Intemperance, Volume 2 - Standing On Top
Copyright© 2006 by Al Steiner
Sex Story: Chapter 18a - The continuing adventures of Jake Kingsley, Matt Tisdale, Nerdly Archer, and the other members of the rock band Intemperance. Now that they are big successes, pulling in millions of dollars and known everywhere as the band that knows how to rock, how will they handle their success? This is not a stand-alone novel. If you haven't read the first Intemperance you will not know what is going on in this one.
Santa Monica Municipal Airport
November 24, 1989
Celia Valdez stood on the tarmac of the airport, looking at Jake's twin-engine plane nervously. Jake had just finished the exterior pre-flight inspection of the aircraft. He had checked the control surfaces, the tires, the brakes, the fuel sumps, the propellers, the antennas, the lights, and had visually verified that his two tanks were actually full of fuel (true, he had watched the fuel truck pump both tanks full just thirty minutes before, but his instructor — Helen Brody — had taught him you could never be too careful). Now, it was time to climb inside and fire up the engines for the final pre-flight check.
"Are you sure this thing is safe?" Celia asked softly, her tongue coming out to lick her lips every few seconds.
"It should hold together," Jake said, giving it a little rap on the left engine cowling. "I just put some fresh duct tape on the rudder and those bald patches on the tires look like they're good for at least two more landings."
"You're a funny man," she said sourly, though with a slight hint of humor in her eyes.
"Don't worry," Jake told her. "I hardly ever crash this thing."
Celia shook her head and gave him a playful punch on his shoulder. "Tell me again why I agreed to this," she said.
This, was the flight they were about to embark upon. Celia had been in Brazil for the last eight weeks, staying with her husband, Greg Oldfellow, who was knee-deep in filming his latest movie. She had come to Los Angeles three days ago in order to attend the premier of a movie called Whenever It Rains. The film starred Michael Stinson, who had been Greg's best man at the wedding. Since Greg was unable to break away from the Brazilian rainforest where his shoot was taking place, Celia had been sent as his representative at the premier. She had called Jake to see how he was doing after his well-publicized break-up with Helen and during the conversation had happened to mention that she needed to go to Palm Springs to check on Greg's summer home. Her plan had been to drive there but somehow, despite her fear of leaving the ground, she had allowed herself to be talked into letting Jake fly her.
"Beats the hell out of me," Jake said. "I sure as hell wouldn't climb into a plane with someone like me at the controls."
She shook her head again and then climbed in through the side door before she could lose her nerve. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a cashmere sweater. Jake found himself fondly looking at her rather lovely derriere as she squeezed through the small opening.
"How's it looking?" Celia asked when he climbed in after her.
"How's what looking?" he asked.
"My butt," she said. "I could feel your eyeballs checking it out when I bent over."
Jake laughed, embarrassed at getting caught, but reassured by the gentle good humor in her tone. "It's as fine an ass as I've ever had the privilege to get caught staring at," he told her.
"Hmmph," she grunted. "At least someone thinks so. Greg keeps telling me I need to lose some weight and the damn American Watcher did an article on me that said I was letting myself go."
Jake had seen that article. It had featured an entire collage of the most unflattering photos that the paparazzi — shooting from concealment with telephoto lenses — could produce. "Welcome to being a celebrity," Jake said. "The American Watcher I can understand, but I'm a little surprised that Greg is giving you a hard time. I think you look very sexy."
She smiled at him, her brown eyes shining. "Thanks, Jake," she said. "You do my ego good. As for Greg, he's locked into that whole Hollywood idea of what makes a woman attractive. He concedes that I look good in person and that he likes the way my body is shaped, but he keeps telling me about how the camera adds ten to fifteen pounds and that I'm starting to look fat when I'm photographed."
"He's not looking at you through a camera when you're walking around naked in the house, is he?" Jake asked.
Celia laughed. "Good point," she said. "I'll have to mention that to him next time he starts nagging me about my weight."
Jake closed the door and made sure it was properly sealed. He then took his seat in the left side cockpit chair. Celia climbed into the right side chair. She fumbled with her seatbelt for a few minutes (Jake saw that her hands were shaking a little with nervousness) and finally managed to get everything situated properly.
"I thought the pilot was supposed to sit on the right side," Celia said as she looked over the confusing array of dials, switches, knobs, and levers.
"That's usually how it's done," Jake said, "but I like sitting on the left. It just seems more natural to me since that's how we drive cars. And, since the controls are the same in both seats, there's really no reason why I can't sit over here."
