THE VILLA…A TRUE STORY: FROM HOLLYWOOD TO THE STICKS

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Chapter One Excerpt

I got off the plane in Detroit, after eleven years of chasing a dream with dashed hopes and only the shirt on my back. I had been just another aspiring soul, some wide-eyed wannabe who had been chewed up and spit back up by the great machine. The shirt I was wearing was taken from some TV show set, their wardrobe department, I cannot remember which. I wore a pair of Reebok shoes that I had taken from a movie executive’s office and green dress pants that I had with me throughout the entire trek. They had seen better days to say the least, especially from years of being washed with nothing but bathroom industrial pink hand soap. I too had seen better days as well and this was no doubt a worst case scenario, this was what happened when one young man went for it all, put it all on the table and failed miserably. There were no pieces to pick up, because there was nothing left, a life was shattered and that life was my own.

I remember hearing my Step-dad as I got off the terminal, “There he is,” and so there were hugs and my Mother was teary eyed. It was all so surreal being back in my home state after a decade of striving for something that meant everything. This was back to the roots. This was square one and it was the homecoming I had never planned nor wanted, at least not under these circumstances. This was the nightmare brought to life, because in my eyes upon my return it always played out differently, it would have been a reunion of success and good cheer and not…well this, the total opposite.

There was no luggage to pick up, so we high-tailed it out of Detroit rather quickly. There was little doubt that my arrival was likely putting a major wrench in things or at least life as my parents had come to know it. I had disrupted the natural order of things no doubt and it was strange to see life back home had grown up and had long since passed me by. No amount of words or description could convey the sheer horror of starting over again, especially at an age where one would have made it by now. I had hit rock bottom and was still there, but now I could feel myself trying to claw my way back out. Even still, this would be a process, because I was going back to live with my parents again at thirty-one years of age in a town where people go to retire, go to get away and go to die.

We arrived in Gladwin and I was jumpy, on edge,the all too real side-effects from living in a mad panic and race towards something that wasn’t material or that wasn’t real, but more of a vision of a lifestyle, a vision of a dream. I had confronted the grim notion of making this vision a reality  for far too long and now it had gotten to me. I couldn’t sit still. The house looked like a movie set, which was all I had seen for the last three years. In fact, my parent’s home was the first house I had been in for longer than I cared to remember. I ate, breathed, slept and was alive only for one thing…to make it in show business or to write for a living and now the gravity of moving back home hit me like a sledgehammer. I was a high wire act of movement and speed. I talked fast in hyperbole and pure show keeping my Step-dad up all night in wonderment and possibly amazement. He had never seen me like this before nor probably anybody else for that matter. My mouth was a machine gun of words, questions, gestures…and my poor parents were in awe. By morning there was one stop…Midland Mental Health. My parents didn’t know what to do. I was ready to take off in a world where people went to relax and live the good country life. I was still in chasing my dream mode and not only that the regret of letting one’s parent’s down and the notion that someone who had potential then hitting rock bottom was too much to bear. My circuits overloaded in that the life I was now living surely couldn’t be mine at all. I had muffed things up to such a degree that even I couldn’t believe it.

After a brief stint in the Mental Ward in Midland, Michigan, a grand place by the way, I calmed down a bit. I don’t think the doctors there believed my story at first, but eventually due to court documents and various other forms of proof as well as talking to my parents they too were likely in awe.

This story is light from the darkness. With the  help of family I would soon start to carve a life of my own here. And this was a strange land with strange characters. Then again as some would attest, upon my arrival I may have been the strangest of them all. Soon I got an apartment and job writing for the local newspaper, as well as working in a video store. As someone who doesn’t give up easily, I figured to write some screenplays and maybe send them out, as well. Maybe I’d get lucky for a change I mean hell, crazier things have happened. It was a new town and maybe I’d have some new luck to go along with it. There were also some major life altering adjustments to be made, because small town America, if one is not used to the lifestyle, it has a way of putting a kind of zap on the brain, a mind freeze where if one doesn’t slow down and relax a little, his or her wheels just keep spinning in the mud. Besides, I was a storyteller or still wanted to be, this I knew and what else was there to do in the sticks? This was of course before I really knew the terrain and the ins and outs of the sticks and The Villa, which proved to be much more entertaining than many movies sets to say the least. So…that’s what I did. I’d plan, write and cross my fingers someone would like my story.  

