Canoga Park

When I was four and five years old my family lived in Canoga Park, on a street called Lubao. Just up the block had been a Cupids Hotdog and a Pizza Man takeout.

I have a handful of memories from that house; one of them being my brother was born when we lived there. A few times guys from either the Satan Slave’s or Galloping Goose would come by to see my dad. One of the worst memories is of a young girl, five or six years old that lived down the block.

There was a house at the end of the block that The Gonzalez family lived in. The family was a mess. The owner, the grandmother, had anywhere from six to ten kids. But they were always in trouble, so the grandmother looked after all their kids.

I remember playing with one of the young boys, Frankie, one day and he asked, “Where’s your dad?”

I said, “At work. Where’s your dad?”

He replied, “Oh, the policeman came and got him this morning.”

My frame of reference and general world knowledge was nonexistent back then. So, the police coming was, pretty much, the keystone cops coming, bopping him on the head then placing him in the paddy wagon.

I was over one time around 7:00 and the grandmother came out and yelled, “Go to bed.” Her older children threw down three king-sized mattresses on the floor, with no sheets, and the kids all ran for a spot for the night. I took the hint and walked home.

As time went on the list of Gonzalez kids, I was allowed to play with got shorter and shorter. They were getting in trouble almost daily, vandalism, truancy, fighting.

I went one day to see if anybody could play, I asked for Frankie, he wasn’t home, I asked for Sarah or Jessica (I’m not sure of her name anymore), she wasn’t there either. The adult at the door said two or three names that were home, I said, “Sorry, I’m not allowed to play with them.” I started to walk away, and then a police car pulled up. I stepped to the side of the lawn. I wasn’t nervous as the lights weren’t flashing.

The officer came to the door and asked for Mary or Maria. The lady came out and he asked if she was the mother of Sarah or Jessica. She said yes. He explained that she was killed. The woman fell to the ground crying.

From what I could piece together, Sarah or Jessica tried to steal a Coke from a vending machine. She opened the door and pulled on the Coke bottle until the machine tipped forward and crushed her.

Again, my four-year-old mind couldn’t grasp this. I played with her yesterday and today she’s gone.

When I was around five and a half we moved to Reseda. I used to wonder how many of the Gonzalez kids made it out of that house.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

Andrew Dice Clay

Back in 1989, I was working with a girl named Jennifer. Jennifer and I had a thing for stand-up comedy. Sometimes, the raunchier the better.

One day Jennifer came into work and said that she had a friend that waitressed at The Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard, and Andrew Dice Clay was in town filming The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. And every night after filming he popped up at the Comedy Store and did as much stand-up as he wanted. Some nights, fifteen minutes, other nights two hours. So, Jennifer suggested we go Saturday night in the off chance he would show up.

We watched about five to ten comics, guys like Barry Diamond, who you recognize, but might not know by name. Right about the time I was ready to pack it in, Dice came walking in and they ushered him to the stage.

He ended up doing, between, an hour to an hour and a half of comedy. Leaving about two packs of cigarettes stamped out on the stage. He didn’t rely much on his regular Mother Goose stuff. It was mainly improv. He did a Don Rickles kind of thing and went around the crowd and shredded them.

First, he ragged on two older women in the front row, asking if they “put out.” They stood up and left.

Some blonde guy sitting four seats over from me was laughing hysterically. Dice walked over to him, put his face an inch from his and imitated the way he laughed, in a sort of spastic way, “Geee gee gee.” The guy’s face dropped. Instead of laughing, he looked embarrassed.

Next, he walked over to me, and I’m half hoping he goes easy and the other half wants to hear something funny. So, he started, “Hey, buddy, having a good time?”

“Yeah.”

“Good, that’s good. This your girlfriend? Or are you just banging?

“No, just a friend.”

“Oh, just a friend. No banging.” Then he addresses Jennifer.

“You know, I like this guy. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because this guy doesn’t care if he gets laid or not. If the chick doesn’t put out, he’ll chase them up the driveway jerkin’ off. Gee gee gee. A man after my own heart.”
I laughed. Probably the best anyone had insulted me up to that point.
Later that night when I dropped Jennifer off, she turned and said, “Don’t chase me up the driveway.