"You're a rebel, Jake," she said. "Don't ever let anyone tell you you're not."
Jake went through the engine start checklist and fired up first the left and then the right engine. He went slowly and methodically through the pre-flight checklist. This took about ten minutes. It then took him another five minutes of staring at his charts to program his route into the autopilot system. Celia remained quiet through these processes, no doubt intuiting that it wasn't a good idea to distract a pilot during this particular phase of the trip.
When everything was ready to go, Jake contacted the tower, asking for and receiving permission to taxi to the head of the runway. He released the brakes, throttled up the engines, and started them on their way.
"Oh boy," Celia said, taking a few deep breaths.
"Relax," Jake said, patting her leg comfortingly. "Remember what I told you. You'll be a lot less afraid when you're sitting in the cockpit with the pilot. As long as you don't see me worrying about anything, you don't have to worry about anything."
She nodded. "I'll try to keep that in mind."
They had to wait for one plane that was taking off and two that were landing before they could go. Jake held them in position until it was their turn and then throttled up again, bringing them forward onto the runway. He paused here for a few seconds to make one last check of his controls and engine readouts. Everything was exactly as it should be.
"You ready?" Jake asked.
"No," she said, "but let's do it anyway."
He did it anyway. He pushed the throttles slowly forward and the engines wound up to full power, pulling them down the runway. Jake kept up a running commentary of everything he was doing in order to reassure Celia.
"When we reach eighty knots, I'll pull back on the stick and we'll rotate off the runway."
"Okay," she said, gripping the sides of her seat, her eyes staring hypnotically in front of them.
The 414 accelerated considerably faster than the commercial jets Celia was used to. It was only a few seconds before they were at eighty knots. "Here we go," Jake said and pulled back on the control. The nose came up and they lifted off the runway. Celia closed her eyes for a few seconds and then reluctantly opened them again.
"And we're up," Jake said. "Everything going smoothly." He reached down and grasped the gear level. "Landing gear up. You'll hear the whine as they retract."
"I hear it," she said as the sound filled the cabin.
"At nine hundred feet above the ground, or, about eleven hundred feet on the altimeter, I'm going to bank us left until we're on a compass heading of ninety degrees, or, due east."
"Right," she said, looking at the altimeter that Jake had pointed out to her earlier. When it reached eleven hundred, Jake put them into a thirty-six degree bank.
"Wow," Celia said, her voice slightly broken. "This is a steep turn."
"Yeah," Jake said. "Those commercial pilots are a bunch of pussies. They give you nice shallow banks so they don't scare you."
"And I appreciate them for that," Celia said.
Jake chuckled and continued the bank. When he straightened them out at compass heading 090, Celia relaxed a little — just a little.
"Throttling down a little," Jake said. "Shallowing out the climb."
Celia gripped the chair again as the nose dropped down. Again, this was done considerably quicker than in a commercial jet and the uncomfortable, though false, sensation that they were dropping, was magnified from what she was used to.
"Okay," Jake said. "You see that nav readout there." He pointed to the indicator.
"Yeah," she said. "I see it."
"It's locked onto our first VOR station. That's in Pasadena. As you can see by the DME there, its twenty-seven knots away. The needle, as you'll notice, is not centered currently. That's because we're not on course to it as of yet. We have to keep going at a heading of ninety degrees until we're clear of the air traffic going in and out of LAX."
"Are we close to any of those airplanes?" she asked.
Jake looked out over his left shoulder and slightly behind and, sure enough, he could see what appeared to be a 747 making it's descent about four thousand feet above them. "There's one there," he said, pointing it out to her.
"Isn't it dangerous having two airports so close together?" she asked.
"It's not just one," he said, "but several major airports in this section. There's LAX to the south, there's Burbank to the northeast, and, a little further east on our route, there's Ontario. All of them have planes coming in and going out at all hours. As long as everyone stays where they're supposed to be, we all stay separated by altitude, if not flight path."
"What do you mean by that?" she asked.
