Life Won’t Wait by Michael Essington

Marius Gustaitis

Marius Gustaitis

Life Won't Wait

Life Won’t Wait

This week we have a guest columnist, writer Marius Gustaitis, who some may be familiar with his great blog Trudging Through The Fire (, if not check it out.

I love when my intuition turns out to be right. When it confirms my suspicions. Tells me my assessments are dialed-in. On target. I love it. It’s deeply satisfying. Makes me feel good about myself. Makes me feel like I know what’s going on. Like I might have a clue.

I met Michael Essington a few months back at a Reagan Youth/ 13 Scars show at Los Globos in Hollywood.
The music was so loud we didn’t get too much of a chance to talk. But I sized him up. I was a bouncer for a few years, and it’s just something I do. Maybe all guys do it. Size up a motherfucker. Try to figure out if they could take him.

Well, I wasn’t exactly at that point with Essington, since we hadn’t pissed each other off. I wasn’t at the deciding-if-I-would-win-in-a-cage-match phase of our relationship. I was just trying to figure him out. Trying to see if I could guess what he was all about.

He looked at ease. With himself. With his surroundings. Didn’t look like he had anything to prove. That told me a lot. If I ever did get any ideas about beating on him, this in itself would’ve given me pause. Guys don’t get like that without knowing they can handle some shit. And they know it… because they’ve handled some shit. You can’t fake it. Probably been through the chopping factory. Endured the blows of Life. But seems to have weathered it well. Call it character. Call it badassness. He’s got it. Like genuine.

Plus, he’s got that bull neck and Taurine shoulders so in fashion with debt collectors from Queens. Probably did some wrestling in school. Football? Yeah, maybe, some boxing, too. He’s a ground-and-pounder alright. Gets you on the floor and pile-drives from above while your limbs are pinned. Knows how to head-butt effectively. You have to resort to fighting dirty with guys like that. Use teeth. Table cutlery. Pull on the peach. All while taking thunder blows to the brow and jaw and trying to blink your way through the exploding green balls and vibrating purple parallelograms in your eyes. You’re looking at major war shit.

But there was no need to reach for the saltshaker, yet. He was just sitting there watching the show.

I figured he’s an ex-maniac, now settling into adulthood. I knew he had a family. I bet he’s easy-going and reasonable, until somebody really get’s under his skin. Then he blows. Yeah. Seems a little powder-keggish. Maybe some childhood stuff he’s still exorcising. Old stuff that fuels it. The Rage.

–I swear to you, these were my first impressions. Just from watching him. Now and then an occasional shouted exchange over the music. I had not read Life Won‘t Wait.

Well, needless to say, when I did, I was immensely pleased with myself. And my psychic powers.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I had him all figured out, or had known his whole story, but it turns out I did have a sense of the warp of the woof. I gisted it.

After reading his collection of autobiographical stories about life in the 818 (with interesting interviews with James Frey, Steve Jones, and Texas Terri Laird) I realized I had been right about a lot of things. Not like a jungle shaman high on Ibogaine right, but right enough to make beer money giving readings at a card table on the Santa Monica pier right.

Mike has been through some shit alright. Some quality childhood bummers. Family dysfunction. Suburban dissatisfaction. Valley Fever and its resulting health issues. A sensitive adolescence. An angry young adulthood, with its accompanying three handmaidens: Drink. Drugs and Violence. Sprinkle in some punk rock/metal, jail time, and a volcanic temper, and you know what you have?

Somebody who would’ve been a close friend. Are you kidding? Fucker’s from my tribe. Forget about it.

So the book was a dee-light to read. A lot of head-nodding and chuckling. Whether he’s going to jail, the hospital, or dealing with stupid things surrounded by stupid people, Essington makes a good tour guide. He doesn’t bore you with details. Just points out some of the interesting sights. Gives a few historical facts for reference. Moves on to the next landmark. He’s smart, funny, and insightful. His work is informed and readable. Never mind prolific.

