California Highway

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Early the next morning, Tyler woke up and got back on Highway One, heading south towards Monterey. His hope was to get there by lunchtime. He could then eat a burger and re-plan the rest of his road trip since he spent more time in Santa Cruz than he had initially thought he would.

As Tyler was driving down the highway, he could not help but be moved by the Pacific coast’s natural beauty. Everything from lush farmlands to rocky cliffs where the waves would crash, creating a beautiful water spectacle. It was hypnotizing to watch.

About halfway to Monterey, Tyler noticed a person sitting on the side of the road. He appeared to be a hiker who was taking a rest. But the closer he got, the more it looked like the hiker needed assistance. Tyler pulled the car off the road onto the shoulder.

The man looked at Tyler as he pulled over but did not attempt to stand, making Tyler more suspicious and thinking that he did need help.

Tyler stepped out of his car and walked over to the man. “Hey, are you okay?”

The man looked up, “No, not really. I think I twisted my ankle coming up from the waterline.” The man pointed to his left ankle. “You can see it’s swollen. Not to mention, it hurts like hell.”

Tyler leaned over. “Here, let me help you. I’ll give you a ride.” Tyler put the man’s arm around his neck for leverage and gently lifted him to his feet. Slowly, he assisted the man to the passenger side of the car and helped him in. He took the man’s backpack and placed it in the rear seat. Tyler returned to the driver’s seat and continued down the highway.

The man was a handsome young man. Tyler estimated him to be in his late 20s. He had well-groomed dark hair and a smile that could melt any young lady’s heart. The man seemed a bit relieved that someone had pulled over. “Thanks for stopping.”

“Not a problem,” Tyler said while driving. Tyler looked at the man again. “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Russell Beard, the actor?”

The man turned to Tyler and smiled, “Yeah, a few times.”

“I bet. You look just like him,” Tyler said. “I’m Tyler, by the way.”

The man turns to Tyler to shake his hand. “Hi, my name is Russell.”

“Really?” Tyler said. “You even have the same name as Russell Beard. That’s funny.”

Russell smiles and tries not to laugh.

Tyler took another look and could not believe it. “I’m such a moron. You ARE Russell Beard, aren’t you?”

“The one and only,” Russell replied.

“Dang, how many more famous people am I going to meet on this trip,” Tyler thought.

Trying not to look star-struck, Tyler responded, “Pleasure to meet you, Russell.” Tyler was in disbelief and had to glance at Russell a couple of times to make sure it was him. “You’re the second actor I’ve met on this road trip of mine.”

“Really,” Russell said, “Who was the first?”

“David Tittle, up at Half Moon Bay.”

“Ah, yes. Dave. Good guy.” Russell responded. “I met him last year. When I was hiking up north.”

Tyler continued to drive and make small talk. “So, why is a guy like you hiking alone on these cliffs? Kind of dangerous, don’t you think?”

Russell gives Tyler a nod and a laugh. “Yeah. I had some free time and thought it would be fun. I have to take advantage of the downtime I get. I just didn’t plan on getting hurt.”

“Downtime, huh?” Tyler asked. “Are you in between projects?”

“No,” Russell responds. “Just a day off from shooting. We’re shooting in Monterey this week, and I actually had the day off today.”

“That’s cool.” In the back of Tyler’s mind, he thought this may be another connection to help him in his career. “What are you shooting? Movie? TV show?”

Russell adjusts himself in the seat to get more comfortable. “Movie. I think it’s a love story. The thing is so poorly written, I don’t know if it’s a love story or a tragedy. The only thing I see dying is my career.”

Tyler laughs. “You don’t sound too impressed. Why are you doing it?”

“Well, Tyler. Sometimes in life, you’re going to have to do things you don’t want to. And this is one of those times for me.” Russell shakes his head. “It’s a damn contract thing for me. I just hope it doesn’t kill my career.”

Tyler stops laughing. “Yeah, I know what you mean.” he was curious how Russell handled these situations. “So, how do you prevent a bad movie from ruining your career?”

Russell giggles, “No matter how bad it is, you still need to give it your best. You treat the bad movies the same way you treat the good movies. And then, you cross your fingers and hope for the best.”

Russell looks in the back seat and sees Tyler’s guitar. “I see the guitar. Are you professional, or is this just to keep you company on lonely nights?”

Tyler laughs. “Both, I guess. I don’t quite make a living playing yet, but I’m trying to. After last night, I think I may have a better chance than I had originally thought.”

“Really?” Russell is now curious. “What happened last night?”

“I was in Santa Cruz, and I just happened to meet the owner of Paradise Pub.”

Russell interrupts, “Ah, yeah. I’ve been there. Great place.”

Tyler continues, “Yeah, so he let me do a set. I actually got a standing-O at the end.”

“Wow! That’s awesome.” Russell was impressed, “Are you playing in Monterey? Is that why you’re headed there?”

“No,” Tyler said. “I’m actually on a road trip trying to clear my head of crap that’s going on at home.”

“Ah, good for you. We all need that. Now you know why I get out for a hike when I can.”

“Yep, totally get it.”

After a nice drive and more time to get to know each other, Tyler and Russell make it to Monterey. “Where would you like to be dropped off,” Tyler asks.

“Probably the movie set.” Russell directs Tyler to where the crew is shooting that day.

Russell shows the security guard on the set his credentials, and the guard allows Tyler to drive in. They move slowly, with Russell looking for the director. “Ah, there he is.” Russell points him out to Tyler.

By now, Russell’s ankle had swollen to the size of a grapefruit and would not be walking anywhere. He rolled his window down. Russell looks at Tyler and says, “It sounds like they’re shooting a scene. Let’s just sit here for a minute until they’re done. I’ll introduce you to Peter Lane. He’s the director.”

“Cool,” Tyler said as he rolled his window down to get air flowing. “What kind of scene are they shooting? Do you know?”

“Yeah. See that guy in the green. I think he’s getting shot today.” Russell starts to laugh. “Like I said, it’s a love story.”

Tyler and Russell hear the faint sound of Peter yelling, “cut,” and then standing up from his chair. Russell saw this as his opportunity to shout. “PETER… YO PETE!”

Tyler looks at Peter and thinks he is young to be directing a movie. But after what Russell said about it being poorly written, maybe it was his first. Peter has short black hair that has a style of the 70s. He stands about five and a half feet tall. That explains why he is a director – too short to be an actor.

Peter turns and sees Russell in the car and walks over. “Russell, what are you doing here? You’re not on the schedule today, are you?”

Russell prepares to give Peter the bad news about his ankle. “Nope. But I wanted to let you know about this.” Russell lifts his left leg to reveal the softball-size ankle. “Holy crap!” Peter exclaimed. “What the fuck did you do?”

“A little accident on my hike this morning. Luckily, Tyler here picked me up off the road.” Russell turns to Tyler. “Tyler, this is Peter Lane. Peter, this is Tyler. He’s a musician that saved my life on the road.” He turns to Tyler, “I’m sure I’ll hear a song one day about it.”

Tyler laughs. “It wasn’t quite that dramatic. Pleasure meeting you, Peter.”

“Likewise.” Peter redirects his attention towards Russell. “So, what do we need to do with you? Hospital? Ice? What?”

“Well,” Russell looks at his ankle, “I’m thinking hospital. I’m thinking a cast. And, I’m thinking my character in the movie better break his ankle, or we’re screwed.”

Peter sighs. “Let me go get the doc. Let’s see what he says.” Peter turns and heads to the trailers.

“It sounds like you’ve hurt your ankle before?” Tyler asks.

“Yeah. About five years ago. Busted it skiing.” Russell responded. “That was a lot worse than this. I think this is just a bad sprain.”

A few minutes later, Peter returns with the set doctor. “Russ, I hear you had a bit of an accident?” the doctor said.

Russell opens the car door to give the doctor easy access to the ankle. The doctor checks it over and runs his hand along the side of the ankle. Russell winces in pain.

