyways I was walking the Third Street Promenade and basically just enjoying all the different styles and types of street performers when a dance troupe sort of act caught my attention so without thinking I grabbed a bill out of that pocket and tossed it in his hat or cup or I don’t even recall what he was using to collect cash with that day, but he reaches right in there immediately as I’m already a few steps away and he announces loudly to the crowd, “Hey, we just got a FIVE DOLLAR TIP, Everybody!!!” Awesome, too! Because it is so rare that I ever have anything but one dollar bills in that pocket and I didn’t really have to think about it too much more than that to figure out who just gave them the five. That troupe was a very good act just the same and well worth it, too! So I never gave it no more thought then that, other than to hope the very best for all of them at everything they do with their great skills!
I was just cruising out to the Santa Monica Pier on yet another occasion, although this would have been on a trip out there in 1997, when it just so happened to be a day when Bay Watch was shooting there! With the lifeguard vehicle, probably the whole entire cast of lifeguards, and whomever circa 1997 and of course now ME! In my Hawaiian shirt just happening past the set and I suppose as a result also appearing in some wild feed as a general atmo/background sort of person!
Might have been just another day and I may have simply just walked on past, gave all the action a glance and kept on my way, except on this particular day I happened to recognize the director from a movie I had worked on back in Chicago!
I smiled and said hi to her and figured that since I now just realized I know the director from having worked with her in Chicago, that I’d stick around there a while and take in a little bit more of what was going on there that day. So, I took a walk all of the way around the set which that day included the East facing part of that restaurant out there and the pier up to Scooby-Doo or about where the Lifeguard Truck was parked. Probably established that like two of the stars were just basically there to exchange some lines and that was probably about it. So I walked back and forth on action past the signs that say they’re shooting and I give them permission to use my likeness or whatever. After doing that a couple times then I was on my way. They may have been there shooting all day or whatever, I’m not sure.

Possibly my final story I have to tell here about the pier is one day I was out there and the waves started coming cross ways towards the shore there at the Santa Monica Beach and right at that moment I looked up and seen a single airliner flying over us from Northeast towards sort of East Southeast and I knew something was up. From having grown up on the lake I already knew those waves were coming from somewhere and didn’t give that much thought to where it just came from or where it was going or what new flight path flew directly over the pier, there.
That was the day there had been a major plane crash Offshore from Port Hueneme and I suppose that other plane had been flying with the crashed plane and was making an immediate turn for the airport to land. I want to say here how sorry I am for all of the people involved in that incident. Here’s hoping you will all be well.
I was also at The Pier one day just sort of looking around at all of the rides, I’ve never actually rode on any of them as of this writing, but enjoy sort of looking and maybe a summeresque kind of pic every so often, when I notice a big giant bolt rattling there loose on a railing on the track of the rollercoaster! It was one of those joints that holds the actual track that the roller coaster cars themselves are whizzing past on, together. The bolt pattern is two bolts at the top on either side of the track and it consists of two flat pieces of steel with four holes in it and two more bolt holes a few inches below the top bolts but there was only one bolt tight at the bottom, the other was unscrewed about at least an inch from being flush and tight. It basically was just hanging there rattling loosely there where them two holes were lined up. I knew it was not an extreme emergency right at that moment, BUT, I also did not want to waste any time. My normal days out there would consist of walking past and ignoring all of the police and security guys everywhere and they even have a police station or had back in those days, right between the parking lot and the carousel. I immediately grabbed the first police or security guy, not sure which and hauled him over there. Then I extended my arm and pointed with my finger as best I could to try and show him. It only took him a moment to see what I was talking about and I just trusted that he would report it to somebody, somewhere and I moved on.

