Tag: roshow

#7 Ephton Valley

| November 8, 2010 | 0 Comments

From Lilly’s Blog

Founded in 1830, Ephton Valley (population 4,984) lies deep in the Berkshires. For the first hundred or so years of its existence, Ephton’s main industry was agriculture: dairy farms, sawmills, that kind of stuff. It was never a particularly wealthy town but the people lived well and build a community that included schools, churches and even a well known theater.

In the early 1900’s things began to change. One town over, a college opened and their population exploded. Well, exploded relatively speaking for the Berkshires. As a result, Ephton Valley became home to the spill over. As word got out about how beautiful the land out here was, with its lush forests and rolling mountains, tourism suddenly became its own business. Inns and restaurants started popping up. Artisans opened shops to sell their wares to tourists. In 1953 the Kent Art Museum opened, becoming the town’s new crown jewel and cementing Ephton Valley as a cultural hub to visit in New England.

Of course, to those of us who were raised here see it far differently. The art stuff is nice and all but in reality it’s just another small town. The commerce part of town is just a few bocks long, dotted with mom & pop shops. Frankly, there’s not much to do.

The locals tend to vote democrat and pontificate on social issues but underneath it all it’s truly a conservative town (in the literal not political definition of the word). There is a very strict, albeit it unwritten code: how to dress (preppy), how to behave (reserved), what to talk about in public (the latest book you read), what to keep private (your real opinions on the neighbors), and so on. Growing up this was not really an issue for me. I was already pretty quiet and never prone to dressing outrageously. Mostly I just grew bored with this town, as I have discussed before.

Things really took a turn for the worst with the arrival of Blake Lewis in recent years, although most people will tell you he’s been this town’s savior. All he has really done is inspire greed in people’s hearts. No longer content being a small, self sustaining cultural hub, the locals have begun to see dollar signs. And if that means embracing the philosophy of a man like Lewis and sacrificing any last scrap of individuality that may be left, so be it.

Too bad they have never stopped to think about what selling your soul to Lewis could really mean. Why? Well, I’ll tell you tomorrow when I finally profile him.

[Note: The town in the picture is Williamstown, MA. Ephton Valley is fictional, of course.]

Copyright © 2010, Rolando Garcia.

#6 Mayor Randolph Nichol

| November 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

From Lilly’s Blog

Mayor Randolph Nichol is a portly fellow with rosy red cheeks, a perfect part in his hair and a bushy moustache. His forehead is usually glistening with a thin coat of sweat. He smiles and goes about his business with an awkward, nervous sort of energy. During election years you can find him bouncing around as he shakes your hand and then the next person’s and the next, thanking us all for the support. Hardly the kind of person one would expect to be the “most powerful man in Ephton Valley,” but really how many politicians are what you would expect?

The hilarious thing is that he almost always runs unopposed. Elections in Ephton Valley are determined by who actually cares enough to run, more than by who is actually qualified. And no one I have ever known cares about running for mayor. In a town this small, where very little changes and the biggest crimes are underage drinking, there’s not really much to do. Yet Mayor Nichol seems constantly terrified that he may lose his office.

In the early 2000’s Mayor Nichol read about the New York City mayor who takes the subway to work every day like an “average citizen.” Inspired, Nichol decided he too would stop taking his city-provided car to work. But there is no public transportation in Ephton Valley, so he began walking. It’s particularly funny to see him during the hot summer days, dressed up in his suit, waddling down the block, handkerchief in hand, wiping the sweat off his brow while the goofy, nervous smile never, ever leaves his face.

Mayor Nichol really just wants to be a great mayor. He wants to work hard and make Ephton Valley a better place. The problem is he’s just not a very intelligent person. The result is a frightened little man, incapable of making decisions. I imagine him in front of a mirror every morning making self affirmations and promising himself that, if he gets re-elected, he really will make some serious changes and improvements to this town.

Unfortunately, that lack of self confidence also makes him particularly easy prey for those would would want to take advantage of what little power he does have. When a man like Blake Lewis comes back to Ephton Valley with promise of riches, Mayor Nichol perks up. And when Lewis pretends to be at his service, well you can bet Nichol will jump on the opportunity.

Mayor Nichol was the first person Lewis visited upon his return. He showered the mayor with compliments. Lewis told Nichol everything he had ever wanted to hear: “you are doing a great job, I respect your position, I respect you. I want to help Ephton Valley grow even more but I cannot do it without your support.” Look up news footage of the press conference in which Nichol tells the story and you can see the childlike giddiness in his face.

In his sad mind, Mayor Nichol believes he is responsible for Lewis’s radical transformation of Ephton Valley. And in a way, he is. His weak will made him the perfect target for a con. He may be a very nice man, but next election day, do not vote for Randolph Nichol. He means well, he really does, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Copyright © 2010, Rolando Garcia.

