Category Archives: unemployment
I’m told it makes me a monster. I stand and receive one of our soon-to-be depleted resources, carelessly letting it fall on and around me like it will last forever, and how do I celebrate this communion? With a quiet lather.
It’s something I don’t share with people. They either think I’m a sociopath or they simply don’t believe me. “Come on, when you’re alone and the pressure’s cranked and you’re feeling like a million bucks?”
“It’s never occurred to me.”
“Sure, bro. Sure.”
So I keep it to myself, this secret, the secret that I… I don’t sing in the shower.
But the secrets don’t stop there. The Canadian man who leans into the small of my back pushing me deeper into pigeon pose tells me (and the rest of the room) that I’m deserving of love. After ninety minutes of paid instruction on how to follow my breath, I corner the Canuck.
“Yeah, so about that deserving of love thing—” He closes his eyes and nods his all knowing head. “So, am I still deserving of it if I set my Spotify to private so I can listen to Chief Keef and other sirens of misanthropic drill music while lifting weights in an effort to lift more and heavier weights so in this alleged “survival of the fittest” world I can readily beat the living shit out of my fellow man — even you — even though I respect you and all your slow breathing, it’s really helped me a ton. But you know, if it came down to it, I’m only listening to that stuff so I can prepare myself for the moment when I may have to crush not your um, spirit, but your actual skull. Am I still deserving of love?”
His eyes are kind and deep. Well, I don’t know about deep, they’re the size of marbles. So even though I can’t speak to their depth, they’re definitely kind. The man who fled the rule of Justin Trudeau says, “This is where your mind drifts, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s just an invitation to return to the present, to follow your breath back to the moment one inhalation,” he breathes in deeply, “and one exhalation.” He breathes out for what must be two full minutes. He reaches up and puts his little Canadian hand on my shoulder. “I’m actually doing a soundbath workshop on Saturday that deals with exactly what you’re talking about.”
“Really? Which part?”
“Well, it’s a full hour of yoga, so I’d say all of it. There’ll be steel drums and — you know what? Let me get you a flier. I have a feeling this one’s going to fill up fast.”
And my next secret? I ride two hundred miles into the desert on the back of a knock-off Asian Vespa to listen to steel drums bounce off the Rockies and our chakras. And in a way, my problems begin to resolve themselves.
We don’t shower, so there’s no longer any reason to feel shame about the thirty one years of quiet showers I took before I arrived here.
And there’s no wifi. I’ve gotten to a place (spiritually?) where I’m so paralyzed (free?) that I don’t know how to listen to music without wifi or at least a cell signal. Just like that, Chief Keef falls out of my life.
I’ve been reborn. I mean, I’ve only been out here for two hours, but just like the flexible Canuck promised, the soundbaths have healed me. I’m whole again.
Now I’m just throwing this out there but — is it a call for help if you find yourself screaming, “Om” in the middle of the California desert with a throng of Silver Lake moms who are all thirty-three and speak English with a British lilt even though they moved here when they were nine? Or… am I finally home?
With the palms of my hands together over my heart and my brain slowly leaking out of my ear, namaste.
-I was walking home from Trader Joe’s and I saw a group of people shuffling into a colorful building. It ended up being a guided meditation for gay addicts in recovery. It was hard to get a word in, but I decided to stay. I’ve been going twice a week since May.
-On June 3rd, I rode my bike twelve miles to get a taco because I couldn’t find my car keys.
-Nine hours ago, I was shirtless in my bedroom. I was also pantless. But I wasn’t thinking about my lack of shirt or pants, I was watching two flies buzz between my bedside lamp and a photo of myself wearing a suit on a mountain looking very lost.
I’ll spare you the gory details but in quick succession I killed both flies. One with a New Yorker where I was reading about a divorced lesbian couple in Manhattan who were fighting each other for the right to raise Abush. According to the article, Abush is a six-year-old boy from Ethiopia.
Before I killed the fly, I had already decided that these presumably bored (read: loving) millionaires also needed jobs. Or more demanding jobs. Or they could adopt more children from Ethiopia. Or America. They needed to do something to keep Abush as far from the limelight as possible. And I say this as someone who grew up on the Central Coast where there were more kids named Forest than Bill.
