Columbia House

Back in late 1975, my mom, who was a member of the Columbia House Record Club, received her monthly catalog. The deal was every month Columbia House would send a catalog and you would have to pick an album or they would just randomly send you one.

Well, the December 1975 catalog had a picture of the Kiss Destroyer album as its cover. My brother and I saw this picture and we were hooked. We didn’t know if this was a comic book, and record or just a very cool Frazetta rip-off. I think we both begged to own that little 5 by 7 booklet.

Eventually, we got that album into our house. Our grandparents sent us some money and dad took us to some record shop to get whatever we wanted. My brother grabbed a copy of Destroyer on 8-track, I ran to get a copy on cassette — but my dad stopped me by saying that it was stupid to get two copies of the same album. We should share. Shit.

So, I was forced to buy a copy of Alive on cassette. Turns out I dug the album, but Destroyer had a better cover and that’s what counts right?

Once we got back to my dad’s place my brother put on his tape and the opening sounds of the investigator talking at the car crash scene and sounds of broken glass and the car door shutting, and then starting. It was like those old-school Power Records on 45 we used to have. We were hooked.

I don’t listen to Kiss anymore, but when I see the Destroyer cover it takes me back to March of 1976 when I first heard the opening chords of Detroit Rock City. Superheroes came to life that day.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Piece of My Heart

FROM LIFE WON’T WAIT

I fade in and out of sleep all night, and every time I come to there is this same fucking episode on VH1 called Remaking Vince Neil. He gets “sober,” gets a nose job, and tries to rebuild his career. Jesus. Then I’d nod off and my minorly retarded nurse would come banging into my room to draw blood. The shit that rumbles around your brain when you wake up like this, “Who could scream louder, Billy Mays or Vince Neil?”

Again the nurse starts digging around in my hands and arms, and again, I yell, “Get somebody else.” She shuffles off with her head down. This time, a husky white guy comes in, “Hey, what’s up big guy? I’m going to draw some blood from you, cool?” Oh yeah . . . cool as hell.

At around 8:00 am the next morning my father-in-law George walks in. I’m happy to see somebody that doesn’t want to poke me with needles or fill me with shit-inducing drugs.

He asks me about my diagnosis, and what I’ve heard from the doctors, I tell him “Nothing, I haven’t heard anything since being admitted.” He makes a face and then scurries to the nurse’s station. He isn’t playing with these Pillsbury shaped broads. He wants to know what happened to me, when the doctor is coming, and when my tests are going to be performed, and when can I leave. They stutter and stammer and call this person and that. Finally, the head nurse comes into my room and explains that “the doctor will be here within an hour’s time, he is in the middle of a surgery.” I nod, and she continues, “And you are scheduled for a treadmill test for tomorrow at 10:00 am to determine whether you suffered a heart attack, and if so how severe.” I nod again. She smiles back and asks if she can get me anything, I shake my head and say “No.” She leaves, and my father-in-law, shakes his head and says, “How long are they going to make lay here without telling you what’s wrong?” I have no idea.

They wheel in breakfast. Since I’m diabetic, the food is absolutely terrible. Oatmeal that is very mud-like in its texture, decaf coffee and a slice of toast, hell yeah I’m living it up!
My father-in-law pushes the tray away once I consume my feast. We watch the news and my father-in-law starts to tell how horrible of a coach Phil Jackson is, and how he just sits there and never calls a time-out when his team is doing bad, and how Kobe is the one coaching the damn team. I nod, fade, and nod again.

By mid-morning the doctor comes in shakes my IV plugged hand, and looks at my chart and basically repeats what the nurse in the morning told me “You are scheduled for a treadmill test for tomorrow at 10:00 am to determine whether you suffered a heart attack, and if so how severe.” Again, I nod; I’ve been doing a lot of this. The doctor quickly leaves.

My boss calls, “Hey Mike, Virgil here, how are you doing young man?”

“Fair.”

“Well, that’s not good. Stop fooling around in that hospital, and come back to work, ha ha.”

“Will do.”

“All right, you get some rest, and calls Sasha when you can, and let her know when you’re coming back.”

“Will do.”

