Jerry Stahl, An Unpublished Story

Random Thoughts

I got some cool advice a couple of summers ago from author Jerry Stahl. He asked who was going to publish Born Frustrated. I told him that I had submitted to two “punk” imprints. One showed some interest but has ignored any of my correspondence. The second publisher seems lukewarm. I’m not in that particular Hollywood click.

So, Mr. Stahl said (I’m paraphrasing here), “If you can sell thousands without a publisher, put it out on your own.”

‪#‎michaelessington‬ #‎broken‬




Advice From A Barber, An Unpublished Story

Random Thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot about being a parent lately. 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 start saying how she had the best Mom in the world, and how my family hated me. Usually, I was pretty 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 pretty much 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 that 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 of drugs, and raises her kid.” I just sat there stunned, this is why Daughters are better because 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 prior to 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 a couple of 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 that 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 hopefully, this won’t be followed by “You know what I’d like to get?”

#michaelessington #broken



Chupacabras, A Story From Born Frustrated

Born Frustrated

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 a 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 ‪#bornfrustrated



The Redline, A Story From Broken


Yesterday, I went downtown with my son. We took the Orange Line to North Hollywood. Then hopped aboard the Red Line and eventually the Expo Line.

Once we boarded the Red Line a homeless man came on. He had a huge bundle with him. Bags and sleeping gear all tied to a shopping dolly.

After the homeless man sat down, a rat-faced man in a Member’s Only jacket boarded. He stood in the middle of the train with his back to the doors.

Just as the doors were closing a Hispanic woman rushed on with a suitcase on wheels. She came in hurriedly while talking on her cell. While searching for a seat she banged into the homeless man’s belongings.

The rat-faced man yelled:

“God damn it! Get back here and say sorry. That’s just fucking rude. You are banging into people’s shit! What the fuck is wrong with you?”

The train went quiet. Everybody looking around to see what would happen next. The woman never looked up from her phone.

I guess Ratso was unhappy with the non-reaction. So, he turned to the homeless man and started yelling:

“And what about you? You leave all your shit blocking the aisle. What the fuck is wrong with you? Show some fucking class.”

Again, everyone went silent. The Rat spoke again:

“Shit, I’ve had it with you fucking people.”

And he walked off the train. The homeless man looked at me and shrugged. I returned the shrug.

#michaelessington #broken



Jose Luis, A Story From Broken


Years ago I worked as a Radio Research Director for a company that owned sixteen TV stations, and twenty-nine radio stations. I would put together rating sheets, promotional items, you name it.

It was a good paying job, and I was with them for about three years. The funny thing about this job was that two things that were most important for this job were two things I didn’t know shit about.

Number one: the company was Hispanic. I didn’t know Spanish, I knew enough to curse out your average a-hole but not much more. I’d learn.

Number two: Everything in this company was done in Microsoft PowerPoint. I never opened the program. I’d learn.

The company had an in-house AM radio station and the more popular FM station also in-house. It was always a blast to watch the various Ranchera bands come in to play live on one of the stations. They’d have their trumpets and accordions. It was wild.

Of the many people I met, including Jenni Rivera, Jose Luis, a guy who hosted a TV show, which was the Spanish equivalent of the Jerry Springer show, seemed to have the most impact on the Hispanic community. At my initial interview, I was taken to the set of the show. They showed me which chairs would be covered in some kind slime that dropped from overhead when audience members disliked a guest.

The biggest thing I noticed was the communities’ love of Jose Luis. Let me explain if I have a problem in my life I would never in a million years think to contact Jerry Springer in hopes that he may help me out.

One morning I got to work early, around 7:30 or so, and there was a woman waiting outside the building. She waved me down, from what I understood, as she only spoke Spanish, was that she wanted Luis to help her to stop being ripped off by her racist landlord. Apparently, the guy knew she was illegal and he changed the rent every month with an attitude of “What are you going to do about it, you’re illegal?”

I explained, with my less than stellar Spanish, that Jose Luis doesn’t arrive until about 11:00, so I could take the message or any info she wanted, and I’d track him down to deliver the message.

She pulled out copies of a dozen Xeroxed sheets of paper, leases, notes, and receipts. I put them into an envelope and said, “I’ll hand him these in a few hours.”

