People To See, A Story From Broken

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Back in 2007, my wife, son and I moved into an old two-bedroom house in Valley Glen, right outside of Sherman Oaks, CA. It was built back in the 1920’s or so. The floors were all wood or marble, and the ceiling and doorways were all rounded. Where we were located, we were closer to the crappy neighborhoods than we were the fancy shops in Sherman Oaks. So, to make things easier on myself I would go into the heart of Van Nuys to do my errands.

Every Saturday and Sunday for as long as I can remember my son and I have had breakfast together at McDonald’s. And once we moved to Valley Glen we went every weekend to the McDonald’s on Victory and Kester. The neighborhood is fair, and we’re usually one of the only two people speaking English.

So why would I keep going back to this McDonald’s? Several reasons. First, the staff is always great to us, they remember us and they remember our order without us having to say it. And the primary reason is the personality of the place.

Let me explain. Every time I walk into the place there is an older Asian man with long gray hair, which should’ve been cut six months back, and dirty clothes, who sits with his coffee and stares. Sometimes at the wide-screen TV on the wall, sometimes at me. But in his, almost, comatose state, I don’t think he knows that he’s staring. He has become a fixture, a given like the furniture.

For the last year and a half, there has also been an older white man, I never caught his name, but he has snow-white hair, and a cut like Moe of the three stooges, and a flattened nose, like an ex-boxer. My son doesn’t like him because he always threatens to take his toys. And God forbid, you walk in with a woman. The old man will rush over and start telling jokes, then launch into a tap-dancing routine. Anything to win her over. Unfortunately, this old guy has been M.I.A. for the last month, I’m hoping he hasn’t passed.

Two weeks ago, my son and I got our money’s worth. As I’m walking up, there was a, somewhat, overweight guy standing outside drinking a soda. As I walk by he says “Hi.” I do a double-take and realize it’s a former employee, Bob or Bruce, who had quit a month or two earlier due to stress. I didn’t recognize him, I think he had suffered a breakdown and became homeless. I stopped and talked to him for a moment, and he just stared through me. I asked him what he was up to, and he said he needed a job. I nodded and said times were hard. He said he wanted to work in the McDonald’s parking lot as an attorney. I said what? He said he could walk around the lot and find things that were potential lawsuits, things that people could slip on, etc. I look at him for a few seconds and wished him good luck with that, and he yelled back “Looking for a job!”

When I ordered our food that morning I mentioned to the cashier that I was talking to their former co-worker out front, and the cashier shook his head and said: “He’s changed.” Yeah, he sure did.

Midway through our meal, I watched as a Hispanic family walked in, about four or five of them and following up the rear was a little boy wearing a white men’s full-length T-shirt. Used as pajamas. It’s not uncommon to see kids stroll in with their folks on the weekend in the previous evening’s sleepwear.

About twenty minutes later, as I am finishing up my breakfast, I hear a very high-pitched shrieking, almost pained. I look over and the boy with the white T-shirt is shrieking at the family at the table behind us. And while shrieking he has his shirt hiked up to his neck, revealing that– he is wearing nothing under the shirt. Now, if that isn’t weird enough, I normally would not have looked over, but the screaming startled me. So, I look over and physically the kid was neither male nor female. It freaked me out. I turned away as if I witnessed a mob hit.

It disturbed me for the rest of the day. But all in all, this has become our breakfast home. It has far more personality than any place in Sherman Oaks would.

In November of 2008, we moved to Lake Balboa, and the Kester McDonald’s is still our weekend spot. No flashers have interrupted our breakfast before or since, knock on wood.

#michaelessington #broken

 

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Pride, A Story From Broken

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Over my many years on this Earth, there are two things that I’ve come to know as fact. And that is the stupider you are, the more important respect and your culture seem to be.

Some, may not see this, but believe me, those of us that have sat back with a beer in hand, in what would be perceived as the projects, and heard the battle cries of the mentally weak, “Oh no, that bitch ain’t coming in here ‘till she learns to respect my house.”

Let’s not forget the always enjoyable declaring of your race, creed or color, “Oh shit, you gotta respect my Puerto Rican ass!”

Now, some may say as a sexy Caucasian man I don’t understand. Sure, sure, I received those white privilege checks. Cashed them even.

The point is I have never met anyone, with an IQ over fifty that gave a shit if I recognized their cultural background and/or if I respected them.

A few Christmas’ back, I was standing outside in the cold night air, when two guys decided to come out and discuss why one guy didn’t respect the other. And as predicted, they exchanged blows. I jumped in to break it up and went home, slightly, bruised.