That reminds me of another thing I found in my travels. While one day driving up and sightseeing around San Francisco, I was out visiting the Golden Gate Bridge when, like you probably know I always like to do, I was glancing up and down taking it all in and just generally sort of looking at everything and seeing what I see. I couldn’t hardly believe my eyes when I was all the way out in the middle of the bridge where the lowest point in the two main cables comes close to eye level at the middle point of the bridge. There was at least one clip that was tearing out of the main truss and a great deal of rust at the points where the banding binds on the cable bundle! Not exactly sure if they have done anything to fix it and have exchanged E-Mails with their board who has assured me their maintenance guys will take a look at it, but that has as of this writing been quite some time and I am not sure if they realize the capacity of the Golden Gate Bridge is subject to the integrity of those very cables. Since that day one of my friends from construction work told me that we have to replace our own cables that we use to lift heavy machinery every six years. The best I can calculate is that the cables on the Golden Gate Bridge have NEVER been replaced and must be somewhere in the area of 75 going on 100 years old. There is probably quite a lot of more rust where just what you can see came from.
Also while driving through that general area at around this same time period or perhaps even the same day, I seen San Andreas Lake from the Freeway which I will discuss more about later.
One of my favorite pass times at my apartment in Hollywood was lifting weights, not to mention watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and cleaning, frying, and eating a lot of fresh fish. The three things would often all go good together, too! Fish was real cheep in the fish markets out along the coast and there was a big one up in Panoramic City, too. That was also where I was getting those great watermelons for just two dollars.
So I ate tons of fresh fish and a lot of really fresh and always crisp watermelons and never missed a single episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire! That is until one Sunday evening I turned it on and suddenly realized I didn’t know any of the players. How could that be? I’ve never missed a single episode in my entire life? How did they manage to pick and now have seated there an entirely new cast without my knowledge? So I ate my fresh fish and probably some of those French fries you bake in the oven, lifted some weights and thought about it a while. The only conclusion I could come up with was they had to have played an episode sometime in between the usual Tuesday or Wednesday episode and Sunday Night as I sat there in front of the TV in disbelief. That leaves like a possible Friday or Saturday Night episode that they failed to announce and just like that the excitement of the show was gone forever. I no longer know who any of the players were, where they were from, or how they got picked. I must have also missed any number of those games they have to beat the others at by putting stuff in order chronologically or whatever, as well as one or two whole entire games they would have played on that show as well.
It all just added up to being the end of my days of following that show as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t by no means the end of fish and baked French fries, though, or lifting weights. I continued to lift until I had the forty pound dumbbells totally mastered and could do a fair amount of reps with them in all the popular positions such as clean and jerk, bench pressing, and arm curls.
After I get to the limit with the forty pounders, then I grab the twenty pounders and lift a while longer, take a few minutes break and then do at least one more set. Occasionally I would do three or four sets like that but normally always at least one or two sets. And there are some other lifts I would throw in there on different days, too, as long as I had my fresh fish, French fries, and watermelon it didn’t matter because I’d always be doing some weight lifting there, too, in my Hollywood Apartment.

One day I was running down to the laundry room and decided to take the balcony instead of the stairs past the pool and noticed I could see the Hollywood Sign from the deep end of the pool side of the building.
So, I’m not sure if I immediately ran into the manager or seen him later, but he goes and gets the key to that apartment right there where the window was we were standing in front of and we walk in and sure enough. . . that particular apartment had a pretty good view of the Hollywood Sign right from their living room! It was also empty and very much available for rent right at that moment as we stood there looking out at the Hollywood Sign. So the manager asks me if I wanted it, and gives me a tour of it. Of course it was a two-bedroom so that was just basically pretty much how that story ended right there.

I didn’t have much difficulty getting registered with Central Casting and it wasn’t long before I was going to work on jobs that they had booked me on. Of course how the system worked back in those days was that you call in their hotline daily and wait for a part that you qualify for and then you call in. I’d like to start this part of the story with all the best parts I got through them, but probably my favorite story happened after I’d been out on many jobs for them and one day they needed two or three hundred guys for a town festival on a movie called The Dukes of Hazard. The recording said to call Sasha and say you want to party with the Duke Boys! So you’ll never guess what I quickly did almost instantly and without putting hardly any additional thought into it. Well, there was a long, long pause at the other end of the line and she said hold on. It was a long hold not really knowing if I was on hold or the phone was still up to her ear or what. Then it was over and she said, “No,” and hung up and that was basically how my wonderful career out in Hollywood ended, but I had a lot of other parts in the meantime so now that you know how Hollywood is going to end already, let me tell you about all the other stuff I did work on!
Probably my best and practically my all time favorite TV show job up to then was, “ER.” Not only because I had already worked on it before, which I might have mentioned back in the Chicago part of the book, but because at the time it was like one of the top shows and when you tell people you’re working on “ER,” they instantly know practically everything there was to know about the show and are really into the fact that I’m working on-set as an actor on that show.
The particular episode I worked on starred Alan Alda and was eventually nominated for an Emmy and I picked up a ticket for that Emmy Awards Show and actually went to the show that night.
Another show I worked on was called Get Real and I was on a Rehab Unit with a girl who was in rehab on the show. Might have been just another day of work except that I just happened to look that show up recently due to discovering Barta from 2 and a Half Men was also on there and it occurred to me I should look up the girl I had worked with who played the part of the girl who was in rehab. That made for an interesting search because I found that girl is today Anne Hathaway.
On the TV series NYPD Blue we shot at 20th Century Fox Studios on what they call their “New York Street” in the back lot area and before the day was all over I ended up crossing the street with Denny Franz in one scene. In another scene my car was fixed up with New York license plates and a New York Parking sticker taped onto my windshield which I still have pressed into one of my acting books somewhere. Whichever one I was carrying with me that day.

