Broken by Michael Essington

You know I got to thinking about it and, except for graphic novels and these reviews, I don’t really read books anymore…at least not like I used to.  A bad faze?  What I do know is that books like this one make me want to get back into reading again…inhaling.  Just cuz it needs said though, reading PDFs is not the same.  I like to get my greedy little hands on things, get them dirty with use, hahaha.  Check out that cover, that is how a book needs introduced, and it makes me want to hold it, and wonder what’s inside, preparation for doing some serious digging.  Instead of leafing, I scroll on.  Even as a PDF though, the book is quite tasty, a meal and a half, enough to take home some in a doggy bag.  Not a difficult read at all, and as I’ve said before about Michael’s book, you pretty much are compelled to read the whole thing in a couple sittings (despite the numerous distractions we all have, does any of us have uninterrupted time anymore). Before I give my lame spiel, how about something from someone who is in the know…“Mike is one of them, a good writer and a damn good storyteller. He is eloquent and concise and doesn’t get lost in the world of minutia.  He tells the story and holds you captive page after page. To the point you want to cheat (go to the back of the book) but don’t!Enjoy the book. Learn something you perhaps didn’t know, I did. Thanks to some well written verse knowledge of a lifestyle and the honesty to tell it.” – Clyde A. Wray, Poet, Playwright, director and producer author of four books of poetry. I don’t know who Clyde is but, honestly I couldn’t have said it any better and this is my fucking blog and the trouble with bloggers, is their mouth don’t stop (intentional Fear reference). How about another author’s take, “Michael Essington’s short stories are contemporary tall tales, new urban legends that might be spun by a guffawing host to attendees at some summer night barbecue in a suburban enclave on the outskirts of any major American city.” – Chris D., author of Dragon Wheel Splendor and Other Love Stories of Violence and Dread? And, I think Mr. Essington was talking about me in the dedications, “Last and not least: I ask forgiveness of all those who have been with me over the course of the years and whose names I have failed to mention”…just kidding Mike (who reminds us, “Stay safe and thanks for reading”).

So tried something different this time around, I jotted down notes as I read the book, shit that relates to me, because many people will be able to relate to this book (especially if you’re one to go out and about in any major city)…

Awe…the jewelry district (got my first wife’s wedding ring made there)
Todd was a puss (you should have kicked his ass for that Mike)
Getting to know homeless guys downtown (a real education)
Executive and their false sense of importance (I worked at two law firms downtown)
It’s a shame about Harley (but I think everyone from Iron Butterfly could time travel)
Oh God the characters Mike meets, only in LA
7/11s baby (someone get me a slurpee)
Taking the bus across town (2 1/2 hours one way from Burbank to UCLA)
Watching your child grow up (I feel like I know Lucas)
You just have to know Rip Taylor, Paul Lynde and Allen Funt (and Nipsey Russell)
Mickey D’s (I vaguely remember growing up enough to go from the kids meal to the Big Mac)
High or unbalanced? (the question you ask yourself of everyone you come across)
Dad + dead = pee (sadly yes)
Shop class! (blue collar class)
Brain Dead Wayne (everybody knows a Brain Dead Wayne)
the innocence of childhood (ah, we just didn’t really know what was going on around us)

That may not make any sense to you, but it makes perfect sense if you read the book. Michael got it right once again with this one. He is a man of passion and compassion, a keen observer and, most of the time, a participant in this thing we call humanity. This is real life. A speck of time in the universe, but still important. In the days before writing, when spoken word was how humankind shared information and stories, Mr. Essington would have been highly sought after.  All and all another great read…

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Urban Styles (Graffiti in New York Hardcore) by Freddy Alva

US-FASmall world time. I get all kinds of emails from folks petitioning reviews of their music, and every once in a long while, to my delight, I get asked to do a book review (at various stages in my life I have found myself consumed with reading…these days it’s mostly about graphic novels). This time ’round, I got a message from Steven Dilodovico of DiWulf Publishing House (very interesting story about Steve and Amy who run the show there and co-authored the book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens) reaching out to this humble blog, for a review of a book coming out on October 31st.  Turns out it was written by the only Mustard Relic in the borough of Queens, Mr. Freddy Alva! Of course, Freddy is one of those long time virtual friends, thanx to the internet and the music blog phenomenon of a decade ago (reminds me of the tape trading days of the 80s and 90s).   My initial response to Steve, “While I have never met Freddy in person, I have been a virtual friend of his for probably 10 years (we share many interests).  Am a huge fan of him as a human being and as an author (interviewed him a while back on the blog).  I am willing to do anything you like to hype this new book, so whatever you want me to post or anything I can do please just let me know.  I also would be willing to do an interview or if you already have an interview I can post that as well.  Seriously whatever I can do on my end I will, because I want this book to sell the fuck out.”  So, on with it, right?
In the synopsis it calls Freddy Alva’s book a treatise, I was thinking more of a tome, but regardless, this thing is massive, shit the press kit was almost half a gb. Bible massive and in some ways very bible like in terms of how it’s broken up into chronology, history, stories and even captures the mythology of this “outlaw movement.” What Mr. Alva has put together here, IS the bible on the topic.  I don’t have an actual copy of the book, yet, but DiWulf obviously did not fuck around, 330+ pages and 180+ color images. So, the meat of the book….hmmm.  I think before I do that, want to share what other folks have had to say, because there’s a lot chunks there and these folks aren’t brain damaged like old Mustard…

Author Freddy Alva Talks About His New Book “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore” July 5th 2017

Hey, You’re Cool! Mass Appeal July 13th 2017

Powerhouse Arena Book Launch Event/ “Urban Styles” in Conversation

Metal Riot http://metalriot.com/news/diwulf-publishing-urban-styles-graffiti-in-new-york-hardcore/ July 26th 2017

GWARIZM http://gwarizm.com/tag/urban-styles/ July 29th 2017

Illogical Contraption interviews author Freddy Alva about “Urban Styles” August 13th 2017

The Secret History of New York’s Hardcore Punk Graffiti Writers Vice August 22nd 2017

Interview: Freddy Alva Talks Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore August 26 MetalRiot.com

Urban Styles Book Signing at the Bowery Electric set for November 14th August 27th 2017

Listen to Freddy Alva, Chaka Malik, Gavin Van Vlack (Burn) on the Brooklyn Blastfurnace podcast August 29th 2017

New Book: “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore” by Freddy Alva Dying Scene September 3rd 2017

Urban Styles on InEffectHardcore.com September 4th 2017

10 Questions with Freddy Alva Howweare.net September 7th 2017

Going in Style: Urban Styles Book Signing at Bowery Electric NYC September 7th 2017

DiWulf Publishing House Releases “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore” by Freddy Alva Innocentwords.com September 8th 2017

My Life in Music: Freddy Alva Mass Movement September 8th 2017

Review: “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore” by Freddy Alva Innocent Words, September 8th 2017

Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore” Book Coming Rest Assured Zine September 14th 2017

Kniha o Graffiti V New York Hardcore Peraferia hardcore Punk Webzine September 14th 2017

Official Urban Styles Photo Gallery Alternative Press September 15th 2017

Interview with Freddy Alva, Author of “Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore” Sound Renaissance September 17th 2017

First thing I got from the book, for the people who did the graffiti, they were “writers” and what they did was “writing”, but the average Joe unfamiliar with the scene would be steered in the wrong direction if the book had been called “…Writing In New York Hardcore.”  These guys are the 1%ers of the art world.  We had a graffiti / hardcore punk connection on the West Coast as well in the mid 80s, but that’s my story not Freddy’s.  I will say that I had a black book (Freddy has given us a behind the scenes look into a bunch of black book art from these guys) in the mid 80s that I did my chicken scratch in and would give it to other artists to do their thing, so I had something to aspire to.  Loaned it to this artist DASH (a very prolific tagger in LA County) and he told me he lost it, but I know the fucking thief stole it.  Reminds me of all the beefs between artists, that come up in these interviews.  So the meat of the book is these compelling interviews with the writers of the scene in New York (you should be able to get that from the fucking title right?).  Not one or two interviews, but a shit ton of ’em, with some of the key artists of the 80s and 90s.  Half of them Freddy knows personally and I don’t know how the hell he found the rest, he’s got most of the major crews represented.  You get to know these guys pretty well through his relevant questions, the part they played with respect to other artists, the bands they played in, the crews the rolled with, what’s up with them these days and most incredibly, their art.  I like what MANOR had to say when Freddy asked him, “Do you still write or follow graffiti?”…his response was, “No.  Unless I’m on tour.  And then…no comment.”  This textbook is impressive even just as a pdf, but a smart guy would want to get his greedy little hands on it (maybe bring a buddy to help you carry it out to the car)…the book will be available at the end of the month at DiWulf