"Every airport has a specific departure and arrival corridor for aircraft coming in from any of the four major compass headings. Our departure corridor, for a flight path that takes us eastward, is to take off, spin around to ninety degrees, and continue to ascend — just like we're doing now. That way we're too low to interfere with traffic going into or out of LAX or Burbank even though we'll cross paths with some of it. Once we hit six thousand feet, I'll turn left and center that needle on the VOR. By the time we reach Pasadena, we'll be up just above nine thousand feet. From there, we'll turn right and lock onto the VOR station in San Bernardino. We'll be traveling due east at that point and we'll pass about ten miles north of Ontario Airport. However, we'll be almost at our cruising altitude of seventeen thousand feet, so any aircraft coming in or going out will be at least eight thousand feet below us."
Celia was becoming interested in spite of her fear. "It all sounds so complex," she said. "I always thought you just jumped in the plane, took off, and flew to wherever it was you wanted to go."
"It is like that in a lot of places," Jake said. "Here in LA, though, it's kind of a dance. That was one of the reasons I liked flying out of Brannigan so much. It was further away from my house, but there weren't as many restrictions on where you could turn and fly to once you left the ground."
Celia nodded. She knew why Jake had had to take his planes away from Brannigan and move them to Santa Monica.
By the time they reached the Pasadena VOR station, Celia was thoroughly caught up in the mechanics of flying and navigation. She had watched the altimeter wind upward and the DME click off miles. Normally, Jake would have engaged the autopilot by this point, but instead he kept control of the aircraft himself in order to make it look more dramatic to her. It was only after he cleared Pasadena and locked onto San Bernardino that he finally flipped the switch and took his hands off the controls.
Celia continued to alternate her stares from the instrument panel to the scenery outside the windows. The rolling San Gabriels and the Angeles National Forest were on their left, the bulk of the Los Angeles northeastern suburbs were on the right. She watched in fascination as they passed through the Ontario flight path and she was able to spot three arriving and two departing jet airliners far below them.
"You see?" Jake said. "We're safely up here and they're safely down there. The system works."
"It looks like it," she said. "And I've been so interested in all of this that I've actually forgotten to be afraid, even though it is bumpy as hell up here."
"No worse than riding in a car down any LA street," Jake said, sipping from a bottle of water.
"That is true," she allowed.
The autopilot leveled them off at seventeen thousand feet and they continued on their course. Their speed kicked up to two hundred knots now that they weren't climbing and the suburbs below them began to thin out a little bit, with much more open space between each patch of housing. Celia settled back in her seat and seemed to actually relax, likely because she was taking Jake's words to heart and not worrying unless he looked worried.
"So how's Brazil?" Jake asked her after a routine check-in with the regional ATC. "It must be nice to be back on your own continent again."
"Are you kidding?" she asked. "We're in the middle of a goddamn jungle there. There are snakes, monkeys, spiders, and bugs like I've only seen in nightmares. It's absolutely nothing like Barquisimeto, or any other place in Venezuela I've ever been."
"You don't like the jungle?" Jake asked.
"It scares the hell out of me," she said. "It's hot and muggy and it rains every day at some point. And I'm not talking about rain like we see in Los Angeles or even Kansas and Nebraska. I'm talking torrential downpour so heavy that you can't see. And then when the rain goes away it still drips from the trees for hours. Everything is muddy and wet. The mosquitoes there look like bats and I'm always afraid I'm going to get malaria or some other tropical disease from them."
"That does sound kind of unpleasant," Jake admitted. "Why are they filming there? Couldn't they duplicate the jungle in a studio somehow? Or at least film it in Hawaii where you don't have to take your life in your hands."
"It's part of the mystique they're trying to instill in the movie," she said. "It's not like they're trying to represent the actual Amazon rain forest or anything. The film is actually a post-apocalyptic piece that takes place after global warming has wiped out most of the population. They're filming it in the Brazilian jungle just so they can say that it was filmed in the Brazilian jungle and impress everyone."
"How does global warming wipe out most of the population?" Jake asked.
"I don't know," she said. "Greg was never really clear on that. Anyway, the jungle they're in is supposed to be what's left of Seattle and the Cascades after the apocalypse. Greg's character is this loner that comes in to do some trade with them and gets caught up in a war the Seattle people are having."
"The Battle of Seattle, huh?" Jake said, turning that over in his head. "It sounds interesting enough."
"I suppose," Celia said dubiously. "I'm sure you've heard all the hype they're putting out about it. Greg thinks it's going to be his Oscar next year, that it'll be the most significant film he's ever done. It's certainly expensive enough. The budget for the film is $80 million. That's pretty close to the record."
"Jesus," Jake said, shaking his head a little.
"And they've already run into a bunch of cost overruns that are pushing them up toward a hundred million."
