California Highway

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Malibu and Los Angeles

Tyler woke up early and was starving. He remembered that he did not have anything to eat last night since he was kicked out of the restaurant. By the time he returned to the hotel, it was late, and he never did get dinner.

He walked down to the street level and decided to take a stroll to Sambo’s, just down the street, for some breakfast. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he noticed Carmelita, the restaurant hostess from last night, was across the street. It appeared that she was waiting for someone. She started to wave in the direction of Tyler. He was hoping it was not her father that she was getting the attention of.

Tyler looked around, and there was nobody else close to him. He turned towards Carmelita and then pointed at himself, asking her if she was waving at him. She nodded. To his delight, she was waving at him.

She ran across the street to meet up with him. “Sir,” Carmelita still did not know Tyler’s name. “I followed you last night to see where you were staying. I’m glad I found you.”

“Really?” Tyler was confused. He had no idea why she would follow him. “What’s up?” he asked while he was looking around nervously to make sure her dad was not planning an ambush.

She placed her hands on Tyler’s chest as she moved closer. She whispers, “I am sorry for my father. I would like to make it up to you.”

Tyler starts to remember what happened the last time a girl talked to him. He ended up in jail and lost his job and girlfriend. He gently pushes Carmelita back. “I appreciate the offer, but you really don’t need to.”

Carmelita was not used to rejection. She tried again, this time placing her hands on Tyler’s arms. She moves her mouth to his ear and whispers, “I will do anything to make it up to you… anything.”

Tyler cannot resist this time, and he falls into temptation like a dog to a juicy steak. He grabs Carmelita by the hand and takes her to his room. There, they stood facing each other. Tyler starts to give her a deeply passionate kiss on the lips. She returns the favor. She starts to unbutton his shirt and gently caresses his chest.

Tyler begins to remove her blouse. She finishes the unbuttoning and drops her blouse to the floor. He reaches behind her to unclasp her bra. He strips her bra off, exposing her soft young breasts. He starts to kiss her neck, moving slowly down her chest.

RRRRRRRIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGGG!

Tyler wakes up from the sound of his phone ringing. “Oh, fuck.” Tyler says, reaching for the phone, “It was a dream.”

Tyler answers his phone. “Hello?”

“Dude, it’s Robert. Did I wake you up? Sorry about that.”

“Nah. Don’t worry about it.” He really wished his timing was off just a bit and had waited five more minutes. “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to let you know your mom called me this morning. You still haven’t called her yet, huh?”

Tyler had forgotten. “Oh, crap. That’s right. Sorry about that. I’ll call her in a few minutes before I leave.”

“Where are you headed today?” Robert asked.

“L.A., baby!” Tyler says with excitement. “This should be fun.”

“Cool.” Robert replied, “Make sure you take some good pics.”

Tyler laughs. “Yeah. What do you want? Trash? Homeless people? Or prostitutes?”

Robert sees an opening for a joke and takes it. “Prostitutes? Do you even know what one looks like?”

“Haha. Very funny.” Tyler was not amused regarding his arrest back in Benicia. “Okay. I’ll call my mom this morning. Thanks for letting me know.”

They end the call, and Tyler dials the number for his mom. He knows he needs to let his mom know he was okay.

* * *

Tyler starts to pack up. “If I’m going to be in L.A. by noon, I need to get moving.” He thinks to himself. As he is getting things together, he looks out his window toward the corner where, in his dream, Carmelita had been waiting for him. She was not there in reality, and he was slightly disappointed.

After looking at Google Maps to plan his route, Tyler decided to stop in Malibu for lunch. As Tyler was driving off, he could not help but wonder if his relationship with Karen would ever be the same. When talking on the phone with her, she seemed sincere about working things out. He could only hope that the two of them could.

Tyler was driving down Highway One, and he started humming a tune. The inspiration came from watching the waves crash against the cliffs and the cool breeze he felt going down the highway. It was an incredible ocean drive. Tyler knew he had to work on this song when he got to Malibu or Los Angeles. It sounded like a winner.

After a couple-hour drive, Tyler arrived in Malibu. He found a place called V’s Restaurant and Bar and decided to stop there for a bite.