Just sort of as an after thought this song popped in my head while reading the book…Beastie Boys – Professor Booty

…and then there’s this one, mentioned in the book, a cover of a Frontline tune by the Beasties…

Misconceptions of Hell – Michael Essington

cover-188x300Don’t know if anyone notices or not, I haven’t felt the writing bug lately, in other words no babbling, like usual, just straight and to the point (there’s something to be said for that). On top of that, sitting down and reading a book is something I haven’t done in quite some time, shit even the unread comic books (Walking Dead) have their own growing pile. God, even just reading anything except for stupid headlines of stories by the mind controlling media, who have essentially thrown objectivity out the window, is a chore. But I heard Michael Essington was releasing another book, and wanted to line up early to get a sneak peak, so to speak. Hit him up on Facebook (which reminds me, I don’t even really call anyone anymore) and he leaked me the pdf. It took me a while to get around to reading, not for lack of interest, by any stretch of the imagination, it was just that my Son was here and it was two weeks of spending all my time hanging out with him. So long story short, I finally got to read the book…

Didn’t take me long, his books are not tomes, they are an easy read and really you want to get to the next page in the story before you’re done with the one you’re on, the stories are that engaging. I’ve never actually met Michael, but through blogs (he was one of the ones who inspired me to do my own) and our mutual love of music, we have been friends for several years now. This book, is like the others before, in that you really get a feel for the kind of guy he is or at least seems to be. Once again the stories here are gritty, raw and very real. The themes don’t have that lame PG-13 vibe, there is nothing tame here, these are stories about real life. The characters could be you or someone you know, someone who isn’t surrounded with rainbows and unicorns, as I said real. Michael doesn’t waste a lot of time with bullshit, no extra words to make the stories longer, you get just enough to know what the fuck he’s talking about, just enough to relate. Short biographical stories (not unlike his own autobiographical stories from the blog), like opening a novel in the middle and just reading several pages, a moment in the life of so and so…Bo, Hank, Walter, etc. This time around, you get lots of poetry too, and you can tell they are his, because they have the same vibe as the stories…gritty, raw and very real (“As I approach the headstone, I know it’s mine”). I don’t want to give anything away, but you gotta dig private detectives. In fact, I may have told him before, but I think he really should do a graphic novel, maybe one about a private detective. Go figure a comic book fan, we both are, writing a graphic novel. Seriously though, these stories lend themselves to that form of media and for an artist it wouldn’t take a whole lot of imagination to draw the scenes, with Michael’s writing you can see them in your head (I’m thinking Ben Templesmith for his style as an artist, for those of you in the know). All in all, without giving away specifics, this book is laid back, with economically chosen words, hyper-realistic, tense at times like real life can be, pleases, but doesn’t aim to please or beg for approval…as the reader you are just a bystander.