In reality, who gives two fucks if someone respects you? But when you are at the bottom rung of the evolutionary ladder what else do you have? Respect and skin color.

#michaelessington #broken

 

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Poor John, A Story From Broken

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In 1986, my brother and I were involved in, what would be considered, a mini-gang war on our street in suburban Reseda. I was two years out of high school, working a late shift at a mall record shop; I came home at about 9:00 or 10:00 on a Friday night to find my mom pacing the house, looking through every curtain in the place, generally freaking out. I immediately asked her what’s wrong, and my mom tells me the following:

My brother has a girlfriend at school, due to some craziness, my brother transfers to another school; his girlfriend is still at the old school. A new guy starts digging her, so he tells her that my brother is basically honking on every chick he sees at the new school (bet you didn’t see that coming).

So my brother calls this guy John, and tells him to keep his mouth shut or they are going to have a problem. All seems cool until one night John goes up to Skateland in Northridge (Parthenia and Lindley, it’s still there), gets to drinking and hatches a plan, he chats up every little Cholo he can find in the place and by the end of the night he has recruited three cars full of people to come attack. The last bit of business to take care of – the call. He called my brother and essentially tells him this is the last night of his life. That’s when I get home to a panicky mom.

I tell her that everything will be all right; I’d take care of whatever is happening. I went to the kitchen and retrieved a foot long fishing knife, it had ridges on the blade and a “U” shaped hook on the nose. My mom comes into my room, I already have the knife down my waistband in the back of my pants and said my brother received another call, and John said “gang-members from Pacoima” are on their way. Again, I assure her no harm will come.

I sit in my room, at the front of the house, with the curtain pulled back, watching everything on our street.

After about twenty minutes three cars drive super slow down our street, pause in front of the house, then park in front the house next door. I slipped out the back door and went to the front yard through the back gate. There they were, fifteen to twenty wannabe vatos and losers recruited by John. All standing on the sidewalk across from our house, almost as if, now that they’re here, they’re not sure as to the next step.

So, I walk across the street and in the middle of all these “gangsters” is John, I ask him politely, what it is that he needs, exactly? His response was, “Fuck you get your brother.” So I tell him, that was rude, and I am willing to handle this situation, either with him or the biggest guy in his “crew.”

Right as this is happening a neighbor of ours, Chuck comes walking out. Chuck, kind of yelling, “What’s up, Mike?” Chuck lived with his older brother, his older brother’s wife, Donna, and his younger Brother Dwayne – who we affectionately called Brain-Dead Dwayne, for his love of Weed. Chuck and his family were basically white trash, but they were cool.

Chuck sees me talking to John, and the hesher blood in Chuck gets pumped, and he starts asking John, “What are you going to do now? You came all the way out here.” Then Chuck’s sister-in-law Donna comes walking out with a sprinkler key as a cane. She asks John what the problem was, and he spouts off with a “Fuck you bitch!” Donna bangs him in the nuts with the sprinkler key, John doubles over.

As that’s happening my brother looks out the window and sees me and Chuck and Donna talking, so he comes out and says, “What’s up guys?” Then he sees John, and it becomes a slow-motion NFL clip, he comes running over to John and grabs him by the throat and crotch and slams him to the ground, sits on his chest and pummels his face.

Then all hell breaks loose, as I’m trying to get my brother back in the house this white guy in John’s crew who uses arm crutches to get around starts beating the hell out of me from behind, I turn to block the right crutch, and the knife I had forgotten about starts cut me in the back, so I take it out and as I do this guy, Chris, charges me wailing with the crutches, I turn around to push him and I end up cutting his shirt and chest open. Everybody screams and starts to scatter, “He’s got a knife.”

Twenty seconds from the time my brother got John on the ground, blood and screams were everywhere, both belonging to John. He was crying, “Get him off of me, get him off of me!” This attack of twenty guys-on-one hadn’t quite worked out his way.

I start to pull my brother away and he grabs my hand to push me back and he grabs the knife and cuts himself, I was two for two here. Finally, Chuck and I get my brother up, and towards the house.

Everybody runs to their cars, just then my mom walks out and starts yelling at the cars, “Get the fuck off my street!” My brother and I laugh, this is a woman who is about five feet four inches, and up to that point had never said “Darn,” but now here she is a lioness trying to protect her cubs. Funny stuff.

As John is driving away, he throws a few more threats; we throw whatever we can find in the gutter at their cars.