#michaelessington #misconceptionsofhell

Growing up in the 70’s

Growing up in the 70’s, my mom had some bad luck with cars.

My mom became a single mom at 23. She was left to raise two boys. I’d like to say that we were good, even-tempered guys, but I don’t think my mom would agree 100%.

Mom made a conscious effort to stay home and raise us, which meant certain sacrifices. She cared for other children so we didn’t become latch-key kids. It was fun, we always had somebody to play with, and it felt like an extended family.

But in order to do this, she didn’t always have the newest and best of things, mainly her car.

I remember one of our cars died at the beginning of one summer, so she saw an ad for a VW Hatchback, met with the guy and bought it. The first or second time we were out driving it died. She called the guy, he said to climb into the back (of the hatchback) open the floorboard and jiggle the battery cables and it will be fine. We did and it was.

But because of that call the guy thought they were buddies or more.

I came in the house one afternoon, that summer, to eat lunch, my mom had made some kind of lasagna/beef stroganoff casserole dish and I was waiting to dig in. I walked into the kitchen and the car-guy is standing in there eating our casserole. I left the kitchen and went to ask my mom why the hell that guy is eating grub, she said he just walked in and said he wanted to see if the car was running OK. Then headed for the kitchen.

Needless to say, we kept the door locked and didn’t answer for a bit, and then he stopped coming around.

After the VW, one of the dad’s at my school offered to let my mom take his Pinto for a week, if she liked it she could buy it. On the second day it stopped working; he came over, tinkered with it and said everything was fine. On the 101 heading toward Calabasas one morning it started acting funny again, and right at the off-ramp it died. She called the dad and said, basically, the car is dead; it’s parked off of Calabasas Parkway you can pick it up.

Over the decade that was the 70’s, my mom owned two Oldsmobile 98’s. Huge cars, with enough room inside for, at least, seven people. When she got an opportunity to buy a newer model, she decided to sell the older 98. My mom’s best friend at the time had a sister who was married to a car “salesman.” The salesman was a guy named Frank. Frank was a hustler; he sold cars on the side without ever signing paperwork. He’d take your car, sit on a corner and within a half an hour it would be sold and the new owner may or may not register it. When he couldn’t sell a car he’d “accidently” fall in a grocery store and live off the settlements for a bit.

Anyway, Frank came by, he said he wanted to take the car for a test drive, and then afterwards he would see if he could sell it. Frank took the test drive and then came back, gave my mom some money and said he sold it. We weren’t ready to sell it, just yet. My mom’s tapes were still in the car, some of my brother’s sports equipment and my mom had a gold bracelet in the door jam.

My mom took the money and told Frank that we needed to contact the buyers to get our stuff back. He shrugged and said he had no idea who they were. I’ve always wondered if he didn’t just keep the stuff.

Years later I heard that Frank went to prison for acts with a minor, possibly his own child.

– Born Frustrated, 2015

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Hungry Buddy Dog

A few years back, when my son was five or six, I was in the garage working out on the stationary bike when a dog, and old golden retriever, came up my driveway and decided to lie down and take a nap.

I hopped off the bike and went over to see if the poor thing was alive. He was old, covered in dreadlocks and patches of blood on him.

He was breathing. I called out to my son to bring out some leftover chicken we had on the counter. Then I pulled down a bowl we had on a shelf in the garage.

Within a minute the half pound of chicken was gone, as was half the bowl of water. Then the old guy just stared at me, trying to Jedi mind control me into getting more food. My son said, “I think he wants some hot dogs.” I nodded and my son fed him a pack of hot dogs.

After the feast fit for a dog, the old guy came over and lay down at our feet. My son said, “I was going to name him Buddy, but after watching him I think I should call him Hungry Buddy Dog. I nodded and said, “I’m sure he’ll love that name.”

After a quick twenty or thirty-minute nap Hungry Buddy Dog stood up and had a burst of energy, he was bouncing around and super playful.

I told my son to grab the dog shampoo and a pair of scissors. I gave HBD and bath and cut out the unbrushable dreadlocks. And without scrubbing too hard, I cleaned his wounds.

He kept HBD for about a week. And unfortunately, he was somewhat neurotic and kept biting his wounds. I got him some meds to keep them from itching, but it didn’t work. Every day we’d come home there would be bloodstains from where ever we left him.

I was getting scared that he would die, so I called the shelter to see if anyone had called about a lost golden retriever, they said there had been a few calls. Turns out this was a week or so after the fourth of July and they pick up a bunch of animals that run off because of the fireworks and it sounds like old Buddy did the same thing. Buddy didn’t have any ID, but I packed him up and brought him to the shelter to see if he was the guy getting the calls.

The guy at the desk brought Buddy a few little treats and then scanned him. Apparently Buddy’s owners had a chip implanted. And Buddy was a dog that had a family searching for him.

The man at the shelter called the family while I waited. I hugged the old guy and went home.

My son came into the backyard while I cleaned the yard and said, “Where’s Hungry Buddy Dog?”

I said, “I found his family.”

“Will he be coming back?”

“I don’t think so, but if he ever runs away . . . he knows where we live.”

“Was he happy?”

Yeah, he thought you were a nice kid”

“I’m happy he found his family, but I’ll miss him.”

“I know you made an old dog very happy.”

#michaelessington #misconceptionsofhell

Facebook

One day my brother suggested I sign-up with Facebook. I’ve always resisted all these social websites, doing graphic design I’m already on the computer far more than I want to be. But my brother’s point was I could communicate with my daughter, who is out of state, more often. And reconnect with people I went to school with. I thought cool, more contact with my kid, but do I want to see people from my past?

My brother runs me through the sign-up, and asks me to find a picture for my profile, etc. In less than a week, I’ve had twenty people ask to be my “friend.” And various people started uploading pictures of me from different occasions over the last handful of years. So, I guess I’m a pretty popular dude.

The weird part of this site is when you log in you’re bombarded with everybody’s headlines (your “friends”) on your landing page. And I swear everybody is fat and sick. I page down, and here we are in our forties and everybody talks like they’re ninety. Hospital visits, colds, temperatures. It’s terrible.

The one interesting thing about Facebook is when someone comes on as your friend you can look at their pictures on their page. This one girl wrote me and asked to be my friend, she was in my homeroom back in high school, and I confirmed her and I was browsing through her photos and found a couple of recent pictures of a girl I “went with” in ninth grade. We split when I got into punk. Well, what a freaking let down, she looks like a Mack truck hit her, then was forced to live on the streets. I was about 150 pounds then, and now I hover around 200, otherwise I look pretty much the same, but some of these people just gave up.

What do I know? They could be online looking at my pictures and quoting my dad’s favorite saying: “He looks like barbequed bear shit.”

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

Aunt Deanne

One night five years or so back, at around 10:30 or so, my wife noticed there was a message on her cell phone. We never heard the phone ring. It was from my aunt Deanne. My aunt is my father’s sister. I last saw her at my father’s funeral service, before that it may have been about 15 to 20 years.

In her message she explained that my uncle Chet, her husband, had passed away on June 17, 2009, and how she left a message at my mom’s house, since no one was home (and I haven’t lived there in decades), then later drove by and left a note. No one responded, or called. I hadn’t spoken to my mom since August of 2008, so I was out of the loop. But if the note were seen, someone would’ve gotten the word to me. But I heard nothing.

It turns out my uncle was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2009; it was getting better after chemo, 50% reduction of the cancer. Then on June 16th he had a stroke, and passed away the next day, on my son’s 5th birthday.

So, after thinking about it all night I called my aunt back the next morning. Said I was sorry for her loss, and listened to how sad, and alone she seemed. She was 67 years old, and had been married for 43 years. Now what? Even in the worst of marriages there is a sense of safety. A routine, even if it’s a daily ass beating, 10:00 am here it comes, then one day you wake up to face the day alone. I felt for her.