My dad comes in just as George leaves. We hang out for a while, watch some TV, he checks his watch and says he’ll be back tomorrow for the treadmill test. I nod and try to sleep before they turn me into a pincushion again.

I give more blood. My wife comes into the room, I ask about my boy. We hang out, I tell her about my visitors and the treadmill test and how they don’t know what’s wrong with me. Then we watch Vince Neil.

My dad shows up the next morning around 8:00 am, he hangs out for about forty-five minutes, then gets agitated because he finds out my treadmill test isn’t until 10:00 am. For whatever reason, that’s what he wanted to be here for. He leaves.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎lifewontwait‬

Racism

Racism is funny. Not like. Ha ha, that’s funny.” More like, “WTF did he just say?” funny.

I was looking for some part-time or temporary work recently, and a buddy of mine called and said his company was hiring, but it was only factory work. Building frames and using power-saws, etc. I love this stuff, but my resume never lets me work in these places. If you ever worked in an office or as a designer you don’t get to work in a factory, and I imagine the opposite is also true.

I call them up explain that I want to work there and I was referred, etc. The HR lady told me to apply online then buzz back. Did that. Got the call for the interview, just outside of Moorpark (one mile from the edge of the earth).

Talked to the warehouse supervisor, he promised me two weeks of work, but I wouldn’t be employed by his company. I’d go to a temp agency, fill out a bunch of paperwork, do a drug test and they would also give me a test to see if I could use a tape measure. You know, pull it out measure, and click the button it goes back in?!

I do all the required crap, call my buddy, and he says “Watch out for the floor foreman, he hates white people.” I tell him, “No worries, I’m sure it will be fine.”

Maybe I’m naïve, but I have found 90% of the time when somebody says somebody else is racist it’s because something didn’t go their way. For example, I want a raise, I didn’t get it – the boss must hate me or my race or maybe my sex.

So, I ignored my buddy.

I show up for my first day of work, on a Wednesday at 7:00 in the AM. I wait a half an hour and the guy I interviewed with comes into the lobby looks at the four of us that are waiting to start work, takes two of us and says, “I don’t remember hiring those other two guys.”

He gives us goggles and ear plugs, then takes us to the foreman my buddy warned me about. He gives us a look-over, and then says, “Where are your arm protectors and gloves.” The other guy goes white like he was about to be fired. So, I say, “This is all we were given.”

The guy mumbles, “Off to a great start white people.” I give him a look, but I’m not about to fight somebody in my first 45 minutes of work.

So the foreman says, “Follow me, can’t have you on my crew.”

He takes me to an old (white) biker who, upon meeting tells me he just got back from six weeks in rehab. I’m at a loss for words, do I congratulate him, welcome him back or say, “That’s too much information?” I just say, “All right.”

The biker says, “So, you were kicked off of Jorge’s crew, huh? He hates white guys.”

I’m beginning to believe my buddy. After five days Jorge said I didn’t fit the “Environment” and I was let go. I kept the gloves.

Forward three days, I’m sitting in the doctor’s office and the only thing to read is Oprah’s magazine, O. The cover shows a slimmed down Oprah with a ponytail swinging in the air. I flip it open, well because I read anything that’s lying around.

There is a little blurb written about the cover of Oprah and her ponytail. The hairdresser sewed in the hair and instructs her to swing it for the photographer. It’s not working, so Oprah’s “friend” Gayle instructs her to “Swing it like a white girl!”

Now, I’m not offended by this remark, but I do know that if a white talk show host had said something like “Shake your ass like a black girl,” it would offend people and most likely result in a forced apology.

I guess what I’m saying is when is a stereotype OK to say as a joke and when is it offensive?

Another example, when a white comedian makes racial jokes, most people get a little uncomfortable, but a black comedian cannot get through a set without the standard, “White people are crazy, have you ever seen them dance?”

Joking about racial differences can be humorous, but when is it too far?

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Melissa

FROM BORN FRUSTRATED

Sometimes people tell me the craziest shit, and I store it in my head or on a piece of scratch paper to use in a future story.

Sometimes you hear something so wild that you doubt the truth of the story, then you meet someone else and they tell you a similar story, and you still wonder, but after hearing the story a third time from three different people you have to believe the story is not only true, but a common occurrence.

