Camp Wayside

FROM LAST ONE TO DIE:

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

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The Official Commercial For Misconceptions of Hell

Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestselling author Michael Essington presents his first collection of fiction with Misconceptions of Hell. Available now from Essex Digital Media.

“Michael Essington is one of my favorite writers. This book is old-school, hard-boiled fun. Characters are awesome, stories great, every page made me laugh. And I learned an important lesson, which is – trust the fucking cards!”
–James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard

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‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#misconceptionsofhell

Chupacabras

Years ago, there were a number of shows on the Sci-Fi channel that played “real” videos of monsters or supernatural occurrences that viewers caught on film. If I remember right, it was mostly blurry Big Foot tapes or and the occasional flying saucer and/or hubcap flying behind a cloud.

So, one day there crazy idea/prank popped into my head . . . I’ll go to Mexico and catch the Chupacabras!

I first told my sister-in-law that I needed her to come with me to Mexico. She would be my cameraman (or camera person). Now the most crucial part of this project? My wife.

You see as part of the capture of the elusive Chupacabras or as he’s known to his friends: Chupa, I would have my wife dress up as sheep and walk around a Mexican farm yelling, “Baaaa,” until Senor Chupa swoops down for the attack and my sister-in-law would film it and I would rush in and bag Chupa.

The problem is, no one knew if I was joking or if I was serious. My sister-in-law cracked up, but my wife was pissed. She said, “You wouldn’t save me. You’d let the Chupacabras kill me.”

Now death never entered my mind. Just the possibility of seeing her run around on a farm yelling, “Baaa,” killed me.

I don’t know if I could have caught the Chupacabras or how much the Sci-Fi channel would have paid me, but the wife’s reaction alone was worth me pretending to keep the project alive for over a year.

‪#‎michaelessington‬ ‪#misconceptionsofhell

Good Women

FROM LIFE WON’T WAIT:

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

Riding The Metro

FROM LAST ONE TO DIE:

I’ve written about my lovely experiences while riding the bus to and from work in the past.

In my younger years, it seemed like more of an adventure. I would, occasionally, meet new people, have some interesting conversations. In general, just pass the time. Nowadays, and maybe it’s me that’s changed, but I see some people that I recognize, and we politely nod, but the conversation is non-existent.

For the most part, everyone seems like they’re packed into a cattle car en route to the slaughterhouse. No eye contact, no talking, the same four or five upper-middle aged Hispanic men crammed in the back briskly drinking their 40 ounces trying to forget what transpired on that very day.

When I was a younger, slimmer guy, a bunch of us would take the bus to a friend’s house, and it was fun. We’d be laughing, talking; probably bugging the shit out of the older people on the bus, now twenty-five plus years later I’m watching the final death rattle of ninety percent of the people on the bus. I almost welcome the tough-guy “gangsta” threats of the young Cholos. It breaks up the monotony of the ride.

This is why I have to tell you (the reader) about an episode that happened about a week ago. I’m off of work, and I hopped onto the second of two buses that get me home every night. It’s about 5:20, 5:30, and I’m playing with my “smart” phone, plugging in my earbuds, listening to music, texting, returning calls, all the while maintaining an all-star game of solitaire. Impressed yet?

I do all of this to block out the above-mentioned malnourished, dying Bovine. The texting, music, and game help me zone out. Anyway, this particular weeknight, I’m in my own little world, when I just barely hear over my music a rustling of someone getting out of his or her seat and moving around. You ignore it, it’s like living near a freeway, after a while, you don’t hear the cars anymore.

Anyway, I ignore the rustling, and what felt like a rock in my back, I get punched from behind.

I jump up, and the only response I can muster is, “What the fuck?” And I see a scraggly homeless guy run down the aisle of the bus, I start towards him, and he spins around, and points at me, and yells “You’re gonna die!”

Here’s my dilemma, if he was “normal” I would have had no problem whipping his ass, but I guarantee he forgot what happened 30 seconds after getting off that bus. Hell, for all I know, he thought he punched Godzilla.