But this isn’t about people named after and for shrubbery. Three months ago, I had killed one, maybe two flies in my life. In the last week, I’ve killed at least double that figure. We’re talking upwards of three flies. If I don’t find myself in an air conditioned building with free coffee and a desk with a phone I’ll never answer, I worry that I could kill as many as a half dozen flies before the year is even over. This troubles me.
-Yesterday, I put my left foot on an escalator’s handrail, brought my head to my knee and had a nice long stretch for three floors in the Sunset Boulevard location of Kaiser Permanente.
-I went to the doctor for what I’ve heard called a “check up.” Nothing was wrong with me. I told the doctor that, but also said if he wanted to put his stethoscope on my back and listen to me breathe or whatever, he was welcome to do that. He looked at me like I was fucking insane, confirmed from a distance that, at least physically, I was fine and then told me that they didn’t validate parking for patients. My co-pay was $15. Parking in the structure for 53 minutes was $86.
-Since Sunday, I’ve spent nine hours in the sauna and two in the steam room and I fucking hate the steam room.
-I introduced myself to someone who I thought was my neighbor because I’ve seen him on and off for the last five years. He replied, “I’m carrying mace and as a member of the United States Postal Service I’d be within my rights if I used it on you right now.”
-I’ve started wearing sunscreen even though I once saw a poster in the nurse’s office in college with a teenage girl sporting a neon tank top and third degree sunburn. A blurb above her remorseful face read: 80% of skin damage occurs before the age of 18. I was 19 at the time and decided then and there I was never going to wear sunscreen again. The nurse told me that I definitely had alcohol poisoning but the worst was over and to be careful. She was so sincere that I felt one of us should cry. It was a relatively short game of chicken before she walked me out. I won’t say who left in tears because I’m a gentleman.
-I’ve watched both seasons of “All or Nothing” with the LA Rams and the Arizona Cardinals and I have no idea who won the Super Bowl last year.
-I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt from my high school (average class size: 107) and I almost introduced myself.
-On Wednesday around midnight, I got home from hockey and was greeted by two coyotes on the stairs leading up to my place. I thought, “Well, if I have to fight these ‘yotes to the death, so be it.” But then I remembered the flies I’d killed. Flies with fly families and fly children who probably stayed up at night wondering if their fly mother and father loved them and would ever come home; flies that can relate more to Jeff Goldblum than I can because I’ve never seen that movie.
As I stood there, my shoulder going numb from the weight of my hockey bag and my head full of Jeff Goldblum, which is exactly what that fucking guy would want, I saw the coyotes were long gone and while I might not have a job, I did still have four episodes of “The Keepers” waiting for me upstairs, and in this life, well, that’s more than enough.
 I signed up for a trial subscription seven years ago and I haven’t figured out how to cancel it. As a result, I’m wildly cultured.
Vince Lombardi said the price of success is hard work. Señora Otay-Mesa said the price of a taco is $1.50. Take your pick.
I’m coasting down Eagle Rock Boulevard when I see a kid washing a window in a building where a Filipino man once wrapped his fingers around mine, pushed his hand into the small of my back and said, “Dance.”
We weren’t alone. A woman with wispy red hair that looked like it may have been borrowed from a doll stood in the corner. She, the red head, was a dancing queen. There were glamour shots on the wall to prove it. And the tinny CD player in the corner, the full body mirrors reflecting the fluorescent light, the hardwood floors which once served as a middle school basketball court – she built all of that. A dancing queen’s empire.
I have nothing to do, so I turn left on York and as is my practice, I look for a coffee shop that isn’t so thriving that I’ll have to struggle to find a seat or listen to someone younger or older than me lament to their coffee date about their struggle. Admittedly, these are difficult criteria in Los Angeles, and maybe anywhere I speak the language of the midday café crowd. With my eyes failing me, I pull over to find a place on my phone. I’m scrolling when I hear my name.
“Dude! What’s up?!”
I can’t remember his name, but I know we went to college together, so I return the enthusiasm, “Dude! Long time!”