"That's a lot of money," Jake said with a whistle.
"It's considered a good investment in the business," Celia told him. "With the amount of special effects and cinematography coupled with that fact that Greg Oldfellow is the star, they're figuring to pull in close to $300 million during the first run and maybe another sixty or seventy million when it's released to home video."
"That does sound like an impressive profit margin," Jake agreed. "How much of that does Greg get to keep?"
"They paid him eleven million up front and he gets a percentage of the profits," she said. "He's very excited about the whole thing. It's all he's been talking about for months. He's convinced it will be the film of the decade, one of those films they're still watching in sixty years, like Gone With The Wind or The Wizard Of Oz. He's even got a place on the mantle all picked out for his Oscar."
"Well, if sheer money spent is any guarantee of success, I guess he's got it made in the shade," Jake said.
"That seems to be the angle they're shooting for," Celia said.
"Glad to hear things are working out in his career," Jake said. "What about the you and Greg thing? I haven't talked to you much since the wedding, but I remember you expressing some concerns."
"Yes," she said, a slight smile on her face. "That was right before I kissed you, wasn't it?"
Jake felt himself flush a little. Celia's kiss that night — the night before her wedding — was a powerful memory; one he did not allow himself to access too often for fear of spoiling it. "Yes," he said. "It was."
"I really shouldn't have done that," Celia said. "Not that I didn't enjoy it, mind you, but anyone could have walked out and seen us — including Greg or Helen."
"Well... we'd both had a bit to drink that night," Jake said.
Celia giggled. "Okay," she said. "We'll go with that as an excuse."
"Sounds good," Jake said, returning her laugh with one of his own.
"Anyway," Celia said. "Going back to your question, it seems like a lot of what I was worried about that night turned out to be pre-wedding nervousness on Greg's part. Once we were done with all the pomp and ceremony and made it to Scandinavia, we had a wonderful time. Since we've come home and picked up our lives, he's reverted mostly back to the man I fell in love with and agreed to marry."
"Mostly?" Jake asked.
She shrugged. "There's the whole learning to live together bit," she said. "Remember, we didn't 'live in sin' before we stood together on that alter. After we came home from the honeymoon was the first time we actually... you know... set up housekeeping together."
"So there are some quirks to iron out?"
"Just the normal stuff, I suppose. Leaving the toilet seat up or down, whether or not the toothpaste should be recapped after use, where we put towels after a shower, who gets to be the boss in the relationship."
"Who gets to be the boss, huh?" Jake said. "And what did you decide in that?"
"We're still working on that one," she said. "Vegas has the odds on Greg though."
Though she obviously meant for this to come out jokingly, Jake was able to hear an unmistakable undertone of bitterness in her tone. "He's pulling out the big guns, is he?"
She shrugged again. "It's not all that," she said. "Since he's the one with the income and I'm basically nothing but a high-class housewife, he's the one who makes all the financial decisions. I've conceded that point. Why shouldn't I? It's not like he's a nag about how much I spend or anything. Some of the other things he wants to take control of are what gets my butt in a pucker though."
"Like what?" Jake asked.
"Like my career," Celia said.
"That sounds kind of serious."
"Seriously maddening," she agreed. "He doesn't know much about the music business or music in general, yet he keeps trying to tell me what direction I should go when my La Diferencia contract expires next year."
"Yes," she said. "He's had some of 'his people', as he calls them, looking into this 'whole music thing'. They've decided I should go country when it's time to start performing again."
"Country?" Jake said, appalled. Among those with actual musical talent and integrity, country music was considered pretty damn close to the bottom of the barrel in the musical hierarchy. Only Top 40 pop aimed at the teenage girl crowd was more notorious for being targeted to a specific demographic by using over-formulation of a lyrical and musical pattern. Most country lyrics these days were aimed at the conservative, blindly patriotic crowd and were written for the so-called artist by a small group of commercial songwriters.
"Yeah," Celia said. "Isn't that the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard? Celia Valdez doing country music." She shook her head a little, as if warding off the very thought. "Not only do I loath the very sound of country music, not only do my politics almost completely disagree with everything the genre represents, but I'm a freaking Venezuelan! I'm not from this country."
"It seems to me that would present a problem," Jake said.
"It presents a big problem," she said. "Greg and his managers and publicists are looking at it from a strictly commercial viewpoint. They want me to do what they think will make the most money. And since they have statistics showing that country music is undergoing a big surge in mainstream popularity, they want me to get in on it. They want me to compose songs about how great it is to live in America, how I've been embraced by the great arsenal of freedom and democracy. Don't get me wrong or anything. I love living here in the states, but this country has more than its share of problems and sleaziness. I can't compose songs about how I live in the greatest country on Earth when I don't believe that to be true."
"Did you tell Greg that?" Jake asked, knowing that Greg, like many Hollywood actors, was actually more than a little on the left-leaning side.
"I did," she said. "He told me it doesn't matter. He said I don't have to believe in all that crap, that I just need to write some songs that cater to the tastes of all those idiots who do. I've tried to explain to him that I can't write songs to specifically target a particular audience. I have to write songs from my heart."
"And what does he say to that?"
"He says I should try putting my heart into country music because that's where the big money will be over the next ten years."
"Very flexible of him," Jake said. "So what are you going to do?"
"I'm not going to do country, that's for damn sure," she said. "I'll allow myself to sink into musical obscurity before I do that. Greg just needs to realize that I will be the one to be in charge of my solo career, not him."
"That is why they call it a solo career," Jake agreed. "So you're really going to stick to your guns on this?"
"No worries there," she said. "I'll settle for Greg leaving the goddamn toilet seat up, but I will not compromise on my music."
"Good girl," Jake told her. "Your mother would be proud of you. My mother too, for that matter."
Celia laughed. "And speaking of solo careers," she said. "Is it starting to look like you might be pondering one as well? According to the gossip columns, you guys are beating the hell out of each other every time you're in the same room together."
Jake frowned a little. This was not exactly his favorite topic of conversation. "It's not quite as bad as that," he said. "There haven't been any actual physical fights. A couple of pushes and shoves, maybe, but nothing that qualifies as a punch has been thrown — yet."
"But the arguing and name-calling?"
"Yeah, that's been pretty bad," he admitted. "The composition process was very unpleasant, but we worked out somewhat of a solution."
"What kind of solution?"
He told her about how they had basically divided the space on the new album into two categories: Matt's songs and Jake's songs. Matt would assume all composition decisions for his songs and Jake would do the same for his.
"That doesn't sound like a good way to go about it," Celia said. "A band is supposed to work together."
Jake felt a sudden wave of grateful affection toward Celia. She understands, he thought. He had expressed his frustrations about the haphazard composition process to Helen on several occasions and she had always nodded appreciably, going through the motions of sympathizing with him (when they were talking, that is), but it had always been clear to him that she really had no comprehension whatsoever of what he was talking about. Even Pauline, as tuned into the musical life as she now was, had never really understood the importance of band cohesion and what it gave to the creative process. But Celia did understand. Here, at last, was an actual sympathetic female ear.
"No, it's not a good way to do things at all," he told her. "This album is not an Intemperance album at all. It's three Jake Kingsley solo songs, four Matt Tisdale solo songs that happen to feature Jake Kingsley on lead vocals, and only three songs that fall under the basic envelope of classic Intemperance sound."
"Do you think it's going to flop?" Celia asked.
"No," Jake said, just a hint of uncertainty in his voice. "I don't think we're in much danger of that. The tunes are good; they're just not exactly Intemperance."
"Will that put off some of your core fans?" she asked.
"That's just the thing," Jake said. "We don't really have one single group of core fans — we have several. Even in our earliest albums, there was always a stark difference between the songs that Matt wrote and songs that I wrote. Ever since our club days, our fans have always been able to tell the difference just by listening to the beat and the lyrics. All of them fit into a basic Intemperance formula, of course, but it was always obvious who wrote which song. So what that all means is that there are those fans who only like Matt's stuff and think I'm some kind of pinko faggot. They'll crank up Who Needs Love? when it comes on the radio and sing it aloud with their friends, but they'll change the station when Point Of Futility comes on. There's also the opposite — those fans who like the deep thinking and lyrical formula of my songs but who think Matt's songs are crude and simplistic. They'll listen to It's In The Book and Descent Into Nothing over and over again on their tape player but will fast forward past The Thrill Of Doing Business. And then there's the other group of fans, the more mainstream of our audience. These are the fans we never intended to go after — the same fans that used to buy your music."
Celia chuckled. "Am I being insulted here?" she asked.
"Not deliberately," Jake said. "These are the pop music fans, the ones who listen to the stations that only play the top 100 songs of the last year or so."
"The stations that La Diferencia used to play on," she said.