So, after his outburst, he ran off the bus. And the rest of the bus ride home the bus was dead quiet. Even the fattest of cattle are unnerved by insanity.

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

Car Shopping

FROM BORN FRUSTRATED:

Back in 1995, I was dating a girl, which I thought was the last girl I would ever date. And one day we started talking about buying a car together and eventually getting an apartment together.

It just so happened that my dad was selling a small black SUV. I asked him if we could buy it from him, and he was his usual direct self and said, “No, I don’t sell to people I know. It creates too many problems.” In all actuality, I don’t think that was the case. I think he saw cracks in the relationship before I did. Well, we weren’t deterred, we continued our car search. We went from one end of Van Nuys Blvd to the other. My credit was fair and hers was non-existent. So, the financing wasn’t happening, which later turned out to be a good thing.

Well, one day we were at a small dealership a block down from the Van Nuys police department. My, then, girlfriend was going to test drive this big SUV, the owner of the lot asks her for her license. She says she left it in the car, I give him mine.

She takes the SUV out, I sit in the passenger seat. We get five blocks out and the thing dies, just completely dead in the street.

We get out, walk back to the dealership, I get my license. The owner gets an attitude and says, “Where the fuck is my car?” I give him the address of where we left the SUV and we left. We get to the car we came in and we realize that my former girlfriend had thrown the keys under the seat of the now broke down/busted SUV. Fucking great.

So we head back to the office and I tell the guy that I need a ride back to the SUV, and he gets a crazy attitude, “This isn’t a fuckin’ taxi service!”

So as nicely as I can put it, I say, “Listen, you old fuck, it’s your fault we’re in this mess. If you weren’t trying to sell pieces of shit cars, the keys wouldn’t be six blocks away.”

He waves two big Hispanic guys over, and says in broken Spanish, “Go get the car.”

I follow them to a big white pick-up truck. I start to get inside, but one of the guys says, “There’s no room, get in the back.”

Needless to say, I was suspicious. I hop the in back and hold on, and just as I thought, the driver guns it. He peels out of the driveway at about 75 or 80 miles an hour. They took every corner at around 65 miles per hour. I was trying to act nonchalant while calling them goat-fuckers and anything else that popped into my head while holding on for dear life.

As soon as we pulled up to the stalled SUV I jumped out and charged the driver, but the passenger was already in front of me with a length of chain, approximately six feet long, in his left hand, and with his right, he was swinging the excess. I imagine two things here, one – they’ve done this before and two – the chain may or may not have been intended to be used to tow the SUV back. Either way, I stepped back from beating the crap out of the driver. But there is no way in hell it was over.

I opened the SUV and grabbed my senile girlfriend’s keys and proceeded to walk back to the lot. I wasn’t about to hop in the back of the truck again.

As I approached the lot I saw a construction site, I walked over and picked up two cinder blocks. Then met up with the girlfriend on the corner, next to the dealership.

My girlfriend gave me the look over and said, “What are you doing with those blocks?” At this point I was in no mood to talk, I just said, as I handed her the keys, “Let’s go.”

As we walked past the auto dealership I saw the owner hug and start whispering stuff into Damian Chapa’s ear. Remember Damian Chapa? The white guy from Blood In, Blood Out, the movie that was on Showtime every fifteen minutes during the 1990’s.

My first thought was, “What the fuck is the head of the Mexican Mafia doing here?”

We get in the car and as we round the corner, I lean out the window and fire off the first cinder block I nail the stalled SUV, the block bounces off the hood and it shatters the window. Then we drive six to ten feet, I fire the second cinder block into the group of people standing in front of the dealership, the owner, Chapa and the two assholes from the truck. Chapa and the two douche-bags, duck, the block flies past them and nails the owner right in the knee. He falls and everybody starts chasing the car. My girlfriend is screaming. “What the hell did you do?” I say, “Nothing, drive.” She peels out.

Needless to say, we never bought a car together and we split, I think, five to six months after that.

I still wonder what the hell was Chapa doing there?!

#michaelessington #bornfrustrated

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