He’s extremely tan and has apparently been wearing the same hemp bracelet for 10 years. “What are you up to? Where are you working right now?”
“Nowhere at the moment,” I say. “I’m sort of on hiatus, just kind of hanging out.”
“So you don’t have a job.”
He nods as if he’s just learned that a national treasure has died. Or that the Comanche language no longer has any native speakers. “How long have you been out of a J-O-B?”
“Oh, not long. Since March.”
“Jeez. Two months. Hey, this is kind of weird but, can I get you something to eat?”
I laugh it off. “No way, man.”
“Hey, there’s no need to be prideful. I mean, you’re riding a bike.”
It’s true. I am. “It’s a nice day!”
“No, it’s not.”
It’s true. It’s not. “Yeah, well, I wasn’t in a rush.”
“Because you don’t have a job. Let me at least buy you a burrito.”
I want this to stop, but I don’t know how to make it stop.
My Taco is a family place that makes a taco borrego that is something to behold. I won’t tell you where exactly My Taco is because I’m already upset with myself for taking a guy who I didn’t like even when I knew him a decade ago. But we all make mistakes. Our poor, misinformed and now uninsured voted for Trump. We’re all culpable.
We settle in and he asks, “So did you lose your car?”
“No, I just thought I’d get some exercise.”
“Don’t you think your odds of getting hit by like, a bus are higher than dying of obesity?”
He might have a point. “I’m also skating tonight so I’m trying to get the lactic acid out of my legs from my game last night.”
The woman from behind the counter takes our number and leaves us with a half dozen tacos. They’re not pretty, but that’s why I’m able to keep coming back. The masses haven’t moved in because these tacos aren’t photogenic. They’re just tacos. Delicious fucking tacos.
“How many hockey leagues are you in?”
“Three. My nights are pretty wide open.”
“And apparently so are your days.”
“Yeah, but it’s hard to find a good midday skate. Holy shit, how much does that lady look like Kellyanne Conway?”
He turns his attention to a skeletal woman rollerblading in the parking lot. At the minimum, she’s been awake for a week straight. My college pal says, “You’re playing a lot of hockey.” I nod, my mouth full of lamb barbacoa, and he says, “I don’t feel like I should pay for lunch. You’re not even trying to get a job. You’re just biking around pretending to be homeless.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Come on! That beard! Those Vans? There are literal holes in your shoes. Actual holes.”
“Well,” I shrug, “you already paid. Want me to Venmo you?”
“I feel bad. You don’t have a job.”
“I don’t mind paying for my tacos. They’re a $1.50.”
“It’s not about the money.”
“Okay, you lost me.”
He pushes his greasy orange plate to the middle of the table. “Well, can I give you a lift somewhere?”
“I’ve got my bike.”
“Dude! You’re got to stop bringing that up. It’s making me sad. Seriously depressed. Just get like a Ford Fiesta or something. They’re cheap. Get a fuckin’ Kia.”
“I have a car.”
“I keep forgetting that because you’ve got that… meth mobile.”
“You’re just putting lipstick on a pitbull.”
As we clear our plates, I ask, “So, do you work over here?”
“No, the overhead’s too high. I’m going to open up shop in Cambodia. Maybe Laos. Super cheap labor. Great full moon parties. Fuck, I love full moon parties.”
“Open up shop doing what?”
“Whoa. Lot of hostility from a guy who’s basically homeless, begging people to buy him burritos and shit. By the way, this place is bomb. Definitely coming back.”
The front door jingles and we step outside where the Cracked-Out Nancy Kerrigan is still doing pirouettes. He throws a leg over his pearl white Vespa. “Well, I hope you achieve your goal of becoming a professional hockey player or whatever you’re doing with your life.”
“That’s not really… Okay, thank you.”
“Hey, let’s do this again soon. I still have the same number.”
“Perfect. I definitely have all the numbers in my phone that I had in 2008.”
He revs his Honda Airblade, flashes me a toothy smile and pulls onto York Boulevard. But unfortunately for everyone driving east now and for the rest of the day, he’s sideswiped by an orange Metro bus. The bus brakes, but not before it first tramples over his scooter, then his body, and finally his head. Cars begin to honk. A few people get off the bus and go about their day.