My aunt wanted to reconnect. Reminding me of all the good times we used to have. Those of you, who know me, know that I have a very short fuse, cross me and I’ll pick you up and toss you across the room, but something about women and children that are sad or crying really fucks me up. Cry and I’ll sign away my life’s belongings. So, I told her that whenever she wanted to get together I’d be there.

She told me that both her and my dad wanted to be artists as kids, but how life, kind of, got in the way, and how proud she was that I was doing something artistic with my life, and how happy she was that someone in the family was able to see it through.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

Bowie

I remember a year or so back when Lou Reed died, I had a lump in my throat. Not so much because he was one of my favorite artists. More because that signaled the beginning of the end. The Era of truly original artists.

Bowie was truly one of the best artists that I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing. He spoke to me. In 1974 or 1975, I used to take my dad’s Diamond Dogs album and listen to it on repeat for days at a time. Not only did I love his music, but his ever changing persona resonated with me. I was a skinny kid with bad skin and shitty hair and Bowie showed me that you could invent yourself, you could be whatever you wanted to be. For a kid that didn’t fit in anywhere, he made me feel like us outsiders or weirdoes were actually the cool ones.

I hope as he passed on, he knew that there were armies of us that wouldn’t have had a place to fit in if it wasn’t for him and his music.

#michaelessington #misconceptionsofhell

Shared Christmas

As I write this, Christmas is over by a couple of weeks.

As friends, and family pass on, and friends move, the holidays can be quite a bitch to go through.

One of my biggest issues – going way back, has been spending the holidays with other people’s families. From the mid-eighties or so, I’d date someone and split my day with my family and the family of whatever girl I was seeing.

I know it’s arrogant, but nobody does Christmas right, but your own family. One year we had my Brother’s girlfriend and her family down from Seattle. And our gift giving was re-arranged to their liking. As kids, my mom had no set rules on how we opened presents, or in what order, etc.

Now, the girlfriend’s family had a definite order. After everyone showers and eats breakfast, everyone sits in a circle and opens one present, passes it around, checks it out and so on like this.

Growing up, my brother and I would go at the gifts. . . It was a free-for-all. My mom sat patiently, opening her first present an hour or so after our ape-shit antics.

And some days we didn’t even think of breakfast until 11:00 or so.

Now that I’m married, I spend my Christmas’ with my Egyptian in-laws, and it’s way different than what I grew up with. The few constants are this: We will be watching the Lakers game, at least one person will cry (reasons vary), there will be plenty of screaming (positive and negative) and lots of over-eating.

No matter how many twists and turns your life takes there’s nothing better than the Christmases of your youth. Before you were actually paying for the gifts yourself.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

AA, Sex & Coffee Shops

Back in the ’80’s, even though I wasn’t drinking, my mom said I should attend AA meetings. Both my grandfathers were alcoholics and my father was also. My mom told me I was displaying personality traits of an alcoholic. And that I should attend AA, and/or Adult Children of Alcoholics.

I didn’t know that my grandfather on my dad’s side was an alcoholic. I never saw him drink, and I never saw him drunk. Turns out he was a bit of a binge drinker. He’d go a year without touching a drop, then slip into a 3-month binge.

I was always aware of my mom’s dad’s problem. Every holiday that we’d spend with him, he’d start drinking before we got there, and by the time we’d get ready to leave he’d be slumped in his chair, almost asleep. My grandfather had a pretty shitty upbringing from an alcoholic, who beat him and told him he was unwanted. So, unfortunately, the alcoholic gene (if that truly exists) was passed on. And then later my uncle Rick battled substance abuse issues. Remember the old days when dad’s just passed on the family business?

I told you all that to tell you this, I called one of my dad’s old work buddies who was now a counselor at an AA meeting and a “recovering” alcoholic. My dad’s friend, Ed, is a really good guy. Of all my dad’s friends he was the best. He was a trash collector in the ’70’s and he would always bring us comic books or Mad Magazines that he’d find on his route. Cool stuff.