The doctor stands up and looks at Peter. “Appears to be broken. We’ll get him to the hospital for x-rays.”

Peter, not being very happy, “Crap. Russell, get this taken care of, and I’ll talk to the writers about writing in a broken ankle for you.”

The doctor calls for a wheelchair for Russell. Russell says, “Why doesn’t Tyler just drive me there? I mean, I’m already sitting in his car.”

Tyler looks at the doctor and Peter. “Sure, I can do that. I don’t mind.”

Peter looks at Tyler. “Tyler, you’re a lifesaver.”

Tyler enters the address of the nearest hospital into his phone’s GPS. “Look, only five minutes away. We’ll be back before you know it.”

“Thanks again, Tyler.” Peter acknowledges. “We owe you one.”

Russell closes his car door, and before you knew it, they were turning around and headed to the hospital.

“You’re a good friend, Tyler,” Russell says.

“I don’t think it’s as much about being a good friend than it is just a good person. I’m just helping out someone that needs it.” Tyler says. “I didn’t have much going on today, anyway. This is my pleasure to be able to help you out.”

Within a few minutes, Tyler was pulling his car into a parking spot of the hospital. “You stay here. Let me go get a wheelchair to roll you into E.R.”

A few moments later, Tyler returned with a wheelchair and a nurse. The two of them help Russell into the chair and wheel him into the E.R. exam room, following the nurse’s instructions.

“I’ll wait for you in the waiting room, Russell,” Tyler said, as the nurse took him to his room.

* * *

About two hours had passed, and Russell reappeared in the waiting room area, holding two crutches and being pushed in a wheelchair by a nurse. “If you go get your car, I can help get him in.” the nurse said.

Tyler went to retrieve his car and drove it to the entrance. He got out and opened the passenger side for Russell.

Russell stood from the wheelchair and hopped on one foot into the car. Tyler placed Russell’s crutches in the back seat of the vehicle, and they drove off.

Tyler noticed Russell was not talking. So, he decided to break the silence. “So, how bad is it?”

Russell did not even look at Tyler. “For a break, it’s not bad. But I’m still in this dam cast for at least six weeks.”

“That sucks,” Tyler said, “Do you think the writers will be able to write in the broken ankle?”

“Fuck, I don’t know. I don’t care.” Russell’s mood was not good.

Tyler tried to think of something to say, “Russell, if you don’t mind me saying, I’ve noticed your mood is a bit different than it was when we got to the E.R. Did something happen?”

“I’m sorry, Tyler,” Russell realized Tyler was right. “It just seems when things are going good for me, something happens to humble me.”

“That’s life,” Tyler replied. “I had a friend that told me, ‘If you think your life sucks or your life is great, just wait one minute, it’ll change.’”

Russell smiled. “Yeah, ain’t that the truth.”

“By the way,” Tyler says, “I was working on that song about you. I called it ‘Roadkill.’” They both laugh.

A few minutes pass, and Tyler and Russell are back on the movie set. Tyler drives to the trailer location where they were earlier.

Peter sees them pull up and walks over to meet them. Tyler opens Russell’s side door to help him out.

Peter asks if Russell had a backpack or anything. “Yeah, back seat,” Tyler says.

Peter opens the back door to retrieve Russell’s gear. “Guitar? Is that yours, Tyler?”

“Yeah,” Tyler responds. “I do a little playing.”

After grabbing Russell’s backpack, Peter looks at Tyler. “Are you busy tonight?”

Tyler was not sure how to answer. Was Peter asking him on a date? “I don’t know. I guess it would depend on why you’re asking?”

Peter laughs. “Makes sense. We’re actually shooting a scene later that’s in a brewpub. There’s a stage in the background. I think it would be great to have someone playing on stage while we shoot the scene. What do you say?”

Tyler was in shock that Peter would think about asking him to be in the movie. The theme for this road trip so far has been to expect the unexpected and just go for it. “Sure, sounds like fun.” Tyler could not believe it; he was going to be in a movie.

“Perfect.” Peter was pleased that Tyler said yes. “Just show up here around 7 PM. We’ll get everything set up.”