I mount my 12 speed, look right, then left, then right again. The traffic has already started to build. I feel fortunate to be headed the other direction and in the bike lane no less. More importantly, it looks like I don’t have to worry about him telling anyone about My Taco. We’re left with so little that’s sacred in this world. But at least we have tacos. Yes, at least for now we have tacos.
Like a vision in the night, a FaceTime request rattles from the dashboard of my car. I have one of those things Lyft and Uber drivers have though I don’t drive for either. I answer the FaceTime. It’s my volunteer spiritual guru: my mother.
She asks where I am, where I’m going. I’m on the 10 West in predictably sluggish traffic. The kind of traffic that seems to collude with your underperforming air conditioner just to stretch out your misery. Or maybe that’s just my air conditioner.
She says, “Just imagine yourself out of the traffic. Pull yourself from it and then it’s like it’s not there.”
“That sounds dangerous,” I say.
“Not any more dangerous than the traffic.”
I think she has a point. But I can’t be sure. I’ve been hearing things like this my whole life. She takes a more serious tone: “I’ve been studying the course on miracles and I realize now, as a lioness, I didn’t honor your growth—”
The worst stretch of the 10 between downtown and Santa Monica is the entire fucking thing. There isn’t a single redeeming quality. But whether I enjoy myself or not, I am told that time continues to pass. And so it does, the time passing, the cars inching along. My volunteer spiritual guru continues to talk. She tells me that she recently noticed her life is running parallel to Alice in Wonderland. I don’t question it. And then I do question it. How? From memory she recalls a scene where the Red King is sleeping:
“He’s dreaming now,” said Tweedledee, “and what do you think he’s dreaming about?”
Alice said, “Nobody can guess that.”
“Why, about you!” Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. “And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?”
“Where I am now, of course,” said Alice.
“Not you!” Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. “You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!”
“If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out — bang! — just like a candle!”
For some reason I feel more comfortable hearing about the miracles. “So you’ve been reading the crystals? What else do they say?”
“Yes, yes. I’ve been reading the crystals,” she repeats, as if to prove she knows she lost me.
Traffic is moving slowly enough that I’m finally able to get a look at where my volunteer spiritual guide is standing. She’s in the house I grew up in, but there are sheets of plastic over some of the walls – there’s no longer a sink, stove top, oven, or dishwasher.
It’s all very obvious to me so I say, “I take it this is some sort of subtle feminist statement? You’ve ripped out your kitchen as a rejection of the Patriarchy – as a part of the male construction of what a household should be. You’re rejecting all that and unshackling yourself from the kitchen and thereby the male definition of what it means to be a woman?”
“What? No. I’m remodeling the kitchen.”
She had to run. Reading the crystals takes some time. I’ve since passed La Brea. I should make it to Santa Monica by midnight.
 Services by said volunteer spiritual guru were never requested or retained. Yet like a crossing guard in the middle of the afternoon, she shows up in neon waving a baton, stopping and ushering as she sees fit. It’s thankless work.
I’m sitting on my deck, drinking my fourth cup of coffee and pretending to work. Which feels unnecessary because there’s no one around and I don’t have a job. Yet I’m holding myself accountable, or at least drinking the amount of coffee that should beget progress, when I hear the crunching of metal. Or the crackling of plastic. Either way, what I really hear is, “Hey, where do you think you’re going?!”
But I’m focused on my work. It’s amazing that one’s coffee can get cold when it’s this fucking hot outside, yet mine does. I’m not even wearing a shirt because of the heat and yet my coffee is the same temperature as the water in Morro Bay right now.
“I think that’s my neighbor’s car!” I hear a woman say. See, this is why I can’t get any work done. People are constantly shouting in my neighborhood. Oh great, and now there’s the pounding of footsteps coming up my stairs. Where’s my shirt?
My dog starts to bark at my neighbor, a woman who looks like Parker Posey, if Parker Posey had decided to not pursue acting and become a Silver Lake mom instead. I find my shirt, I put it on. Now that I’m thirty, being fully clothed feels necessary.