So I call Ed, and he invites me to come to a meeting. The meeting is located at a Korean Church in Northridge. I drive out on a Wednesday night. When I get there Ed pulls me aside and tells me that due to low attendance, they combined the AA meeting with the Adult Children of Alcoholics, and the sex addiction meeting. That was definitely a big WTF.

The meeting starts with everyone going around the room introducing themselves, and stating their “problem.” It gets to be my turn, and I say my name, and say that I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. And everyone sits there looking at me, like I am in denial. I say I don’t drink. And at that point I hadn’t so much as had a beer in a year. No one believed me. I guess everyone comes through and says I am here because someone else thinks I should be.

Finally, we moved on. The first person to talk was some woman who was about 25 or so. She talked about fighting her nymphomania. She said that the mailman came to deliver something the week before, and how it took all of her willpower to keep her from pulling him into her house. Sad to say, she had my attention. She went on about looking him up and down, and how it had been a week since she had sex. Hell yeah!! When she was done the head counselor stated again that dating or “relationships” in the group were grounds for being kicked out. I know he wasn’t, but it felt like he was looking at me.

The next person to speak was an older guy, late 50’s, with glasses. The kind of guy that looks like a computer tech. I remember looking at him, thinking he looks like a child molester. Then he starts talking about a court case that forbids him from seeing his daughter, and hopefully she will forgive him one day. I remember looking at him, and wanting to stomp the shit out of him. I can’t understand anyone messing with kids, especially their own flesh and blood.

So I stayed for the whole hour or so meeting, and as it starts to wrap up one of the guys in the meeting calls me over to the side and says “a lot of the newcomers aren’t comfortable talking about their problems, so a bunch of us are going to meet at the coffee shop up the street for donuts, and coffee. It will be easier to talk over there. Come on and join us.” I just stared for a minute, and then said “Yeah, I’ll meet you there.” Then drove on home.

I attended three or four more of these meetings, sat drinking coffee like Ed Norton in Fight Club. Then got tied up with different things and missed a month.

So, four or five weeks later I show up at the church. I walk in with a cup of coffee from Winchell’s. And everybody in the place freezes. Two Korean guys walk briskly towards me. I’m not nervous, because I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but their quick walking has me on alert.

One guy starts talking very quickly, “You go, this is for Koreans only. You go.” The other guy smiles and puts his hand on my elbow, and starts guiding me to the door. Through all of this I’m saying I’m here for the AA meeting. But the guy keeps saying, “You go, this is for Koreans only. You go.” To which I say, “AA, you know the crazy people?”

Next thing I know I’m back at my car, with my cup of Joe, and the guy is walking away still babbling, “This is for Koreans only.”

I drive back home and my mom says “what are you doing here?” I said the meeting isn’t there anymore. To which she replied “You intentionally went on the wrong night so you didn’t have to go.”

WTF. After that I didn’t go anymore. There were periods of time where I drank more than others, but my own personal paranoia about my alcoholic bloodline kept me from ever seriously taking the plunge.

But in all seriousness, if you have an issue with substance abuse or know someone who does (don’t we all), don’t wait until it’s too late. I’ve lost too many people this way, and one is too many.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

Wayne

I am not the kind of guy that moves into the latest technology easily. I didn’t want an answering machine, someone bought me one. I didn’t want to own a cell phone, and someone bought me one. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t wish to be Ted Kaczynski. I’m not anti-technology; I’m just really bad at understanding a lot of these gadgets. I don’t find any Indie cred in being without these items.

So, in April of 2009, my brother created an account for me on Facebook. All I have to do is sign-in and add an occasional picture. I refused to do the Myspace thing, I’ve looked at the pages before, and it all looks like one big cluster-fuck. Not my thing, but Facebook has a definite school feel to it. Like hanging out in front of your locker between classes. Somebody shoots you a one-liner, posts a picture of their drunken weekend, very comfortable, very school-like.

But in the weird part of this is, in the few months since I started Facebookin’ I’ve accumulated about seventy “friends.” How did this happen? I don’t know if I had more than seven friends in my whole life!