Chuck pulls me aside and says he heard one of them saying they were going back to Skateland, “Let’s get ‘em.” We hop into Chuck’s black truck and go.

We tell the security at Skateland we are there to pick up our little brothers; they let us in, nothing. We hang out in the parking lot for a half an hour, nothing.

We pit-stop at the corner liquor store we buy some beer, and I buy a copy of Penthouse with Samantha Fox on the cover, outstanding.

I get home and my mom and brother are stressed because it appears that John has taken a bite out of my brother’s hand, I confess to the knife, he replies “I thought you were on my side, and you stab me.” The knife was stupid.

Some years later, my brother is invited to a party and everybody who was in those cars that night is there, all of them want to make amends, talk to my brother about this and that, everything thing is cool until midway through the party, Chris, the guy with the crutches starts getting drunk and approaches my brother (crutches are now gone) and says, “Your brother is a pussy for pulling a knife and cutting my chest open.” My brother basically tells him to take a hike, but he reaches out to push my brother, my brother shoves him, so hard in fact, that he goes through a huge tropical fish tank. My brother apologizes to the host and asks to have the bill for the tank sent to him.

It took hours to sleep that night in 1986 that kind of adrenaline is hard to shake. This was one of many “wars” my brother and I went through, my brother, often times, did the most damage. 99% of the time, no cops were involved. Weird.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎broken

 

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Taxicab Confessions, A Story From Broken

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Years ago I was watching an episode of Taxi Cab Confessions (remember that show?). And one of the guys that hopped into the back of the cab was a subway cop. Like they did, they baited the guy long enough until they got him talking.

One of his worst experiences while working the subway was this:

A guy was standing too close to the edge and was somehow pushed over and onto the subway tracks. While he was on the tracks the subway came and hit him. The lower half of his body was stuck under the tracks. When the train hit him it twisted the top of his body completely around. Now the subway cop had the horrible job of going down onto the tracks and telling the guy that he is alive at the moment, but once they attempt to remove him that his body will spin back around and sever his spine and he will die instantly.

I can’t think of a more horrible task. The guy is alive, though traumatized, and looking at you, understanding your words, but trying to comprehend the fact that if moved he is dead.

I’ve never had to deal with death like that. Most of the people that I’ve known have gone very quickly.
In 1984, while in barber school, I was leaving through the back door one day at lunch, when, about, twenty feet away from me, I heard a small cherry-picker whirring away and lifting a guy up into the air. The guy got out of the picker and was attempting to wrap a belt around his waist and the telephone pole.

I watched him leave the cherry-picker, loop the belt and then I saw him fall and hit his head on the curb. For a second every one of the four other pole workers yelled, “Oh my god, shit,” etc. Then everything went insanely quiet. For the next five minutes, it was like the city shut down.

I watched, after what felt like hours, as one of the crew members ran to the truck and radioed for help.

I stood there for a little bit, kind of, stunned. And not really able to move, then all at once the world started again. Cars flying by, the crew started chatting to bystanders. In an instant, everything was back to normal, with the exception of a guy lying in the gutter with his head on the curb.

It was all very surreal. I had to return to school. At 2:30, when I was leaving, the crew was gone as was the body. That night I popped on the news and there was no mention of the guy. Kind of sad.

#michaelessington #broken

 

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Karate Man, A Story From Broken

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From 1989 to 1992, I worked at Prudential Insurance in Woodland Hills, California. I started at, pretty much, at the bottom of the Service Support Department. I hustled for a bit and got into the MIS Department.

The way the building was designed, it was a giant circle, the manager’s offices were in the center and everyone else sat outside in the open. From up above, it would look like a giant donut with management being the hole.

Once I made it to the MIS Unit, I sat three desks from our manager’s office. Outside of the offices was the main corridor/walkway to the building. So, if anyone came from out of state or from the other building they would come down the corridor and walk past my desk.

After about three weeks of being in the MIS Unit, I started seeing this guy, who worked in another wing of the building, walk by. Everyday he walked by. He would head to the back of our wing to the claims support unit and meet with the supervisor; the supervisor’s name was Marty.

Anyway, this guy would walk by every day. As he walked by he would kind of mad-dog me. What made this kind of funny is that this guy had a wandering eye like Biggie Smalls. So, when he would mad-dog me it was confusing, he was frowning, but staring at the floor and ceiling at the same time. On top of this, he had fire-engine red hair and was attempting to grow a beard, but it was patchy like he glued puffs of red pubes on his mug.

This was the routine, he’d walk by, mad dog me and I’d laugh. This lasted for about six months.

