RSS

Category Archives: california

Give me Whiskey or Give Me Death; a tribute to Charles Bukowski

Bukowski

In an effort to remain true to this blog’s original plan I am now going to write about previous jobs I held, the crazier and more ridiculous the better. If there are many folks out there who enjoyed the writing of Charles Bukowski, this blog is for you. For those of you who have never heard of him, he was an American writer who found notoriety writing for the L.A. Free Press in the 1960’s, a column called Notes Of Dirty Old Man. He later found fame writing several books about jobs he worked, one called Factotum (later made into a movie starring Matt Dillon) and Post Office. In fact the latter was his first published book, having written it for a publisher named John Martin who believed so strongly in Bukowski’s ability to spin a good yarn that he offered him $200 a week to write so that he could quit his job. Writing about what he knew best (drinking and working for the United States Post Office) he was surprised to see that it did well enough that he was able to publish several more novels (for they were marketed as ‘fiction’) and garnered a rather eclectic audience around the world. He was especially beloved in Europe, but he made a splash in America as well. He wrote the movie ‘Barfly’ (based on his own life) starring Mickey Roarke and Faye Dunnaway.
So that is the new focus of my blog: all the crazy, crappy, preposterous jobs I’ve worked over the course of the last thirty years while pursuing my creative endeavors. Like Bukowski, I am a college dropout and enjoy the occasional beer or ten, but unlike Bukowski I was never a very good fighter yet I was never unwilling to ‘go’ if it indeed became necessary. I also traveled a lot and ended up in some rather compromising situations. I’ll also embellish a bit in some of these tales, as he was known to do. Rest assured they are rooted in reality, but sometimes you have to stretch them a little to get the desired effect. All that said, here is a short one since I’ve already taken up this much of your time: Hotlanta in the summer or Give me Whiskey or give me death, a tribute to Charles Bukowski.
The year was 1994. Kurt Cobain had killed himself in the garage of his Seattle home and the new Woodstock would prove to be a bust, as the grunge generation was a surlier, more unpredictable lot than their predecessors. Artists like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains and Beck were topping the charts while smaller bands like Mudhoney and Monster Magnet were making the rounds, keeping things afloat until they later found fame (Monster Magnet) or they dissolved into an historical footnote (Mudhoney). I was living in a warehouse in an area called Little Five Points in Atlanta, Georgia, having moved there from Raleigh, North Carolina after I got the boot from a band called Motherload. I’d been their lead singer (and chief purchaser of alcohol because they were all nineteen to my twenty-three) but they eventually had enough of my drunken shenanigans and sent me packing after I picked up the lead guitarist during a gig at a packed pool hall in Raleigh and tossed him into the crowd. He was mad because 1) they didn’t catch him, they instead ran out of the way and 2) because his Gibson Les Paul got ruined in the process. I couldn’t really say I blamed them. I was drunk and on drugs most of the time back then, in fact one of my favorite pastimes was driving around the triangle area drinking malt liquor and smoking weed and taking acid and going wherever the wind blew me. Suffice it to say I met a lot of strange people, some of whom thought I was the strange one. Go figure.