But to me, one of the most badass things about Mike is that he doesn’t make himself out to be one. Oh, there’s this story and that one. Things happen. Shit goes down. But he lets you decide what to think. He clearly delineates his facts from his opinions. Again, like a guy not desperate to prove anything.

Look, I fancy myself a writer of sorts, so as I’m reading his stuff, I see how he’s stripped-down his line–keeps the sentences simple declarative. Doesn’t write in Proustian curly cues. He just prints it. But I was also impressed with how little editorializing he does. He’ll tell you what he thought, what he felt, but not go on and on about what he thinks it all meant.

Can you imagine how refreshing? Not to have some writer’s philosophy of life railroaded down your throat. My readers should be so lucky.

Anyway, both traits require discipline. To keep the line clean. And to keep the philosophizing to a minimum. It takes restraint in the writing, and some measure of faith in his readers–that they can fill in the blanks. Those qualities make Mike the writer he is. And the person.

And that makes running with Essington, as a reader or road dog, a low-maintenance for big payoff experience. If you haven’t gotten to know him yet, I wouldn’t wait too long. Life sure doesn’t. Neither does Death. So make a new friend. One that can handle himself if the shit goes down.




Misconceptions of Hell is available now:

Born Frustrated by Michael Essington

Gordon Ison

Gordon Ison

Born Frustrated

Born Frustrated

This week we have a guest columnist, writer Gordon Ison, who some may be familiar with his great blog 50 & Broke! (, if not check it out.

It was twenty years after the fact before I learned my septuagenarian uncle’s Doo-Wop group performed at the same concert hall as my eighties punk band. Nowadays he drives a late model Caddy to his own business, still cranking out the music of his era from rolled down electric windows. I’ve often wondered when I’m his age; will I still be cranking the We Got Power/Party or Go Home Mystic Records American hardcore compilation from my own sweet ride while shaking my fist and hollering along to Willful Neglect’s “Eat My Shit & Die”?

Michael Essington came up in that same early West Coast punk scene and now as a father, a husband, and somebody’s uncle is still a part of it to this very day. In his third novel, Born Frustrated A Memoir, Essington describes what life is like before, during and after this heyday, taking us back to when your haircut could be cause to get you, cut-up…or worse. All at once silly, somber, sardonic yet still anti-social, Essington writes about life as a punk-rock dad in palatably staccato short bursts of affable anecdotes.

Broken down into seven chapters, with titles like; Now You Know What It Is To Want and There’s Mongoloids In The Family, he takes us down a potholed memory lane where we familiarize ourselves with the plight of a man who knows you cannot tiptoe around an issue, especially in a pair of steel-toed boots! Aside from the usual money, religion, and politics, he also ponders aloud about caring more for animal rights than human ones, the media’s engagement in Orwellian newspeak, as well as trying to figure out the best way to convey the drugs are bad! message conversationally to his young son. At times, you can picture a smirk or even a wince as he lights up another Cuban looking out into the burning L.A. County dusk.

Inspired by more writers than I’m allowed to list here, Born Frustrated completes the triumvirate of narrative essays in novella form with the first being Last One To Die followed by Life Won’t Wait. I’m a bit somber myself at having to begin with the last one, but in the immortal words of the band Kraut sometimes “You gotta go backward to go onwards.”

Gordon Ison played in the band Grievance Committee from 85-91. Check out his blog at;




Misconceptions of Hell is available now:

Henry Rollins – Eric the Pilot


Henry Rollins
Eric the Pilot
2.13.61 Records
May 5, 1999

1. Eric the Pilot (Part 1) – 11:05
2. Eric the Pilot (Part 2) – 10:13
3. Eric the Pilot (Part 3) – 8:27
4. Eric the Pilot (Part 4) – 9:31
5. Eric the Pilot (Part 5) – 6:01
6. Eric the Pilot (Part 6) – 11:13

Henry has a kick ass story here. The older Henry gets, the funnier he is.

Eric the Pilot is the eighth live spoken word album from Henry Rollins, released May 5, 1999, on 2.13.61 Records. The CD contains a one hour-long story about Henry trying to get to a show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This story, along with the second disc of Think Tank, was recorded during the same Australian tour in October 1997.

Here is Henry’s description of the story: “Greetings. Some of you may remember this story from a few years ago. I found myself in Australia towards the end of 1997 and had not told this story for quite awhile. I let it rip one night and Randy had the tape rolling. I mixed this during the time I was editing material for Think Tank. I figured this was a cool way to release this story. Thanks for coming to the shows after all these years; I don’t know where you get the strength.”
-Henry Rollins May 1999

If you don’t own it, give it a listen.

Rating: ** * two out of three stars

On with the story . . .

Back in either July or August of 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 or so 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 never wore anything, but the issued pair of orange pants, maybe some socks. At some point over 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 mountainscape 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 or so 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 or so later, and the bulky white guy in the next dorm was upset about the amount of 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 were forced 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.




Misconceptions of Hell is available now:

OFF! – First Four EPs


First Four EPs
Producer: Dimitri Coats
Released: 2010

Keith Morris – vocals
Dimitri Coats – guitar
Steven McDonald – bass
Mario Rubalcaba – drums

1. Black Thoughts – 1:01
2. Darkness – 0:48
3. I Don’t Belong – 1:00
4. Upside Down – 1:13
5. Poison City – 1:33
6. Now I’m Pissed – 1:01
7. Killing Away – 0:47
8. Jeffery Lee Pierce – 1:21
9. Panic Attack – 1:01
10. Crawl – 1:15
11. Blast – 1:09
12. Rat Trap – 1:20
13. Fuck People – 1:12
14. Full of Shit – 0:34
15. Broken – 0:49
16. Peace in Hermosa – 1:32

Let me start by saying this is pretty good. But my opinion seems to differ from everybody else as to how good.

Everyone I know, friends to musicians view this band as the return of punk and the album the Holy Grail. I like this, but not as much as everybody else.
If you don’t own it, give it a listen. Rating: ** * two out of three stars

On to the story . . .

Back in 2001, I was unhappy with the way my daughter was being raised. Her mom dropped her off at my mother’s so she could chase after some Hispanic guy in Vegas. That attempt at a relationship failed.

So my daughter lived locally for a while. Everything seems to be going well for a while. Slowly my ex and my family starting fighting with each other over the phone, and one weekend my ex’s sister took my daughter for the weekend but instead popped her on a plane to Vegas to her mom.

From Vegas, they took a Greyhound to Florida and never came back.

My brother and I had no idea she was out of state. We staked out any and all relatives on my ex’s side of the family with the police to try and track her down.

Three or four of our “raids” we eventually found out that she was in Florida. I was blown away. I had no clue that an out of state move was on the horizon.

My wife went to work in securing me a lawyer to get my daughter back. She hired the lawyer that handled divorce between Joan Collins and her husband. He represented the husband and bilked Joan Collins. My thinking was he’ll work hard for the “man’s side” of this.

I had to max out a credit card to get the $1,500.00 retainer to the attorney. Then every time we met with him, it was always another $500.00 bucks. My brother assisted as much as he could.

After months, the judge granted me custody. My lawyer told me to board a plane for Margate, Florida, show local law enforcement my judgment, and they would come with me to my daughter’s place of residence and we would come back to California.

My brother gave me a pocketful of cash, and my brother-in-law Richie agreed to come along with me on the trip. Richie was handy for two reasons, one the guy can fight like it’s nobody’s business, and secondly, he had the charm of a campaigning politician. I figured if the shit in Florida got too thick he could help me out one way or the other.

Throughout out our trip, it was one extreme or the other. The first night we got to Florida, we head to a Denny’s. The waitress starts hitting on Richie. Her arms are covered in meth scars. She tells us what time she gets off work, and asks where we are staying. When we ask where the bathroom is our waitress points towards the corner of the restroom, as she points some three hundred pounds Bubba jumps up and yells at us, “So, what’s up?” We look at each other in confusion. Richie quickly defuses the situation by asking the guy if he’d like to eat pancakes with us. The guy looked me confused than us, sat down, and said, “No, it’s cool.” Turns out he was the ex-boyfriend of our tweaker waitress.

The next day we are at the Margate Police Department. They automatically hate Richie. He’s a bit darker than me, and it’s hard to make out his background, so they’d ignore him or get annoyed when he spoke. The first time he asked about us serving the custody notice one of the cops said, “Why are you talking?” I got kind of pissed. I said, “He is my daughter’s uncle.” The cop fired back, “Well, uncle, this has nothing to do with you.” I really wanted to slap this hillbilly bastard, but my brother-in-law defused it. He said, “You’re right, in this town it has nothing to do with me.” The cop looked at him twice and went to photocopy my custody papers.

After an hour of hanging out with the cast members of Deliverance, they finally said that they wouldn’t help us. They said it was a California case, and if we took my daughter without the mother’s permission they’d lock us up for kidnapping.

So, we needed a new plan. We went to Hooters for lunch. This was in the early part of 2001, and Florida still had smoking sections. So, Richie lit up. And some yuppie dad started to complain, turns out he smoking area was six inches to the left, so Richie held his arm over about a foot, and he was now in the smoking area. Our waitress comes over and says, “Some people have their head up their asses.” Then sat down and shared Richie’s nachos.

On the cab ride back we were driven by a man from the Dominican Republic. And . . . how do I say this delicately? He hadn’t showered in at least a week. We get into the cab, and almost pass out. Richie is coughing, I’m holding my nose. Richie decides to have some fun with the guy, and says, “Wow, you last fare really stunk up your cab, if I smelled that bad I’d kick my own ass.” The guy looked around real nervous-like, then said,” I’m Christian I don’t judge anyone, no matter what they smell like.” Too funny.

Later that day we went to my daughter’s house and Richie served the papers and said we could take her back to California today. My ex claimed that my daughter wasn’t in town, “Sorry.”

So, we had to buy tickets coming home for two instead of three. That Monday I called the lawyer and said that I need him to really buckle down and get my kid for me. I added that I’m out another thousand bucks after running around in Florida for no reason. Later that afternoon he called my wife to say he is resigning as my lawyer, saying that “We don’t see eye to eye on this case.” Punk.

Because of the wonderful law enforcement in Margate County, and iffy lawyers, I never physically got my daughter. I spent fifteen thousand dollars and got custody on paper, but never maintained the physical custody.




Misconceptions of Hell is available now:

Volbeat, Danko Jones, Spoken – LIVE


Volbeat, Danko Jones, Spoken
House of Blues, Los Angeles, CA
Friday, March 15, 2013

As I sit down to write this, I’m scratching my head trying to figure how to write this. Is it going to be a review or the story of how I almost died? Well, here it goes.

On March 13th, my 47th Birthday rolled around, and I wasn’t the least bit excited about it. It’s one of those things where you, kind of, reevaluate your life and feel like you haven’t accomplished shit. Besides putting out a little book, I was feeling like I hadn’t done much of anything.

Almost a month before my birthday, my brother surprises me with tickets to see Volbeat at the House of Blues on Sunset. In case you haven’t heard of Volbeat, they are a band from Denmark, described as James Hetfield’s favorite band. They are a combination of punk, rockabilly, death metal, and a pinch or Johnny Cash. Confused? You shouldn’t be. This is a great mix of music.

Anyway, my brother, his girlfriend, my wife, and I, hop in the car. Stop to get something to eat. We pull into a parking lot with a McDonald’s and an El Pollo Loco (my brother treats a homeless guy to dinner). Now the thought of eating another burger is turning my stomach, but I’ve been allergic to poultry since birth. Over the years I have tried a bite of chicken here and there to see if I’ve outgrown the allergy. I found that if the chicken is extremely overcooked I can eat it. I have tried El Pollo Loco’s Pollo Bowl and did fine. But I didn’t want a whole bowl of shit, just a little something to get me through the night. So I decide to order a burrito, my wife warns me that it’s a bad idea. I tell her it’s the same chicken as the Bowl, she disagrees. I order it because I don’t listen (Rebel Without A Clue).