OK, it starts like this, back in the nineties before I was married, I met a girl named Melissa, we dated a few times then one day I turned on the TV and she was on The Newly Wed Game. Melissa was one of many women I met over the years that was a bit gun-shy and not overly trusting due to some crazy ex and a bad break-up. Here’s the thing: I don’t care about your ex nor do I need to know how he pushed the line by bringing a donkey in a mask home.

I’ve always tried to start relationships with a clean slate, in other words, whatever you’ve done prior to me (as long it isn’t going to interfere with my life) has nothing to do with me.

While most women would like the clean slate on their part, most couldn’t shake their own baggage. One night, Ms. Newly Wed Game wanted to hang out and I wasn’t feeling it, so I told her I was going to have some guys over to play dominoes, eat pizza and drink beer (one or two cigars might be involved). She said OK, but it was somewhat hesitantly. Anyway, I had four or five guys over and we did just what I said, dominoes, pizza, and beer. Hanging out with these guys was like watching an action movie, mind-numbing entertainment. And once it was over, you’d never remember exactly what happened. Talked shit, possibly a fight and plans for the next hang out.

So, at the end of the night, I walk out the last of the hoodlums, and out of the corner of my eye I see a familiar car. Yep, it was Melissa, parked a half a block down . . . . Watching my place.

I say goodbye to my friends I walk towards Melissa’s car; she quickly starts the car and turns on her headlights. I stand in front of the car and say, “Roll down your window.” I ask if she was done spying and wanted to get a drink or speed off.

She finally admits to not believing that I was really going to hang out with a bunch of guys.

So, I pressed it, “Why?”

“Well, because of the stuff with my ex.”

“Oh boy, another I got cheated on story.”

“Don’t be an asshole, it’s more than that.”

“A donkey in the bedroom story?”

“No, it’s beyond that.”

“Well, shit, spill it. It’s 1:00am in the morning, my house is under surveillance, spill it.”

“Fine! I lived with my son’s father for a few years and I went to his job to surprise him for lunch and he wasn’t there. His supervisor said he hadn’t been to work in a week. But he had been leaving everyday at the same time and coming home at the same time.”

“So, he got lost?”

“No, dammit, I’m being serious.”

“OK, go on.”

“So me and my girlfriend Jill followed him for three or four days . . . “

“I’m not the only one getting spied on?”

“Do you want me to finish?”

“Sure, why not.”

“Every morning he would go to Tampa and Parthenia, by the projects, and buy crack, wait for me and my son to leave. Go into the house and smoke crack and watch porn all day. On the fourth day, I came in and caught him. I told him to get his stuff and leave.”

“This doesn’t explain why you’re staking out my place?”

“When you said you were hanging out with friends, I figured you were lying.”

“Sorry, I don’t lie.”

“Everyone lies.”

“If I was smoking crack or had a woman here I’d tell you.”

“No, you wouldn’t.”

“Yes, I would, for two reasons: 1. I don’t lie and 2. I’ll treat you like I want to be treated.”

So, to wrap this up, we lasted a few more weeks. She had issues and ran off and married her ex’s best friend. I started seeing a girl named Karen. Karen was a nice girl. But she too had some issues.

I met Karen right as she was wrapping up a relationship with some guy. On the outside, she was calm, cool and collected, but inside she was a little quirky.

One day I came over to go swimming at her sister’s condo. Everything seemed cool; when I came back to the condo to change I found her going through my wallet. So, I said with all of my subtlety, “Trying to rob me?”

She dropped the wallet and let out a bit of a shriek.

“It’s not what you think.”

“OK, what is it then?”

She started with a story of a boyfriend that would up and disappear for days at a time. This led to her staking out his place. Then breaking in one night and finding him naked smoking crack with a hooker.

I shook my head and thought, “A lot of that going around.” But instead, I said, “What does that have to do with my wallet?” She said that I would go off radar sometimes and/or disappear.

I told her, “Look, me not being around has nothing to do with crack or hookers or donkeys (I didn’t really say Donkeys). Sometimes I just want to be left alone. I want to be somewhere where no one is watching my house; no one is rummaging through my wallet. Understand? What were you looking for anyway?”

“Phone numbers, drugs. Stuff like that.”

