Camp Wayside


More than a dozen years ago, before marriage, before the birth of my son, etc., I found myself in some trouble, warrants, etc. And was sentenced to Camp Wayside, out by Magic Mountain, for approximately 1/3 of the year.

During this time I took a job as a barber, I cut everyone’s hair through high school and enrolled in Barber College right after graduation. Years later I got into graphic design and reserved haircuts for friends and family only. My job as a Wayside barber paid me in the neighborhood of 25¢ a day. Once I had been cutting hair for a few weeks, quite a few of the “white” sheriffs started waking me up in the middle of the night to “request” haircuts. This was the best deal in the place, they would give me extra food, sometimes do favors – watch someone who was giving me a hard time, etc.

Wayside would always have three barbers, Black, Hispanic, and White. Each race would, usually, stay with barbers of their own kind, unless you did something to annoy your “car.” Then, as in my case, the Whites would go to the Hispanic barber. The three barbers bunked in the same section together, and worked together, and were, basically, stuck together 24/7. Even if you hated races, different than your own, it was hard not to get to be friends with the other barbers. The problem with this was the inmates were divided into four distinct camps: The Blacks, The Woods (Whites), The Paisans (Mexicans straight from Mexico), The Southsiders (Mexicans gangsters). If you talk too much to anyone from any of these other camps, someone would want to beat you down.

I made it through two race riots, first one was Mexicans versus the Whites, no one died, but plenty were wounded, I came out of it without a scratch. The second riot was Blacks against Whites; I came out OK, punched in the back of the head, but stayed up. After these riots the Head of The Woods didn’t want me to talk to the other barbers, Hispanic or as they referred to the Blacks – Toads. They wanted to remain racist without saying the dreaded “n-word.” Well, unbeknownst to everyone I was tutoring the head of the “black car.” Bull, as he was known, didn’t know how to read (he was the other barber) and he felt I could help him without me telling people. Also, when internal race issues came up with the Blacks he would ask my opinion, but I would swear not to let this come out, it would cause further riots and get him beat down.

So, when more and more pressure was being put on me by the Whites, Bull talked to the heads of the “white-cars,” and said that I was Italian and I had the full backing of the Blacks at Wayside, so if there was a problem with me the Blacks would riot on every White at Wayside, but me.

After that, I was left alone, but warned as I left Wayside to “never come back.”

I never went back.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#lastonetodie


Good Women

There was an article I caught a little while back from Dr. Neil Clark Warren, the founder of eHarmony. It was a lengthy piece about how marriage as a whole is pretty much dead. Not unions, per se, but the institution of marriage is not really functional in this day and age.

My brother-in-law likes to say “Every man needs a good woman behind him.” I’m not sure if he truly understands this quote, or if he caught it in a Humphrey Bogart movie. You see, his definition of what a good woman is very antiquated. He wants a woman standing by, waiting at his beck and call.

Now some women like that role, then people like Alfred Hitchcock had someone like this and flourished. His wife Alma would collect screenplays, read them, choose the next picture, draw storyboards, design the costumes and Alfred would show up and direct.

Then there are women that can completely destroy you. If a good woman can build you up, then a bad woman can tear you down.

A couple of years before my dad passed away, he told me about going to dinner at a co-worker’s house. He had never met the coworker’s wife until that night. Everybody was talking, eating and having a decent time. My dad’s coworker clears his throat and starts to tell a story, and as soon as he utters his first sound his wife yells: “Shut the fuck up. Don’t say one word. I know everything you’re going to say, I know everything you’re ever going to say. I’ve heard it all. You’re never going to say anything new. I’ve had it.”

Needless to say, the evening wrapped up pretty quick after that. I remember my dad saying once, people, like Hollywood, only have five stories. And they just keep re-shuffling those stories. You spend enough around people and you’re bound to be beaten over the head with those stories.

The point is if you have a good woman she can make you think that those five stories are the greatest anecdotes known to man.

In modern times, that though is hard to find. Everybody is pressed for time and agitated; no one wants to sit through a story. So maybe Dr. Warren is right, use eHarmony to meet somebody nice, and then move on as soon as your five stories get stale.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎lifewontwait‬

Fourth of July

Back in 1993, I took a trip with my dad to East Los Angeles for a fourth of July party. As it was, one of the guys my dad worked with was having a huge blowout. The guy’s son lived next door to him and they knocked down the dividing wall to open up a huge backyard.

The guy tried for weeks to get my dad to come, but my dad kept saying he was busy. Finally, he pulled out the big guns and said the party was going to be catered and plenty of fresh carnitas. That was the deal changer.

My dad called me and said, “We are going to East L.A. for the fourth.”

I said, “OK, why?”

He said, “Carnitas, lots of it.”

I said, “Let’s go.”

The party was fun. Within a few minutes, my dad had some woman hitting on him. They had a live mariachi band playing and this woman kept dragging him out to dance. After four times he convinced her that she should dance with me instead. I danced with her a few times, but she had her sights on my dad.

Each time I got up to dance he was at the food table, smiling at me, holding up a carnitas taco. Shit.

The guy throwing the party, let everybody know that there wouldn’t be any fireworks. The cops were pretty hardcore out there about the stuff. I remember the drive to his house – every corner were these intense billboards of a kid’s hand covered in bandages, missing a finger, and in Spanish, it said something about, “Don’t let your kids play with fireworks.” I remember thinking that nothing that graphic had been posted in the Valley.

That day was the first of only two times I ever saw my dad dance. The second would be at my wedding.

It was one of the coolest fourth’s I ever had.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ #misconceptionsofhell

Shopping While Punk

As I write reviews, I often times remember where I was at the time I first heard the album, or where I bought it or a really cool experience I had while listening to it.

Around the time China White’s Dangerzone came out, 1981, my mother took my brother, and I to a comic book store in Studio City called American Comics, on Ventura Blvd.

The guys that ran this shop were, as the British say . . . Right bastards. We went there one afternoon, and my mom was over on one end of the store, and I wandered over to another end of the place, and my brother was, sort of, midway between us. As soon as I stepped into the place one of the guys behind the counter started following me, and if I picked up a book he stood beside me. So, the guy saw my every move, but as I walked to the front of the store the other counter guy tells me I can’t leave until I open my leather jacket so they can see if I have any books stashed in there. By this time my brother is walking with me, I let out some expletives and left. My mother was completely in the dark as to what happened, she was on the other side of the shop, and the whole process happened inside of four or five minutes, I walked in, they saw the short hair and a leather jacket, and figured either harass the guy, or he’ll steal.

My mother wrote the owner a letter asking for an apology, but none came, like I said bastards.

We went back a year or two later when they changed locations and owners. It was kind of funny because I was wearing a Black Flag T-shirt, and I’ve been reading for a while and in walks Marco Pirroni the guitarist from Adam & The Ants. At the time all the L.A. punks seemed to hate the Ants, I remember people passing out bumper stickers that said “Black Flag Kills Ants on Contact.” So Pirroni gives me a once over, and I just nod and keep reading. It was kind of funny.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#‎misconceptionsofhell