Monday, January 22, 2018


Title: Broken
Author: Michael Essington
Release: Grab it NOW on Amazon! 

Sometimes in life, you have to stop and take a look at things. When I was growing up in the San Fernando Valley, back in the 1970s and 80s, I rarely saw anyone that was homeless, visibly drunk or high or anyone that was mentally ill. That is until I became involved in the Los Angeles punk scene. While I met people that I am still close with to this day, punk rock introduced me to an underbelly of society. I met drag queens, street kids, dope heads, speed freaks, and other marginal people.

Under the umbrella of punk rock, it wasn't shocking. We were all creatures on the Island of Misfit Toys. Most people, at that time, hated punk rockers, so most of us were just trying to get by in life; there wasn't time to hate some six foot five black guy in a blonde wig.

By the time the Aughts came around there were homeless camps in every city and you probably worked with somebody that was on some type of medication to keep them on the straight and narrow.

The stories in this book are told with a bit of humor but understand that I am in no way making fun of anyone that is homeless or struggling with physical of mental issues. It's the way I lay a story out. I poke fun and holes in everything I talk about, I'm usually my biggest target.

Contributed Essay by Michael Essington

When taking on the task of writing a piece on why I decided to publish Broken, a million things ran through my head. But in all honesty, it was a natural progression. You see, in my first three books (Last One To Die, Life Won’t Wait and Born Frustrated), I describe growing up in Los Angeles and being a part of the early Punk Scene.

In many ways, I was exposed to kids that were panhandling and squatting a decade or so before it became a mainstream media topic. A lot of the time I had no idea that some of these kids were homeless. We were all in a club or some rented hall and once we went to leave, an invite would go out, “Hey, come back to our place,” and “our place” would be an abandoned building.

In each of the books from the Last One To Die Trilogy I discuss a person or persons that I would come in contact with, that seemed on top of their game and then, unfortunately, I’d see them crumble. And in L.A., like many other major cities, these people seem to be on every other corner. Here’s an example of a guy, a little younger than myself that used to take my order (along with my son's) almost every weekend at McDonald’s, this is from Broken:

“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 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 looked 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.”

It’s situations like this that made me want to write about the actual people that are out there. The news gives us statistics about homelessness, and stories of people being arrested for feeding those on the street and occasionally an aerial shot of Skid Row, but we don’t know anything about the people. Just as we don’t know anything about the behaviors or eating habits of the animals at the zoo. Am I comparing the homeless to the animals at the zoo? Of course not. But much like the animals, most people like the homeless at arm's length.

As I was pulling the ideas and stories together, I really made a concentrated effort to walk around more and remember faces. Stream different stories together that involve the same people.

Another experience I had that was so peaceful, that it almost felt mystical, I included in 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, on occasion, they just want my coffee cup before it’s thrown away.

On Sunday, I see a guy walk in; he looks 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 walked around.

At this 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 starting to stand-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 proceeded to give me two coupons for a free cup of coffee. One coupon for a free breakfast sandwich, and a gift card that 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, that he should keep it. Use it for tomorrow’s breakfast. He said, “You keep it, 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.”

The two men I recount here, unfortunately, I never saw again. I have returned to both of those locations and have never seen them.

So, the basis for Broken is coming in contact with people on the streets of L.A.  On occasion, I’ll sneak in a story about someone that may not be homeless, but they are in someway Broken.

About the Author 
Michael Essington is an American author and poet, most famous for his Mike Check column. Over the years, Essington has done dozens of celebrity interviews, as well as hundreds of music reviews. The weekly Mike Check column, which appears in Strange Reaction, and the very popular Deep Red Magazine. Essington’s column is read weekly by thousands of fans from Los Angeles to Singapore to Denmark.

As an original member of the early Los Angeles punk rock scene, Essington was a member of several bands and later a popular flyer illustrator.

Essington has written since his high school days. He lives with his wife, Elizabeth, son Lucas, and a pug named Max, that Essington suspects may have a learning disability or a general lack of life goals.

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1 comment:

  1. A piece from one of my favorite writers. Cheers!


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