She looked pleased and said in broken English, “Mexicans don’t need to be treated like this.”

I nodded and walked away.

Hours later I found Luis, right as he was walking to his dressing room. I handed him the papers and explained the story. He said that he received about five of these a day. But he would have his assistant look into it. If he couldn’t help, he could tip someone at the paper to investigate.

I don’t know what the outcome was, but I do like that it wasn’t blown off.

Unfortunately, when radio rating dip layoffs happen, ratings dipped I was let go.

#michaelessington #broken



Tex Cobb, A Story From Broken


In 1993, I went to a weird little club with a friend of mine, Ed, who was managing a local band at the time, called 13th Love. Ed is a six-foot-five black guy, who on first meeting seems intimidating, but was always the coolest guy to hang with. They had just released a CD that was financed and produced by former Vivid Girl, Tori Welles, cousin of the singer, Joe.

Anyway, Ed calls me up and tells me to meet him and the band in front of The Roxy, on Sunset, as the band, except for Joe and Ed, lived together in Hollywood. And from there we’d see where we would end up going. I got there around 9:00 pm in my black and silver smoking Thunderbird; smoking because of the horrible oil leak, not because it was a cool car.

Ed was standing in front of the Roxy on his cell phone, he looks up and asks if I have ever heard of a club called the Sunset Social Club, I shook my head and said no. Ed says it’s a new jazzy-type club that Mickey Rourke has been hanging out at lately, interested in going? I was game.

We got to the Sunset Social Club right around 10:00 pm, Ed whispered a few things to the big guy at the door and we walk in without a cover charge. The place was an old house turned into a club, so each bedroom had a different feel, one was dark, and another room was lit in red with a guy playing the saxophone. It was cool. The living room was the bar/restaurant, seating and tables were along the walls facing the center of the room.

Anyway, I’m wandering from room to room listening to different music playing in each room, when, after 3 or 4 beers, I need to find the can. I look, and look and find myself back in the living room. I look around hoping to find Ed, he’d know by now where the restrooms are, when I notice at a table in the middle of the room is Randall “Tex” Cobb (you saw him in Ace Ventura), so I figure I need to talk to him, I was trying to make a living as a boxer so I used to rap with anyone who had a living at this. Tex Cobb fought Earnie Shavers, Michael Dokes, and Larry Holmes. Around this time in the 1990’s, Cobb was disqualified for using cocaine before the fight, as it turned out so did the other fighter.

So, I take a deep breath and go up to him and ask “Tex, I don’t mean to bug you, I think you’re a great fighter, could I ask you a couple of questions?” He sat there mumbling to himself for a minute, and then growled, “Get the fuck out of my face.” In my younger years, this didn’t fly with me, so I said back to him, “What the fuck did you say to me?” To this Cobb jumped up and flipped the table and came at me, so I took two steps back, put up my fists and waited for round one to begin, that second four or five bouncers jumped on him and took him to the floor, and from behind Ed picked me up around the waist and ran outside with me.

We went to the 13th Love house and the guys were watching an old Traci Lords flick and eating pizza, the night was a wash.

No Mickey Rourke sightings, I never found a bathroom at the Sunset Social Club and to this day I don’t know if I could’ve beaten Cobb. His drinking and coke use would’ve made him a helluva contender; he could’ve been somebody.

#michaelessington #broken



Pancakes, A Story From Broken


I was having a cup of coffee this morning at McDonald’s because the coffee is better than Starbucks and I don’t have to see thirty people stare at their laptops. I was there for fifteen or twenty minutes when I felt like I was losing my touch. Absolutely nothing weird had happened.

As I stood up to leave, a short (five foot something) white woman comes running in the side door. She opened the door for the trash bin. Peeks at the counter opens the next trash bin, looks at the counter again. Pulls out a plate with three uneaten pancakes goes to sit down. As she’s walking, a short (an inch shorter she would’ve represented the lollipop guild) Hispanic, a female manager came over to ask her to leave.

“I told you to stop doing that.”

“I didn’t do anything. These are mine, I bought them.”

“One more time and I’m calling the police.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

The manager walked away. I stood up, about to offer her a cup of coffee to go with her hotcakes. Once I was, about, six feet from her, she leaned forward and, kind of, hissed. As much as I wanted to help, I passed this time. She was dirty and seemed to be either high or possibly unbalanced. Another time.