Tyler was not planning on sticking around Monterey for more than the afternoon. He had no place to stay, and now would be another day behind schedule on his trip. “Awesome. I’m going to go look for a place to stay and grab a bite to eat. Then I’ll be back.”

Peter did not know Tyler needed a place to stay but quickly made him an offer. “We have an extra trailer. Not much, but if you’d like to use one for the night, you’re more than welcome. It’s the least I can offer after you’ve taken care of our star.”

Tyler’s day seemed to be getting better and better. “That would be awesome. Thanks.”

Peter added, “There’s also catering in the tent over there. Help yourself.”

Once again, Tyler was starting to feel what it must feel like to be a star. He found himself right in the middle of an unplanned life moment. He began to think about home and Robert. “I have to call him to let him know what I’ve been doing.” Tyler thought. “As soon as I finish eating and get to my trailer.” Tyler liked the ring of that. “My trailer.” Yeah, sounds like success.

During this entire conversation that Peter and Tyler were having, Russell was standing there. His attitude started to come back. Simply because Peter was showing Tyler more attention than him… the star.

Russell interrupted, “Excuse me, but I’m still here, and I’m still waiting for a golf cart or something to take me to MY trailer.”

“Keep your panties on, Russell.” Peter’s sarcastic tone was evident. “Someone will be here in a bit.”

Within minutes, one of the gaffers was there with a golf cart. Peter informed him about taking Russell to his trailer. Russell turned towards Tyler. “Tyler, thanks again for your help. It is much appreciated.” Meanwhile, Peter and Tyler walked to the trailer that would be his temporary home for the night.

* * *

7 PM came, and Tyler had his dinner and was arriving on the set with his guitar. Peter meets up with him and directs him to one of the make-up artists to get him prepared for his big “film debut.”

Peter walks up to Tyler, “So, are you ready?”

Tyler, still sitting in the make-up chair, “Sure, I guess.”

“Cool,” Peter sits next to Tyler. “For this scene, you will simply be in the background. So just play your songs the way you would if you were at home, or whatever.”

“Okay, sounds good.” Tyler had one of the most comfortable roles in a movie that anyone could ask for – he would be playing himself.

Tyler arrives at the closed set that is being done at one of the local pubs in town. The stage is lit up with typical concert lighting, and a stool and microphone sat on the stage. Tyler approached and pulled his guitar from his case. He sits on the chair and awaits instructions.

Peter, sitting in his director chair, yells, “ACTION!” Tyler starts to play a song. As the actors perform the scene, Tyler becomes oblivious to what is going on. He falls into “the zone” as he strums the chords to his song.

Peter yells cut; everyone stops acting except for Tyler. He continues playing his song, totally in his own world. The film crew all pause and listen as Tyler finishes. The team claps and gives Tyler an ovation. Peter looks at Tyler, “Great job, Tyler. Next time, when I yell cut, that’s your queue to stop playing.”

Tyler lifts his arm, “Sorry, my bad.”

* * *

The shooting of the scene was completed later that evening. Peter approached Tyler. “Tyler, great job. You’re pretty dammed good. Do you play for a living?”

“Thanks,” Tyler responded. “Not yet. But it is a goal of mine.”

“Excellent,” Peter said, shaking Tyler’s hand. “Do me a favor and leave me your contact info. I’m going to see if we can use one of your songs in the film.”

“That would be awesome,” Tyler said. “Wow,” Tyler thought to himself. “An excellent set in Santa Cruz. Now I’m an extra in a movie, AND they might use my song. Can life get any better?”

Tyler returns to the trailer that was loaned to him for the night. Tyler was startled to see sitting inside was Russell. “I heard you playing on that last scene. You’re pretty good.”

“Thanks, Russell,” Tyler said, putting his guitar down. “This is all kind of a surreal experience.”

“Really? How so?” Russell still had not heard Tyler’s story for why he was on the road trip.

Tyler starts in on the story. “Well, a few days ago, I started this road trip to clear my mind. I had one of the worst days of my life just before leaving.” Tyler sat down and pondered about how much information he wanted to give away.