There was a lot of other acting stuff and that night at the Emmy Awards Show was fun, but eventually it would come time for me to stop by and check out the Los Angeles Carpenters Union. Didn’t have any trouble getting in there either and it wouldn’t be too long before I was out on my first California construction job, too. This was the San Diego Water Treatment Plant located at San Ysidro physically situated on the border with Mexico right along the fence there, with the Mexican Border Patrol watching us all day long with machine guns.
Some of the other jobs I worked on with those guys, some of whom you can read more about in the Arrowhead Water story, were Long Beach, Bakersfield, and South L.A.
The big job outside of Bakersfield is still today one of my all time best Carpenters Union jobs, since it paid Bakersfield scale. The exact location was outside of Taft, which is west of Bakersfield and the home of the biggest oil field in the world. There is also what at one time was the largest gusher of all time in the world, too! That gusher is still eighteen feet across and when it was gushing at its maximum it was two or three hundred feet in the air! And you’ll never guess how long that gusher gushed.
Three years! They did different things during that amount of time to try to capture as much of the oil as they could but it is estimated they only ever caught and recovered about half of it. I believe they built a sort of wall around it to fill up and so they could pump standing crude oil back out of it until eventually one day it must have stopped.
The guys referred to the Midway Sunset Power Plant as the place they remembered for being the hottest during the day and where they eventually also had to put the most clothes back on at night because the high and low temperatures varied so much. I recall it being located practically on top of the San Andreas Fault which is actually located right there I think at the tip of that hill just to the west of the power plant. It was also sort of well known, to me anyways, as the place where on one particular week a Monday just so happened to be a holiday and as a result I received one particular paycheck that had something like a hundred hours of overtime on it. Big check and it was a big job there just outside of Fellows, California where at that time they even still had a store and a post office. I think they are both gone today or were the last time I was up that way.
Before I left Wisconsin, Big Louie Evans mentioned that in his days out in L.A. he worked at a glass plant where the bottles are stamped and then come down a conveyor red hot. It just so happened that I was actually sent to such a plant at one point and today that is the South L.A. job, although it was more towards East L.A., because I used to drive right past the depot that said East Los Angeles every night after work on that job.
I suppose the highlight of that job was the day when we finished up cutting in a length of conveyor right at 4:00pm and Bob the engineer said we could quit and just wait till tomorrow to start it up and do the final alignments to it. Well my answer to that as I told Bubba the boss on that job was that I am getting paid until 4:30pm so I was in favor of starting it up and hitting it with the wrenches and just see if we couldn’t quick align it that easy. It worked and we were out of there on time and Bubba thanked us and the company actually even used that conveyor line right away that night and it’s probably been running ever since.
Then on the last day of that job at about three in the afternoon Bubba came out and asked all of us if we would want to all go with him to the next job in Vacaville, California. Another glass plant I suppose similar to the one we just finished up that day. For me, due to it being a Saturday I would not be able to give him an answer because I would need to call the hall on Monday morning and see if I could just go work in the San Francisco local like that. Bubba just said to forget it, then, and I never seen him again. I sure wanted that job bad, though and still wish today there was some way me and Bubba could have got together and made some kind of arrangement with either the L.A. local or the S. F. local, it’s just that it was Saturday and most unfortunate that nobody knew.

Long Beach was the ARCO Refinery and is most famous for being the job where the Goodyear Blimp was flying over us once or twice. It is also situated directly under the Vincent Thomas Bridge right at the entrance to like the L.A. Harbor or whatever harbor that is there because I do not know for sure.
We did our work at a generator there and basically were only there to replace one very large bearing that apparently had been making some noise or something. The job at Long Beach was actually only like two days which reminds me of one other job.

The Sony Plant in San Diego ran four days and all of the sudden the boss there decided he needed a couple of us to work one more day. When we work five days the rule is we would normally automatically go to the bottom of the “Out of Work List,” but the boss promised me he wouldn’t put me at the bottom of the list and so I agreed to one additional day.
He meant well, but when I called in on the following Monday guess what happened. I can tell you today it was to be only temporary, but I did find my name at the bottom of the out of work list briefly on Monday morning. Trouble with that was not getting my spot at the top back. . . . . the real trouble with it was that there were 860 people on that out of work list and you might as well say I was number 861.
So, I got my number moved back up in the hundreds somewhere BUT unfortunately I discovered in the process that L.A. just so happened to have almost a thousand guys on the out of work list.

I was camping out at Capistrano Beach or should I just say Laguna Beach, shortly after that incident when the ground really started to shake a lot and I found myself at the epicenter of a huge earthquake. I held on for dear life and could hear rocks falling from the nearby cliffs where nice houses stood at the top. It went on quite long and I ran to the car, opened the door and sat down in the drivers seat and watched nearby trees swaying and continued to hear rocks falling from the cliff and could see cars on the Pacific Coast Highway now having to dodge rocks falling into the road there.
Today I call that the moment I decided to pull-up stakes and head back to Wisconsin. I had been planning on getting back home at some point anyways and had deliberately saved a lot of my best work for the libraries back home due to knowing my way around there so much better. I knew research was something I would have to do back home and that was when I decided it was what I would do next. So it was time I now began on the Wisconsin part of my work towards Bringing Earthquakes To Life!