In Atlanta I held several jobs, but the first one I worked was selling school supplies for a shady company called Pacific and Atlantic Wholesalers, a telemarketing outfit that violated just about every law you can imagine when it came to consumer fraud (overpriced, crappy merchandise, hidden fees, broken promises regarding free bonus items with every order etc. etc. etc.) run by a man so crooked he made the Enron presidents seem like portraits of American stability. He’d sit behind his desk cleaning automatic weapons and snorting white powder off his desk blotter, every now and then venturing onto the sales floor to holler: “Let’s get a hum going men!” or “I hope you get stuck in traffic and don’t have a forty ounce can to piss in!” if he was upset that we weren’t making enough sales. Sometimes he said even cruder things like: “Shut up bitch or I’ll fill your mouth full of sperm!” or “Shut your pie hole or I’ll fill your corn hole!” Despite all this ranting lunacy the surprising thing was we actually made sales, lots of them. We were cold calling schools all over the greater continental United States and asking to speak with whomever did the purchasing for the school store. When they were put on the phone we then stroked their egos and smooth talked them into buying grosses upon grosses of shit they didn’t need, all of it cheap, easily breakable garbage. Notebooks with bindings that came unglued the first time you opened them up, pens with barely any ink in them that ejected what little there was in a puddle all over the page, pencils that snapped in half if you looked at them funny and so on. Yet we all made sales (some of us to a greater or lesser degree) and some weeks I made enough money to cover all my bills for a month.
It was in the middle of a heat wave in August that the air conditioning went out and, to keep us working, the owner, Cliff, bought us several gallons of whiskey and a quarter ounce of blow, encouraging us to help ourselves. He didn’t have to ask me twice. Within a few hours I wasn’t sure what the hell I was saying to people over the phone, all I knew was that I wasn’t making any sales. When I’d had enough, I snorted another large pile of coke, slammed a giant shot of whiskey, announced I was ‘getting the fuck out of here!’ and got in my car. I don’t remember driving home, all I remember is arriving and getting into it with my drug dealer roommate. I was sick of he and his friends keeping me up at night, partying into the wee hours when I was trying to sleep off a drunk, and I decided this was the time to air things out. Well, one of his thug buddies was there too, and between the two of them they easily restrained me and proceeded to ‘convince’ me that I was in the wrong. They were quite persuasive, let me tell ya, and the next day at work I looked like I’d gone a few rounds with Floyd Mayweather with my hands bound behind my back. To make matters worse the owner called me into his office.
“You left early yesterday,” he scolded, not even mentioning my beaten-to-a-pulp-face; he was too busy using a large hunting knife to shave a mole off his back. “I don’t think you’re taking this job seriously.”
I looked at him incredulously. “Taking the job seriously?” I repeated, trying hard to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “What’s not to take seriously?”
“You don’t come and go as you please. The manager has to authorize it.”
As I recalled the manager had been under his desk when I left, wearing nothing but black, ankle high socks and muttering something about the impending apocalypse while he drooled over a photo of Ms. July, but I kept that to myself.
“Yes sir,” I muttered, not wanting to argue. What was the point? “It won’t happen again.”
“Damn straight it won’t.”
“Yes sir.”
“You fucking freeloaders,” he said, dismissing me. “That’s the last time I give out free drugs. None of you assholes made any sales.”
“Not even Kennedy, sir?” Kennedy was the only sober person in the bunch; he never drank nor indulged in anything stronger than coffee.
“Kennedy was sick yesterday.”
“Oh.”
“Now get out there and get a hum going or I’ll-”
“Fill my mouth full of sperm,” I supplied for him. “Got it sir.” I was tempted to salute but I simply turned and left, wondering why I was stupid enough to keep working there. But when I felt the cold blast of the newly fixed ac, and I got that phone in my hands and spun some magic that landed me a twelve hundred dollar commission, I knew why indeed…

