Project Mayhem

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing my own little “Project Mayhem.” Not blowing anything up or injuring anyone, but in a sort of passive-aggressive way, giving out free stuff at a big record shop in Hollywood. I have hundreds of albums, and every once in a while I’ll try to pare it down or search for doubles. If I have a double of a CD or DVD that I have burnt myself, I’ll leave it with the magazines in the shop.

With the economy the way it is, it’s my small way of giving people, music, and thumbing my nose at the over-priced crap that’s being sold at these shops.

When I go to this store I also load up the trunk with extra blankets and clothes, books and magazines, and my son and I distribute these things to the homeless in Hollywood. Occasionally, we’ll leave some of his extra toys at a shelter.

When you’re out of work, you become very aware of how difficult it is to take a step up, and how hard it is for people who have it harder than yourself. So, if you see a crazy guy with his son dumping free CD’s at Amoeba, take some.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

All The Young Punks

One of the biggest things I forgot about, from my days of being a little punk rocker was the constant showering of criticism, the threats, and name calling from people who hated punk. I remember a kid in my 9th-grade science class that, whenever he saw me, would say “Punk is bunk, let’s get drunk.” He’d laugh every time. Then there were the people who’d throw full Coke cans out of their cars as they drove by.

My love of punk rock was, pretty much, under the radar until I cut my hair in 9th-grade. Then I opened the gates for every dimwitted hump to voice their opinion on a musical genre that was still being created.

One afternoon when I was walking out of the P.E. yard, after lunch, some girl, who I had never seen before, decides to chase me down and explain to me what she felt punk rock meant. “It’s when you’re in jail, and one man decides to lie on top of another man . . .” I suggested she shut-up, and I booked on out of there. She was one of the many school security guard groupies that would annoy me over the years. You probably had a few of these chicks yourself; they would sit on the guards laps, and spew out all these creepy innuendos.

Anyway, the longer I was into punk; it got to the point where I wouldn’t get along with, about, a quarter of the punks in my school. I didn’t go to enough shows, my leather jacket wasn’t painted “Oi enough,” that kind of crap. Back when I was putting the Los Angeles Punk Con together, I’d get weird emails from people complaining about whom I was inviting or complaining that it seems like it’s going to be “too commercial.” Well, here’s the best email I’ve received:

“I am quite surprised that you haven’t included Rikk Agnew in your important people of American Punk Rock. Rikk was just the first punk musician to have a solo album (just ask Lisa of Frontier). Hell, you will probably ask Rikk’s former bands to play but not Rikk. I think it’s a travesty. Just my 2 cents.

Thanks for your time.


Like Shakespeare once said, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.”

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

The Decline of Western Civilization

The Decline of Western Civilization
Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, the Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs and X
1981 – Atlantic Television, Inc.
R – 100 Minutes
Directed by: Penelope Spheeris

From the first words out of Eugene the punk’s mouth: “That’s stupid, punk rock,” I knew this was going to be memorable.

I remember when this was first released; I had the movie poster on my wall and the soundtrack in constant rotation on my turntable. I believe it was scheduled to open at the Nuart Theatre; I picked up their newspaper listings that came out every month, at Licorice Pizza. I had the date circled, and I was raring to go. A week before Decline was to open my Uncle Rick offered to take me. Here’s where I get bummed: my Mom tells him “No.” I wasn’t, quite yet, fifteen and she reminded me that I had to be seventeen to see it, and she mentioned a few recent police riots at the local shows. I tried to plead my case, and my Uncle promised to look after me, but still “No.” As it turns out the police were outside the theater when the movie, let out, and a small-scale riot did, indeed, ensue; to Mom was right.

For me, this was the start of punk rock. I know people will debate on, and on about the Ramones or the Stooges starting punk, but for me, this was the start. Let me explain: I was a fan of the Sex Pistols and they, pretty much, started the whole thing, but the bands in this movie were up the street from me, in some cases a few cities over. It became real and tangible. After this film, everybody had a band, including yours truly.

Filmed by Penelope Spheeris, from December 1979 to May 1980; Decline is not just a compilation of concert footage it chronicles the Los Angeles scene when it was beginning before Hardcore really came into being. It, also, compiles viewpoints on the meaning of the movement, from journalists, one of whom calls “punk the folk music of the 1980’s,” to club security guards, to the punks themselves, in black and white interviews. Especially interesting is the performance by The Germs, thanks to Darby Crash, who would later commit suicide around the time this film was released.

Director Spheeris conducts the interviews herself and gets the musicians to open up in a very unselfconscious way. Some of them are quick-witted while others seem totally clueless.

In a wise move, many of the more garbled songs are subtitled, like the songs from Black Flag’s set.

