AA, Sex & Coffee Shops, A Story From Last One To Die

Back in the ‘80’s, even though I wasn’t drinking, my mom said I should attend AA meetings. Both my grandfathers were alcoholics and my father was as well. My mom told me I was displaying the personality traits of an alcoholic. And that I should attend AA and/or Adult Children of Alcoholics.

I didn’t know my grandfather on my dad’s side was an alcoholic. I never saw him drink and I never saw him drunk. Turns out he was a binge drinker. He’d go a year without touching a drop, then slip into a 3-month binge.

I always knew of my mom’s dad’s problem. Every holiday we’d spend with him, he’d drink before we got there and by the time we’d get ready to leave he’d be slumped in his chair, almost asleep. My grandfather had a shitty upbringing from an alcoholic who beat him and told him he was unwanted. So, the alcoholic gene (if that exists) was passed on. And then later my uncle Rick battled substance abuse issues. Remember the old days when dad’s passed on the family business?

I told you all that to tell you this, I called one of my dad’s old work buddies who was now a counselor at an AA meeting and a “recovering” alcoholic. My dad’s friend, Ed, is a good guy. Of all my dad’s friends, he was the best. He was a trash collector in the ‘70’s and he would always bring us comic books or Mad Magazines he’d find on his route. Cool stuff.

So I call Ed and he invites me to come to a meeting. The meeting is located at a Korean Church in Northridge. I drive out on a Wednesday night. When I get there Ed pulls me aside and tells me that due to low attendance, they combined the AA meeting with the Adult Children of Alcoholics and the sex addiction meeting. That was a big WTF.

The meeting starts with everyone going around the room introducing themselves and stating their “problem.” It gets to be my turn and I say my name and say I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. And everyone sits there looking at me like I am in denial. I say I don’t drink. And at that point, I hadn’t so much as had a beer in a year. No one believed me. I guess everyone comes through and says I am here because someone else thinks I should be.

We moved on. The first person to talk was a woman that was about 25. She talked about fighting her nymphomania. She said the mailman came to deliver something the week before and how it took all of her willpower to keep her from pulling him into her house. Sad to say, she had my attention. She went on about looking him up and down and how it had been a week since she had sex. Hell yeah!! When she was done the head counselor stated again that dating or “relationships” in the group were grounds for being kicked out. I know he wasn’t, but it felt like he was looking at me.

The next person to speak was an older guy, late 50’s, with glasses. The kind of guy that looks like a computer tech. I remember looking at him, thinking he looks like a child molester. Then he starts talking about a court case that forbids him from seeing his daughter and hopefully she will forgive him one day. I remember looking at him and wanting to stomp the shit out of him. I can’t understand anyone messing with kids, especially their own flesh and blood.

So I stayed for the whole hour or so meeting and as it starts to wrap up one of the guys in the meeting calls me over to the side and says “a lot of the newcomers aren’t comfortable talking about their problems, so a bunch of us are going to meet at the coffee shop up the street for donuts and coffee. It will be easier to talk over there. Come on and join us.” I stared for a minute and then said: “Yeah, I’ll meet you there.” Then drove home.

I attended three or four more of these meetings, sat drinking coffee like Ed Norton in Fight Club. Then got tied up with different things and missed a month.

So, four or five weeks later I show up at the church. I walk in with a cup of coffee from Winchell’s. And everybody in the place freezes. Two Korean guys walk briskly towards me. I’m not nervous, because I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but their quick walking has me on alert.

One guy starts talking very quickly, “You go, this is for Koreans only. You go.” The other guy smiles and puts his hand on my elbow and starts guiding me to the door. Through all of this, I’m saying I’m here for the AA meeting. But the guy keeps saying, “You go, this is for Koreans only. You go.” To which I say, “AA, you know the crazy people?”

Next thing I know I’m back in my car, with my cup of Joe and the guy is walking away still babbling, “This is for Koreans only.” I drive back home and my mom says “what are you doing here?” I said the meeting isn’t there anymore. To which she replied, “You intentionally went on the wrong night so you didn’t have to go.”

WTF. After that, I didn’t go anymore. There were periods of time where I drank more than others, but my own personal paranoia about my alcoholic bloodline kept me from ever seriously taking the plunge.

But in all seriousness, if you have an issue with substance abuse or know someone who does (don’t we all), don’t wait until it’s too late. I’ve lost too many people this way and one is too many.