Then that Halloween Mr. Fire-engine came dressed in a martial arts uniform complete with a black belt. This cracked me up. I called him Karate Man for the rest of the day.

Later that afternoon somebody came to my desk looking for Karate-Man, they asked if I had seen Richard or Rick (I’m fuzzy on the name). They asked for him and I said, “Oh, Karate Man.” They said, “Oh boy, don’t joke around about that. He’s serious about his martial arts. He’s been instructing for some years.” This blew me away. He’s come off as such a douche bag and because of that, I’ve dismissed him without much thought.

From then on out I’d watch him or mad-dog back, but I didn’t antagonize him — much.

Then in 1992, my unit was laid-off. One day we were working, the next day I’m watching Richard Bey in my underwear with a tub of ice cream (joking here).

Some time went by, six months, and I started talking to my old coworkers again. When the layoffs happened, I was sick of all of them, even though they didn’t do anything wrong, I took a break.

So, one night in 1993, I’m at home on a Sunday night. Clicking channels and I’m half paying attention to the TV as America’s Most Wanted comes on. The opening story is a guy that instructs at a martial arts studio, and he is very interested in a female student of his. Well, the student isn’t into him – at all. He waits for her after class, offers her a ride, she says no, they argue, finally she gets in the car. He drives a bit, pulls over puts a move on her, she tries to get out of the car, and he gets her in a headlock, snaps her neck and then throws her in a dumpster. He heads for New York.

After the segment, they show the guy’s picture — it’s Karate Man from my job. I immediately call my former co-worker Steve Simmons and tell him to turn on channel 11 (Fox) and wait for the recap. He calls me back ten minutes later, out of breath, stuttering, saying, “This is the guy that mad-dogged us everyday. He could have killed us!” I was a bit stunned myself. I blew it off, “No, I’d have kicked his ass.”

I thought about it a little over the next week, and then on Sunday Steve called me back to tell me that America’s Most Wanted led to his arrest in New York.

The thing that hit me the most, aside from this woman losing her life to this douche bag, was the fact that I couldn’t read this guy. I saw a dork, not a murderer. Creepy.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎broken

 

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Help Thy Neighbor, A Story From Broken

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I went to McDonald’s for my daily cup of coffee when a homeless man approached me. He asked if I had some change, then he mumbled something about what the change was for. I said I didn’t have any change, but I would after I bought the coffee. He said great and stood next to me with his hands folded in front of his chest.

We stood there for a few seconds waiting for my turn at the register. He commented on the weather, and then I turned and asked him if he was hungry?

He said, “Yes, very.” So, I told him, let’s get breakfast. He told me what he wanted and I ordered for both of us. He thanked me two or three times and said I don’t need the change now; I only needed it to get food. Thank you.

We sat down and ate. He put some of his food in his backpack and ate the rest and left.
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‪Swung by the same McDonald’s I went to the day before, thinking my homeless friend would be there. Ordered my coffee and waited for about forty-five minutes. No show. I figured if he was around I’d feed him.

Yesterday when we were in line together, he asked me the time. I wasn’t wearing my watch so I ballparked it and said, “Around 9:00.” He said, “Oh, it’s still early.”

I guess being homeless you get up and get moving when the sun comes up without really knowing the exact time.

Anyway, I’ll pop in tomorrow to see if he’s around.

#michaelessington #broken

 

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Twain’s, A Story From Broken

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I just drove past Twain’s on Ventura and Coldwater. It’s empty now, but it reminded me of the last time I was there, I was thrown out and/or banned from the place.

Twenty years or so ago, before my son was born and I hadn’t jumped the broom or stomped the glass or gave up bachelorhood. I took my future wife to Twain’s for a late breakfast. We sat outside to enjoy the sun. We were lucky enough to have the worst waiter I had ever experienced at that point in my life. I ordered a standard breakfast plate, eggs, toast, and bacon, not sure if pancakes were involved. The waiter brought each item on a separate plate — fifteen minutes apart. Within forty minutes or so there were over ten plates covering the table.

When I’d run out of coffee I’d walk inside go behind the counter and pour it. The host, a guy with a curly, shaggy mullet would shoot me a dirty look.

After an hour the table was too full to put my coffee cup down and once we got the last of our food the waiter never came back. So, I stacked all the dishes and placed them at the register. The host sneered and said something the along the lines of me being rude for doing his job. I shook my head and said, “If you did your fuckin’ job I could sit and enjoy my coffee.” He looked shocked and said, “Pay your bill and get out of here.”