The film begins with Black Flag singing Depression, White Minority, and Revenge. Afterward, they give a tour of their grungy, old Baptist Church crash-pad, and show off the cupboards and closets where they sleep.

Next, the Germs’ manager, Nicole Panter (ex-wife of Slash Magazine artist Gary Panter), discusses the problems managing the Germs, specifically singer Darby Crash, who’s often so wasted that he forgets to sing into the microphone. While clips of Crash falling off the stage play, Nicole explains that “The band originally couldn’t play their instruments, but nowadays, can.”

The film then visits the office of Slash Magazine; followed by the droning of writer/singer Claude Bessy, who fronts the band Catholic Disciple and performs Underground Babylon and Barbie Doll Lust. Bessy wrote for Slash under the name Kickboy Face. It’s during this segment that I always remembered, Bessy is reading a Slash letter aloud, and they show a crowd shot of some show, this one guy, dressed in black, starts shouting at someone, then stands there gritting his teeth for the remainder of the time. His eyes are black, and he looks like he is going to explode; definitely the poster child for punk anger.

Next up is X, who spend much of their segment giving a close-up demonstration of home tattooing, in a house which looks like the insides of a thrift shop. X seems to be one of the few groups the club owners actually like; the management of the Whiskey-a-Go-Go had even sent them flowers. On stage, they perform Beyond & Back, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, and We’re Desperate. There is a funny moment with X ragging on “hippies” while stoned out of their minds.

The Circle Jerks perform a record-breaking five songs (songs that Black Flag had claimed Keith Morris stole from them) in six minutes, with “Red Tape,” “Back Against the Wall,” “I Just Want Some Skank,” “Beverly Hills,” and “Wasted.” No band interview is shown in the film. The Circle Jerks debut album, Group Sex, would come out between the filming of their sequence in Decline, and the release of the film. Bassist Roger Rogerson died in 1996 of a drug overdose.

After that, Alice Bag Band sings Prowlers in the Night and Gluttony.

The film ends with Fear, and singer Lee Ving verbally abusing the crowd until he’s met with a hail of spit; before launching into a set that includes I Don’t Care About You, Beef Bologna, I Love Livin’ In the City, and Let’s Have a War. A definite high point is Fear’s onstage footage, since their songs are fueled by their twisted sense of humor with funny comments like: “This is 1980, can’t you afford a fucking haircut?” No interview is shown for Fear.

If you get the chance to see this, fast-forward through the Catholic Discipline, Slash Magazine, and Alice Bag segments. Claude Bessy seems to drone on about God knows what, and his music isn’t a true representation of what was going on at the time, meaning it sucks. Some of the X moments are a bit long, too.

Rating: *** three out of three stars.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Bodyguard For Hire

Back in 1992, I was boxing as an amateur in the middleweight division. Two guys, in suits, came into the gym and talked to my coach for a few and stood around.

I was sparring with this tall lanky kid; I knocked him down three times in the first round. The coach called it and then waved me over.

The men in suits worked for a Korean business woman, who just brought her company to Canoga Park, CA, and needed a bodyguard.

The men, kind of, looked me over and asked my coach, Morris, what my record was and how long he’s been working with me. At this point, I thought they were promoters looking to turn me into the next Marvin Hagler. No such luck.

One of the suits asked if I was good. I looked at him, his partner and then Morris. And finally said, “Seriously? I was fighting when you walked in. I knocked the shit out of that kid. He was dropped three times in a minute and a half. How about you lace up and we dance a bit?”

Morris clears his throat and says, “The guy’s very good. We’re hoping to take him pro in a few months. 1993 should be his year.” Then the other suit asks, “Are you good with a gun?” That’s when it hits me that these are not promoters. Thoughts of top-secret assassin shit danced through my mind. Battling ninjas and partying with exotic women on tropical islands.

I said, “I shoot weekly, I have a membership at the Warner Center Gun Club.”

Do you have a license to carry a concealed firearm?”

Again, I look at everybody, hoping for a clue, I say, “No, I’m a boxer, not Steven Segal.”

Finally, Morris says, “These gentlemen are here in hopes of finding a suitable bodyguard for a business woman named Ms. Khong. She comes to America once a month from Korea. You would be on call 24 hours a day.”

I say, “OK.” One of the suits gives me a business card and says, “This is Mr. Khong’s card, he is the son. Call him Monday.”

All of this happened on a Thursday night. I forgot about it. Threw my boxing clothes in the washing machine. And made plans for the weekend. On Sunday night, I finally got around to putting my gear into my gym bag and Mr. Khong’s card falls out of the pocket of my shorts. Mangled, but a card just the same. I put the card on my nightstand and called Khong on Monday.

I call, an appointment is made and I go. Mr. Khong is impeccably groomed. Basically, he smelled like cash.