#michaelessington #lastonetodie




The Master Plan, A Story From Salvation

I’ve been thinking a lot about being a parent. I don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with my Daughter turning 22, and my Son is about a month away from turning 12.

It takes a long time before you can see if you’ve done a good job or not. I think that’s what concerns me the most.

I remember, years ago, I had an ex (she was Puerto Rican) that every time she was mad at me, she would say how she had the best Mom in the world, and how my family hated me. I was numb to this and didn’t say much, but one day I had had enough, and I said “How do you figure you have the best Mom in the world? Both your parents were addicted to heroin; all three kids dropped out of school, were on drugs, and did jail time before you were 18. How in the hell do you call that good parenting?” She gave me a nasty look, and said, “At least she loved us.” But I didn’t stop, I said: “Sure, she did that’s why she threw all of you out of the house before you hit 18, so she could have more alone time with her heroin and her many boyfriends.” That was the end between my ex, and me.

Back in 1998, I was living in Canoga Park, and I took a stroll down to the corner to get my hair cut. I got to talking to the Hispanic barber about kids (at this point I only had my four-year-old daughter), and he says he has a Son, and a Daughter and that Daughters are the best. I agree, what else am I going to say? Then he explains why, he says, “You have a Son, he grows up, gets strung out on drugs, joins a gang, and gets shot, and dies, but with a Daughter, she grows up, gets strung out on drugs, joins a gang, and gets knocked up, moves back home, gets off drugs, and raises her kid.” I sat there stunned, this is why Daughters are better because of their ability to get knocked up by gangbangers? I don’t think I let my four-year-old daughter out of my sight for the rest of the weekend.

About four years before this I was talking (and drinking) with a friend of mine named Jeff; Jeff is African American and has many anti-Black views. Jeff and I were throwing back two bottles of St. Ides (hey, it was in 1994, and Tupac said it was a good beer), and my Daughter was a few months away from being born, and in his drunken state Jeff was telling me I had to step up, and be a good Dad, and be pleased with every decision she makes, then he said raise her the opposite way that Black people raise their kids. I asked, “How is that?” He said, “Black people are like a bucket of crabs?” I said, “What?” He replied, “Yeah, watch crabs, sometimes, if one starts to get away, they all pull him back down. That’s Black people, man. As soon as one of us starts to do well, or leave the neighborhood, everybody pulls us back down. They suck man.”

OK, it’s OK to do heroin, and throw my kids out as long as I love them, no gangbanger activity for my kids, and keep them away from crabs, check.

There used to be an entertainment magazine called Icon (not the gay magazine), and for a short time in 1998, until early 1999, it was one of my favorite magazines. It covered music, comics, movies — you name it. One issue they had a small interview with Black porn (male) star Sean Michaels. Now, not a subject I would be interested in, but I read everything. If I was in a doctor’s office, and all they have is Good Housekeeping, well, I’ll read the whole thing cover to cover. Then offer great decorating tips afterward. Anyway, Sean Michaels starts talking about his twelve-year-old Son that he doesn’t see. Then he says, “I’m not the father I want to be because I’m not the man I want to be.”

What? This damn quote has been stuck in my head for about twelve years. I never thought that was a reasonable excuse. I can’t be a good Dad because I’m not rich enough, or I haven’t accomplished enough. WTF? There isn’t a parent in the world that makes enough or has accomplished enough.

Another interview I read about five years back was with Mike Ness. Mike explains how he didn’t meet his son until the boy was five years old. Now, in Mike’s case, he was in all kinds of legal trouble, and he was pretty addicted to drugs. Now me, I can’t imagine not being around my kids when they were born, or all those early years. Mike was smart to stay away until he cleaned up, and got on the straight and narrow. Nothing worse than subjecting your kids to your downfall.

So, how do you know if you did a good job or not? Every once in a while, they will plop down in your lap for no reason at all, and smile at you. And with hope, this won’t be followed by “You know what I’d like to get?”

#michaelessington #salvation



Taxicab Confessions, A Story From Broken


Years ago I was watching an episode of Taxi Cab Confessions (remember that show?). And one guy that hopped into the back of the cab was a subway cop. Like they did, they baited the guy long enough until they got him talking.

One of his worst experiences while working the subway was this:

A guy was standing too close to the edge and was somehow pushed over and onto the subway tracks. While he was on the tracks, the subway came and hit him. The lower half of his body was stuck under the tracks. When the train hit him it twisted the top of his body around. Now the subway cop had the horrible job of going down onto the tracks and telling the guy he is alive at the moment, but once they try to remove him that his body will spin back around and sever his spine and he will die.

