The Gym

I don’t know how I ended up there. I don’t remember.

Maybe it was an ad in the paper. Back then, when that was the only way to find a job.

I took the subway downtown. It opened into Pershing Square. As you stood on the escalator, a little knot of nerves in your gut, the downtown revealed itself. An old building from the 1920s, decrepit, but coming up from the escalator it looked 100 stories high.

Pershing Square was decorated with angel sculptures. The hoboes hitched up their pants and swarmed towards you looking for change.

Right towards the street. In Los Angeles, if you stick around long enough, heavy traffic gives you comfort. There is safety in traffic.

Left on Flower.

The destination: two towers. Dark and selpuchral in the days after the big terror attack in New York. It had only been four or five months since then. In the plaza between the buildings was a gargantuan sculpture of chrome testicles. Water spurted from some unseeable source between them and filled a fountain below. In the old days the workers from the buildings all sat around the testicles eating their lunch, but since the attack they went elsewhere to eat.  They wanted to get as far away from the skyscrapers as possible.

Underneath these towers was a shopping mall.

Escalators going down into a basement.

That’s where I had my interview.

You could feel the weight of the thousands of tons of building overhead. You walked along looking in all the dingy shops with bored workers staring out and as you walked along you went down, down, down. It was like there’d been a nuclear war and the last few remaining humans had built a nostalgic monument to the obliterated world. Finally, after walking these labyrinthine halls for some time, you came abruptly to the end. It was just a wall. Like the end of a mine shaft. And at the end of that mine shaft was a gym. Looking through the windows of the gym you could see a few people on treadmills, office workers by the looks of them in their baggy, sweat-covered clothes. Shared looks of misery. I walked in. The color scheme of the place was light lavender illuminated by glaring fluorescent light. Top 40 pop music in the background melded with low-key CNN jabbering on ancient tube TVs affixed to the ceilings. Solemn faces on the televisions discussing terrorism and what we were blowing up next. I’d picked a bad year to get off drugs and booze. The whole country was under a pall of depression. How easy it would be to find a dark corner in a bar somewhere. I had a cylinder of rehab pudge around my middle and I was very conscious of it as I walked up to the receptionist.  She was young, fit, African-American. She swept up and down over me with her eyes, made her assessment, asked me what I wanted. Interview, I said. With a woman named Brenda. The receptionist pointed me in the right direction. A number of pre-fab cubicles where three or four people clad in the light lavender uniform of the gym talked on telephones. In one cubicle was Brenda. She looked tired, with little wrinkles around her gray eyes. Her skin was very pale, I assumed from long hours spent under the flourescent lights of the basement gym. We interviewed.

Name? Age?

Eddie Mulnix. 20 years old.

College?

Some college. I might still go back. I really just want to work, though.

Previous work experience?

Construction.

When I said that she looked at my arms, wondering why they looked the way they did if I worked construction. I started to explain–

I worked part time, off and on, I was going to school but that didn’t work out–

So no sales experience?

Not really, but I think I could be good at sales.

Why do you say that, Eddie?

Because I’m good at talking to people.

She made little notes in a binder. I tried to see what they said. Her handwriting was illegible.

So this is what I’m looking for. We need help selling memberships here. I’m sure you noticed we’re in the basement beneath this big building? That means no one knows we’re here. We want you to get out on the streets and give away free passes to the gym. Get them in here and sell them, and if you can’t sell them we’ve got a couple closers like James who can do it.

She pointed in the direction of a guy with slicked-back hair and a big mole on his cheek and cold blue midwest killing-spree eyes. James would later become one of my best friends, a true con man in every sense of the word. I never met anyone with greater contempt for the human race. But could he sell? Oh yes.

I wanted to get up and leave but I stayed. I must have been a little nuts. It was the paranoia, the depression, the way the country had got sucked down into the ineluctable tractor-beam pull of Bin Laden’s asshole. I was a product of my time.

The sent me to salesman camp my first week on the job–a farm tucked into a remote corner of Simi Valley where they teach you how to sell gym memberships. A bizarre experience I’ll tell you about later.

The Paranormal – It’s Real to me Goddammit

There are energies at work that we don’t quite understand.

When I was young I had an intense feeling of unreality that would overcome me. Overcome is not the right word, really–it was a sensation both pleasant and strange. I felt time become something different and radiant. Everything was imbued with meaning in its exact form, and yet was formless.

I came to realize later that these little things that happened were flashes of insight into the nature of reality. These experiences happen when you get deep into meditation, but to a child (whose mind is not yet (as) clouded by discursive thought) they come naturally and with some regularity.

I’ve had all kinds of strange paranormal experiences, which I won’t share here at the moment. Every time I’ve done so I’ve felt a bit embarrassed–people are rightfully skeptical if they’ve never been privy to occurences that seem to defy the laws of physics and science. The unexplained opens up all kinds of problems for the modern mind.

I’ve had witnesses to some of the events I’ve experienced, so I know I’m not crazy. But I get the skepticism.

This is not about addressing the skeptics, however; this is just some free-flowing thought.

Aside from paranormal experiences which I’ve had no apparent control over, I’ve also had strange experiences when in meditation and afterwards. And after those experiences I dropped meditation even though the experiences were ultimately pleasant and beneficial.

Why? I don’t know. It seems there is some kind of resistance inside of me to embracing these things.

Creativity comes from the same wellspring, I think–these energies that move. Dreams, the meditative mind, the energies in the body, the energies around us, they all interplay. That thing that doesn’t want you to meditate no matter how good it is for you is the same thing that keeps you away from creativity.

Verdugo City Diaries – 02.01.19

I’m trying to find an alternative way to sell my books. It’s not easy being an independent author; as a kid I used to dream of this, of controlling my own destiny. I went to one of the finest art schools in the country and was kicked out for conduct unbecoming. It was a teacher of mine who’d got her degree from RISD and wouldn’t shut up about it. She looked like Mare Winningham and spoke with a vocal fry and painted these abstract expressionist paintings that looked like armadillo guts. I told her as much and that was my final mistake. She had a lot of pull at the school and had me removed. I was in my early twenties. Shortly after that I took my first job at the local community college lecturing on Asian Philosophy.

Anyway, I got sidetracked. About selling my books.

I’ve done my research. There is no way I can get into Barnes and Noble. Not a chance.

There are a few bookstores here and there in the Los Angeles area. I’m in a couple of them. I’ve seen my stuff move. I don’t make a lot of money. Occasionally someone contacts me with some outlandish advertising proposition.

I’ve been doing some other research.

Porn and sex toy shops.

That’s where my shit belongs. I need to sell to the old and the degenerate.

First of all, who actually visits porn shops? Creepy guys over the age of 50.

Perfect. My prime demographic. Who the hell is else is going to buy a 200 page novel about a secret society of men obsessed with asscrack?

So I’ve got a map and I’ve put pins all over it. Each one represents a porn shop. The ones that are left are in places like Pacoima and Rialto and Lancaster. Shit towns where old, wasted degenerates live.

Perfect. As soon as I can muster up the motivation to leave my mountain cabin in the foothills–and as soon as it stops goddamned raining–I’m gonna make my move.

I might even design a Fooz Pinkley sex toy to promote my next novel.