She’s pointing to her phone and talking at a manic pace. “I was watching the guys work on my yard and I saw this truck hit your car and the guy tried to drive off so I chased after him and I was going to take a picture—” she points to a man dressed like a park ranger who isn’t a park ranger but more likely a gardener. “That’s him.” Then calling out to the man who isn’t a park ranger, “This is my neighbor!” She tells me again that he was going to drive away but she wouldn’t let him because she’s “kind of psycho” when it comes to these things.
I follow her down the steps and clumsily shake the hand of the guy who hit my car, which confuses everyone. I think I say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” My neighbor leads me to my car and points at the area that the guy crashed into – it’s my front bumper. It was hit once before by an Asian kid in Santa Monica who reversed into me while he was talking on the phone. His insurance company gave me $800 which I handed over to the Cha Cha Lounge over the course of a few Friday nights. The blemish remained. But this guy had fucked up that same corner a bit more. There was a dent and the headlight was crooked. I honestly wouldn’t have noticed if my neighbor didn’t point it out.
I’m getting ready to begin what I’m sure will be a brief and embarrassing conversation with the guy who hit my car when Parker Posey says, “Great. So do you think you could move your car? Whenever you get a chance, of course. Because I’m getting some work done, so…” She pointed to another massive truck. This one was blocking her driveway.
“No problem.” I’m aware that my car is a major blemish on the street. I’ve often wondered if a few neighbors were going to get together and buy me a new one because I’m undoubtedly bringing down the value of their homes by parking in front of them.
Parker Posey disappears into her mansion and I look long and not very hard at the corner of my car. It’s hot out, which is about the only thing I’m thinking.
The man who is not a park ranger speaks unintelligible English. His teeth have round edges, but his skin has that beautiful deep olive complexion that they only dole out near the equator. He’s maybe sixty years old. I think he’s saying something about a fair price. I ignore this and I ask for his insurance and his license. I plan on taking a picture of each and then just dealing with it later. Such is my policy. Deal with it later.
The important thing now is that I move my car. Parker Posey has reappeared and is smiling intensely, waiting for me to move it. She doesn’t have all day. Her house is worth close to 2 million. Last year, I Kelly Blue Booked my car out of curiosity and it came up as $615. Something tells me that number isn’t going up.
Again, he asks for a fair price. “Um, how about $400?” Cars are expensive to fix. I’ve probably put 10 grand into my $615 car in the last three years. He shakes his head and tells me that’s way too much. I suggest the insurance company again but this dude is strongly opposed and I’m not shocked. This is Los Angeles. I’ve almost exclusively been involved in accidents with guys who didn’t have driver’s licenses. I once got rear-ended by a Mexican guy and his daughter and for some reason I ended up giving them two hundred dollars. I try to not tell that story too often because it confuses everyone. But you had to be there, watching this father-daughter duo chipping away at the American Dream in a Toyota pickup that was definitely nicer than my car. I didn’t want to interfere with their perception that anything is possible. Including the person who is not at fault paying out the guy who just rear-ended him.
But I’m not quite ready to pay this guy. Really, I just want to go into a cool room and drink coffee that is warmer than the air temperature. “$200,” he says, shrugging, which I assume is a symbol of his generosity. I mean, I’m not a professional negotiator, but we both know where it goes from here. He says $200 a couple more times, I say $400 and eventually, one of us (me), drops down to $300 and we agree that’s fair.
He opens his wallet revealing about seventy $100 bills and accidentally plucks out five. He puts two back and hands me $300. I shake his hand, then I drive my car twenty-five feet and park. When I get out, the park ranger is walking up to me, “$300. It’s good.” Then I think he tells me that he’s working nearby, or something about the transmission of his truck. Where he crashed into my car actually looks pretty bad in this light.
But hey, a deal’s a deal. And in America, we don’t welsh on our terrible decisions. We double down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have $300 to burn at the Cha Cha Lounge. Also, I’m looking for a job. Preferably one that doesn’t require a working knowledge of cars or negotiation skills. Thanks in-advance!