I can’t think of a more horrible task. The guy is alive, though traumatized, and looking at you, understanding your words, but trying to comprehend that if moved he is dead.

I’ve never had to deal with death like that. Most of the people I’ve known have gone quickly.

In 1984, while in barber school, I was leaving through the back door one day at lunch, when, about, twenty feet away from me, I heard a small cherry-picker whirring away and lifting a guy up into the air. The guy got out of the picker and was trying to wrap a belt around his waist and the telephone pole.

I watched him leave the cherry-picker, loop the belt and then I saw him fall and hit his head on the curb. For a second every one of the four other pole workers yelled, “Oh my god, shit,” etc. Then everything went quiet. For the next five minutes, it was like the city shut down.

I watched, after what felt like hours, as one of the crew members ran to the truck and radioed for help.

I stood there for a bit, kind of, stunned. And not able to move, then all at once the world started again. Cars flying by, the crew chatted to bystanders. In an instant, everything was back to normal, except for a guy lying in the gutter with his head on the curb.

It was all surreal. I had to return to school. At 2:30, when I was leaving, the crew was gone as was the body. That night I popped on the news and there was no mention of the guy. Kind of sad.

#michaelessington #broken




Karate Man, A Story From Broken


From 1989 to 1992, I worked at Prudential Insurance in Woodland Hills, California. I started at, pretty much, at the bottom of the Service Support Department. I hustled for and got into the MIS Department.

The way they designed the building, 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 to the MIS Unit, I sat three desks from our manager’s office. 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 walk past my desk.

After about three weeks of being in the MIS Unit, I saw this guy, who worked in another wing of the building, walk by. Every day he walked by. He would head to the back of our wing to the claims support unit and meet with the supervisor; the supervisor’s name was Marty.

Anyway, this guy would walk by every day. 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 trying 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 appeared such a douche bag and because of that, I’ve dismissed him with little 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, six months, and I talked 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 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 every day. 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 led to his arrest in New York.

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 ‪#‎broken




Help Thy Neighbor, A Story From Broken


I went to McDonald’s for my daily cup of coffee when a homeless man approached me. He asked if I had change, then he mumbled something about what the change was for. I said I didn’t have any change, but I would after I bought the coffee. He said great and stood next to me with his hands folded in front of his chest.

We stood there for a few seconds waiting for my turn at the register. He commented on the weather, and then I turned and asked him if he was hungry?

He said, “Yes, very.” So, I told him, let’s get breakfast. He told me what he wanted, and I ordered for both of us. He thanked me two or three times and said I don’t need the change now; I only needed it to get food. Thank you.

We sat down and ate. He put some of his food in his backpack and ate the rest and left.

‪Swung by the same McDonald’s I went to the day before, thinking my homeless friend would be there. Ordered my coffee and waited for about forty-five minutes. No show. I figured if he was around I’d feed him.

Yesterday when we were in line together, he asked me the time. I wasn’t wearing my watch, so I ball parked it and said, “Around 9:00.” He said, “Oh, it’s still early.”

I guess being homeless you get up and get moving when the sun comes up without knowing the exact time.

Anyway, I’ll pop in tomorrow to see if he’s around.

#michaelessington #broken




Twain’s, A Story From Broken


I 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 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 it involved pancakes. The waiter brought each item on a separate plate — fifteen minutes apart. Within forty minutes 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 like 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, “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 explained to my future wife that Twain’s did not want to hire me as a waiter.

‪#‎michaelessington ‪#‎broken




Helping The Needy, A Story From Broken


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 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 p.m., and then it changes into a Spanish dance club. Fun place.

So, 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.

When I’m walking female friends or women in my family, I put myself in between them and the homeless guy or the shaved head guy with his area code on his forehead, that kind of thing.

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 money in his hand, and talks 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 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.

It humbled me. Cheers, Kathy!

‪#‎michaelessington ‪#‎broken




Harley, A Story From Broken


Back in either July or August 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 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, and then asked if he cared to reconsider? He told them to fuck off. He did the entire eighteen months.

Harley wore nothing, but the issued pair of orange pants, maybe some socks. During 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 mountain scape 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 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 later, and the bulky white guy in the next dorm was upset about the 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 had 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 #broken




Fourth Grade, An Unpublished Story

Back in 1975, when I was in fourth grade, I engaged in a game of kickball that turned into a “Mike should never be allowed to watch Billy Jack movies.”