So, I pushed it a bit, “Make me.”

He looked frustrated, “I’ll call the cops.”

I smiled, “It’ll take a minimum of twenty minutes for them to arrive. You know the shit I could do in that time?”

“Leave and never come back!”

“When I finish my coffee.”

Then I went outside and explained to my future wife that Twain’s did not want to hire me as a waiter.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎broken‬

 

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Helping The Needy, A Story From Broken

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On Friday, February 17, 2012, I hopped in the car and spent damn near an hour to get downtown to the La Cita bar.

Anyway, after approximately an hour and eight acts of severe road rage, and the GPS re-mapping my directions I get there.

Here’s the thing the place has a great outdoor patio that plays great punk music until about 9:00 pm, and then it changes into a Spanish dance club. Fun place.

So, shortly after 9:00 p.m. I walk two friends, Kathy and Sasheen, out to their car. We walk out of La Cita and head down Hill St. when out of the corner of my eye I see a homeless man standing staring off into space.

Normally, when I’m walking female friends or women in my family I put myself in between them and the homeless guy or the shaved head guy with his area code on his forehead, that kind of thing.

But the weirdest thing happened, just as we’re right to the homeless guy, my friend Kathy Fox, runs over, calls the guy by his name, hugs him, stuffs some money in his hand, and starts talking to him about music, and different events around town.

Now, giving money to a homeless guy isn’t amazing, nor is it the point of the story, it was the physical change in the guy. He was staring into space, catatonic. What Kathy did was show some kindness and respect, not pity (married guys, remember years ago when you were single had were treated with kindness and respect? Yeah, me neither.)

Kathy treated this guy as a person. No one wants to be out there on a cold night, hoping to grab a few bucks for a warm cup of coffee.

This is not my typical punk memory; it was more of an eye-opener. I try to help, I give money when I can, but Kathy went one step further, she made a connection, talked to him and made him feel human, even if it was only for a few minutes.

I was humbled. Cheers, Kathy!

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎broken‬

 

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Harley, A Story From Broken

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Back in either July or August of 1997, I met an older guy who went by the name of Harley. He was an old biker. He looked like the mountain man from The Oak Ridge Boys. Long gray beard, long salt and pepper hair, it was hard to make out his age, late fifties, early sixties, who knows.

Anyhow, I met Harley within a week or so of getting to Pitchess Detention Center – East Facility in Castaic, California. He was the second in charge of the “white car.” The head guy was a dude named Red. Red was a shoeshine, so he was never around. He was always buffing the officer’s black boots.

In Red’s absence, Harley oversaw all the day-to-day drama amongst the whites, or as we were called the “Woods.”
Harley was originally sentenced to nine months at Pitchess, but told the judge he wouldn’t be attending any meetings when he was released nor would he pay any fines. So, they gave him an additional nine months, and then asked if he cared to reconsider? He told them to fuck off. He did the entire eighteen months.

Harley never wore anything, but the issued pair of orange pants, maybe some socks. At some point over the prior couple of decades, ole Harl was involved in a serious knife fight that left a massive scar from his belt line up to the center of his chest. Looking at his stomach it made you think of a mountainscape in an old painting, all the lumps, and crevices.

Harley took a liking to me, for whatever reason. I think he liked that I would read. A bulk of the whites that came through there were pretty sucked-up guys that were on meth. Then they would dry out, eat and then turn racist.

I didn’t care for the whole race trip.

Anyway, Harley had one book he was proud of, the M edition of the encyclopedia. That was his pride. He told me after a week or so that I could read it when I wanted to, and every day, he would come by with some tidbit from the newspaper, one day there was an article about Phil Tayor from Iron Butterfly. Turns out Taylor disappeared in 1995, and one afternoon while Harley and I were locked away Taylor’s body was found at the bottom of Decker Canyon. Harley spent a good forty-five minutes telling me he was murdered for his ability to time travel. I listened, walked away and tried to forget the conversation.

A month or so later, and the bulky white guy in the next dorm was upset about the amount of time I spent around black people. I was a barber, so I was forced to work with one Hispanic guy and one black guy. Then we were forced to bunk side by side. Anyway, this guy Tommy thought I should have requested a transfer to get away from people of color.

Talked to Harley about it, and he said he would help me move bunks, I said I didn’t want to move. He seemed puzzled, I said these other barbers were cool to me, and Tommy was an asshole.

Harley withdrew his encyclopedia offer, and we rarely talked after that. Harley was deep in the race thing.

#michaelessington #broken

 

Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell