Diego, A Story From Broken

Broken

Back when my boy was three or four, I was working at a Spanish TV and radio station in Burbank. It was around this time that Lucas was addicted to the Diego cartoon.

Lucas would give me Diego updates every day, what animals were rescued, which ones were fed, etc.

One day on my lunch break, while heading to the bank, I passed Nickelodeon Studios (home of Dora and Diego). I figured I’d buzz them once I was back at work.

Once I finished at the bank and got back to my desk, I pulled up Nick.com and found a number. Buzzed them and told them my boy loved their shows and I was curious if they had any promotional stuff he could have, like a Dora picture or a Diego poster or whatever. The person on the phone said, “Yeah, I’m sure we can dig something up.”

I said, cool. And drove over there on my break. Parked and clicked the buzzer on the security door, “Yes, can I help you?” I explained the promo stuff, they let me in.

Once inside, it was like an ant farm, people running in every direction. Then some young Tom Cruise looking guy (you know, messy, but controlled hair) walked up and asked what I was looking for. I explained. He stood there for a minute when another Tom Cruise type stops to help. Within minutes I had five people trying to figure out how to get me what I wanted.

You know how there are those people you loathe at first glance? Well, this blonde white woman walked over and said, “What’s going on here?” One of the Tom Cruise’s explained.

The loathsome blonde looks me up and down, sneers and says, “Look, I’m headed to a meeting, I don’t have time to stand around and look for Dora and Diego pictures.”

I’m not sure why this bothered me the way it did, but it did.

“Nobody asked you to stand around, go to your fucking meeting.”

“What, what?”

“Go.”

I headed towards the door. Tom Cruise number one walked me out. He apologized for not having any pictures. I apologized for cursing. He laughed.

On the drive back to work I figured out why she pissed me off so much. It’s classism. She was a VP or executive, so she had this false sense of importance. I hate that.

#MichaelEssington #Broken

 

 

Salvation

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1995, A Story From Broken

Broken

Back in 1995, I found out my live-in girlfriend was seeing/carrying-on with two different guys. So, I packed as much as I could into a black hefty bag, paged a friend and left. But not before I kissed my one-year-old daughter on the forehead as she slept in her crib.

The old friend pulled into my driveway, I walked out. I would’ve left in my car, but just weeks earlier the engine on my ride died, it cracked, croaked and everything else. I sold it for scraps.

As I walked out the door my, now, ex yells, “If you walk out now, you can never come back.” I nodded and said, I knew. As I closed the door, I heard rumblings of “Punk ass white boy.”

I knew I needed transportation, a job and something to keep me busy—quick.

A friend I had lost touch with, about eight years earlier tracked me down and got a job at Kinko’s. She was dating the manager there and said I could grab any shift I wanted. I chose the night shifts. Later the better. Night time is when I missed my daughter the most. Once I had money the manager let me take the Kinko’s van home on weekends, making it easier for me to take my daughter on weekends.

After about six months they promoted me to assistant manager in the computer department and then moved across town to another Kinko’s. I spent the next couple of months trying to move up and out to a different location. I became a cleanup manager. When different Kinko’s would end a computer department, they would send me into overall and streamline everything. Once that was done, I’d leave. I was hired full-time at the Pasadena location.

I’ve always loved Pasadena; it’s like Downtown L.A. without being as filthy. And 90% less homeless people peeing in alleys.

When I first got to Pasadena, the computer staff did not like me. I had already earned the reputation as the “cleanup” guy, and no one likes things being changed.

Over time everything fell into place. Everything became familiar fast. For example, there was a Hispanic homeless man that sat on a bench a half a block down and every day we’d have the same conversation as if we were both stuck in the movie Groundhog Day:

“Con permiso, you have matches?”

“No, I have no matches.”

“You have cigarettes?”

“No, I don’t have a cigarette.”

“You have marijuana?”

I wouldn’t need to answer because he would laugh so hard he’d be rolling off the bench.

