Salvation by Michael Essington

“With Broken, Essington chronicled the oddities of daily life, not just in Los Angeles, but right outside your door.
Now, with Salvation, he has taken those oddities and buffed them and given us a ray of hope.”
James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard

When I got into my teens my dad used to say that, I’m paraphrasing here because I’m having trouble remembering the exact wording, but you get the gist:

“Life is like a heartbeat. You have your ups and downs, but when everything is even-keeled – you’re dead. You’ve flatlined.”

I remember thinking that my dad had made this up. That, maybe, he was a modern Socrates. I don’t think he did, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. The point he was trying to make was that nothing stays consistent, we have peaks and valleys and we should expect those.

When I published Broken, on September 21, 2017, I explored the valleys to some length. With Salvation, the book you’re holding in your hands, I’m hoping to relate a few stories about the peaks.

Believe me, they’re real. The peaks happen. Nothing confirms this more than sitting down and having a cigar with a guy who robbed you in order to buy crack, then a year later being invited to a barbeque in his million dollar home.

“Life is like a heartbeat. You have your ups and downs, but when everything is even-keeled – you’re dead. You’ve flatlined.”

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Salvation

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Caddyshack, An Unpublished Story

I remember reading an article about ten plus years back about how most American men use the movies Caddyshack and The Godfather as a basis in which to bond. The article explained that by trading certain lines back and forth you show you are “one of them.” For example, someone says, “Do you take drugs, Danny?” You would have to reply with: “Every day.” This banter could go on and on depending on how deep you went into this movie. But you get the gist.

It reminded me of an insurance company I worked for during the early nineties, one afternoon I got invited to lunch with a bunch of manager trainees, you know the type — prim and proper at work then at night they become college frat boys — anyway, they discuss this new procedure they’re trying to change and how upper management is trying to stop them, so this guy, Frank, says, “It’s time to go to the mattresses.” I let out a chuckle, and Frank says, “Yeah, Essington knows what I’m talking about,” and he gives me a thumbs-up. I nodded. Now, did I chuckle as part of this “bonding process” over a Godfather quote? No, I stifled a laugh because I always found it funny that certain people equated their job to war or mafia-type violence.

I had a boss, years ago, that had a hardcover edition of the Art of War on his desk, really dude?

Regardless of my intention, Frank and I had bonded because I understood his quote.

The one flaw with this bonding theory is that these movies are so old now that unless you belong to my generation, you won’t get these references. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re at a party yell out, “Hey, did somebody step on a duck?” And watch how everybody looks at you like you’re a leper.

This is why I couldn’t ever date somebody under three years younger than me. All my conversations have pop culture references. And if you don’t get the references, well don’t expect me to sit around and ramble about how nifty those Kardashian broads are, Klunky is my favorite Kardashian though.

I had a young girl send me a friend request a few weeks ago, then she jumps on the chat and told me how much she loved Last One to Die (ah, shucks) and how much she related to it. I thanked her and thought nothing of it. Then later in the conversation, she asked me to watch a video of her band on YouTube. Decent band, but the vocal syncing was off. So, she said, “Did you notice my vocals were out of sync?” So, I gave a smart-ass reply, I said, “It looked like an episode of Lancelot Link.” She replied with a “LOL,” and then, “Who’s he?” This made me scratch my head, “How Old Are You?” She said “20.” OK, fine, whatever, but that leads to my most important question, “If you’re twenty, how is it that you relate to my book? All the places I mention are gone and most of the people are dead.” She replied back, “I just do.”

Fucking kids.

#michaelessington #salvation

 

Salvation

Hidden Messages, An Unpublished Story

I had a guy message me last night. He told me he figured out the message in the covers of my three books. Now I know with complete certainty that there is no story or message built into my covers, but I was curious.

So I said, “What message did you find?”

“Well, it’s like this: with Last One To Die you’re a younger guy and you got into some trouble, so the cover shows you in jail or prison doing your time.”

“OK, I can see how that could be seen that way. It was taken at the school across the street from where I was living at the time the book came out.”

“Now, the second book, Life Won’t Wait, you’re a little older and you’ve gotten deeper into the criminal world. The cover is multiple pictures of you on a bulletin board in an FBI office. Like a task force is looking for you.”

“Um, hate to disappoint you. They are all pictures taken by photographer Edward Colver. It’s not every day you get Colver to take snapshots of you, so I tried to figure out a way to use all the pictures he would give me. It was supposed to look more like the results of a photo-shoot, not an FBI investigation.”

“Yeah, OK. The latest book, Born Frustrated, is you coming out of prison like a boss, a Suge Knight, Al Capone type of guy. You beat all the charges and you are a boss man now.”

“Cool concept, but I’m married, so I can’t be a boss man. I’m a broken shell of a man. In reality, what I was doing is this: I went back to the beginning. I shot pictures in front of my place just like I did with Last One To Die. I walked around smoking the last Cuban cigar I got from a cousin and had ten or twelve shots taken. It was supposed to reflect the stripped-down way the book was done, no reviews, no interviews just streamlined stories.”

