The problem was I had only a vague idea of what I wanted for my life. I needed a direction and since I had none, I waited. All this time I was stuck in the working week of retail, more specifically Home Depot. I was swimming in bills and rent and fat, with no clear way out.
How to adequately describe the sensation of retail? Working in retail… is hell… it is not the monotony of the same old office or factory every day, and it is not a fast paced environment.
I’d say more specifically, retail is a job in hell, and no matter what you might have heard, hell never closes. Working in retail doesn’t necessarily afford you the set schedule with which you can use to effectively plan your life. It’s monotonous. Hell is like a line in a grocery store with one check stand open. You have only one item… The line stretches to the back of the store… and every cart is full… And everything needs a price check… and the cashier doesn’t speak English… and the manager is not responding to the page.
Retail is not like that though… It’s worse.
It is the sort of industry that sucks you into itself. It just leaches time away from you. When you don’t have weekends off you sort of drag yourself from day off to day off, the changing schedule makes things seem like the place your going is different and new. It takes a couple of years for that to wear off.
If you’re standing in the grocery line in hell, you know you’re not going anywhere. In retail you don’t know you’re not going anywhere until you suddenly take stock. For me it was a manager congratulating me.
“For what?” I asked.
“It’s your anniversary. You get a bonus check.”
“Oh I thought that was at ten years.” I said curious.
“Yes, this is your ten year anniversary.”
I didn’t realize it. I thought it was my ninth or my eighth, which is bad enough, but somewhere in the mix I had lost those years and didn’t even realize it. What the hell was I doing here?
Then one day something happened. My entire life changed because of an email.
I am a big believer in coincidence not being so, and sometimes I wonder about turning right instead of left at times. I think it happens to all of us, those moments when we actually turn right instead of left can change the course of our life.
I believe these sorts of things happen all the time, everywhere. I think mostly we ignore it, mostly because we don’t know how to deal with it. But I’m one that believes. In my lust for science fiction I am one who tends to seek out the strange and the odd. I think coincidence is something people say just to mask their fear of the unknown. I’m one that runs around and embrace’s it.
I think that we are too smart to figure it all out. We’re too intellectual. Children see these things. As we grow up we get wrapped up as adults into our own shit and we can’t see some of the simplest things that are right in front of us.
So there was this girl I was dating and we were on a break. I was bored and lost and searching for something to do. When you start dating someone you tend to merge with the other person. There friends become your friends, your friends become their friends and that’s why when it ends, if you’ve been together for a while, there is the inevitable question… Who gets to keep the friends?
We’re on a break and I’m looking for a poetry reading because when I want excitement, I look for a poetry reading. It’s about five o’clock and there’s an email that says poetry reading tonight at some address on sunset at seven o’clock. Sunset is at least fifty minutes away depending on traffic. Distance doesn’t matter because LA deals in minutes and not miles. It’s a Wednesday, I have to work tomorrow and I don’t know who sent this to me, so I settle in and think about it for an hour before saying fuck it, it sounds interesting.
Now when you think of poetry readings there are two veins your mind goes to. In movies there is a stage and a microphone, seats, drinks, a dim room, people smoking and delivering powerful hard hitting pieces about politics and life. Those readings are about one in a hundred. The other side of that coin are lame, no one there, sort of stand up just to hear yourself talk, gut wrenching, wrist-slitting rooms of sheer boredom. No rewriting, no practicing, just let her rip about a cat, a neighbor, a friend or some sexual encounter that did not happen.
Then there are all those in-between. The ones in book stores, restaurants, coffee shops with a couple of foldout chairs and customers who are talking too loud because they just want you to shut the fuck up anyway. This crowd is a mixture from both readings and you never know what you might find.
I don’t know which of these I’m headed to. So I find the place off Sunset and it’s the most decrepit, dilapidated coffee house I’ve ever seen. It looked like Tijuana in a box. Everything was for sale. There was this coffee pot behind the counter… a coffee pot beside one small espresso machine. Knickknack’s and comic books and clothes and everything, Everything! was for sale. There were maybe eight people standing around and a couple sitting in chairs and on the couch. I find a signup sheet so I write my name down and I’m not even certain I want to read, but I came all this way so…
On the couch there is one guy that sticks out. He is wearing a black suit with a black bowler hat like something out of Pulp Fiction and I figure this guy is here to watch not read. I hang out. The reading starts and it’s a mish mash, but then black suit gets up and reads some of the ballsiest, most hardcore spoken word I have ever heard.
He’s really set the bar. So when it’s my turn I pull out the roughest political spoken word I have. This guy might know some places I could read and I want to talk to him.
Later on, we are hanging out at a bar and black suit says, “You know where you need to go? There is this place in Hollywood called Expression Mondays.”
It’s difficult to explain what it’s like when you find a tribe, your tribe. To suddenly meet people you are going to know for decades and perhaps the rest of your life. This is what happened when I walked into Expression Monday’s.
At Expression Mondays everyone was a student and a master, a shaman and an amateur. Everyone was a master of something and everyone was learning from each other. It was an artist’s colony without the colony. The intention and the conversation was high, existential and esoteric and layered in the possibility of what if, and what could be. The air in the room was a thick and tangible and hummed with electricity and the group became the catalyst for every direction I wanted to go in my life.
That direction led me to my first sweat lodge.