#michaelessington #broken



Help, A Story From Broken


Over the years I’ve gotten the reputation as being a magnet for crazy people. A crazy whisperer, if you will. Almost every time I’d go out with my friend Dave Diamond we’d be accosted by someone that may or may not be an escapee from a local asylum. It would always be a middle-aged to older white male. Topics would vary, from riots in Ferguson to steam-engines during World War II. We’d be sitting there and some guy would come up to us and start a lecture. There would never be a pause in the conversation so that either of us could talk just this lecture with no way out.

In the beginning, I’d let them talk. I figured because they were different or maybe crazy didn’t mean they weren’t lonely. And I did this for the first dozen or so times. Then after a while, I felt like I was being held, hostage. Another thing, I didn’t believe it was just me that they were trying to hold hostage. Since it was Dave and me together, I figured it was the combination of us hanging out that attracted the insanity gene.

Then one night I ran to the market to get some milk for the boy and as I get to the aisle with the dairy products, there he was. A guy that looked like the bearded man from the Oak Ridge Boys. He was camped out in front of the milk with his cart. He starts waving me over, “Hey, come here. They’re having a great sale on milk.”

It clicked. They are out there waiting for me. I’d never seen this guy before, but he felt that I was coming. It was late and I was tired and I didn’t want to be held captive in a conversation that I couldn’t break out of. So, I said, “Not today, motherfucker.” And I sped down another aisle. Circled the entire market and did a little peek down the corner and he was gone. Fuck.

So, I called Dave from the market and said, “You know how we joke about crazy people finding me? Well, it’s not a joke. They’re here in the market waiting for me.” He laughed.

Today we agreed to meet for lunch at about 12:15 or so. As we left my place and drove down the block there was a guy laying in the middle of the street, face down with his fingers laced behind his head. The cop arrest style. We pulled up to him and he didn’t flinch. Either he didn’t hear us or the “arrest” is so intense he can’t break concentration.

We backed-up and Dave said he was going to call the cops before he gets hurt or hurts someone.

Dave pulled up the number for Devonshire Division, called and got placed on hold. Two gardeners pulled up and tried to talk to the guy in the street. He got very aggro and was yelling something about having “guns aimed” at him. He yelled something else and the gardeners threw their hands up and started backing away . The guy went back face down on the street.

An operator finally answered Dave’s call. He starts to say, “There’s a man lying in the street.” Then I hear Dave yell. “Holy fuck!” I’m looking all around because I don’t see a thing, and then Dave tells the operator a man has been run over.

I look out the back window of the truck and sure enough, a guy in a black Honda or Toyota ran over the guy and only his legs are sticking out. The guy backs up and the street guy gets up and runs for the sidewalk, yelling, “I didn’t deserve that.”
I don’t know how the guy didn’t see him in the street. At first, it appeared the guy was going to flee. I took out my camera to snap a picture of his license plate just in case. He backed up and then parked.

An ambulance and fire truck raced by. Passed us. I was waving them down; they did a U-turn and came back. By the time I made it over to Dave and the street guy, it sunk in how bad this guy got messed up. His head was shaved so you could see a six to an eight-inch wound on the back of his head, it was bleeding. There were a few wounds on his face. His shirt was torn to shreds on the back with a tire print and blood stains all over. How he was standing was beyond me.

The chief paramedic asked Dave and me if we knew the guy, we said no. Then he told us to take off and “give the guy some privacy.”

I figured they’d want us to stick around, considering no one else had seen the whole incident, from lying in the street to being under a car. We slowly walked away. The medics put on gloves and started to check him out. The street guy was completely amped and I was afraid he’d try to run away before being checked.

Another lunchtime experience.

#michaelessington #broken



People To See, A Story From Broken


Back in 2007, my wife, son and I moved into an old two-bedroom house in Valley Glen, right outside of Sherman Oaks, CA. It was built back in the 1920’s or so. The floors were all wood or marble, and the ceiling and doorways were all rounded. Where we were located, we were closer to the crappy neighborhoods than we were the fancy shops in Sherman Oaks. So, to make things easier on myself I would go into the heart of Van Nuys to do my errands.