“So, am I right? Is this how you connected the covers into a story?”

“Well, no. Ah, hell, sure, why not?”

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Salvation

Helping Animals, An Unpublished Story

Last night the whole family got together to celebrate my nephew’s twelfth birthday. There were around ten or twelve of us that met up at Claim Jumper in Northridge. God knows how I do with crowds. I find a person I want to talk to and with any luck, it’s over in a corner.

Toward the end of the night my son came and sat down with me and played with his portable 3DS. In case I haven’t mentioned for a while, my son isn’t just smart, he’s super smart. Anyway, he was telling me and my brother-in-law, David, how something on his device works. And David says, “Luke, you’re a genius. You will be a billionaire.” My son, without even looking up, says, “David, I have no desire for financial gain. I want to save animals.”

Now, as a parent, you want your kids to be well off and happy. But the integrity that this eleven-year-old shows makes me proud.

My daughter left to the military in February and my son, hoping to save the world — there are those that may say I didn’t have much to do with shaping them. That might be, but whoever is responsible — the kids are turning out well.

#michaelessington #salvation

 

Salvation

Bogie & Bacall, An Unpublished Story

In the mid to late-nineties, I went through a phase where I read anything and everything about the Rat Pack, official biographies, unofficial biographies, books by the children of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

All the books shared a common story. The story of how the Rat Pack wasn’t originally Frank Sinatra and the boys. The original Rat Pack was Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh and some of their friends. Frank Sinatra got in with the crew and over time it became his. They stated that Sinatra became, somewhat, obsessed with trying to be Bogart, even proposing to Bacall when Bogie passed away.

In Bogart’s later years he was stricken with cancer and could not climb the stairs in their home (his and Bacall’s) and unable to walk or dress.

So to make Bogie feel like a king amongst his peers, once a week Bacall would let the nurses have the day off and she would invite all his “buddies” to come over, Sinatra, Mr. and Mrs. Tony Curtis and anyone else in the inner Bogie circle. Bacall would shower him, shave him, tie his tie and dress him. And then carry him to the dumbwaiter outside their bedroom; lower him to the first floor. She’d go down the stairs, carry him to the couch, light a cigarette for him and have his favorite cocktail on the table next to him. Then over the next twenty minutes everyone would show up. No one knew he was a month from passing away.

What I loved about this story was how much Bacall was willing to do to make Bogie feel like a man and help him keep his dignity. Every man wishes for someone like this in their corner. Rest in Peace Ms. Bacall.

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Salvation

Whatcha Gonna Do?, An Unpublished Story

It seems like every TV station has a lineup of reality shows. What’s funny is that most people deny watching them. They’ve become like porn, you know people watch it, but they’ll take it to the grave that they do.

The first reality shows that I remember ever existing were Cops and The Real World. I admit to watching these shows when I was stuck at home sick and I channeled across a marathon of one of these shows. They were like crack. I didn’t like them, but after that first hit, I was selling my appliances for a buck a pop.

One of my favorite episodes of Cops, I remember seeing it twice during the same marathon, was about the local police being called to a house for a domestic disturbance, a father came home liquored up and was threatening to beat up his wife and daughters. The man was a short Hispanic man in a cowboy hat, who was drunk off his ass. The cops show up and when they saw him, they look at each other like, “Really?” He barely came up to their shoulders.

The cops walk in the house and the family is huddled together crying, they go to the back room where the father is and he sees the cops and he starts growling and charges them. They move and he bounces off every flat surface in the room. He gets up, staggers and charges again. And again, they move and he flies into a dresser, knocking it over. Again he tries to stand, still growling, he lunges again, they move and he slams face first into the wall next to the bed. The cops look him over and he has knocked himself out . He jumps up and is ready to lunge again when one of his daughters scream, “Stop you’re killing him!” This is where I started cracking up. The guy is half-dead and the cops never touched him.

Finally, the wife convinces the father to leave with them . Great stuff to watch when you’re sick with a warm bowl of soup.

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Salvation

United We Stand, An Unpublished Story

Back in 2008, when Obama was running for president and Prop 8 was on the ballot, I had the naive notion that the country had become more open-minded and wanted to come together.

Obama won and 8 eventually passed, but instead of harmony, everyone seemed more outward with their racism and hate.

The more time that passes I realize people don’t want to unite. Whether it’s Democrat or Republican, we stand divided. Hell, if you can be beaten into a coma at a Dodger game by a couple of esés for liking the Giants, we will not come together, politically as a country.

People thrive on separation, gangs, teams, politics, states, countries, cities and definitely religions. Being united destroys people’s reason to fight and kill. People, if I have learned nothing else in life, unite through their love of hate.

So, next time some sentimental fool posts an image of multi-ethnic babies with a clever tagline like “We aren’t born hateful,” type underneath, “Give ’em a month.”

