02.12.19 (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.


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

Previous work experience?


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.


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. The ego, maybe.

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.

After a long, long period of being away, I’m back to meditation.

Maybe this is what happens when you approach middle age. You start thinking more about your mortality, you start looking for real answers. Some guys buy a Porsche, some guys get into the half-lotus. Some guys, the luckiest ones, do both. (I’m not one of them.)


Stopped by the Skipper last night. They say it’s an Irish bar but there is no indication of Irish-ness in the decor, the drinks, the clientele, or anything. I had some strong beers and some conversation. I usually only pop in there for a drink or two at most and yesterday was no different. The people there are the fast-disappearing working class whites that used to be the majority in this community. Now they’re older. The place is not so bad. It seems like there used to be a lot more dives 18 years ago, especially in the Valley were I started my drinking career at any number of sleazy establishments (and actually got myself 86ed out of two of them–permanently. Not that I’m proud of that, but alcoholism hit me hard at a tender age. I didn’t yet know the truth: that you have to take it or leave it, that it’s an extremely addictive drug, that it always takes more than it gives. Things that I know now from experience, even as I still imbibe the poison from time to time–warily.)

Anyway…The Skipper. Not much more to say about it other than you wonder where all these people are outside of these walls. These Verdugo City dregs. It’s like when I lived in Portland, Oregon. I don’t know what it’s like now but the town used to have the most amazing strip clubs. I could have been seeing this through a craft beer haze at the time, but these places had the most beautiful strippers I’ve ever seen. Pale-skinned angels. And on the streets you didn’t see any indication of their existence. They were part of some underworld that never saw the light of day. And for all of Portland’s charms it is not a place known for its beautiful citizens, neither male or female, so where did these sexy snow-white vixens come from? Is Portland the Los Angeles of the pacific northwest–the “big city” where the beautiful girls from places like Boise end up?

The Skipper is this strange underworld: from where did these toothless drunken maniacs come, and to where do they go? The place is downright Lynchian, I tell you.

After my drinks I paid, I got in the car, I drove back up to the cabin far up in the foothills, back to my Unabomber-style solitude. The wind beat on the eaves of the house. I looked outside for the cat that’s been coming around. The moon was a thin sliver over the San Gabriels. Rain tomorrow.