#5 Christopher and Kristine Paley aka The Khrises

| November 5, 2010 | 0 Comments

From Lilly’s Blog

In 1997 the abandoned factory on the outskirts of Ephton Valley burned to the ground. By all accounts the fire was spectacular and continued for hours. The local fire department had to call in help from the next town over just to get it under control. The culprits never strayed far from the scene of the crime. They stood by watching what they told reporters was “the coolest thing we’ve ever seen! So much cooler than we expected!” They were 7 year old cousins Christopher and Kristine Paley. The article went on to explain that they claimed to be practicing a July 4th “extravaganza!” for their friends. They thought practicing in the warehouse was a good idea because there was plenty of space and no one would see them. Little Christopher and Kristine didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

Christopher and Kristine began going by “the Khrises” practically since birth. No one in Ephton Valley could keep them apart if they tried. And god knows they have tried. Every school put them in different classrooms. Their parents tried setting curfews and limiting family reunions. And yet all these attempts always fail because containing these two is like trying to contain a hurricane. If I had to describe them, I would say they’re Kiekegaard’s knights of faith crossed with an A-bomb by way of Albert Einstein.

Oh yes, they’re absolutely brilliant. They both skipped third and eighth grades. The teachers hoped by challenging their intelligence they would buckle down. Fat chance.

Truthfully, until recently I knew the Khrises by reputation only: the immature 20 year olds who still acted like they were 7 and whose talent was causing trouble. In the short time I have known them as actual people, I can say without reservation, they are awesome. It’s rare to meet one person with an unquenchable thirst for life, a heart big enough to fill a house, unwavering loyalty and a keen sense of justice. Meeting two of them is a special thing for which I am grateful.

One of my favorite stories of theirs takes place in high school. Robert Quibral caught some of the Khrises’ friends smoking a joint behind the bleachers — while he was standing guard for his own friends drinking in the parking lot. Being the hypocrite that he is, Robert ratted out the Khrises’ friends and got them suspended. Tired of injustices, the Khrises took matters into their own hands. The next day Robert came in to find his locker crazy glued shut. He had to pry it open. Prying it open, though, cracked open the stink bombs that were expertly hidden inside. Robert should have know: when you play with fire you’re going to get burned.

These days the Khrises work for Tim Grant at The Disaster. He is the only person who can keep them in line. Unsurprisingly, few people in town seem to get it. But it’s simple, really. He treats them with respect and they would go to the ends of the earth for him.

The thing with fire is that it’s essential for humanity’s prosperity and growth. It just needs to be harnessed properly. I wish the locals spent more time getting to know the Khrises and less time judging their eccentricities. They would find two people that could give back so much more to the community than they’re being allowed to.

Copyright © 2010, Rolando Garcia.

#4 Steve Griffith

| November 4, 2010 | 0 Comments

From Lilly’s Blog

Writing a profile piece of my former boss, Steven Griffith, editor-in-chief of the Ephton Daily, is probably not the most professional thing I could do. And I would not blame you for questioning my credibility on this one. But the thing is, I really like Steve. He is a smart man. Arguably the smartest man I’ve met since coming back to town, even. And he’s a hell of a journalist. Under other circumstances I could have learned a lot from him. Unfortunately, Steve is practical to a fault. Or more precisely, practical at the expense of integrity. And really cynical.

When Blake Lewis rolled back into town, one of the first things he bought was the Ephton Daily. He claims to be hands off, allowing the paper to proceed uninterrupted by him, remaining  under Steve’s control. To the best of my knowledge, Steve is completely honest when he says Lewis does not check in on him nor otherwise direct the content. But that’s only because Lewis knows that Steve understands the deal: publish the kind of stories Lewis wants and the paper is free to operate as it always has. Like I said, Steve is smart. Lewis never had to tell him outright, Steve just got it. And Steve wants to cover his ass because he really likes the steady paycheck and the stability it affords him. News and honesty be damned.

I wish I could say this was hearsay or wild conjecture on my part. I also kind of hate talking about this in public. But, sorry Steve, I still believe in reporting the truth.