In the meantime, for some reason I began telling people about my story. I told them about living in Hollywood and inside Paramount Studios for three years and they seemed enthralled saying things like, “What?” and “No way man!” and they would ask questions. Whether they thought I was crazy and lying or were feigning interest just to humor me was anyone’s guest, but soon it became a reputation in a way, some sort of weird story to associate with this new tenant. This may have not been the best way at building a reputation from that general mystique of first impressions. There was a mix of reviews, some people flat out didn’t believe it or couldn’t believe it, because it was so surreal, yet others were kind of amazed and even still most didn’t really care. Over time however, it was because of the many responses I had gotten to my story that I figured there may have been something there all along, even when I had never thought it was that spectacular. To me it was a failure mission of mass proportions and yet now in this new world, it seemed unreal. That’s when I realized that the story I lived may become the one worth telling or at least perhaps maybe it would be more interesting than any screenplay I could write. So a plan brewed and that’s what I did. I began writing my story in memoir form.

There’s something about moving from Hollywood to Middle America that is jarring, because Hollywood is a strange land all onto its own, where normal day to day living had little to do with reality by normal standards of say a factory job or punching a time clock or who did what when or wondering about what family is moving into the neighborhood, etc. Here in a small town in Michigan, Budweiser was often served for breakfast and bottom shelf gut rot on many days was usually lunch. This was where Mercedes Benz and BMW country was suddenly transformed into Ford and Chevy country, where rainy days meant dirt roads and good fishing and everyone within the county line was armed to the teeth. Then again, in that regard maybe it wasn’t that different here at all. This was where making friends was like currency, because you never knew when you’d have to call on somebody or what you might need, anything from alcohol at 2:30 a.m. to a few cigarettes in a pinch (yes I still smoked pretty heavy) to a ride somewhere and anything else therein between. This was something I’d learn very quickly, a kind of loyal bond amongst friends was important, but more than that if you genuinely liked someone everything would take care of itself. In many ways after I’d come to know some of the people at The Villa, I’d give them whatever I could if they need it, because they’d do the very same. This wasn’t Tinsel Town in the least and that may have been the best thing for me. I had quickly ventured from the bright lights of a big city and multi-million dollar salaries to unemployment and all night get together’s and bonfires lasting deep into the morning hours. This was where the fun you made was the fun you had. How much fun? Well that was entirely up to those involved. This was where one ruled his or her nights and nobody could take that away, because this was sacred, a way of life. 

In many ways I was lost, more than I’d ever been lost before and unbeknown to me it’d be family that was always there for me. It’d also be to some extent, a cast of characters and in which would make me smile, laugh and feel more at home.

But that all came later. For now, I was still adjusting. I didn’t have much by way of furniture or well the various living necessities one usually acquires throughout one’s lifetime, but with the help of my Mother and her love always being there, as well as my Step-dad, soon I was standing a bit more firmly on my feet. I owed them a lot and often wondered what they had thought about all of this and surely they had probably expected a different scenario for their son, but even still they never wavered and if they were a little let down they never showed it at least not to me. I was eternally grateful for this compassion, even if I had hid it away somewhere some of the time and sometimes didn’t show it. Not long after I moved to Gladwin, my younger brother made the move as well. Even though he wouldn’t admit it, I think he may have looked up to me in many ways growing up or at least in the way little brothers do toward big brothers. This hit me hard, because I wanted to make something of myself and more so than me striving towards the life I wanted, I wanted to make them proud as well. I know they never really cared about things such as that and simply wanted me to be happy and healthy and myself again. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be the same or at least not the same kid I was growing up. I had changed there was no doubt, but life effects everyone to some extent. We all change even if we think we don’t. Even still, I wanted to make up for what I felt I had lost. This was a tough proposition considering my current situation, so I became driven again not only for me and my own future, but for their pride as well. It was time to push aside any sorrow and truly make things happen. So that was what I attempted to do.

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