He sat at the bar and ordered a screwdriver, and asked for a menu for lunch. The bartender brought both over within minutes.

The bartender was a cute brunette in her early 20’s with big blue eyes and a fantastic smile. The first thing Tyler thought was to keep his eyes down. He did not want a repeat of what happened in Santa Barbara.

She smiled, “Is this your first time here?”

Tyler looked up and grinned. “Yes. I’m on a road trip to San Diego.”

“Oh, really?” The bartender was surprised. “Where did this road trip originate?”

“The bay area,” Tyler replied.

“Wow,” she said, “That’s quite the trip.”

Tyler took a sip of his drink, “Yeah. Just trying to clear my mind of things. And Highway One does that for me.”

“Yeah, I totally get it.” The bartender sees someone else arrive at the bar. “I’m going to give you a few minutes to look over the menu. I’ll be right back.”

Tyler opens the menu and overhears the bartender talking to her new customer. “Hi, Mr. Kennedy. You’re usual today?”

Mr. Kennedy was an older man. Tyler estimated him to be around his young 60s with long gray hair. It looked like he had not shaved in a couple of weeks. He was wearing jeans and a Rolling Stones t-shirt from the 80s.

“Julie, how many times have I told you to call me Jack?” he said with an old raspy voice.

Tyler starts to think. He had heard that name before, but he could not place where he had heard it. Tyler pulls out his phone and types the name “Jack Kennedy” in a Google search. Tyler looked at the results and immediately figured out where he knew that name from. Jack Kennedy is an award-winning songwriter. However, he had not done anything significant since the 90s.

Tyler thought it would be rude to start talking to him like he knew him. So, he decided to play it casually. “Jack Kennedy? The songwriter?” Tyler knew from his photo on the Google search that it was him, but he did not want to make it evident.

Jack looks at Tyler, “Yeah. That would be me.” He said it so nonchalantly that Tyler was not sure if he would be open to talking or not.

He reaches over with his hand to introduce himself. “I’m Tyler. It’s a pleasure meeting you.”

Jack shakes Tyler’s hand. “Really? I’m surprised you even know who I am. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything worth listening to.”

“Yeah,” Tyler is reluctant to agree, but it is the truth. “You were quite popular a few decades ago.”

Julie, the bartender, approaches Tyler. “Have you decided?”

Tyler is caught off guard. “Sorry, I haven’t even looked yet.”

Jack chimes in, “Get the burger and fries. You won’t be disappointed.”

Tyler looks at Julie, “I guess it’s the burger and fries.”

Tyler asks Jack, “Would you be okay if I move over a bit closer, so we’re not yelling at each other?”

Jack, without looking up, staring intensely into his gin on the rocks, “It’s a free world, Tyler. It’s a free world.”

Tyler could tell by how Jack responded that he was not convinced that it was a free world. He knew there was a back story to what Jack said. He did not know if he should pry. Tyler decided that the chance of meeting Jack Kennedy again were slim. So, he chooses to meddle. “You don’t sound too convinced it really is a free world.”

Jack looked up at Tyler and gave him a grin. He softly laughs. “Tyler, you can read a man through his actions. You can read a man through his movements. But I caution you to not read a man that is broken and drinking gin.”

Tyler is starting to regret moving over next to Jack.

Jack continued. “Back in 1996, I wrote a song called ‘Blue.’ It was a song about a police officer making the wrong decision. Little did I know at the time, I was making the wrong decision to write it.” Jack takes a sip of his gin. “There was a line in the song, ‘The choices we make, to give or to take, to love or to hate.’ That line alone killed my career.”

“Really?” Tyler was surprised. He had heard worse lyrics than that. And Jack’s sounded craftier.

“You have to hear the entire song. It’s about a police officer that shoots and kills a young man.” Jack drinks the rest of his gin. “Julie!” He raises his glass, asking for another.

Jack continues with his conversation with Tyler. “Apparently, when you write songs about cops killing people, they don’t like that. They, being cops. And what makes it worse, the song was not about cops killing people. It’s just about being a cop.”

Julie shows up with the lunches they had ordered and placed them in front of them.

“People get offended easily, Tyler. And it sucks.” Jack starts to salt his fries. “Enough about me. What do you do for a living, Tyler?”

Tyler smiles, “Well, I’m a songwriter.” That makes Jack laugh. “So, believe me, I know what you mean.”

“No, shit?” Jack takes his first bite.

The two of them sit and eat their meals in peace. Only small talk going on. Jack finishes his lunch. “Tyler, can I give you some advice? Write about what you want when you want. But use discretion when you say what you want when you want. Careful what you put out in public. I have about 300 songs in my storage about sex, drugs, crime, and being a hoodlum. There’s enough that if they got out, they would lock me in an asylum.”

Tyler gets curious. “If you have killed your career and you haven’t written anything successful in two decades, how is it that you still live in Malibu and continue on with your life? Just curious.”

Jack giggles. “Have you ever heard of the songwriter Laurence Waltmeyer?”

Tyler thinks for a moment. “I think so. Didn’t he win a Grammy a couple of years ago?”

“Yep. He did.” Jack responded.

“Do you mentor him? Is that what you do now? Mentoring?” Tyler said it half-jokingly.

Jack smiles. “Nope, you are sitting next to Laurence Waltmeyer right now. I simply changed my name for my songwriting career. Jack Kennedy fades away. Laurence Waltmeyer shows up. I’m the same guy, just do business under a new name. It was the only way I was going to continue on. Nobody wanted to do business with Jack. But Laurence, yeah, he seems to be an okay guy.” Jack laughs.

Tyler is surprised. “Wow. I had no idea.”

Jack stands up from his chair and leaves cash for his food. “It’s been a pleasure talking with you, Tyler. Take care and good luck.” Jack walks out of the restaurant.

“Thanks, Jack.” Tyler turns to finish his lunch. And again, Tyler cannot believe the people he has been meeting on this road trip.

Julie approaches Tyler. “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

“No, I’m good. Thanks.”

“You know,” Julie continues, “that’s the first time in a long time that I’ve seen Jack leave with a smile on his face. Normally he’s reserved.”

“Really?” Tyler said. “Do you think it was because of me?”

“Yeah,” Julie nodded. “Hardly anyone recognizes him anymore. I think he just liked the fact that you did.”

“Well,” Tyler said, “I only recognized the name. If I had only seen his face, I would have no idea who he was.”

Tyler finished his meal, and Julie took his dirty dishes away. “Did I hear that you’re a songwriter, too?”

Tyler nods. “Yeah, I am. Not quite as famous as Jack, but maybe someday.”

Julie agrees, “Yeah. If it wasn’t for Jack helping me out with getting my songs to the right people, I probably wouldn’t have sold any.”

“Oh, you’re in the biz, too?” Tyler was surprised Julie had not said something earlier.

“Yeah. Not full-time or anything. It’s more of a hobby.” Julie brings Tyler his bill.

Tyler reaches for a business card and hands it to Julie. “Here. Maybe we could collaborate on something one day.”

“That might be fun.” Julie places Tyler’s card in her pocket.

He pays for his meal and starts to leave. “It was nice meeting you.” He waves good-bye and leaves.

As Tyler is walking to his car, he glances over to his left and sees, what appears to be, a person lying on the grass just outside of the restaurant. After taking another look, he sees that it is Jack Kennedy, lying face down. Tyler runs over to him. “JACK! JACK!” There was no response. Tyler yells to anyone that is listening, “CALL 9-1-1! SOMEONE CALL 9-1-1!”

Julie saw what was happening outside and heard Tyler yelling. She calls 9-1-1 and then runs out the door with the phone to her ear.

She sees Jack on the ground and Tyler starting CPR. “OH MY GOD! JACK!”

Julie tells the 9-1-1 operator what was happening. They dispatched an ambulance and paramedic to their location.

It seemed like an hour had passed for Tyler as he continued CPR. In reality, it had only been a few minutes before the paramedics arrive. They took over doing CPR from an exhausted Tyler.

He and Julie could do nothing but watch as the EMTs did their job. The ambulance arrived shortly after. They hurried to the patient’s side to assist.