The whole time I’m eating everyone is watching me. Kind of a “We’re worried you’re gonna die” thing. This makes me more determined that this fucking chicken isn’t going to do me in. I finish it, and everybody asks how I’m doing, and honestly, I was fine, then 4 or 5 minutes later — like a bomb went off, my throat closed up and the eyesight in my right eye starting failing. My face started itching and so did the palms of my hands. It must have real noticeable because instantly my brother’s girlfriend, Christine, GPS’ the local drugstore.

We run for the car, my eye is now draining down the side of my face and the rest of my face is covered in hives. In less than a minute my wife is at a Rite Aid, I jump out of the car, on Sunset, grab a box of Benadryl (well — generic Benadryl). Paid, ran back to the car. They give me a bottle of water and I take two Benadryl’s. But my throat has closed up so much that only the pills, slip in and I’m gagging on the water, so I spit out the water and wait for the pills to kick in.

They start debating if they should take me to the ER. Not that I’m a trooper or anything, but I’m cheap. So, if you spent good money on tickets and parking there’s no way I’m going to let this go to waste. I insist we park, but now 15 to 18 minutes have passed and the Benadryl isn’t working. My arms and legs feel like sandbags, I don’t feel like I’m controlling them, I’m just swinging them along.

In the parking lot, I am given 2 more Benadryl, I try to choke them down with water and again the pills, slip down, but I gag and spit the water.

Now, I’m getting spooked. This is the worst attack I ever had and both eyes are failing and watering. So, I go into my defense mechanism, I’m cracking jokes, talking and doing everything to deny my body is failing.

We get in line, which is now wrapped around the corner, after 10 or 15 minutes I feel a bit of relief. My left eye clears up and that stuffed cotton feeling in my head starts to go away. Every 3 steps I have to hack up god-knows-what as my throat is trying to open up again.

We get to the front of the line and they have us empty our pockets and purses and get waved over by the metal detector wand. We get through; ask the security guard where our reserved seats are located. We sit, I pass out. I come around a little bit before the first band.

So, I straighten up in my chair, the first band, Spoken, comes on. The music is great. The singer charges out and his first few words come out and guess what? They are cookie monster vocals! So, even though I’ve only been coherent for 30 seconds I’m still here to review, so I yell “Oh fuck this.” But I spoke too soon. The rest of the set the guy sang pretty damn well.

The next band up was Danko Jones. Danko Jones knocked out some really good, fast, energetic music.

My only issue with the band is the in between song dialogue. “Every person that rejected me, every label that didn’t sign will look up at me, and I’ll look down on them from the highest mountain.” It was horse-shit. Music-wise cool, but whatever was going on with Danko – well, troubling to say the least.

Volbeat put on a damn near flawless set. They did great songs like The Mirror and the Ripper, Heaven Nor Hell and Fallen, from their latest album.

One of the highlights was Michael Poulsen bringing out an acoustic guitar and singing Ring Of Fire. The low point was bringing out Danko Jones to cover Angel Fuck. Not because he was a bad singer, but because his voice isn’t fit for a Glenn Danzig song.

Now back in the early eighties when slamming became the staple of hardcore punk shows, it was based on the pace of the music, the energy in the room. Nowadays, a band could be playing a ballad and these jerk-offs will go ape-shit.

Here’s my theory on it: you get a roomful of people that weren’t loved enough by Mom, and loved too much by Dad (follow me so far?) they will fill up on booze, hit the slam pit with one goal in mind, “God dammit, I’m going to prove to the world that I am a man!” That’s great; if it helps you sleep on your tear-soaked pillow, then slam, ass-hat.

Anyway, Volbeat put on a great show. My overall assessment, great night!




Misconceptions of Hell is available now:

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