Southland Tales: Pasadena

Photo by: Michael Essington

Photo by: Michael Essington

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. Normally, I would’ve left in my own car, but just 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 ramblings 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 me 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. Eventually, I became a sort off clean-up manger. When different Kinko’s would terminate a computer department, I would be sent in to overall and streamline everything. Once that was done I’d leave. Eventually, I was hired fulltime 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 “clean-up” 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 foot 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 just 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.

Michael Essington

About Michael Essington

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 on Strange Reaction, has also been printed in The Los Angeles Beat and the very popular Deep Red Magazine. Essington's column is read weekly by thousands of fans from Los Angeles to Denmark. Essington has been writing since his high school days. He is married to wife, Elizabeth, and has two children, daughter, Breana & son Lucas. And has a dog, Max, that Essington suspects may have a learning disability or a general lack of life goals.
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One Response to Southland Tales: Pasadena

  1. Eddie Cook says:

    Essington – another hysterical column! Eddie~

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