Anyway, on the plus side, people I’ve forgotten about have contacted me. I’ve written a lot about my life in the ‘80’s, and the punk scene then. Well, it was a tough time. From 1978 to 1984 (when I graduated High School), I went to five or six different schools. This wasn’t always easy. Each time you come in the “new guy” and you have to prove yourself. You have to find your character, are you the tough guy, funny guy, loner? I think I’ve been all of them.

I went to a private school for seventh grade in Calabasas (with pro skater Bert LaMar), then eighth grade at a public school in Canoga Park (with Linda “Ziggy” Daniels), and then I went to another public school, for ninth grade, this one in Van Nuys. The problem with this one was that the prior school lost my records, so I got placed into eighth grade AGAIN, and because I had a slight hearing impairment, I was placed into classes for the deaf. So, like they say: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Within a short time I learned sign language, and tutored the deaf and hard of hearing kids. And brown-nosed the principal until I was moved into the ninth grade, and eventually classes with hearing kids.

My time in the DHH classes was an incredible experience for me. It gave me insight into the lives of kids that in my junior high arrogance, I would’ve dismissed as fucked-up and ignored them.

During this time I met a guy named Wayne. Wayne was deaf, had cerebral palsy, and was racked with vision problems. Poor dude was a mess.

Wayne was bright as hell, but he needed a tutor because he had a hard time reading, because as he would concentrate his head would fall to the side. I would help him focus or read to him while signing. During this time I discovered him to be one witty guy. We’d be talking and he’d tell me, “Watch this,” then he’d yell at another deaf kid. The kid, of course, wouldn’t turn around. Wayne would shake his head, and say “deaf asshole.” It was funny. Wayne would get the comedy in this.

When I got into High School, Wayne was a year behind me. But I still found a way to at least say “Hi” once a day to him. When I graduated in 1984, I didn’t see him around anywhere; my life became a life full of broads and bullshit. And I didn’t look up anyone from those years.

In 1986 I took a job at Musicland in the Northridge Mall. The above-mentioned broad I was with thought Musicland was much more prestigious than my earlier fast-food flirtations.

One weekend afternoon, my prick of a boss (his name was Ed) had me standing in front of the store, forcing sales brochures into everyone’s hands as they tried to avoid me and walk into the store.

This particular afternoon, I look out onto the Mall floor, and who is circling the court out in front of Sears? My old friend Wayne. He does a couple of circles before he looks up and sees me with the previously mentioned shit flyers, and he b-lines towards the beloved Musicland and me. He starts chatting up a storm, and I had to put down the sales brochures in order to do sign language with him. Well, my boss looks over, and I’m chatting with a kid that is drawing looks from all the customers, and I’m not passing out his precious flyers. The boss yells at me to wrap it up. So, I explain to Wayne, quickly, that I have to go. Then I split, sent into the back to work in the stockroom.

Background on Wayne, he was abandoned at a hospital as an infant. Later, sent to an orphanage. His two future parents were doctors in the medical ward of said orphanage. After some time, they adopted him.

I told you all that, to tell you this: fast forward twenty-three years later. I’m on Facebook one day, and I received a “friend request” from Wayne. I’m stoked; I always wondered where he ended up. I accept his request, and later that night we’re online chatting. He is now repairing computers for a living; I have two kids, etc.

At a pause in the conversation I mention, the last time I saw him was at the mall in 1986. To which he replies:

“Yeah, I remember, I was talking to you and you turned your back on me and walked away. I went home and prayed that you would open your heart to me and be my friend again.”

Upon reading this (on the Facebook chat box) I felt my heart sink, and had to check to see if I shit myself. So, here it is – for almost a quarter of a century I thought we were cool. And here’s Wayne thinking I punked him, and not in the Ashton Kutcher way.

I quickly explained that I said goodbye (at the store in the mall), and that my punk-ass boss called me away, as I was at work.

His reply was, “It’s cool, we’re friends again.” I’m not sure if he believed me, but it kicked me in the nuts. I’ve dogged people out in my life, but I figured this dude had enough shit in his life, and I wasn’t going to add to his pile.

Since then, I’ve been emailing him at least once a day since he found me on Facebook.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie