Misconceptions of Hell by Michael Essington

04
Aug

Eddie Cook

Misconceptions of Hell

Misconceptions of Hell
Written by: Michael Essington
Essex Digital Media
June 25, 2016

Michael Essington is the author of five books, and to read one is perhaps to read them all. Essington is the chronicler of ragged, drunks, the pale, beer-bellied, out-of-work writer lounging in twisted sheets, the cuckold and those dreaming of becoming cuckolds–in short, a world inhabited with bad luck and smart-alecky snipes.

This beautifully grimy life certainly is evident in his new collection, Misconception of Hell, which, at nearly 140 pages, is a hefty portion of poems and short stories.

For Essington, the sordid life is inexhaustible. His first book, Last One to Die (2011), was peopled with oddballs on the edge of reaching their destiny: the exquisite hangover that resonates into another afternoon of cheap (and sometimes expensive) drink. Five years later, his new collection still feeds off the old obsessions–drink, “bad women,” a few good women, his father and mother, the race track, his years wasting away at dead-end jobs–and his loyalty to friends to whom the average pedestrian would give room passing on the sidewalk.

The pedestrian would make room for the hunkering characters in the story Bo. The story is about Hank and Bo, who, while investigating a suspicious husband, end up robbing him of his drugs and cash and inadvertently causes his suicide.

The portraits of downtown life are almost always moving–in spite of the grime and foul language spit through rotten teeth–in part because the author’s identification with the common life is honest and so bewilderingly caring that it can stump more than one reader wondering why he relishes this seediness. In the poem Last Call, he tells the story of Judgment Day in a rundown bar, while St. Peter cleans up. In Lazarus, he describes a man on the verge of suicide but has a change of heart after sharing his lunch with a flock of pigeons.

The finest story in the collection is Nam, which is about a farm boy from Kansas that longs for the big city. He gets drafted to Vietnam and witnessed many atrocities. Leaves the army and becomes a Kansas Police officer and views more atrocities, which sends him back to the farm.

In Jack, he describes someone suffering from depression. Someone that has given up on everything, but booze and his childhood blanket.

While we can say that the area of experience is the same, for many of his readers, it’s the welcome familiarity that calls them back.

 

 

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Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

4 Past Midnight – Battle Scars & Broken Hearts

16
Jul

4 Past Midnight
Battle Scars & Broken Hearts
Hedgerow Records
Released: July 15, 2017

Fred – Rhythm Guitar
Peter – Lead Vocals & Drums
Tam – Lead Guitar
Stevie – Bass Guitar

01. Do It Now (1:28)
02. For Life (04:08)
03. Politician (4:10)
04. Guilty (4:54)
05. Tonight (1:28)
06. On Tour (3:29)
07. Hope, Fear, Pain, Love, Desire (4:39)
08. Survive (2:10)
09. Let’s Go (3:13)
10. Alone (4:45)
11. I Hate My Life (2:33)
12. Day After Day (2:12)
13. Withered Roses (5:47)
14. Can Anyone Hear Me? (4:36)
15. The Reason (3:27)

4 Past Midnight, what can I say about this band? They are fuckin’ great. I stopped doing reviews around February of this year. I’d been banging out one or two reviews a week for two years and after a while, most of the bands blur into a huge sludgy ball of Social Distortion and Bad Religion clones. And, I couldn’t come up with anything new and original about bands that were anything, but new and original.

Anyway, Peter of 4 Past Midnight had posted the band’s album cover a couple of times (which is great by the way), and said the album was coming soon, you know the basic pre-release stuff. I thought let me check this out. Now, I admit I am late to the game, 4 Past Midnight has been around since 1989 and I am now getting around to listening to them. And as I stated above, they are fuckin’ great.

I don’t know what their touring schedule is like, but I can’t imagine any band wanting them to open for them. They’d get blown off the stage. Great vocals and the guitars are also fantastic.

The coolest thing about 4 Past Midnight is the very familiar sound of old school punk, with a pinch of Oi thrown in, but the quality of modern musicianship.

Rating: *** three out of three stars.

The standout cuts are: Do It Now and Withered Roses.

If you get a chance, order this from one of the dozens of websites carrying it online.

On to the story . . .

1995

Back in 1995, I found out my live-in girlfriend was seeing/carrying-on with two different guys. So, I packed as much as I could into a black hefty bag, paged a friend and left. But not before I kissed my one-year-old daughter on the forehead as she slept in her crib.

The old friend pulled into my driveway, I walked out. , I would’ve left in my own car, but weeks earlier the engine on my ride died, it cracked, croaked and everything else. I sold it for scraps.

As I walked out the door my, now, ex yells, “If you walk out now, you can never come back.” I nodded and said, I knew. As I closed the door, I heard rumblings of “Punk ass white boy.”

I knew I needed transportation, a job and something to keep me busy – quick.

A friend that I had lost touch with, about eight years earlier tracked me down and got a job at Kinko’s. She was dating the manager there and said I could grab any shift I wanted. I chose the night shifts. The later the better. Night time is when I missed my daughter the most. Once I had some money the manager started letting me take the Kinko’s van home on weekends, making it easier for me to take my daughter on weekends.

After about six months I was promoted to assistant manager in the computer department and then moved across town to another Kinko’s. I spent the next couple of months trying to move up and out to a different location. , I became a sort of cleanup manager. When different Kinko’s would terminate a computer department, I would be sent into overall and streamline everything. Once that was done, I’d leave, I was hired full time at the Pasadena location.

I’ve always loved Pasadena; it’s like Downtown L.A. without being quite as filthy. And 90% less homeless people peeing in alleys.

When I first got to Pasadena the computer staff did not like me. I had already earned the reputation as the “cleanup” guy, and no one likes things being changed.
Over time everything fell into place. Everything became familiar fast. For example, there was a Hispanic homeless man that sat on a bench a half a block down and everyday we’d have the same conversation as if we were both stuck in the movie Groundhog Day:

“Con permiso, you have matches?”

“No, I don’t have any matches.”

“You have cigarettes?”

“No, I don’t have a cigarette.”

“You have marijuana?”

At this point, I wouldn’t need to answer because he would be laughing so hard he’d be rolling off the bench.

I would see the marijuana man daily, but one of my favorite people would be opera man. Once a week this little mentally challenged man, who wore glasses and was about five feet five, would walk into Kinko’s, stand in the middle of the lobby and bust into the loudest, booming opera you have ever heard. He would scare the shit out of some people, while others would ask me, “What station are you playing?” Then after a couple of minutes, he would turn and walk out the door.

Then one of the coolest oddballs was this black lady (who was also mentally challenged) that came to the store about once a month. She would walk in and wave over each and every Kinko’s employee and hand them one or two blue cans of some kind of Spam-like canned meat.

She was quick about this. I’d be in my office and she would come up behind me and drop two cans on my desk and bolt out of there. Not a word was spoken. The one time I was able to make eye-contact with her, she smiled and rushed away.

Something about all the chaos kept the customers on their toes. If an employee was starting to get chewed out and Opera-Man popped up the customer would be completely out of sorts and have to restart the thought process. It was kind of cool.

After a year of working in Pasadena, I was transferred to Glendale and then over to Monrovia. Finally, I decided I didn’t want to hear the sound of copy machines anymore and I left to work for a design studio that was contracted with Universal Pictures.

I still think about Pasadena all the time.

From the forthcoming book, Broken

 

 

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Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

Life Won’t Wait by Michael Essington

28
Feb
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 (http://mariusgustaitis.com/), 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.

 

 

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Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

Born Frustrated by Michael Essington

28
Feb
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! (http://gordonisonfiftyandbroke.blogspot.com), 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; gordonisonfiftyandbroke.blogspot.com

 

 

misconceptions_of_hell_001

Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

Henry Rollins – Eric the Pilot

22
Feb

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_001

Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

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