I went to school with two of Spencer Milligan’s kids. Milligan was the dad on Land of The Lost. One of the boys was in my grade and the other who I think was named Derek, was a grade younger. This was also around the same time my mom babysat Lisa Bonet. Lisa was also a year younger than me. My mom was semi-responsible for getting Lisa her first acting gig. Bonet’s mom knew my mother was a photographer and asked my mom to do headshots for a Barbie commercial. My mom took the pictures of the eight-year-old Bonet and she landed the commercial.

Back to kickball and Billy Jack. One day at lunch I was playing kickball with a bunch of kids. It was my turn to kick. I sailed the ball down the third base line. Two kids dove to stop it and/or catch it. No luck. I ran around all the base and one kid, I think Derek, was chasing me. I passed home plate. Then Derek yelled, “That doesn’t count, you stepped out of the baseline.”

Rather than doing my usual and fight the kids, I asked to see the ball. They handed it to me and I walked off. If you’re going to cheat, fuck you, I’m leaving. I left.

What I didn’t count on was both Derek and Lisa Bonet chased me, and from either side of me, they tugged on the ball. For whatever reason, I got that Billy Jack scene in my head where he says, “I’m gonna take this right foot, and I’m gonna whop you on that side of your face and you wanna know something? There’s not a damn thing you’re gonna be able to do about it.”

So, the person on the right of me, Derek, got a foot to the stomach, I couldn’t reach his head, and he fell to the ground. Then, Lisa got the other foot to her stomach. She too was on the ground holding her freshly kicked gut.

I ran off with my kickball. Thinking that like Billy Jack there be no consequences (cue One Tin Soldier). I looked back and Lisa and Derek were talking to the yard teacher and pointing at me. Oh fuck.

When the bell rang, and we were summoned back to class, I was called outside. I was told I would have to write standards, stay after school and then expect a phone call to my mother.

When I got home, I went into overdrive. I thought of everything in the world to get my mom out of the house, “We need groceries, I need a book for school, and I need new shoes!” Nothing worked. Then right around 4:30 or 5:00 the phone rang and my mom talked to my teacher Mrs. Forney.

My mom got off the phone and asked/told me: “You kicked a girl in the stomach?” I tried to explain the cheating, I feared for my life and my newly gained ninja skills saved me.

I was grounded. No TV or dessert for a few days. After elementary school, I would completely lose touch with Derek and his brother. Lisa would hang out around my house (no, we never fought again) until the summer after my sixth-grade year. Then she popped up for a year in high school. In that year she never spoke to me. Then she moved to New York to make Cosby and met a guy named Romeo Blue. The rest is history I guess.

#michaelessington #salvation



Homeless?, A Story From Broken


On October 31, 2009, I took my son to breakfast at McDonald’s on Vanowen and Balboa. It was empty, quiet, and the playground was open for him.

As a regular breakfast consumer of McDonald’s I get used to people panhandling. If I eat deeper into Van Nuys, most people bypass me, thinking I don’t know Spanish, so they walk on.

I give change, or they want my coffee cup before it’s thrown away.

On this day, a Sunday, I saw a guy walk in; he looked like the mountain man from The Oak Ridge Boys: a little roughed up, but not dirty. Boots seemed clean. He didn’t seem to order; he placed his travel roll in a booth, and kind of walking around.

At that point my son had finished his food and wanted to play outside. So, we went to play.

After, about, a half an hour my son was done and wanted to head home. Right as I was standing up the bearded Mountain Man came walking into the play area. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a dollar. Before I could hand it over, the Man said I want you to have these. He gave me two coupons for a free cup of coffee, one coupon for a free breakfast sandwich, and a gift card he said: “Might only have forty cents on it, but use it to buy your little one an ice cream.”

I told him I couldn’t accept it he should keep it. Use it for tomorrow’s breakfast.
“You keep it,” he said. “I’m fine.”

I pocketed my dollar, his coupons, and the gift card. Before I could look up, he was making his way out the driveway, pulling his travel roll. I called out to him, “Let me drive you somewhere.”

He said, “No, I’m fine.” He pointed to the bus stop, and said, “There are things I want to see.”

Turned left out of the driveway, and looked at him waiting for the bus, puzzled.

He stood looking up at the sky smiling.

#michaelessington #broken