One of the paramedics yelled out to the crowd that had gathered. “DOES ANYONE KNOW IF HE’S ON ANY MEDICATION?”

Julie stepped up. “No. He’s a regular here at the restaurant. All I know is that he lives alone.”

The paramedic thanked Julie and continued working on Jack.

By now, two medics were rotating the CPR duties. Another was busy with the breathing apparatus, and another was checking vital signs.

They placed Jack on a gurney and loaded him into the back of the ambulance while they continued with CPR.

One of the medics started talking to Tyler and Julie. “Where one of you the one that found him?”

Tyler responded. “Yeah, it was me. I came out of the restaurant and saw him lying face down in the grass. I yelled to call 9-1-1 and then started CPR. When I checked for a pulse, I didn’t feel one.”

The paramedic looked at Tyler as he was taking notes. “You did everything right, sir. I’m just going to need your name and contact info for our report.” The medic hands Tyler the notepad and pen to provide his information.

Julie looks at the medic. “Is he going to be okay?”

The medic looks at Julie. “And who are you?”

“I’m Julie. I’m the bartender here. He’s a regular customer of mine. He comes in for lunch every day.” She is obviously worried.

The paramedic looked at Julie. “I need to talk to a relative of his. You said he lives alone. Do you know about any relatives he may have in the area?”

Julie shook her head, “No. He never mentioned anything about family.” She asked again, this time with conviction, “Is HE going to be okay?”

The paramedic did not say a word. He simply looked at Julie and Tyler and shook his head. “Sorry.”

Julie broke down and started to cry. She turned to Tyler and hugged him. She needed someone to console in, and he was there. Tyler returned the hug and comforted her. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

The owner of the restaurant walked over. She knew Julie was a close friend to Jack and told her she could have the rest of the afternoon off if she wanted.

Julie looked at Tyler, “Can you stay with me for a little while?”

He said he would. He took Julie back inside the restaurant, where the owner had cleared the table in the corner for them. They sat down.

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Julie said.

Tyler had never been in this situation and did not have much to say. More accurately, he did not know what to say. All Tyler knew was a man died today. A man that he knew indirectly. A man that he just had lunch with—a man whose last meal was with Tyler. Tyler and Julie sat at the table in the back for quite some time. Neither speaking too much or too often. Tyler finally looked at Julie. “I have to go. Are you going to be okay?”

Julie nodded.

Tyler continued. “You have my contact info. Feel free to call me if you want to just talk about things. I am so sorry that this happened.”

Julie looked at Tyler. “Thank you, Tyler. You’re a nice man. And I will call you.”

As Tyler walked out the door, he glanced over at Julie. She was watching him leave. She waved good-bye, and he left.

Tyler was in a somber mood for the rest of the afternoon as he drove to Los Angeles.

The drive to L.A. seemed longer as Tyler would think back at what happened in Malibu. It felt like such a bizarre experience. He was having a great conversation with a man, and then, minutes later, he falls and dies of a heart attack.

Tyler was ready to find his hotel and kick back with a drink. “I have to just move on,” he thought.

The one that seemed to take it hard was Julie. Tyler was hoping she would call to let him know that she was okay.

Tyler made it to his hotel in Hollywood, right on the famous Hollywood Boulevard. He checked in and decided to look for a nice bar where he could toast a drink to Jack. He found a place called The Study, a couple of blocks from his hotel. It seemed perfect — quiet and quaint. The décor made it look like an old library. Not to mention, the drinks seemed rather good, too.

Tyler ordered an Old Fashioned and then found a seat in one of the velvet couches they had facing the stage. He did not know who it was performing, but she sounded pretty dam good. It was just her and her guitar singing quiet acoustic songs—his favorite.

As he sat and enjoyed the music and his drink, a man approached. “Excuse me, is this seat taken?” He was pointing to the other side of the couch Tyler was sitting on.

“Nope,” Tyler replied. “It’s all yours.”

The man was dressed nicely in a blue blazer, matching pants, and shoes that looked like they were imported from Italy. Tyler thought he was a bit overdressed for the venue.