We stopped seeing each shortly after that.

Lastly, I dated a girl, I’ll call Ellen, back in the late eighties. Ellen was someone who believed she was rich but lived, somewhat, middle-class. She tended to look down on everyone and everything. But the first impression she gave was great.

Anyway, after a month of seeing each other I left the room to hit the can one night and at the time the room I slept in at my place had two doors, I walked out of one and came back in the other – surprising her. I found Ellen going through the drawers of my dresser.

I already knew where this was going so I said, “I don’t think any of my clothes will fit you.”

She yelped, dropped some clothes and started to make up some excuse about looking for something.

So I said, “Let’s speed this up, don’t lie. What did your boyfriend do that I have to pay for?”

She stammered for a bit, then said, “Well, he was supposed to meet me the morning of my cousin’s wedding, but he disappeared that week. After the reception, I went to his parent’s house where he lived. I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell. No answer. So, I went around back and opened the sliding glass door, and I found him smoking crack and masturbating to porn.”

I shook my head and said, “Yep, don’t they all.”

Now, what are the chances of dating three different women and having the same scenario pop up three different times?

In one or two of the cases the girls went back to the crack smoking ex.

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

Karate Man

From 1989 to 1992, I worked at Prudential Insurance in Woodland Hills, California. I started at, pretty much, at the bottom in 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 into the MIS Unit, I was seated three desks from our manager’s office. Just 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 basically 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; I think the supervisor’s name was Marty.

Anyway, this guy would walk by everyday. 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, maybe 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, surprisingly, 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 lead to his arrest in New York.

I think 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 ‪#‎lifewontwait

The Athlete

FROM LIFE WON’T WAIT

As a youngster, I didn’t like horror films, sports or cars. Everything that my twenty-something father loved. So, when I was five years old, in an effort to butch me up, my dad enrolled me in a wrestling class at Pierce College. I didn’t care one way or the other if I went. My mom would drop me off and I would learn how to wrestle/become a man.
Now, here’s where I failed at this: One of the kids (for some reason I keep thinking his name was “Kenny”) was very hyper. Even when …it was two of the other kids’ turn to demonstrate the move we were just taught, Kenny would move up and down the line of kids waiting for their turn and would attempt to do a headlock/choke hold on us. No big deal, right?

It just so happened that my father had enrolled himself in a night class at Pierce a few days after my enrollment. His class lets out and he came to check on his son’s new masculinity. What did he see? Me pressed up against the wall with Kenny performing his best date rape techniques on me.

When I finally wrestled away from this kid, all I saw is my dad looking over at me, shaking his head in disgust and then walk away. Hmmm . . . not good. Once I got home, I heard my dad and mom talking in the other room. It went something like this: “I go to check on him and he’s busy hanging all over the other boys.” I wasn’t old enough to understand exactly what was being said, only that my dad was disappointed.
Fast-forward nine years to midway through the eighth grade. I had this tough PE teacher; I think his name was Mr. Santiago. Santiago was also the football coach at Canoga High School. So, our PE regime was not that of an eighth grade class. He would have two kids hold up this pole and we would come running from one end of the gym to this pole, then vault over it, into a midair somersault and land on a mat. I tried it twice and belly-flopped both times.

Then he switched modules and we would be wrestling for the next month. I was stressing, my last wrestling experience was kind of screwed. Santiago pairs me against the biggest guy in the class on the first day. He was a skinny white boy like me; I thought I had it in the bag. He beat me.

The whole wrestling thing messed with my head. My dad was disappointed in me and now the coach was too. I made this weird goal in my head that I was going to beat that skinny white boy, either on the mat or outside of school. The loss, screwed me up a bit. A week later, after Santiago paired everybody off, he asked if anybody wanted to wrestle. I jumped up, and then he asked who I wanted to wrestle? I pointed to the white guy. I wrestled like this guy robbed my family and burnt our house down and left our dog pregnant. I pinned him in about twenty seconds. The guy was shocked and the coach high-fived me.

I’m not sure why I was so worked up about winning, but I was

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎lifewontwait

John

FROM LAST ONE TO DIE

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 one 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 says 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 yells, “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 are 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 ‪#‎lastonetodie