Like the suits in the gym, he stared more than he talked. And he asked the same questions, did I fight well, and was I handy with a gun. I answered pretty much the same as I did before, but left out the part about not being Steven Segal.

Mr. Khong explained the job. Stating that Ms. Khong is very wealthy and several attempts have been made to either kidnap or kill her. I would be responsible for her belongings, her car, her wallet, her money. While in America she would carry nothing on her person. Then he asked if I could speak Korean. I, honestly, told him, “Not a lick.”

He said he would make a decision on Friday. If I’m selected I would have to be ready to start that night. I would be given a Mercedes to drive, a gas card and an American Express, as well as, whatever I carry for Ms. Khong. I told Mr. Khong that the job sounds like an adventure and I looked forward to his call.

On Thursday afternoon, Morris called and says, “The suits are here again and they’re checking out the Korean kid.”

“What Korean kid?”

“The one that started last week.”

“I didn’t know we had a Korean fighter.”

“Yeah, he started last week.”

“I understand that. What are they saying?”

“I don’t know, some shit in Korean.”

When Mr. Khong called that Friday he informed me that Ms. Khong chose someone that could speak Korean. Totally understandable.

I thanked him for his time and told him to keep my information; you never know when you’ll need a strapping young American helping you out of a jam.

The only thing that bummed me out was the fact that I may never fight ninjas.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated


In the early part of 1986 I left one music shop for, what I thought, would be a great career at another one. Ultimately they both went under. So, while living with my father, I was out of work, which to him was worse than wearing a crucifix to a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Across the street from my dad’s place was a couple with a 4 year old daughter, named Nicole, in their late twenties, early thirties. The husband, Robbie, was a clean cut guy, that one day decided he wasn’t clean-cut anymore and became a biker. Almost overnight he went from yuppie to long-hair and beard and a brand new Harley to top off the new persona. I never talked to any of them. One of my half sister’s was around the same age as Nicole so I would see her occasionally.

One day when my dad went to work and his two devil-spawns (my half-sisters) were off to school, I heard someone thumping on the door. I open the door and it’s Biker Robbie from across the street. He says, “Your dad tells me you’re out of work.”
I say, “You were second in line after the L.A. Times.”
He says, “What?”

“Well, I’m working on a construction project, want some work?”

“Sure, when?”

“Right now.”

“Shit, OK. Can I shower?”

“Nope, I’m leaving in three minutes.”

So, I ran into my room, threw on some jeans, a bandana and grabbed a sweatshirt.

Ten minutes later we pulled into the parking lot of the Northridge Mall in the San Fernando Valley, California. I follow Robbie into this back hallway; he unlocks a gray door with a sign on it that reads “Future Home of Pretzel World.”

My first task, he hands me five or six red rags and some cleaning fluid. And tells me to make sure every bit of dust is wiped out in the place. I fill my pockets with the rags and go for it. The top of the freezer units, top of the air-conditioner – everything. Two or three hours go by; Robbie tosses me a Pepsi, “See me when you’re done.”

Other guys have wandered in and out, carpenters, electricians and two plumbers. Apparently, Robbie is the foreman, and the owner of Pretzel World doesn’t want him to announce that he’s the boss, he wants him observe and more or less spy on them and report back to the owner. So, Robbie’s job becomes mine, things like, “How many cigarette breaks did the plumber take?” and “How long was that electrician standing around?” became my job.

Next I was given some kind of paste and Robbie tells me to “Go around the building and anywhere that there is wallpaper, inspect the top, bottom and seams and if there is any lift – paste it down.” Spent about two hours on that. After, about, six hours into the day Robbie comes over and says, “Put everything down, we’re going to eat.” He treated me to Taco Bell or something. But while eating he wanted the information on all the workers and a list of who was fucking up.

After forty-five to fifty-five minutes we were back on site. Robbie hands me this small can of green, thick-looking paint. And Robbie says, “Go over the counter and all the tables, if there are nicks or scratches on the Formica – dab this over the spot, then wipe it off. It’ll plug it up.” So, I went to work. In between all my tasks and spying, he would send me back and forth to his truck, “Get my big, red pliers,” “Get my push broom.” So, while I did a massive dusting job – the crew that had been there most of the day was now leaving and they left huge amounts of dust and debris, so Robbie throws me a ton of red rags and says, “Dust.” Another two or three hours on that.

Once I was done, I looked up at the clock and it was nine o’clock. I had been at the mall for twelve hours. I don’t want this guy to bitch to my dad and say I was a slacker, so I don’t ask when we were going to wrap this thing up. But I’m thinking it!

When I finished dusting, a very attractive woman dressed in business-sexy (is that a real term?) walked in and talked to Robbie a bit and then walked around and inspected the place. I don’t remember if I was introduced or not, being that I was just a scrub . . . I don’t think I was.