After the performer finished her set, she placed her guitar on the stand on stage. She started to walk towards Tyler but passed him by and gave the other man a hug. Tyler thought the man was too old to be her boyfriend. Out of curiosity, Tyler started to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“You sounded great up there,” the man said, inviting her to sit down. “Thank you,” she said as she sat in between the man and Tyler. She looked at Tyler and gave him a smile.

The man continued, “I was talking to Laurence yesterday.”

That name was awfully familiar to Tyler, and now he was listening even more intently.

The man continued. “He has a new song for you. Maybe you can drop by the office tomorrow, and we can call him up.”

“That sounds great,” she responded.

Tyler thought the coincidence was too much and felt he had to interject in the conversation. “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear. Did you say ‘Laurence’? As in ’Laurence Waltmeyer, the songwriter?”

The man responded surprisingly, “Yeah, that’s right. You know him?”

The feeling Tyler was experiencing caught him off guard. There were a couple of things that were running through his head. First, should I tell him that Laurence died earlier today? And second, this was too much of a coincidence that he was sitting next to two people that had been working with Laurence.

The man noticed Tyler was pondering his next sentence. “Excuse me? Do you know Laurence?”

The response from Tyler was short. “Yes.”

“Oh, that’s great! How do you know him?” the man asked.

Tyler’s next response took everyone by surprise. “He’s dead.”

The man acted confused, and the girl’s eyes got wide. “What? What are you talking about?”

Tyler continued. “He’s dead. He died this afternoon in the parking lot of his favorite restaurant from a massive heart attack.”

“Oh my god!” the girl exclaimed.

“What!?!” the man seemed doubtful and did not believe what Tyler was saying. “I think I would have heard if he had died. He’s been my client now for over ten years.”

“I’m sorry you had to hear it from me.” Tyler was not sure if he should have told them. He thought that the police should be the ones telling people. “I was there when it happened. I actually performed CPR on him in the parking lot.”

“Oh my god!” The man was starting to believe that Tyler was telling the truth, but he still wanted more proof. The man picked up his cell phone to call Laurence and noticed he had a voice message that he received during the set. Since his phone was off, it went directly to his voice messages. The voice message was from Joanne, his assistant. He listed to it.

Steve, this is Joanne. I just received a message from the Malibu police department. It’s about Laurence. I think you need to call me as soon as you can.

Steve looked at Tyler as he was listening to the message. He was starting to think that Tyler was telling the truth.

Steve finally decided that introductions needed to take place. He reached out his hand towards Tyler. “I’m Steve Gallivan. And this is Ruth McBee. And you are?”

Tyler shakes his hand. “Tyler, Tyler Bishop.”

Steve continues talking, “That voice message was from my assistant, Joanne. She received a phone call from the Malibu Police regarding Laurence.” He looks at Ruth, “It’s starting to look like Tyler, here, is telling the truth.”

“I have to call Joanne back.” Steve excuses himself to return the phone, leaving Ruth and Tyler alone.

Tyler felt he needed to break the silence with some small talk. “You sound terrific.”

Ruth, almost in tears and still in shock, “Thank you. So, how do you, or did you, know Laurence?” she asked Tyler.

Tyler responded, “I actually met him there at a restaurant this afternoon. I recognized his real name the waitress used, Jack Kennedy. We started to talk about his career and other things. How about you?”

Ruth had to think for a moment, “I met him through Steve. He introduced me to Laurence a couple of years ago as someone that could write some songs for me. In fact, that last song I played was one of his.”

“I’m going to have to look up some of his songs and find one to cover in his honor,” Tyler said.

Ruth looks at Tyler, “Oh, you play?”

Tyler responded, “Yeah.”

Steve returned. “Well, it appears that Tyler was telling the truth. Joanne just told me the same story. Sorry for doubting you, Tyler.”

“No worries,” Tyler said.

Ruth looked at Steve. “Seems Tyler is a performer, too.”

Steve, like a good agent, whips out a business card, “Really? Steve Gallivan, an agent of the stars.” He hands Tyler his business card. Tyler thinks to himself, “Typical agent. A man just died, and all he thinks about is finding another client.”

Steve continued, “So, Tyler, what is it that you do?”

Tyler responded, “I’m a singer/songwriter. A lot of my stuff has a folksy sound. But I’m versatile and can play in several genres.”

“Really?” Steve said. “I would love to hear something of yours. Do you have your guitar here with you?”

“No,” Tyler responded, “It’s back at the hotel room.”

Steve looks at Ruth. “Can he use your guitar, Ruth?”

Ruth looks at Tyler, “Sure. I’d love to hear your stuff, too.”

Tyler cannot believe what is happening. He follows Ruth on stage, where she hands him her guitar. She makes sure he comfortable. Tyler strums it once and then again to check the tuning. He likes what he hears. Ruth looks at Tyler. “Ready?” He nods. She approaches the microphone on stage. “Ladies and gentlemen. We have a special guest tonight. We’re going to let him play one or two songs. Please welcome, Tyler Bishop!”

Tyler approaches the microphone. “Thank you. This is a song I wrote the last time I was here in Hollywood. I hope you enjoy it.”

Tyler starts to play a song called “Hollywood and Vine.” An upbeat song that the crowd really got into. He could see people mouthing the words as they became familiar, tapping their toes, and clapping their hands to the rhythm. During the song, Steve was looking around and saw the reaction of the crowd. He knew he had to sign Tyler. After the song, the crowd gave a thunderous applause. Tyler thanked them and returned the guitar to its stand. He returned to his seat.

Steve is standing and clapping, “Tyler, that was fantastic. Who’s representing you?”

Tyler looks at Steve, “No one.”

“Well, we’ll have to change that,” Steve says.

Ruth looks at Tyler. “That was great, Tyler. I would love to collaborate on something with you. Have you ever done any duets?”

Tyler thinks for a moment. “No, I haven’t. But I think that would be fun.”

Even though Tyler is caught up in the moment, he cannot help but notice how strange it is that he would meet Laurence’s agent on the same day he met Laurence (aka, Jack). To Tyler, it seemed more than a coincidence. It felt like something was guiding him in a specific direction, and he was simply along for the ride.

After some small talk and other chit-chat with Steve and Ruth, Tyler returned to his hotel room. He was feeling good about himself. These last few days have been unbelievable, except for Jack Kennedy dying. Tyler knew, though, if he had not met him earlier that day, he would have never met Steve or Ruth, and he would not have been on stage. He would have simply had a boring night. Tyler grabbed his journal and prepared to make another entry.

I’m starting to think that I am on a pre-planned journey that someone else is the coordinator. It seems everywhere I go and everyone I meet, there is a lesson or an experience for me.

Today, when I stopped for lunch in Malibu, I ended up meeting Jack Kennedy (aka, Laurence Waltmeyer). He was an award-winning songwriter. He had to change his name later in his career because of some controversial lyrics. No one would work with him anymore… so he changed his name.

Yes, I did say ‘was’ an award-winning songwriter. Unfortunately, Jack died of a heart attack right after I met him. I performed CPR but to no avail. Here’s where it gets strange(er). I arrived in Los Angeles, Hollywood, to be more specific, to do some sight-seeing. I find myself going to a small bar called The Study. It was a bar with character. There were old books all around and a stage with a young lady playing her set. I thought it looked like the perfect place for me. I sat down on one of the velvet couches they had to enjoy my cocktail and listen to the performer play.

A man by the name of Steve Gallivan sat next to me. Steve is Ruth’s agent – Ruth was the performer. It turns out that Steve was the agent for Jack. And Jack had written some songs for Ruth. Coincidence?

I told them about Jack, or as they knew him by, Laurence. (That is not a situation that I ever want to be in again. Telling someone about someone they know had died.) I had said to them that I was the one that had found Laurence outside the front door of the restaurant. After chatting for a bit, Steve asked me to play a song. Ruth was kind enough to let me take some time from her set and borrow her guitar since mine was in the hotel room.

I played “Hollywood and Vine,” which everyone loved. Ruth now wants to do a duet or collaboration on a project. Steve wants to represent me, at least in the Southern California area.

Things are going well. I’m headed to San Diego tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what life has planned for me there.

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