I would see the marijuana man daily, but one of my favorite people would be opera man. Once a week this little-challenged man, who wore glasses and was about five feet five, would walk into Kinko’s, stand in the middle of the lobby and bust into the loudest, booming opera you have ever heard. He would scare the shit out of some people, while others would ask me, “What station are you playing?” Then after a couple of minutes, he’d turn and walk out the door.

Then one of the coolest oddballs was this black lady (who was also mentally challenged) that came to the store about once a month. She would walk in and wave over every Kinko’s employee and hand them one or two blue cans of some kind of Spam-like canned meat.

She was quick about this. I’d be in my office and she would come up behind me and drop two cans on my desk and bolt out of there. Not a word was spoken. The one time I was able to make eye-contact with her, she just smiled and rushed away.

Something about all the chaos kept the customers on their toes. If an employee was starting to get chewed out and Opera-Man popped up the customer would be completely out of sorts and have to restart the thought process. It was kind of cool.

After a year of working in Pasadena, I was transferred to Glendale and then over to Monrovia. Finally, I decided I didn’t want to hear the sound of copy machines anymore and I left to work for a design studio that was contracted with Universal Pictures.

I still think about Pasadena all the time.

#MichaelEssington #Broken

 

 

Salvation

Interview, A Story From Broken

Broken

In October 2015, I was hanging out at a club downtown when I was approached by a female and asked to do an interview.

At first, I kind of, said, “Nah, I’m tired, I have nothing to say.”

The response was, “Come on, I’ll ask you different stuff, comic book stuff, movie stuff. Growing up in L.A. stuff.”

“Fine. When?”

“At the end the night.”

“If I’m here, we will do it.”

I walked away to talk with people outside.

End of the night I saw none of the interview people around, so, I said my goodbyes and left.

“Hey, wait. Don’t you want to do the interview?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“OK, so check it out, our last interview we did in the men’s room. We both squeezed into a stall and did the interview.”

“Never gonna fuckin’ happen.”

“What? Why?”

“Are you fuckin’ with me? In a stall?”

“No, it’ll be fun.”

“I have kids. I will not have them pull up YouTube and watch me in a stall with some broad. Not going to happen.”

“OK, fine. Check it out, the first interview we did, this punk rock singer did his interview while taking a piss down the street from the Redwood.”

“Not fuckin’ doing it.”

“Why? We’re doing edgy, funny stuff.”

“I’m the wrong guy to ask to do an interview for your channel.”

“OK, fine. No bathroom stuff.”

“I’m not sure I want to be interviewed.”

“OK, Nothing too crazy. I’m just going to change to this other microphone.”

“Why?”

“It’s a dildo microphone.”

“The fuck?”

“Just speak into it. It’s a real microphone.”

“Let me see if you lost your fuckin’ mind — talk to the dildo?”

“Yeah, it’s funny.”

“Check it out, I’m outta here. Enjoy the fuckin’ microphone.”

“Wait, why?”

“Did you miss the whole, I have kids” thing?”

“OK, this will be boring.”

“I’m doing the interview Miles Davis-style.”

“What does that mean?”

“I will stand with my back to the camera and only answer some questions.”

“Oh my god?”

“Maybe.”

“OK, real quick. A regular interview.”

“OK.”

They never put the interview on their channel. I do not understand why.

#michaelessington #broken

 

 

Salvation

Todd, A Story From Broken

Broken

I have always loved living in L.A., the good, the bad and the smog; I’ll always live here. Whether it’s running out of gas in the middle of Compton or asking a Black guy for a jump-start on the day of the Rodney King verdicts, L.A. has always had an interesting adventure for me. Throughout high school, I would venture further and further into L.A. for no other reason than to see what’s out there.