One night, shortly before I quit, we were all out for drinks. One by one the rest of the staff called it a night. Finally only Steve and I were left pounding back shots of Jack and drinking Buds (a girl develops a hell of a tolerance in this line of work, also I was raised in a restaurant, people). In a moment of shocking honesty, Steve looked up from his beer and stared into my eyes. “Why the hell are you here, kid? You are way too smart to write for these hicks. All they want are fluff pieces and gossip.” I explained to him that I still believed in this town, despite the cynicism it seems to have fallen prey to. “You mean Blake fucking Lewis,” he said. I did but I wasn’t drunk enough to play all my cards just yet. “I knew that asshole was bad news when he came back. I got some dirt on him, you know.” Well, that perked my interest. I wasn’t sure what to say but luckily Steve just continued talking: “The thing is, this jackass has raised my paycheck significantly since he bought the paper. I make more money playing his game than I would writing a real goddamn article. Actually, I would make no money writing a real goddamn article in this shit hole.”

I threw back another shot. “What about the truth?” I asked. He threw back his own shot. Steve thought about it for a second. Or maybe he was just holding back a burp. I don’t know. Finally he looked at me again. “I live in a hick town with one newspaper. Fuck the truth, I need to get paid. Go somewhere else if you actually want to be a reporter.”

Copyright © 2010, Rolando Garcia.

#3 Robert Quibral

| November 3, 2010 | 0 Comments

From Lilly’s Blog

Caution: Toadie at Work

If you talk to Robert Quibral he will tell you about how important he is to Ephton Valley and the big places he’s going. He wears expensive clothes and is impeccably groomed. The thing he does not realize is that he always has been and always will be a toadie. Everyone else knows it, poor Robert just hasn’t caught on.

In school Robert would act like he was too busy hanging out with cool kids to make time for anyone else. The more accurate description would be this: the so-called “cool kids” only kept him around because they could get anything they wanted from him. He was a tool that came at the relatively low price of having to let him hang out at their parties. Not that he did much more at those parties than stand in the background, laughing at their bad jokes (most of which he probably didn’t get) and agreeing with everything they said.

In grade school he was the hall monitor. He let the cool kids come and go as they pleased while ratting out the rest of us any and every chance he got. In high school his parents bought him a car and he immediately became the designated driver, chauffeuring his “friends” to and from parties. Rumor has it he would even drive couples up to Cole’s Point, the local make out spot for teenagers, and go hang out by himself in the woods while they had sex in his back seat. In fact, I think the only person not to get laid in Robert’s car was Robert himself. But he never passed up an opportunity to talk down to the lunch ladies and janitors or brag to the rest of us, as if he actually had any status. He was truly the worst and most pathetic type of toadie. If he did not have such misplaced arrogance I would feel bad that everyone, including his “friends,” laughed at him behind his back.

The trend continues to this day. It should come as no surprise that after school Robert hitched his wagon to Blake Lewis, the local Mr. Moneybags of Ephton Valley, the self-proclaimed prodigal son — no I’m definitely getting ahead of myself here. It’s really too early to get into my opinions on Blake Lewis. We’re talking about Robert, king brown noser (the Khrises would use more colorful terms to describe how much he kisses up but they may be too blue even for this blog). Robert would say he is Lewis’s right hand man. A mover and shaker in the “new empire.” A jet-setter. Someone important and on the rise. Apparently, being a right hand man means getting Lewis his coffee, dropping off his laundry, answering his phone and yelling at concierges to get Lewis a better room “ASAP!” My sources have also spotted him jet-setting with Lewis’s dog around the block and cleaning up after it.

When I last saw Robert he was with “friends” at my parents’ restaurant. He screamed at Manuel the waiter for under-cooking the steak. He babbled some nonsense along the lines of “I’ll have Mr. Lewis shut you down,” before sending it back. Manny was happy to take it back to the kitchen but he was even happier when he brought it back. Robert acted like he had achieved a major triumphant victory as he bit into his steak. I cringed. The kitchen staff laughed behind his back.

Copyright © 2010, Rolando Garcia.

#2 Tim Grant

| November 2, 2010 | 0 Comments

From Lilly’s Blog

Despite being my age, I never talked much to Tim Grant growing up. His family owned the local record store at the end of Commons Street. They were nice folk and I knew them better than I did him. Most kids did, simply because that was the only place to buy music around here.

In school Tim and his friends kept to themselves. They were the local misfits, the group everyone assumed spent all their time behind the bleachers smoking a lot of pot and hating everyone. Not that Tim ever projected that attitude himself. He seemed a generally friendly person, just extremely shy and happy to let his friends be the loud ones. The one thing everyone did know about him was that he was easily the smartest kid in school. Funny enough, it was the nerds that hated him for constantly coming out on top in the honor rolls, despite no seemingly real effort (and all the aforementioned pot smoking).

His senior year of high school, a couple of particularly loud and excitable underclassmen, Christopher and Kristine Paley (cousins most commonly referred to as the Khrises… but we’ll get to them at a later date) decided to nominate him for Class President. My most vivid memory of Tim was the day he walked into school and found the hallways plastered with “Vote for Tim! He Rules The Rest Freakin’ Drool!” posters prominently featuring his face. I will never forget his look of absolute terror upon seeing them. Surprisingly, the look of terror was quickly replaced with one of anger, smoke practically shooting out of his ears as he ran towards the freshmen lockers screaming “Christopher! Kristine!” at the top of his lungs. No one had ever seen him upset, let alone furious. I believe that that’s the reason why, despite ordering the Khrises to tear down the posters and never showing up to the debates, he still managed to come in second place. His determination impressed the hell out of everyone.

Despite his stellar grades, Tim chose to forgo college and take over the family business. He loved that record store, he loved spending his time there, so why waste time and money on college if he knew he would just be doing this afterwards? His parents, happy and supportive, decided to give him complete control and eventually left Ephton Valley for a life by the beach in California.

Not content to just sell music, Tim renamed the store “The Disaster” and expanded to pretty much sell any and all types of pop culture media. He had a DVD section, a book section, a comics books section and so on. You name it, he had. And if there was something he did not have, he would find someplace to order it for you. No one in Ephton Valley had ever seen anything quite like it. Most small artsy towns like Ephton have access to high literature and museums but pop culture is hard to find. The locals find it “beneath” them. Tim’s friends embraced the store and it became their local hangout as much as it did a business. On weekends, after store hours, they began holding parties in The Disaster that ran late into the night. The townsfolk dubbed them all the Insomniacs.

I am only really just getting to know Tim Grant through our new mutual friend. But without him and his little store, a lot of people our age would either have to conform to the very specific model of adulthood Ephton Valley promotes or leave their hometown all together. We all owe him a debt of gratitude, even though he would be the last person to accept it. He’s just doing what makes him happy.

Copyright © 2010, Rolando Garcia.

#1 Lilly Lopez

| November 1, 2010 | 2 Comments

From Lilly’s Blog

My name is Lillian Lopez but feel free to call me Lilly. Until recently I reported for Ephton Valley’s local paper.  I became a journalist because I wanted to report on the things that mattered and I wanted to report the truth. I did not want to write propaganda for a paycheck. If they won’t afford me that opportunity, I will forgo their paycheck and report here.

I am going to start by telling you about myself. I want you to know who I am, so you can decide for yourself if you want to trust me or not.

Lilly's Notebooks

Lilly's Notebooks

My parents moved to Ephton Valley in 1980. Most people have been here for generations and most of them are not Latinos but my parents fit right in. By the time I was born in 1985 their restaurant had become quite the social hub. I spent much of my childhood hanging out in that restaurant, even though few people noticed because I was so quiet. My parents thought I was daydreaming but they were wrong. I was very much present, taking in the sights and sounds, watching the people, listening to them, curious about their lives and how they intersected.

At night I would sit in bed with my notebook and write about everything I saw. I never told anyone about those notebooks; I guess I assumed they’d think I was some kind of creepy little kid voyeur. Through my writing I began to see a bigger picture emerge. For instance, one day I wrote down that the grocery store owner had been short and rude to the lady who ran the stationary store. A few days later I jotted down a conversation at school in which one boy told another that the stationary store was selling sodas cheaper than the grocery. Suddenly the truth of the previous encounter emerged.

There were also happy stories. Once I wrote about a particularly sweet encounter when the mailman was extra nice to one of our waitresses. Later, I heard from the kitchen staff that she was recently single again. No wonder the mailman was being so nice! They went on to get married.

Reporting has always been, to me, about seeing the bigger truth through the small moments. That excites me, that makes me happy. At the same time I understand the power it can have, so I believe it must be used responsibly.

I left Ephton Valley for college and thought I would never return. I had grown bored. Why settle for the stories of a small town when there were so many more stories and a bigger picture to decipher in a city? My arrogance lead me to believe my skills would be put to better use elsewhere. If only life was not so intent on proving us all wrong! I was happily working in a city for three years out of college when my dad called. My mother was sick, he said. I came running home. Luckily, my mother recovered and a disaster was averted. But what I came home to was not the town I grew up in. Things had changed. The big picture was no longer the same. My curiosity grabbed hold of me. I poked around and did not like what I saw. Since I could no longer get away with being a nosey kid hanging out in a restaurant, I got a staff job at the local paper. When they refused to publish a profile I wrote, for fear of retribution from the local business “tycoon” who also owns them, I quit.

And so I have come full circle. Only now I’m not keeping notebook stashed under my bed. This time around I want people to have the opportunity to read this. You may not like what it reveals about us or the world around us but the truth really will set you free.

If you got this far and are still with me, I can promise you an interesting ride. See you tomorrow.

Copyright © 2010, Rolando Garcia.