In Dubious Battle

Some Random Warehouse SomewhereI drove 25 miles to work and 25 miles back to my apartment. Right through downtown L.A., which was the shortest route to the nondescript warehouse the temp agency referred to as an “office”. I drove because I wanted to work — needed to work — for a job that turned out to provide unpredictable hours. Some days I’d work 8 hours, sometime 6, more often 4… I never knew how many hours I’d work — I’d only know once the manager tapped me on the shoulder and quietly told me when to clock out.

I don’t love work. But I liked this job. I didn’t mind the short days, even though I’d been promised a 30-40 hour workweek… Hell, I welcomed every opportunity to go home early. I knew once January rolled around business would pick up and I’d be looking back at this time longingly… So I cherished the time off.

I even liked the people I worked with. Really liked them. And I don’t consider myself a “people person”.

But I had difficulty with one simple reality: punctuality. Or let’s be completely honest: attendance.

I’ve had a disagreement with Time since my beginning. Even my mother couldn’t hold me in her womb once I felt ready to be introduced to the world; I just kicked my way out, defying the doctor’s prognostication. I didn’t need nine months in there. (Perhaps that explains a few things — but let’s leave that for another day, another topic.) I needed to see the light. (I find it somewhat ironic that I love to sleep now, curled up and finding comfort in darkness. Plus I love caves.) A schoolboy, I rarely made it to class on time, and as I grew older I rarely even made it to class. Even at UCLA I rarely made it to the first minutes of the lecture.

The issue with Time graduated into a full-blown war once I completed my college education and entered the corporate class. Projects were never held up, but if I felt it necessary to confer with Steinbeck (or whoever I was reading at the time) at 3 in the morning, I’d just go ahead and worry about the consequences later. Turns out tardiness comes with a harsher penalty in the “real world”.

I didn’t realize it at the time but I was in dubious battle with my future…


A palm tree in Eagle Rock, a suburb of Los Angeles.
A sunset view of Eagle Rock, a suburb of Southern California.

Ever wonder where the palms came from? They’re not native to Los Angeles — not the ones lining our city’s streets, anyway. The palm trees are about as native as the telephone poles and electrical wires and streetlights. But it’s hard to imagine L.A. without palms.

My mom was born in Texas but came to California at a very young age. She was planted in Eagle Rock and her roots grew until it seemed she’d been here since the city was a desert. Along the way she gave birth to me, just a few miles from here — technically not in Eagle Rock but right on the edge of town. Just about four miles away from where I currently sleep.

I haven’t come far. Not yet. I often wonder if I’ll always be here. It’s not a bad place to be, I’m told. I wouldn’t really know, though.

I recently found out my mom died of Alzheimer’s. I now wonder if I’ll go the same way. I’m not okay with that. I don’t want to forget. I wouldn’t mind forgetting a few bad memories, but I don’t want to forget everything.

The way my mom lived the final decade of her life… I just don’t think I could do that. My mother’s brain terrorized her mind and ravaged her body. She died hungry and thirsty and drowning and confused. Hers was a violent death.

At least when it happens — if it happens — I’ll have a better understanding of what’s happening to me than my mom did. To me, that seems the most frightening thing of all: not knowing what’s happening to you. My mom was not afforded the opportunity to come to terms with her own mortality. She was delivered a plate full of shit and expected to make a meal out of it. She ate that crap until her brain stopped telling her how to swallow.