My father used to work in City Hall, and back when I was a kid, he took me downtown to the jewelry district. We found an alley to park in, and as we’re leaving the car, I hear a real loud ruckus down another alley, as we walk by I see an old Black guy screaming by a dumpster and throwing trash, screaming “And don’t come around here again mother fucker!” I looked up and down the alley — there was no one there, I look up at my dad, and he says, “Walk in front of me and keep moving.” I was in shock, I saw a man having a very intense fight with — no one and my dad was unfazed. As the weeks and months went by, the more fascinated I became with the incident. Anyone living in L.A. now is unmoved by the incident, with the homeless situation now, this happened in your backyard this morning, but in the early, to mid-70s this was wild stuff.

Fast-forward twenty years to 1995; I was working the late shift at Kinko’s in their computer department. Todd is bored and calls me at work and says “I want to go somewhere tonight, if you’re up for it, I’ll pick you up from work, and can you sneak out before midnight?” I tell him I’ll get somebody to punch out for me, be here at 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. Todd picks me up, and as he backs up, he says, “So, where do we go?” I thought he had a plan, so I say, let’s go to Hollywood, and go to a coffee shop or one of the weird little shops on Melrose. Todd looks a little spooked and says “it’s late and isn’t there too many weirdos out there?” Too funny! I tell him I’d hold his hand and protect him; little did I know he’d hold me to that.

We get to Hollywood Blvd, and I say let’s go to the International Bookstand. It’s a great newsstand off Hollywood and Argyle. Todd circles the block once or twice and finds a place to park. We walk west towards Argyle, when a guy who looks like Charles Manson if Manson smoked crack and took steroids, steps in front of me and says “Listen, brother, we need to talk about Jesus.” Politely as I can muster at the hour, tell him, no thanks, and another time. Manson grabs me by the arm, and says, “No brother, we’ll talk about Jesus now!” My instant reaction to being grabbed was to throw my arm out, which knocked his arm off me, and knocked him back and a foot. Manson gives me this glazed look and puts two fingers in his mouth and whistles loud. 8 or 9 guys who look identical to Manson surround me. All these guys are holding literature geared towards junkies finding Christ, and now they’re circling me, then Manson says, “This fucker doesn’t like Jesus.” They keep closing in, and then coming from a block or two away, I hear “leave my friend alone.” My “friend” Todd was running down the block, but as he was running, became concerned with my well-being and decided to yell at my assailants.

I knew that if need be I could whip a couple of these guys, a few years earlier, I fought super-middleweight around L.A. on the amateur circuit, but I was now surrounded by ten ex-junkie, Jesus loving, Manson freaks. Then I hatched a plan, I started pacing and I remembered a story this Persian girl I once dated told me. She said one time back in Iran she took a cab, and mistakenly sat up front, the cab driver took it as a come on, so he started driving her out of the city, and when she asked where he was taking her, he said to “rape” her. She didn’t know what to do, so she started shaking, he asked her if she was scared, she said, “No, she was excited.” This turned him off, and he stopped the cab and threw her out.

So, as I paced, I decided to start ranting like I was into this, I started throwing random jabs like I was warming up for a fight, then I said come on, “Let’s do this,” the crowd came in even closer, then I said “Let’s fight, who’s going to go first?” Just like that the crowd of ten starting hemming and hawing, and saying stuff like “Look at the time, I’m supposed to be back at church at 11:30.” Everybody left.

I spent about thirty minutes looking for Todd, I found him in the newsstand reading. I looked at him, wanting to stomp him, and I growled, what happened to you back there? He looks up and says, “I didn’t want to get in the way, and you seemed to have everything under control.” Under control, there were ten of them! “Yeah, you’re a good fighter, let’s go eat.”

Todd and I never returned to Hollywood together again.

#michaelessington #broken

 

 

Salvation

Mexican Radio, A Story From Salvation

I landed a job. I’ve been working for, just shy of, two months. Your head goes to weird places when you’re unemployed. There are dozens of things you want to do, a million things you want to buy, and sit and wait until the work comes.

At my previous job, I worked as a “Radio Research Director” for a company that owned 16 TV stations, and 29 radio stations. I would put together rating sheets, promotional items, you name it.

It was a good paying job, and I was with them for about 3 years. The funny thing about this job was that two things that were most important for this job were two things I didn’t know shit about.