“My first stop in Half Moon Bay, I meet David Tittle. Then in Santa Cruz, I meet the owners of one of the most famous restaurants in the area. They invited me to play a set, which ended up being unbelievable. Now, I meet you on the way to Monterey, and it leads to me being an extra in a movie.”

Tyler shakes his head in disbelief. “It’s all just kind of unreal at this point. You know what I mean?”

Russell nods his head. “Yeah. It’s funny how things happen, huh? Do you know the story of how I became an actor?”

Tyler looks at him, “No.”

“I was a stagehand for a small local theater group in the town where I grew up. The lead of the play had fallen ill, and they needed someone to take his place. I had been to every rehearsal and every show and knew the lines backward and forth. They allowed me to get on stage and perform.”

“Really?” Tyler was unaware of the story. Russell now had his full attention.

Russell continued. “Little did I know, out in the audience that day was a film producer. He was in town visiting his friend from college. Anyway, he saw my performance, met me after the show, and the rest is history. Five years later, I’m on my umpteenth film, I have a couple of awards for my work. It’s nothing like I had ever imagined.”

“Wow.” Tyler recognized the similarity. “I guess it’s all about being the right place and the right time, huh?”

Russell smiled, “I actually think it’s more than that, Tyler. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, sure. But you need to recognize that other events had to take place to give you that opportunity. For instance, if that lead hadn’t gotten sick that night, I would still be working backstage at some theater. And who knows, maybe he would be the one staring in these movies.”

Russell looked at Tyler, “For instance, you don’t have to give me details, but you said you had the worst day of your life before deciding to hit the road. What happened?”

Tyler looked down. He did not want to give too much away, thinking Russell would think less of him. “Let’s just say, I lost my job, lost my girlfriend, and now I have a police record all in the same night.”

Russell grinned, “Oh, yes. I’ve been there. But you see, if that didn’t happen, you would not be on this trip, and these things would not be happening to you.”

“It’s like there’s some sort of guardian angel type thing watching over you and directing, or forcing, you in a certain direction,” Tyler said. “It’s kinda strange. You have to learn to go with the flow and not fight it.”

Russell smiled again. “That’s right. And you have to learn to enjoy it. This may never happen again. Take advantage of the things that happen. Learn from the things that happen. Make sure you understand how and why things happen.” Russell stands up and grabs his crutches. “It’s deep, I know. I’ve been there. Heck, I’m still there. I mean, who knows what would have happened if you didn’t find me on the side of the road and stop?”

Tyler stands to open the door for Russell. “Thanks for stopping by. And if I don’t see you before I leave tomorrow, thank you.”

Russell looks at Tyler with a confused look. “Thank me? No, no. You’re the one that stopped and picked my ass off the road. Thank you.”

The two of them shake hands. Russell leaves Tyler to ponder everything.

Tyler returns to the small desk in the trailer and thinks for a moment. “Looks like another unbelievable day. This is another one for my journal.”

It was another fantastic day of events for me. Leaving Santa Cruz, I would have been happy with this trip. But life had more for me. About halfway to Monterey, I saw a man sitting on the side of the road. He had been hiking. I pulled over to see if he needed assistance. The man ended up having a twisted ankle and was unable to walk.

I gave him a ride to Monterey. That man was Russell Beard, an actor in several movies. He was in Monterey shooting another film and had the day off. He decided to go hiking and ended up twisting his ankle. I met the director of the film, Peter Lane. One thing led to another. The next thing I know, I was being invited to be in the movie, playing a musician on stage playing the guitar—just a simple extra in the film. But as long as I don’t end up on the cutting room floor, I’m good with it. Peter also said he would try to use one of my songs in the film. Wow!

This trip, so far, has been an incredible experience. Things are happening that I have never thought, in a million years, would ever happen. After talking to Russell and hearing his story, you just need to realize that things happen. And you need to take advantage when they do.

My next stop will be San Luis Obispo, where I’ll stay the night before heading to Santa Barbara for the day.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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