CHAPTER 2 – My World, The Drive Home

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The thought of home comforted me as I saw the reflection of my luggage in the rear-view mirror. I had lived among the chaos in California for too long and I was ready to take an extended break. I had packed up all my necessities from my home in Los Angeles and put them in my car for the long drive. The house in the Hollywood hills was sold furnished so, luckily, I didn’t have to take any of my memories with me.  

I rolled down my window to get some fresh air into the car in hopes of staying awake. I ran my hand through my previously cut and coloured hair and realized that my long blond tresses were gone. I was still getting used to the short dark bob. I missed my long hair, but I knew I needed a drastic change. My life needed a change. And I knew that moving home was the right decision. 

From the day I had won a full scholarship and left my hometown for California at the young age of 21, I had worked my ass off to get my degree in journalism and then I worked, worked, worked. It had been years since I took more than a long weekend off from my job. A few people had accused me of being a workaholic, but I loved what I did so it was never an obligation to me. I wanted to work because I liked it and I was good at it. From the moment I graduated, I started my journalism and writing career, and I never wanted to slow down. 

It all started when I was hired at a local television station near my small college and I put in a lot of hours behind the scenes of the broadcast. As a television writer, I was always busy. There were many nights that I fell asleep at my desk after everyone else had gone home. I was in my element behind a computer screen. When I went home, whether it was at night or early in the morning, I would eat, shower, change, and nap before heading back to the station again. My work was my life. 

And it only escalated from there. A few months into my first year of work, our sportscaster didn’t show up in time to do the news that evening. 

One of the senior producers was at a loss when he approached me about going on air. “You write the words, so I’m sure you’ll be able to read them in front of a camera.” He paused for an uncomfortable moment. “Besides, no one else here is pretty enough to be put in front of a camera.” He chuckled, attempting a joke. 

I laughed at his failed attempt at humour. After seeing the desperation in his eyes, I agreed to do it. His relief became the break I needed to get my foot in the door of the world of sports. A few days after my broadcast, the senior executive called me into his office to tell me that the ratings were through the roof on the night that I was on-air. He then asked if I would fill in once in a while. I had enjoyed being on camera and I agreed to do it again whenever he needed me. About six months later, I was co-anchor. 

Eventually, I became the only sportscaster at the station and I loved everything about being on the air. The producers told me that I had a natural skill and their numbers were up every time I did the sports. I was on cloud nine. For two years I worked as the sportscaster and writer, as well as continuing to write for some of the newscasts. 

Just as I got settled into my position, I was head-hunted by a big-name sports station out of Los Angeles. They offered me a full-time position on the panel, a hell of a lot more money than I was making, and they offered to pay all my moving costs. I didn’t want to leave my local station, but it was the chance of a lifetime. So, I took it. 

It didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable in the role of sportscaster at the new station. The people who worked there were welcoming and helpful, the people on set were encouraging, and the head of the company sent me a welcome basket after my first broadcast. I was addicted to the rush of adrenaline I got before I went on-air – it was like a drug. After I had proven myself to the network, I was allowed to do some of my own writing. 

I had a lot of range while working as a sportscaster and I was allowed to try so many new things while I worked for the network. As I got to know some of the celebrity sports stars, I was able to produce unique, good-quality television. 

At a baseball game in Philadelphia, I organized a hot dog eating contest at a tailgate party and gave tickets for that night’s game to the winners. At a hockey game in Boston, I organized a St Patrick’s Day party and auctioned off tickets to a hockey game that evening with proceeds going to a local children’s charity. At a basketball game in Toronto, I organized a three-point contest during half time. The winner got to hang out in the locker room after the game and have the chance to get autographs from some of the players. 

Each event was a lot of work, but it was worth it. I was proud of myself for proving that I was ambitious and motivated. When my director told me that the network’s numbers went up with each of my special events, it was the icing on the top of my workaholic cake. 

One random day, while I was in my office, writing out the sports report for that night, my producer called me into his office. Naturally, I was nervous. Anyone would be. I thought maybe I had over-stepped my boundaries. 

When I walked into his office, not once did he crack a smile or give any indication that he was happy with my performances. He emphasized that the network executives had been watching my on-air antics. He did not make it seem as though they were pleased with everything that I had soaked my blood, sweat, and energy into. 

The more he talked, the more I was convinced that I would receive my pink slip. I steeled myself against the impending doom that hovered over our conversation. 

It was quite the surprise when my producer, after a brief pause, said, “because of your conduct and the effort that you’ve put into your sports-casting, the network big-wigs have decided to take a chance on you by giving you your own sports talk show.” 

I blinked with disbelieving eyes. 

Six weeks after that conversation, I was standing on the set of my new show. For a half-hour each week, I got paid more money than I ever thought possible for doing what I loved. 

That day, as I stood on my empty set alone, visualizing my first interview, I almost cried tears of happiness. From the shiny white floors to the red leather guest sofa, the entire set had been created just for me. Instead of a new car smell, it was a new set smell that intoxicated me. 

I sat down in my host chair, a red leather wing-back chair that had been made especially for my show. I faced the guest sofa and realized that many sports celebrities could possibly be sitting across from me if I could make the show work. 

Suddenly, I got nervous. What if I didn’t have what it took to make the show a success? What if my guests didn’t like me? What if I asked the wrong questions? I took a cleansing breath as I closed my eyes and leaned back in my chair and attempting to rid myself of fear. 

I can do this, I thought to myself. I WILL do this. 

Twenty-four hours later, my first guest was an up and coming basketball star on a hot streak. I had no lack of questions and comments for the young star because I wanted to know every little detail about his life. He was interesting, engaging, and we shared a few laughs along the way. I felt like we were at a coffee shop, sharing stories over a cappuccino. It was after that first on-air interview that I realized how much I loved talking to guests and getting to know them. 

The more guests that came on my show, the more I realized that they were just regular people that were highly skilled at a sport, which the rest of the world was lucky enough to be able to witness. After the guest and I rehashed some of their career stats, recent plays, and games, I tried to ask questions that I wanted to know on a personal level. Within reason, I attempted to ask questions that I thought my viewers would want to know. The format of the show seemed to work because my superiors praised me for a job well-done after every show. I was happy and content with the way things were going. 

After the first few shows, my senior producer asked me to come into his office for a meeting. I sat down in the chair in front of his desk, a lump formed in my throat. I was nervous that maybe my ratings weren’t as good as the network was expecting and I was scared that they would yank my show off air. I said a silent prayer as the producer started talking. 

“Your ratings are unbelievable. They are higher than projected, and they keep climbing.” 

I let the air out of my lungs, not realizing that I had been holding my breath. 

“The network is extremely happy right now. Because of this, your contract has been renewed through the next 16 months. After that 16-month period, they’ll revisit your ratings and decide if they want to put you on air for another season.” 

“Really?” I could barely breathe because of the shock that tore through me. 

My senior producer nodded. “You better get comfortable here because, in my opinion, I think you’ll be here a while.” He gave me a subtle smile of approval. 

I shot out of my seat and threw my hand out to shake his. “Thank you so much, Sir. I’m very happy with the results of my show so far and I promise that I won’t let you down.” 

He stood up, shook my hand across the desk, and replied with a smirk, “you haven’t let me down so far, and I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Congratulations.” 

My show was an instant success. Everyone worked hard at their jobs, including me, and we managed to pull it all together each week. My station was happy, my network was happy, and I was happy. I was living my dream. 

The turning point for me, when I realized how much notoriety the show truly received, was during a hockey game in Los Angeles. It was common for me to catch a game when I knew I would have a player as a guest in the near future. A friend and I were seated in the stands, watching the hockey game, and I knew that Hudson Iver was going to be a guest on my show soon. During the second intermission, I left my seat and walked through the concourse to find a concession stand. 

As I was standing in line, waiting to get drinks for me and my friend, a strange man walked up to me and asked, “aren’t you the girl who does the celeb talk show on that sports network?” 

My jaw almost hit the floor because I was shocked that he recognized me. “Uh, yeah. That’s me.” It was a heady feeling to be recognized from my show. 

The next thing I knew, there was a small crowd of about ten people around me, all of them were asking for my autograph. I felt like I was living in an alternate universe. Once the crowd had thinned again, after I had signed hats, jerseys, and programs, I wondered just how many people watched my show. 

As I was basking in the glow of my newfound fame, the guy standing in front of me in line to get drinks, offered to pay for my order. “Your show is great. The wife and I always watch it. We love how you ask personal questions to the players instead of just the typical, generic questions.” I said thank you to the man and then walked back to my seat with a huge grin on my face. I was grateful for all the kind words. 

A week later, Hudson Iver came on my show. It was the first time I had ever met him. As we chatted before the show went live on the air, Hudson seemed calm, genuine, willing to answer any questions I had, and, above all else, he was very, very charming. For the first time ever, a sports star had made me blush. I hoped, for the sake of the show, I wouldn’t blush when the cameras were turned on. How embarrassing that would be! 

Hudson and I talked about his stats, chatted about his personal life and the charities that he worked with during the off-season, and then, during our last commercial break, I realized that we had about two and a half minutes to spare on air. During the break, I asked Hudson if there was anything else he’d like to talk about on-air and he said that, yes, he had a couple things in mind. I nodded and reminded him that the show was live so he had to keep it rated PG. He chuckled just as the break ended and we returned to our broadcast. 

“Welcome back,” I said into camera one. “We’re still chatting with hockey star, Hudson Iver, and it seems that he’s had a stellar year so far this season.” I focused my attention back to Hudson. “Is there anything else you’d like your fans to know as we wind things up today?” 

Hudson gave me a charming smile as his curly dirty-blond hair fell over one eye and then he replied, “I will be at the sporting goods store at Oakhurst Shopping Center on Saturday to sign autographs and I’d love to see my fans if they get the chance to stop by.” 

“That sounds like a lot fun. I’m sure there will be a lot of fans waiting in line to meet you.” I gave him an approving smile, knowing that the camera was still on me. 

His emerald green eyes were playful as he replied, “well, maybe if the viewers are lucky, you’ll make an appearance too.” He knew he had me backed into a corner with no choice but to answer his statement while on air. 

With as much dignity as I could muster, I answered, “maybe.” 

It took all the self-control I had to rip my gaze off of Hudson and address the camera to end the show. “Remember, this Saturday at Oakhurst Shopping Center, Hudson will be there signing autographs. And the next home game for the team is on Friday night which will be aired, live, right here on our network.” I paused for effect and turned back to Hudson. “I’d like to thank you very much for coming on the show today, Hudson. I look forward to seeing you play again soon.” I turned back to camera one for the last time and said, “thanks for watching and until next week, cheers!” I held up my empty mug on set as the ending credits began to roll. 

The cameras were turned off and then Hudson and I were alone on the stage for a moment. The crew was preoccupied as they scattered around the set, focusing on their jobs. 

I stood up from my red chair and started to take my microphone off when Hudson said, “will you be coming to my next game?” 

I gave him a confused look. “Um, maybe. I’m not sure. Why?” 

“I noticed you were there at the last home game, and I was just wondering if you go often.” 

I handed my mic to one of the crew members, who was rushing past, and replied to Hudson, “I don’t have a lot of time to catch every game. I cover all sports so I go to a lot of different sporting events when I know the players will be on my show.” 

Hudson nodded as he looked down at his shoes as if he was searching for something to say. 

And then something occurred to me. “How did you know I was at the game?” 

Hudson smiled. “You were on the big screen above the ice.” 

The look of incredulity was enough to prompt Hudson to speak again. “You were on the concourse, giving fans your autograph, and there was a camera there. They announced that you were in attendance at the game. We have a screen in the dressing room that shows everything that’s on the big screen during intermissions.” 

My jaw fell open. I didn’t know if I felt embarrassed or complimented. 

“I have a suggestion,” Hudson continued, “next time you come to a game, if you want to blend into the crowd, buy a jersey and you’ll fit right in.” He winked and started to walk away. As he approached the exit, he called over his shoulder, “see you on Saturday!” 

I stood on the stage, staring after him with a look of disbelief on my face. Hudson had some nerve to assume that I’d go to another game and show up at his signing during the weekend. Yet, at the same time, he was so sweet and charming about it that a part of me felt the need to pencil in those dates on my calendar. 

Even though I didn’t go to any of Hudson’s events, I had definitely considered it. And then I realized that he was probably just another one of those stereotypical guys who just wanted to get laid and get out. It didn’t take long for me to erase Hudson and his charm from my memory. 

Before I could reminisce any further, the glow from my hometown came into focus among the blackness of night. The town was a sight for sore eyes. 

Grateful to leave my past behind, I rolled up the driver-side window as motivation hit the gas pedal a little harder and my car picked up speed. 

I was home. 

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