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Welcome to Dairy Land or See Ya San Diego!

cow2[1]

I haven’t updated this blog since June, might have been May, I’m not quite sure. What started as something I updated every week became more and more sporadic as a health problem took over my life, changed everything, and left me to pick up the pieces. The topic of the blog started to take a turn in late March/early February; what started as funny anecdotes about pet sitting became personal rants about various things. Then there were a few posts about my health issue, how a primary care physician mismanaged it and then nothing…tumbleweeds…less than nothing. My life as I knew it completely changed, forcing me to move from sunny San Diego back to rain-soaked Madison Wisconsin (a fine city in its own right but nonetheless very different from what I’d been accustomed to over the last decade) to live with my parents while I figured things out. Here I am, a man in his mid-forties, and a serious sleep disorder forced me to move back to Wisconsin from California to live in my parent’s basement. It’s almost like the set-up to a bad movie produced by Happy Gilmore Productions (no offence dudes). And the town they live in is cow pastureland, cornfields and dairy farms. I moved from the very edge of the Pacific Ocean and into the heart of cheese country.
There are many things I use to console me: 1) I can now watch the Packers play every week during football season 2) My entire family lives here and I do enjoy their company very much 3) Once I get my shit together I can get the f*ck out of here and go back to California. We’ll see how that works out.
I am writing this on the evening before seeing the neurologist to review the results of my polysomnagraph (a sleeping EEG). This was a test I’d begged my doctor in Encinitas for but he refused me, telling me it was ‘a pain in the ass’ and that he could figure out my problem without tests. Well, thanks to the neurologist here, we know what I am dealing with (preliminary results were phoned to me right after the test) and that it is nothing life threatening, but what a trial it has been! I’ve been hosting a seemingly endless stream of ‘exaggerated hypnic jerks’, sleep starts that every one has but, in my case, EXAGGERATED. Most people will have a few and then fall asleep. Mine go on all night, every night, nonstop. Just when I am on the verge of sleep: POW! A jerk that shakes my whole body (or just moves my hand, foot, arm, leg, neck, back etc.) waking me up. Shit, I’ve been through this a million times. I’m sort of sick of telling the story.
Irony, that lousy bitch, came in the form of my returning to this lovely manure tainted paradise and the problem seemingly going away. All of a sudden I could sleep without twitching, and I was able to reduce the medication I took nightly. I did the sleep study and it showed I was ‘normal’. Five days later and the twitches came back with a vengeance straight out of the bible. Seriously, they were like electric shocks being sent through me at regular intervals (possibly from a cow prod?). And worse yet, the medication was no longer working! Sleeping pills used to shut them down and now it was barely keeping them at bay. I was jittering and jiving the night away until I was forced to get up because sleep was impossible.
The worst part of the whole ordeal (besides leaving my sunny seaside town and my pet-sitting business and my independence) was having to try and get people to understand my problem. Somebody was forever giving me advice on what they did when they couldn’t sleep. I don’t know how many times I had to tell them: it isn’t that I can’t sleep, this isn’t insomnia! I am jerking more than a prepubescent boy who’s just discovered masturbation! This is a physical problem, not a mental one. Of course, the longer it went on, it became a mental problem; I nearly had a nervous breakdown from lack of sleep. Hence why I came to my parents house and am writing this in their basement, hence why I abandoned a successful business in one of the best cities in America to cut grass and weed flowerbeds.
So, this blog can still be about funny pet sitting stories, no problem there, but I am no longer a pet sitter. In fact, as I alluded in the previous paragraph, I’ve been working as a landscaper for my brother in law’s company. I work much harder now and get quite filthy. Inbred chicks at the BP won’t give me a second glance when I come in reeking of organic compost (read: manure) with circles of dirt lining my neck like jewelry. Writing, well, let’s just say I haven’t been doing a great deal of that. My latest novel is stagnating at around two hundred and five pages and promotional activities for my self-published novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World have screeched to a dead halt, with the exception of the video pitch I submitted to greenlightmymovie.com. I’m not sure if that $40 was well spent, but it was an interesting experience.
Tomorrow I find out what my neurologist (actually, not my neurologist after tomorrow; I had to switch health insurance and my new policy no longer covers him) thinks of this on again, off again problem. Maybe he will do me a favor and give me a lethal dose of barbiturates, like they use to euthanize animals. Put me out of my misery, as it were. Or maybe he’ll just shrug his shoulder and say: “Sucks to be you dude.” Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be worth the two hundred + bucks it costs for thirty minutes of his time, and that bit of advice you can take to the bank. Just don’t take it to mine; the check will bounce. Peace.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Welcome To Southern California; Love It Or Leave It Douchebags!

images[10]