Mr. Essington, in the most honorable sense is doing this thing DIY to the extreme, a one man band. You can get the book (and the others I believe) from Amazon, but if you live in LA and are involved in the Punk Rock scene, you are bound to cross paths with him…

Born Frustrated by Michael Essington

me-bfI’ve known Mike, virtually, for about 8 years now, his Mike Check column on the Strange Reaction blog was an inspiration for me to get this place together, a true Mustard Relic, if there ever was one. This is the 4th of his books that I have read and once again I was not disappointed (Last One to Die, Life Won’t Wait and Under a Broken Street Lamp). This is the only Michael I know, the author (plus a half dozen phone calls), but based on the autobiographical nature of his writing, I feel like I’ve got an insight as to who, Michael the person is. He is a laid back (unless you push the right button), no bullshit, honest, faithful, generous, Father, Husband, Son, Brother and friend. He tells his story, in a matter of fact kind of way, but stays away from any kind of self-glorification and doesn’t try to waste his time trying to make his story any grander than it really was. He reminds me a little bit of the Oi! poetry I used to listen to back in the mid 80s (but less political), a working class hero, facing life’s ups and downs, head on, he can take a punch equally as well as dishing one out (example: Garry Johnson – United). He is fearless, but not a bully. He is accepting, but not a punching bag. This book is really part three of a biographical series (I highly recommend the fiction in his half of Under a Broken Street Lamp as well), more pieces of a continually growing puzzle. I like each one more than the other, like a pill popper who knows that three is better than one. I read this like the others in a fairly short spell, a couple of days this time around as I was busy at work, where I do most of my virtual reading. There are a few differences in this one from the others, the one thing that comes to mind is the addition of the wisdom of his maternal Grandpa…”a herd of turtles” and “a mongoloid in the family.” You also get a little more wisdom from his son, who is a chip off the old block.  I think too, he spent a little more time on his Father, a wise man in his own right, but very human with both strengths and weaknesses. I suppose Michael would identify himself that way as well, a man of strengths and weakness, akin to a comic book character, constant challenged to make the right choice. He never did win the lottery, but he was never unfortunate enough to be living on the streets (a group that he has always has a soft spot towards), somewhere in the middle there. As always, the book is too short, but that reminds me of comics as well, you gotta wait a while for the next issue of the continuing story. I imagine they will be collected at some point anyway, like the comics are. As with all his work, this is a DIY project, grass roots at it’s best, so any support is immediately appreciated. Just one spoiler, I wish my Mom had gone through a pita bread stage as well…

The release date is set for August 14th, you will be able to find this and his other work, HERE

Life Won’t Wait by Michael Essington

life_wont_waitI don’t know what I like more, reading books or listening to music. I was listening to music in utero but I come from a long line of book worms. Books like “Life Won’t Wait” make me lean towards reading (at least for the duration). 😉  Mr. Essington picked up where he left off with Last One To Die, really this could be Last One To Die Part 2, or he could have gotten creative like they do with sequels in movie titles and called it Last One To Die With A Vengeance. The difference here though is that this is not a some lame sequel, instead it’s just as freshly captivating as the first installment, no let down. Now I need to stop myself because I have some problems reviewing this book. First, I have been friends with Mike for several years now, followed his blog early on and most importantly I have a ton of respect for him as a human being (with so many assholes in this world, he gives us hope). On top of that, he bestowed upon this humble blogger a great honor by naming me in his acknowledgments, that as cool as being thanked on a record. The last problem I run into, is the risk of repeating what I said in my previous reviews of his books (and I already have). To put those worries to rest, I’ll be blunt, if you dig outlaw autobiographies by someone besides a pretentious dickhead, something REAL, then you will dig this. Mike was/is an LA county Punk Rocker all the way, but if you were born anywhere in the US in the 60s, you can relate. Shit, just about anybody could relate to the plain and simple emotion of a life like his. This is exactly what drew me to Mike’s writing in the first place, no bullshit. He’s shown that he can write fiction too, as he did with his short story in Under a Broken Street Lamp, and I just don’t know which I like better. Fortunately I don’t have to pick his fiction or his non-fiction, it’s an “and” thing, a simple equation, he writes ’em, I read ’em. You can get a sample of this latest book, to see for yourself, HERE. He’s got a Facebook for the book and if you want to do the press thing you can go to his Createspace. You can also get the book there or you can get the kindle of it at Amazon. 30+ years later Michael is still going to gigs, so if you’re in LA and you want to meet Mr. Essington, got to a Punk club or better yet go to any Symbol Six show and he’s bound to be there.