Robbie hands me a mop and a bucket and says, “Make the floor spotless, and make it shine.” I spend and hour to an hour and a half really scrubbing.

As I was mopping I noticed that Robbie and the business woman would walk to the opposite side of the building and talk in whispers. Odd, but whatever.

As soon as I was done mopping Robbie walked over and gave me this huge bucket of some kind of epoxy or something. So, anyway, I wait until my freshly mopped floor is nice and dry, then I take another brand-new mop and start applying this epoxy to the floor.

The funny thing is Robbie tells me to start at one end of the building and apply it all the way to the other end, but once I am at that other end I’m stuck. I’m forced to climb onto the top of this little broom-closet bathroom. I have to sit on top of it until the epoxy is dry.

Robbie tosses me a Pepsi while I’m up there, then I see the business lady come over and pull Robbie by the belt into a corner that is out of my eyeshot. From there all I can hear is the sound of two farm animals in heat, grunts and groans. So, basically Robbie set me up. Made me apply the epoxy ass-backwards so I wouldn’t be able to walk around and catch him.

Finally, at midnight he strolls over, checks the floor says it’s dry and “Let’s head home.”

On the drive home neither of us talked, me because I was beat and him . . . probably because he was trying to figure out what to say.

He pulls into my dad’s driveway and says, “Hey man, that shit with that girl . . . it was nothing. She acts flirty. Nothing to it. But just the same, let’s keep it between us all right?”
I say, “No worries. I didn’t see a thing.”

Then Robbie shook my hand and peeled off ninety or a hundred bucks. I walked into the house and crashed.

I’d see Robbie occasionally; he’d slow down on his motorcycle and nod at me, then take off. I never worked with him again. And then I’d move a few months later and my dad would sell the house. Not sure what became of Robbie and his family.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Growing Up Punk

Sometimes in life there is a moment that occurs that changes the direction of your life. Back in 1982, I had my first and only heart to heart with my Uncle Rick.

You see, I spent many years thinking that I was the only guy in the world that liked punk only for the music. Meaning, there was nothing wrong with me, I didn’t have any issues, personally, that drew me to punk. No anger, no frustrations, only a love for the music. Once I hit my forties I started doing a bit of a self-evaluation, and it dawned on me. From the age of six I was raised in a single parent home, money was sometimes non-existent.

Now, did I have it worse than half the punks out there? No. Did I have the makings of a serial killer? No. But I had enough of an unbalanced life that I sat up and took notice when punk hit the scene. Black Flag and Bad Religion said things I couldn’t. When I couldn’t spike my hair, or was forbidden from getting earrings or taken to a shrink because I liked punk, Henry Rollins screamed for me. When I’d skateboard home from school, and a truckload of losers would hurl beer cans, Greg Graffin would scream “Fuck” as loud as he could for me.

I told you all that to tell you this: In 1982, I was sitting in my Uncle’s garage and I was afraid to talk to any adult really, but I felt he’d understand me. He was four years older than me, and he was deep, deep into punk. I started telling him how disconnected I felt towards everything. I didn’t feel anything.

I explained how my mom took my brother and me to see ET, I didn’t want to see it, but she wanted a family outing. I sat through it and the whole theater was bawling their eyes out. And I sat stone-faced, thinking something is wrong with me. Rick understood, and related. He said the more this family stuff was pushed on him, the more disconnected he got. I didn’t feel so alone.

I didn’t feel anything for almost five years. And I’m not sure my uncle ever did.

Now that I’m older I realize that punk helped me through a troubled adolescence, there was nothing wrong with me. I was just a kid, without a dad around much, trying to figure out how to be a man, and who the hell I wanted to be.

Punk gave me a safety net. Punk didn’t care, that I was from a broken home, my skin was broken out, and I was dirt poor. It was the voice I didn’t have, and my uncle verified, I wasn’t the only one feeling like this. Rest in peace Rick.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

Helping The Needy

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 an hour and approximately 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, 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 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 ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬

Waiting In Line

Coming to terms with another one of my many pet peeves today.

It’s people that stand alongside of me in line. It might be in line at a restaurant or a grocery store. I always end up in front of some over-anxious asshole that stands right there along side of me. Not behind. Right there next to me.

I try to be subtle. I’ll scoot over so I’m a bit in front of them. They move again. I’ll then look side to side as if I’m confused as to why they are standing there. Finally, when nothing is working on these inbreds, I’ll ask, “Did you need something?”

Then I get the whole, “Huh, what?” Then they start the attitude. Much like a beaten circus monkey, “What’s up, dude?”

I want to travel in a plastic bubble, like John Travolta before he started exposing himself to his male massage therapists.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬


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 ‪#‎bornfrustrated‬