Number 1: the Company, that owned the 16 TV stations, and 29 radio stations, was Hispanic. I didn’t know Spanish. I knew enough to curse out your average a-hole but not much more. I’d learn.

Number 2: Everything in this company was done in Microsoft PowerPoint. I never opened the program. I’d learn.

I was one of, maybe, five Caucasians working there. But you know what? Everybody was cool as hell. There were one or two ball busters, but all, in all the people were cool. Every morning as I walked in I heard the Wall of Voodoo song in my head: “I’m on a Mexican Radio” as I walked past the two glass DJ booths.

The company had an in-house AM radio station and the more popular FM station also in-house. It was always a blast to watch the various Ranchera bands come in to play live on one station. They’d have their trumpets and accordions. It was wild.

When the ratings dip layoffs happen. Ratings dipped they let me go.

One of the weirdest experiences of the job was meeting a famous singer from Mexico named Valentin Elizalde.

The rumor behind a lot of these singers from Mexico is that the Mexican drug cartels “adopt” these up-and-coming singers. On the condition, you sing about the cartels and mention them in your concerts. They have the money to turn you into a superstar in a matter of months. But the downside is if a rival cartel likes your music, they will ask you to stop talking about the other cartel, if you don’t they kill you.

I met Valentin in 2006, a big hulking guy, and a few months later he was shot up in his SUV after leaving a concert. He was rumored to have started his performance by saying this is for my enemies (rival cartels) and ended the show by again saying, this was for my enemies.

If you search online, the crime scene photos are all over. Valentin and the whole SUV full of people shot up by automatic weapons.

Valentin was one of many Mexican singers gunned down like this. If you’re interested, do a search on legendary singer Chalino Sanchez, and his son. It makes the Biggie/Tupac feud look like small potatoes.

Shortly after I wrote about some of the Ranchero singers that were being killed for having the wrong allegiances, sometime between 2006 and 2008 I met a DJ team, male and female, that hosted a show first on one station, and then moved to another. They were not too popular and their show was dropped. I talked to them briefly to try and formulate a one-paragraph bio. The thing that stuck in my head was having them telling me that they were asked to leave Mexico because they would mention the Juárez murders on a daily basis. Here is where I was stumped. I didn’t know where Juárez was, and I didn’t know about any murders. They told me a bit and then suggested I search it out on the web.

#michaelessington # salvation

 

Salvation

Cigars & Divorce, A Story From Salvation

Had a guy in the cigar shop announce that his divorce was final as of today. Everyone gave him high-fives, and he passed out two cigars to his friends. Everyone remarked how fast the process went through forty-nine days.

It seemed odd the whole celebration. I grew up, kind of, viewing divorce as a failure. So, I don’t know if this was just a show of male bravado or if he was with someone that was ruining his life.

Whatever happened, it doesn’t seem like many people value marriage much.

#michaelessington #salvation

 

Salvation

The Fighter, A Story From Salvation

Back in the early 90s, when I was trying to go pro as a boxer, my trainer set me up to fight a guy named Jim Tunney. Jim was the grandson of boxing legend Gene Tunney or great-grandson.

Anyway, Jim became my first fight as a professional. He was small but quick and strong. One of my hardest fights. I scored a draw. But, I would say I lost.

What was funny about this fight was that my coach, Morris Lehr was losing his memory? He would say things when I got to the gym like, “Oh, there you are, your brother was here looking for you,” when I knew my brother was in Seattle on vacation.

So, my fight with Jim Tunney morphed over a matter of days too, “You fought damn hard against James Toney. You’ll beat him next time.”

I’d say, “Morris, I fought Jim Tunney.”

“I know who the fuck you fought, I was there.”

Then little by little I became a legend at the gym for fighting James Toney to a draw.

Last year, when I hung out at the same place as James Toney I thought about telling him the story, but given his temperament, he’d want to take me to the parking lot to fight for the imaginary rematch.

#michaelessington #salvation

 

Salvation