Please Don't Take Living In California For Granted
Look no one’s going to get through this thing, its for me not you.
After dropping out of high school because of violence, harassment, and at the time what seemed like an unconquerable learning disability, I was put into a Charter program in Madison, Wisconsin near the South Bus Transfer point on Park St.
All the worst kids in the county, about 30 of us, sent to one “school.” A windowless cockroach infested office building (shared with a city program for Hispanics to get food stamps without green cards) located above a fried chicken joint that later became an Asian Grocery Store.
My second day of school there was 9/11/2001 and the world changed. It was like day care for truants and fuck ups; we turned it into an art school. I played in a band, made relentlessly offensive art, escaped to Chicago on the weekends with friends to see shows, tried every drug imaginable and survived as a white post goth/proto-hipster kid with big fat fucking braces in eyeliner by learning how to use my mouth as a weapon. I degraded myself for gang members amusement so they wouldn’t take my shit and beat me and just laugh at me instead.
When I “graduated” from that program that gave passing credits rather than GPA’s, I lost my job at McDonald’s because of my depression and drug use then was promptly kicked out of the toxic home I grew up in as soon as I turned 18.
All my friends left state for college. For a summer, I’d steal cans of beans from my friends parents houses and break into cars at night to steal enough change where I could get to the city and back to find a job. 5 months of complete poverty. I weighed 108 pounds.
I’d crash at my girlfriend’s parents house (she is now in prison for robbing 8 banks for heroin money with her boyfriend who then hung himself in jail before going to prison.) I think October of that year I finally found a job, 17 hours a week for $6.25 an hour at a grocery store. The guy I worked for bought me new tires on my car so I could drive 20 miles into work everyday and thought he owned me. He used to hit me, lock me in a freezer to “toughen me up” and throw pans at me and tell me rape stories.
I worked my way up and transferred to another store away from him, worked every odd job imaginable; a bookkeeper at a gas station at 3 a,m, a maintenance worker on section 8 low income housing, a janitor at a medical clinic cleaning up pus filled vomit.
I then took out a loan and worked 2 jobs to try and house myself while being a full-time student at one of the most rigorous programs in Madison from age 23-26. I went from having an 8th grade level math education to doing college algebra then later pre-calculus physics, and taught myself by failing the class a handful of times at $3,000 bucks a pop.
In those 3 years I moved 5 times from slum to eventually a nicer place, back to a slum. I had a landlord that stalked and harassed my girlfriend and cornered her threatening to kill me to get to her. We got a restraining order and he pumped poison into my apartment until my cats eyes crusted over with blood and I passed out. This was my first semester of college. I drove 120 miles a day from home, college and to work in brutal Wisconsin snow storms and underneath funnel clouds and around tornados to get where I needed to be on time.
The month I graduated college and got my degree in Electronics Engineering I felt like I beat all odds. If I could survive that I could do anything! I finally had a 40k a year job, about to get health insurance, 7 years of work when I got the phone call from a friend to come work for his podcast network in L.A.
I put all my stuff in storage, flew to L.A with two carry on bags and the $2,500 my grandfather Fred left me when he died. I crashed for two weeks at my friends until I found an actors slum in the Franklin Village 50 steps from UCB theatre that was half of what I made in a month. I slept on a dirty pile of clothes until I could get an air mattress, went to 5 dollar shows every night, drank like it was prohibition and lived off the vending machine in my complex.
I was paid illegally at this new job, so after having to pay my own taxes I made less then minimum wage recording celebrities and millionaires all day. I went from bedroom producer to running a studio looking out over Sunset Blvd.
When I ran out of savings, I asked for a raise and was told to hand over my bank statements to “learn how to live cheaper” on the money I was given. I was fired because I used the illegality as leverage for a promotion. I paid my rent, had $112 bucks to my name, and sat in that apartment for a month and made FeralAudio.com. To this day I give everything I make away for free.
I paid my first month’s rent with the money the “Have A Summah” album made that my friend Howard Kremer generously gave me. It was the first time I paid my rent with something I had done creatively and independently. Then I met Shadi Petosky at PUNY who gave me a job and financed me for 6 months. Later, Dan Harmon would become a major benefactor and would pay me a years salary out of his own pocket to keep me alive. And when I drove that into the ground keeping Feral Audio going I was moving my belongings into my car trying to find a home for my cat, he arranged the best job I’ve ever had in my life at his production studio where I am now waiting for files to render.
I’m writing this from the most beautiful audio booth in Burbank, CA. I’m in massive debt from my twenties, punished by the state of California for being an independent contractor, driving a car thats breaking down with expired tags, I haven’t paid my taxes yet this year because I can’t afford them, I’ve gotten taken advantage of, lied to, hurt, used but fuck it, ALL WORTH IT. All worth it, all worth it. I’m finally fucking happy. Rent is killing me this month but I lived all my dreams by the time I was 29 and I’m finally happy.
Maybe I should be thanking the internet that raised me and led me here, but I made myself and came out of absolutely nothing. Wisconsin is a place not a lot of people escape from. It is a hard life where you work until you die on extremely low wages. California is PARADISE. If you grew up here, or are out here at 19 for whatever reason you are already WAY ahead of the curve. You are entitled and you need to be extremely grateful. It’s not easy out here, don’t get me wrong. Los Angeles is a giant high school with life or death consequences. What you say, what you do, what bed you end up in drastically affects your future. But how AWESOME is that??
This isn’t my sob story! It’s just the path I had to take to get where I am now. And I’m still struggling, nothing is secure or static. I could lose it all at any moment. I don’t care! I won. I fucking won. Money is just a means for me to continue having this experience. I don’t need to exploit people because I don’t need to make 100 grand a year. Californians think thats the fucking norm. Try coming from complete dirt and living here on nickels and dimes, it’s like winning the cultural lottery.
I would not like to live as a perpetual college student and would like to pay off all my massive debts… I’d also like to be able to buy my family Christmas presents for once… but I’m completely at peace. I’ve hung out with Radiohead TWICE…once in a CEMETERY. I walked home in the pouring rain past prostitutes from Santa Monica Blvd up Bronson laughing like I WROTE MY OWN LIFE IN A SHITTY LIVE JOURNAL ENTRY WHEN I WAS 16.
Thank Christ I wasn’t born in California; beautiful and clean, in a nice home, with loving parents and a good education and a trust fund… I’d take for granted everyday what fucking paradise this. This is not my life! I’m living in an alternate timeline. The American Dream is real here, I worked hard, hard, HARD to have a good life and I finally do. A very nice one. You can too.
There’s a lot wrong with this state but aesthetically, if you are in this beautiful wonderland filled with castles and vibrant cities and millions of intellectuals and beautiful people EVERYWHERE you’re in fucking paradise. Have you been to The OC??? Do you know what the suburbs are like here!? Ever drive up the coast!? What the fuck! You live in a cartoon! Have you been to Disneyland? Why are you bitching online all day everyday? Go outside and get some California sun, it’s like free prozac is raining down from heaven.