I moved to San Diego from the Midwest a decade ago, and I still can’t get over some of the things I’ve experienced over the years. I live north of SD, in the burbs, and up here the folks are very well off. Let’s put it this way: up here, you’re either rich or you’re poor, poor being anyone who makes less than $40,000 a year. Anyone who makes a pitiable $35,000 is eligible for heat assistance! So you are either rich or you work for the rich people. I suppose it could be worse. By working for them I was able to write my debut novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World. Yet with money there is a natural breakdown of what ‘normal’ folks would call civilized behavior. These wealthy douchebags own leased Beamers, Mercedes, Porches, Audi’s, Corvettes, Hummer’s etc. and drive like they own the road and they’ve written the traffic laws themselves. Red lights? Pish-posh. Speed limits? Not here my friend. I’ve lived all over the U.S. and I’ve never seen so many effed-up auto wrecks in my life. Seriously! You know those cars chases in Hollywood movies that seem so unrealistic? Well, they get all their ideas by watching these buttholes drive. First month I was here I saw a woman drive her car off of a twelve-foot embankment and land upside down in a (fortunately) low-tide lagoon. What happened next? People stopped their cars, got out…and took pictures with their phones! I think I’m the only one who called 911. Honestly, one morning I’m driving along El Camino Real and I see a waterspout gushing a hundred feet in the air. Some dillhole took out a fire hydrant! Every morning on Interstate 5 there is a major, five-car pile-up in which at least three people are seriously hurt. How could this happen? Well cheese and crackers it don’t take a genius to know that you gotta let off the gas and use the brake once in a while. I could go on and on but what the hell would it matter…
And where else could I start and profitably maintain a pet sitting/dog walking business in which the majority of my clients treat their pets better than children in third world countries? While little kids with bloated stomachs are eating grubs and being swarmed by flies in some faraway craphole, I’m opening up can after can of cat food for some overweight feline who can’t decide if he wants the tuna or the salmon delight. He’ll then eat half (or a third) and I’ll throw the rest away, thinking about all the hungry kitties in China. The gardeners and the cleaning ladies who commute from Tijuana just can’t get over the fact that my clients and I make such a fuss when one of the spoiled pets has the runs or vomits and is rushed off to the veterinarian. Hell, in their country, the dogs are covered in ticks and fleas and are walking around half-starved, eating out of garbage cans. They’re lucky if they can bring their freakin’ children to the doctor if they’ve been throwing up or have diarrhea, much less their pets.
As an example: I was walking a dog that had been attacked by another dog and suffered severe nerve damage in one rear leg. Hence, when she walked she dragged the limb (until her owners got her a brace). A gardener I walked by commiserated. He said: “Is broken, yes?”
I tried to explain that it was nerve damage but we had a language barrier. No matter what I said, he didn’t understand. So finally I agreed. “Yeah, it’s broken.”
“You get splint,” he advised and I nodded, nodded as I slowly backed away from him. But I understood full well how he thought: in Tijuana their dogs would walk around with broken legs and no one would give it a second thought. Eventually the limb would become necrotic or septic or succumb to gangrene and would need to be amputated. In most cases the dog would simply be put down. He probably thought he was being really kind, offering me the advice. And he was, in his own way. Should I have been angered that he thought I was so stupid I’d let my dog walk around on a broken leg? No, there’s no point. I actually had a client (a white couple) who did just that. Their cat broke a limb and the night before I showed up to pet sit they called me and told me Junior had a limp but it was nothing to worry about. Yeah, it was broken, had been for two weeks. Yes, it was necrotic. Yes, it had to be amputated. These people were white and rich and incredibly stupid. Sh*t happens.
So come on out to sunny Southern California! If you make less than $50,000 a year there’s a good trailer park I’ll point you in the direction of, and places where you can get food stamps and discount clothing. Don’t worry that a gallon of milk is $9.00 or gas is $6.66 for regular unleaded. You got the sun, the beach, and the palm trees. Find yourself in California my friends!

 

Tags: , ,