Every Saturday and Sunday for as long as I can remember my son and I have had breakfast together at McDonald’s. And once we moved to Valley Glen we went every weekend to the McDonald’s on Victory and Kester. The neighborhood is fair, and we’re usually one of the only two people speaking English.

So why would I keep going back to this McDonald’s? Several reasons. First, the staff is always great to us, they remember us and they remember our order without us having to say it. And the primary reason is the personality of the place.

Let me explain. Every time I walk into the place there is an older Asian man with long gray hair, which should’ve been cut six months back, and dirty clothes, who sits with his coffee and stares. Sometimes at the wide-screen TV on the wall, sometimes at me. But in his, almost, comatose state, I don’t think he knows that he’s staring. He has become a fixture, a given like the furniture.

For the last year and a half, there has also been an older white man, I never caught his name, but he has snow-white hair, and a cut like Moe of the three stooges, and a flattened nose, like an ex-boxer. My son doesn’t like him because he always threatens to take his toys. And God forbid, you walk in with a woman. The old man will rush over and start telling jokes, then launch into a tap-dancing routine. Anything to win her over. Unfortunately, this old guy has been M.I.A. for the last month, I’m hoping he hasn’t passed.

Two weeks ago, my son and I got our money’s worth. As I’m walking up, there was a, somewhat, overweight guy standing outside drinking a soda. As I walk by he says “Hi.” I do a double-take and realize it’s a former employee, Bob or Bruce, who had quit a month or two earlier due to stress. I didn’t recognize him, I think he had suffered a breakdown and became homeless. I stopped and talked to him for a moment, and he just stared through me. I asked him what he was up to, and he said he needed a job. I nodded and said times were hard. He said he wanted to work in the McDonald’s parking lot as an attorney. I said what? He said he could walk around the lot and find things that were potential lawsuits, things that people could slip on, etc. I look at him for a few seconds and wished him good luck with that, and he yelled back “Looking for a job!”

When I ordered our food that morning I mentioned to the cashier that I was talking to their former co-worker out front, and the cashier shook his head and said: “He’s changed.” Yeah, he sure did.

Midway through our meal, I watched as a Hispanic family walked in, about four or five of them and following up the rear was a little boy wearing a white men’s full-length T-shirt. Used as pajamas. It’s not uncommon to see kids stroll in with their folks on the weekend in the previous evening’s sleepwear.

About twenty minutes later, as I am finishing up my breakfast, I hear a very high-pitched shrieking, almost pained. I look over and the boy with the white T-shirt is shrieking at the family at the table behind us. And while shrieking he has his shirt hiked up to his neck, revealing that– he is wearing nothing under the shirt. Now, if that isn’t weird enough, I normally would not have looked over, but the screaming startled me. So, I look over and physically the kid was neither male nor female. It freaked me out. I turned away as if I witnessed a mob hit.

It disturbed me for the rest of the day. But all in all, this has become our breakfast home. It has far more personality than any place in Sherman Oaks would.

In November of 2008, we moved to Lake Balboa, and the Kester McDonald’s is still our weekend spot. No flashers have interrupted our breakfast before or since, knock on wood.

#michaelessington #broken



Pride, A Story From Broken


Over my many years on this Earth, there are two things that I’ve come to know as fact. And that is the stupider you are, the more important respect and your culture seem to be.

Some, may not see this, but believe me, those of us that have sat back with a beer in hand, in what would be perceived as the projects, and heard the battle cries of the mentally weak, “Oh no, that bitch ain’t coming in here ‘till she learns to respect my house.”

Let’s not forget the always enjoyable declaring of your race, creed or color, “Oh shit, you gotta respect my Puerto Rican ass!”

Now, some may say as a sexy Caucasian man I don’t understand. Sure, sure, I received those white privilege checks. Cashed them even.

The point is I have never met anyone, with an IQ over fifty that gave a shit if I recognized their cultural background and/or if I respected them.

A few Christmas’ back, I was standing outside in the cold night air, when two guys decided to come out and discuss why one guy didn’t respect the other. And as predicted, they exchanged blows. I jumped in to break it up and went home, slightly, bruised.

In reality, who gives two fucks if someone respects you? But when you are at the bottom rung of the evolutionary ladder what else do you have? Respect and skin color.

#michaelessington #broken