I’m not suggesting anyone become racist. What I’m saying is there are hoards of people that won’t and can’t be changed. Hell, the fastest growing religion in the world is based on the concept of “Convert or die.” Anyone capable of rational thought is losing.

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Salvation

Top 50 Musical Acts, An Unpublished Story

Ages ago I was sent this list to complete. It was my top 50 bands that I could instantly remember seeing live. It was a fun trip down memory lane. I could probably add another 100, but here’s what I could remember:

1. Freddie Jackson
2. Color Me Bad
3. Eddie Money
4. Richard Marx
5. Céline Dion
6. L.A. Guns
7. Cher
8. Weirdos
9. Duran Duran
10. Luther Vandross
11. Andy Taylor
12. Belinda Carlisle
13. Beach Boys
14. Cherri Currie
15. Earth Dies Burning
16. Sheila E.
17. Cherry Bombz
18. Chicago
19. David Bowie
20. Prince
21. Tuff
22. Warrant
23. Poison
24. Wasp
25. Suicidal Tendencies
26. Youth Brigade
27. Wasted Youth
28. 7 Seconds
29. Mau Maus
30. Flipper
31. Public Nuisance
32. DOA
33. Sin 34
34. TSOL
35. Jeffrey Lee Pierce
36. Henry Rollins
37. Sebastian Bach
38. Helmet
39. Guns N Roses
40. Skid Row
41. Motley Crue
42. Kiss
43. The Pretenders
44. Steve Jones
45. U2
46. Secret Affair
47. Edgar Winter
48. Human Hands
49. Romero Void
50. Danzig

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Salvation

Assistant, A Story From Salvation

A little while back, I received an email from a young lady in Europe. She asked if I was a writer. For some reason, I said, “No, I’m more of a reader.” She asked if I “Liked Bukowski.” I said, “Sure.” Then she said I, “Must have good taste then.” She asked if she could send me some of her writing so that I could give my opinion since I like Bukowski.

I didn’t want to. If I say I like it, I might be stuck in this circle of correspondence forever. If I don’t like it, I’m the asshole who ruined her career.

Years ago, actually five, I did a novella with David Gurz, called Under A Broken Street Lamp. It was fun. Nothing groundbreaking. We won an award or two. Then I had a bunch of “edgy” authors sending me stories that they were sure I’d love and would compel me to stop everything and do a chapbook with them. One particular author was very cool. We corresponded for a month or two. Finally, I relented and said, “Send me a story.” The story was decent. He wrote well. Then I hit the middle of his story and he segued into this whole other sub-story about being sexually attracted to his mom, and you know what? Not my cup of tea. For me, mom was a mom, not somebody I was cruising. So, I said the story wasn’t right for what I was working on.

The young lady from Europe sent me a poem. I anticipated a story, but she sent a poem. It was a page of nothing but clichés. “The days of our lives are like grains of sand.” “The days fly away like leaves from an old tree.”

I read the page and muttered, “Fuck.” I am yet to respond. I don’t like being mean to people, but this was a bit much. I have no idea why she asked me about Bukowski. Her poem was more like a Hallmark card than it was Bukowski.

I need to hire someone to answer this stuff for me. Something like:

“Mr. Essington is busy searching Los Angeles for the ultimate plate of Nachos. He will be unable to answer your email for a minimum of eighteen months.

Thank you for emailing.

Assistant.”

#michaelessington #salvation

 

Salvation

Anarchy, An Unpublished Story

Back in August 1980 a band called Jethro Tull put out an album called A. When it came out I thought nothing of it, I vaguely remember seeing the album cover in an ad in, Creem magazine or something. Well, a month or two later I was at my uncle Rick’s place, and Rick came walking into the kitchen wearing a white dress shirt with a big red anarchy symbol painted on the back. Rick had created a stencil out of cardboard and painted this thing on the back. It looked cool as heck. The only problem was — I didn’t know, at the age of fourteen, what the hell anarchy was. So, in my ignorance, I ask Rick, kind of disappointed, “Do you like Jethro Tull?” He answers, “No, it’s anarchy.” I, again, answer stupidly, I’ve never heard of them. At this point Rick sits me down, explains the theories of Crass, the meaning of the Black Flag, and how anarchy isn’t chaos. It’s a concept of self-governing, the concept of elected government and man’s laws being eradicated. The deepest conversation I had had at this point in my young life, next to my father’s very bizarre version of the facts of life that I received two years earlier.

Fast forward two years, 1982. I am wearing a sleeveless T-shirt that Rick had made for me. It was a huge anarchy symbol on the front of the shirt. Rick had used the stencil twice. Sprayed it with red first, let it dry, and then sprayed it with black. It was cool, the black symbol, and it looked like it had a red shadow around it. Anyway, I’m walking to lunch and this long-haired rocker dude walks by me, looks at me and scrunches his face up and says “You like Jethro Tull?” Unfortunately, I didn’t have the patience that my uncle had with me, so, I said: “Hell yeah, Jethro Tull Rocks!” And longhaired kid walked away perplexed.

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Salvation