I have always loved living in L.A., the good, the bad and the smog; I’ll, probably, always live here. Whether it’s running out of gas in a bad neighborhood 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 man 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 probably unmoved by the incident, with the homeless situation now, this probably happened in your backyard this morning, but in the early to mid ‘70’s this was wild stuff.

Fast-forward twenty years to 1995; I was working the late shift at Kinko’s in their computer department. This guy 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 pm. 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 weirdo’s 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 of Hollywood and Argyle. Todd circles the block once or twice, and finds a place to park. We start walking 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.” I politely, as I can muster at the hour, tell him, no thanks, and maybe another time. Manson instantly 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 of me, and knocked him back and a foot. Manson gives me this glazed look and puts two fingers in his mouth and whistles really, really loud. Instantly 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-junkies, 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 casually 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.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie


With Christmas coming up, I started trying to remember my best holiday memory. I’d have to say my best was in December 1969 or 1970, I was three or four years old. How or why I still remember this I have no idea. My folks decided to take me to see Santa, but I was going through this, about, two-year freak-out when it came to costumes. I freaked-out every time I saw a clown or Santa or anything like that.

As soon as I came to terms with costumes, I saw the Talking Tina episode of the Twilight Zone. I was right after all; these damn toys can kill you.

Anyway, my folks packed me up and took me to my grandfather’s Carpentry Union for my visit with Santa. Mom and dad thought I would be jazzed to find that my grandfather was the Santa Claus for this occasion. Everything was cool until I saw Santa; I spun on my heels and ran a good two blocks before anyone realized I was gone. As I rounded the first corner, I spotted a sign in front of a pizza joint, I don’t know what you call these signs – they look like upside down V’s. So, I tucked myself in-between the boards and stayed. I saw feet running past me, and people yelling my name, but I stayed hidden and silent for about twenty minutes. Santa, sorry fat man, you’ll have to find another kid to kill – I got you figured out.

As time went by I kept hearing my dad calling for me, and I started getting nervous. Would he be happy once he found me, or would he be pissed that I put him through all this shit? So, I sheepishly came out and announced, “Here I am.” Now, my father, like his father, and I was blessed with a fiery and sometimes insane temper. He was, in his own way happy to find me, but it was more like mumbling behind teeth that were gritting. He swooped me up, and explained that Santa was grandpa, that he was going to surprise me. I was not convinced.

We got back to the Union Hall, waited in line and when we got to “Santa,” my grandpa pulled his beard down and said: “It’s me, Mikey!” I was blown away, how did Santa pull my grandpa into this madness? Grandpa gave me a candy cane, and we went on our way.
My grandpa passed away in 1991, he was a funny guy. He hated everyone except for my brother and me – and of course his wife, my wonderful grandmother.

Once he and my grandmother got too old to live alone they moved in with my aunt. Anyway, my brother and I came by for a visit one weekend and we walked in through the back door, my grandfather didn’t see us. Just as we’re walking into the living room where my grandpa is, our younger cousin Tommy (named after my father) walked up to my grandfather and asked if he would like some water, he’d get it for him. My grandfather, not missing a beat, stared swinging his cane and yelled “Get out of my way you fat fuck!” My brother and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. We went into the living room and asked our grandfather if everything was “OK in here?” And he turned to us and said “Could you get me some water, they won’t do shit for me here?” For my British readers, my grandfather was a senior citizen version of Lenny McLean. Have a great Holiday!

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie