Three Storylane Pieces from the Former Storylane: A Requiem for a Website

posted Mar 24, 2013, 1:21 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Jul 22, 2014, 8:38 AM ]

Last year I was contacted by the Founder and CEO of Storylane, a website for people to tell stories, to be a contributor to it. It was unpaid of course, but served as another place for me to spew forth my brilliance upon the world and a potential new opportunity to have that spewed-forth brilliance to be discovered by someone who might actually want to pay me for it because I sure as hell don’t want an “actual” job.

There, I said it.

I signed up for the site and began importing some of my favorite story pieces from my blog. Then I received a story suggestion from the site about my ideal job and my ideal boss, which I submitted a few days later.

After that, I began contributing pieces more frequently – including some rather dark ones more appropriate for a journal than a website that I haven’t posted anywhere else. I previously posted three of those more appropriate contributions in a “Three Stories” collection about life in the Bay Area.

A few days ago I received word that the site was shutting down and it was suggested that we have our stories imported back to us in a zip file. So I’ve selected three more “appropriate stories” from that website for a new collection on this website as a tribute of sorts to what was a great website. 

The first one is that aforementioned suggested story. The second is a more “journally” entry. The third is a purely fictional piece inspired by a pre-crush of mine about a young man pondering the implications of a coffee date he is about to go on.


LURFFMED, INC

My ideal job is a creative enterprise doing something new in an entirely different way. In my short fiction I've imagined a media sales firm that puts together ad buys across multiple platforms (TV, radio, print, internet, outdoor, mobile, etc).

I have also imagined a literary e-zine (an online literary magazine) that sold content sponsorships and unique promotional opportunities instead of ads and commercials.

In the last blogisode of my online story series, I conjured up a company that creates, develops, finances and/or distributes web series.

Each reflect the idealization of whatever I was involved with at the time -- TV ad sales, writing and web series (as a writer, marketer and actor). None, however, actually seem to exist in reality but would be the type of creative enterprises I imagine I would thrive in.

At these companies, my work is valued. My strengths are appreciated and well-utilized. My weaknesses are neither ignored nor looked upon as liabilities. Instead, they are cultivated and matched with someone who is stronger in my areas of weakness. In turn, my strengths are matched with someone who is weaker in my areas of strength. The same goes for everyone else in the organization. Teams are subsequently formulated from this so as to maintain coverage in the event of vacations, illness, leaves of absence, termination and death.

As for the organization itself, there is no complicated hierarchy. There are two primary leaders plus a secondary leader in the event of a dispute between two primaries. Egos are checked at the door and one's contribution isn't deemed greater than any other's -- unless some people aren't pulling their weight. At that point, options are presented and mutual decisions are made to either step it up or part ways.

Salaries are fair and commensurate with experience and tenure. The leaders aren't making exponentially more than their underlings. The leaders take their share but max out at a certain level (adjusted only for inflation and standard cost of living increases). The remaining funds are reinvested into the company for expansion, salary increases, perks (such as a standing Thursday Happy Hour) and benefits.

Because there are only a few hierarchical levels, promotions are rare but largely unnecessary because the difference between an assistant (of a supervisor), an associate (a hybrid between the two and the largest group within the organization), a supervisor and a leader is just the amount of responsibility for the work. An associate may handle fewer pieces of business overall but they're responsible for all aspects of those fewer pieces of business. A supervisor and their assistant handle more business but split the duties.

While an assistant reports to a supervisor who reports to a leader, an associate may look to a supervisor for guidance but only reports to a leader. The leaders have a legal team, an accounting team and a Human Resource division they turn to for guidance.

And no matter the level of general work experience, everyone either comes in as an assistant or learns all the duties of that position (within each division).

My ideal boss has a truly open-door policy. They don't engage in office politics or corporate bullshit. They support their staff and aren't threatened by any of them or in fear of them taking their job. All complaints are taken seriously but not acted on hastily. All ideas are considered. New, revolutionary and radical ideas are strongly encouraged.

My ideal boss commands respect -- not because of their position, but because of the respect they show toward their staff.

Lastly, my ideal boss handles conflicts in the office by remaining neutral and hearing both sides before using case-by-case common sense to solve the dispute and only turning to the legal team and HR for guidance and/or clarification.

Despite his faults early on, I've always found the evolved Daniel Meade on "Ugly Betty" to be the greatest boss in TV history. He made mistakes but was incredibly supportive of Betty and valued her contributions to his business. He may have leaned on her a bit too much, but that's not an entirely bad thing when there's unwavering support.

And if you could combine the writing staff of Rob, Buddy, Sally and Mel from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" with the news team from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" minus Ted Baxter and Sue Ann Nivens (both of whom I love but I could never work with either of them), plus Mark Greene and John Carter from "ER", Ellenor Frutt and Eugene Young from "The Practice", Rico from "Six Feet Under" and a few people I've personally worked with, then you'd have the perfect group of co-workers at the greatest company in the history of life.


MY SITCOM ENDING 

I love sitcoms -- not all of them, but sitcoms in general. I pretty much live my life as if it were one. Unfortunately, it feels as if it's been renewed for another season but the ratings aren't what they used to be.

Take a moment to digest that metaphor.

What I love most about sitcoms is that even if loose ends aren't tied up all that neatly at the end of any given episode, things tend to work out in the long run -- happily or otherwise. Granted, such is the case only because that's how sitcoms are written.

It'd be nice if my life actually was a sitcom. Then the storyline for this season would play out as follows (who the hell knows how it actually will?):

In the September premiere, we establish how perilous my character's financial situation had become after getting laid off the previous season and that certain decisions need to be made. Over the next several episodes, my character tries to hide this perilous financial situation from friends and family by tapping into reserves, slowly selling his belongings so that no one would notice and outright lying about what is really going on.

Naturally, people close to my character slowly became the wiser (because people aren't always as stupid as they sometimes are) and start trying to help my prideful character out without him knowing.

At a certain point, though, the money runs out and he has to take his father up on an earlier offer to provide some assistance. As it turns out, my character's father knows how his son is and, not oblivious to the realities of unemployment, had been socking a little bit of money away each month to give to my character when he finally asked for it.

It was at this time my character takes stock of his situation and makes a major decision to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco with neither a job nor an apartment -- figuring that he would be in the same situation regardless of where he lived and thinking that after 11 non-continuous years in Los Angeles, it might be time for a fresh start. It's an odd mid-season move for a TV sitcom as these things are typically reserved for season finales.

The final Los Angeles episodes occur at the end of November. The penultimate shot of the last episode is an aerial from the fourth floor (where my character's apartment was) overlooking the courtyard. After I pass through that shot with a small box in hand, we cut to the front of the building as I wave to the leasing agents in the management office and walked through the glass doors for the last time. I look both ways, smile wistfully and walk out of the shot as the camera pans up and fades out.

The physical transition (and simultaneous shift in production) takes place throughout December with stories about the difficulties in finding work (of any kind), couchsurfing and barely surviving but still laughing. There were also guest appearances from former semi-regulars whose own storylines have previously taken them to northern California.

We'll be criticized for our Christmas episode, which will be deemed sad and depressing because my character opts out of any celebrating by spending it alone.

The plan for the remainder of the season is for my character to meet a guy at a bar who owns an independent cafe/coffee shop in San Francisco. It will just so happen that he is staffing up to open a second location and immediately offers my character a job to start shortly after the new year.

At the same time, a local upstart find my character's resume online and calls him in to interview for a freelance position with their digital marketing division.

With a job and a half, my character meets with a potential roommate -- a pierced and tatted up multi-sexual Jesus freak who takes a liking to my character but doesn't want to sleep with him. They hit it off and start living together.

By the end of the season, my character will be settled into his new life in San Francisco, open to what it has in store for him and intent on rooting himself there.

How I wish my life was that sitcom. How I wish I was writing it. Wouldn't that be nice?


THE WINDOW

Hart stands at the window facing the street wearing gray sweat pants, a black t-shirt and white socks. He eats sliced apples out of a bag as he looks down on the passing traffic with a pensive look on his face.

Bradley emerges from the bathroom wearing only his underwear and a drying towel draped down either side of his neck. He notices Hart standing by the window, smiles and saunters over.

"Anything exciting going on this morning?" Bradley asks.

"Not really. This woman has been trying to parallel park for ten minutes. It's quite fascinating how much she should not have a driver's license."

Bradley wraps his arms around Hart's torso and rests his head on Hart's right shoulder. "I love when it's overcast -- especially on days when I have a couple more hours to coax you back to bed before I go to work."

Hart tries not to smile. "It'll cost you."

"How much?"

"Breakfast -- waffles, fresh strawberries and applewood-smoked bacon."

Bradley ponders this for a moment. "Deal," he says, grabbing Hart by the back of the sweatpants to the bedroom.

*******************************

Hart stands at the window facing the street wearing gray sweat pants, a black t-shirt and white socks. He eats sliced apples out of a bag as he looks down on the passing traffic with a pensive look on his face.

Bradley slowly emerges from the bedroom with two suitcases and an over-the-shoulder bag in tow. He stares sadly at Hart for a moment, struggling for words. He thinks about the first time he met Hart at the coffee shop they both worked at when they were in their mid-twenties. Both had been out of college for a few years but work that used to be all but guaranteed by a degree was hard to come by. Plus, neither had any idea of what they really wanted to do.

They stopped off at a bar one day after work, where Hart mentioned the campus talk show he hosted in college. Bradley suggested they create an online radio talk show. He quickly pitched an idea about the format with Hart as host and him as producer.

Hart's affirmative response was in the form of a kiss.

Bradley hashed out a plan with Hart when they woke up together in his bed the next morning. They moved in together for business purposes that occasionally (and then more occasionally) got personal. They quit the coffee shop a year later with enough savings and financing from family and friends to give themselves two years to make the show work.

Within nine months they had amassed quite a following and quickly became one of internet radio's favorite couple. Personal appearances, guest spots on other radio shows and nationwide tours followed. They loved every minute of it and were quite happy.

But then they got an agent, who worked hard for both but secretly favored Bradley over Hart. Dale's favor turned into interest, which turned into desire. While he never made a move, he kept himself front-of-mind with Bradley to become his go-to and confidante. The day finally came when Bradley went to Dale about a situation with Hart. It could have easily been resolved, but Dale went in for the kill -- suggesting that what Bradley and Hart have is a professional relationship that became personal but was really still just professional. Bradley thought about this for a moment. It made sense to him. Besides, Dale had been around them long enough to see this more clearly than either Bradley or Hart ever could.

"I'm really sorry," Bradley says to Hart, who is still looking pensively out the window. "I'll be at Dale's until I find a place. I'll see you tomorrow for the show."

Bradley closes the door behind him. Hart looks down at a woman who has been trying to parallel park for ten minutes. "She really should not have a driver's license," Hart says out loud -- to himself.

*******************************

Hart stands at the window facing the street wearing gray sweat pants, a black t-shirt and white socks. He eats sliced apples out of a bag as he looks down on the passing traffic with a pensive look on his face.

Bradley comes out of the bedroom and sees Hart but doesn't say anything. He walks over to a cabinet, takes out a mug and pours himself a cup of coffee. He walks over to the refrigerator and pour some Half-and-Half into the mug. He picks up a spoon sitting on the counter and stirs his coffee.

He looks at Hart for a moment -- wanting to say something and wanting to know something. He wants to tell Hart he loves him but fears it would fall on deaf ears. He wants to know when their mutual love and affection went left while they went right. He wants to know if there's still a way to go left.

Most of all, he wants to know why Hart won't admit that the gap in their income has become an issue. He never asked Hart to pay for everything. He never wanted Hart to pay for everything. He just wanted to be with Hart. Hart was the one who wanted to pay. But Bradley realizes now that the desire to do so may have had more to do with Hart just wanting to maintain his own lifestyle than to elevate Bradley to it.

"This isn't working," Hart says.

Bradley takes another sip of his coffee before responding. "Well, it'll have to work until the end of our lease."

*******************************

Hart stands at the window facing the street wearing gray sweat pants, a black t-shirt and white socks. He eats sliced apples out of a bag as he looks down on the passing traffic with a pensive look on his face.

"So there is a two-in-three chance of this not working out," Hart says to himself.

An hour later, Bradley is standing outside the Big Cup Coffee Shop, looking at the clock on his cell phone.

"Hi. Bradley?" Hart asks.

"Yes. Are you Hart?"

"That, I am. It's great to finally meet you."

"Likewise."

"I'm sorry I'm a few minutes late. I was held up by my window -- quite literally."

Bradley tilts his head quizzically. "There's a story behind that that I'm really going to want to hear. But don't worry. It was well worth the wait."

"Would you have said that if I was twenty minutes late?" Hart asks with a smile.

Bradley chuckles and looks Hart up and down. "Eighteen, yes. Twenty would have been pushing it."

Hart laughs. "Are there any tables inside?"

"It's pretty crowded."

"Yeah, this is a popular place."

"I don't live too far from here, why don't we just grab a couple of lattes and head back there?"