Harley

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, 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 ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

Golf & Junkies

Today I was standing outside my townhouse, out on the sidewalk. I was heading out to play a round of golf with my friend Dave.

I stood outside for ten, maybe fifteen minutes total. At about the five-minute mark, I see out of the corner of my eye, a lady walking up the street. She was completely nondescript. Hair in a ponytail, sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers. She walked up the block and stopped and sat down on one of the planters in front of the community room.

I’m leaning against the fence, about ten feet from my front door, with my golf bag next to me. I’m messing around on Facebook until Dave picks me up in his silver tank — truck.

While I randomly click “Like” on everyone’s food, cat and Halloween pictures I can feel this lady staring at me. Deep down, I can’t blame I am a sexy beast, but it wasn’t that kind of staring. I glance over and she gets up, staggers and starts walking towards me. The voice in my head is going, “Fuck, go away, leave me alone.”

Sure enough, she ends up standing, swaying in front of me.

“Hey, you got any money?”

“No.”

“You holding?”

“What?”

“We could do a little exchange?

“Look, I’m not understanding you. I got nothing, no money.’

I wasn’t being a dick. Honest to god, I couldn’t make out her slurring.

I step away, and get back to my Facebook browsing. Then it occurs to me, “holding” and “exchange.” She thought I was a dealer and she was going to bang me for dope. Damn, I knew I should have shaved this morning.

Another five minutes go by. The lady starts staring over at me again. And again, she starts staggering over. This time her words are slurred worse than before.

“Gotta use the bathroom.”

“Head up the block to one of the restaurants.”

“Restaurants? Come on.”

“I can’t help you.”

“I need a peak.”

“Look, I don’t know what you want and I don’t know what the hell you’re saying.”

She gives me this look like I’m an idiot, “You don’t?’

This pissed me off pretty bad. You can’t talk, you can’t walk and you think I’m either a dealer or a pimp and you have the nerve to look at me like I’m an idiot.

“You know what? Get the fuck outta here.”

I move another six feet down the sidewalk. She staggers back to the planter outside the community room.

I do a little texting, she starts staring again. Just in time Dave pulls up.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Mitch

Years ago, maybe 1983 or so, I was with a friend of mine named Tony. We went to some guy’s house; I think his name was Mitch. We went late. Knocked on his door, he opened in some silk shorts and a Japanese robe. The place was dark and he was blasting the Changesonebowie album. At this point I had owned, almost, everything Bowie had ever released, but somehow this release flew under my radar. That night hearing Bowie echoing through this huge home reminded me of hymns being played in a chapel.

When I say the place was dark, I mean no lights were on, except those from the appliances and the stereo. It gave off an eerie vibe.

I didn’t know Mitch, but the first thing out of his mouth was, “Want some blow?” I said, “No thanks.” Then he asked, “Want some sushi?” I was a little green, I didn’t know what sushi was and I didn’t want to seem stupid, so I didn’t ask.

At one point I remember getting hungry, and I while Mitch and Tony spoke I hunted down the kitchen, it was bare. I finally scrounged up a box of croutons. I finished half the box and went back to the conversation.

It was like a scene out of Less Than Zero, huge house, big money and no parents.

The next day I bought Changesonebowie.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Calling Dad

Have you ever done something in your life that left somebody completely devastated? I’m sure you have. I know I have. Some things intentionally, others accidentally.

When I was eight or nine years old my dad started taking my brother and me for weekends, twice a month, as part of his custody. The visits started when I was eight. He left when I was six, and at eight, he would pick us up two Saturdays a month. Then after about a year he asked my mom if it was cool if he had us for a whole weekend, he wanted to take us to Palm Springs for the whole two days. She reluctantly said, “OK.”

We were all nervous, me, my mom and my brother. Good, bad or whatever, we got used to our routine. Two years together and now it’s getting changed. I don’t know what to say to this guy, you were and now you’re not. So, we ending arguing and fighting (probably, just me and my mom, my brother was a pretty low-key dude).

So, one time my dad comes over to pick us up and we’re bickering, my dad says, “If the fighting gets too much and you want to get away, just call me. I’ll pick you up and bring you back once everybody is calmed down.” What?! We couldn’t do that. It felt like we’d be selling out mom.

So, six or seven months later some shit popped off and everybody is fighting, crying and carrying-on. So, I say, “I’m going to call dad to come get us.” At that point my mom was like, “Fine, go ahead.”

Something happened during the time I told my dad to get us and the time when he arrived. It sunk in, I sold my mom out. The guy who ditched us was now my safe-haven.

By the time my dad arrived we were all crying and apologizing. My dad was cool about it; he let my mom know that we were going to run up to the newsstand, buy some comic books then we would be back.

Though I would have many, many more fights with my mom, I never forgot how devastated she looked as I dialed my dad up on the phone.

#michaelessington #lifewontwait