Trailer Park Confidential

My Short Life as a California Dreamer

"Did someone tear it down, do you think?" one asked me.

"Gee, I don't know. Why would they?" I asked. We stared at each other for a moment and then he walked off.

Two days later, a new list was up, this time laminated and posted with a thumbtack about every quarter inch all the way around it.

I don't know, maybe it wasn't the smartest thing to say yes to the interview. Maybe, given the stress level in the park, I should have known that talking to a reporter about the place and the people was just inviting trouble. Maybe I knew that all along.

Anyway, it wasn't long after the disappearing deadbeats list that I agreed to be interviewed by a colleague at the Weekly about my job. The job at Marinapark is a weird one in a surreal place, and I understood the attraction. While my name, as well as the names of the park and its residents would remain anonymous, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what was what.

The chances of a Marinapark resident picking up and actually reading OC Weekly were slim. Vinnie told me that before my time, he had the OC Weekly delivered to Marinapark, keeping them in a rack at the office entrance. But it wasn't long before one of the rich birds complained, and that was all it took: the paper disappeared.

It ended up being a resident's daughters who spotted my interview in the Weekly online. Displeased with my candor, she promptly printed out a copy and sent it to her mother. Word spread through Marinapark like, well, like a tornado through a trailer park. While on duty, I was approached by my friend and neighbor Jack, who was carrying a copy of the story in his hand. "I just thought I'd let you know that people here aren't happy about this."

"Oh, really," Isaid.

I showed the interview to Vinnie, who seemed unaffected. But he foresaw repercussions from the rich clique as well as from our management-company supervisor. A few days later, Vinnie told me that some of the residents were demanding my head. The management company was not at all pleased with my comments in the interview and was ready to give me my pink slip; Vinnie talked them into keeping me, on the grounds that I was "well-trained, did my job efficiently, but had just used poor judgement" in this case.

"I practically begged to keep your job this morning, you fuck," Vinnie told me.

He negotiated a deal in which I would meet with company executives. They would reprimand me. I would write a letter of apology to the residents in addition to some other form of punishment the company would lay on me at the meeting, no doubt accompanied by a lecture. I told Vinnie I appreciated his efforts to save my job and left.

The choice was simple: swallow my pride and stay or stand up for myself and go . . . where?

I saw Nick that night, zigzagging toward me as I watered the plants.

"I need a restroom, like, real quick," he said, swaying.

"Umm, well, you can use mine. The door's open."

Not much time went by before Nick appeared again behind me. As I turned around, I noticed one pant leg was wet all the way down to his shoe.

"I didn't make it," he said, and began walking back to his trailer. I didn't give much attention to it—just took it in stride because that was Nick and that was Nick's life, and no one but Nick could save Nick.

Nick had made his decision, and I think I had made mine.

On the eve of the meeting, I went to the Blue Beet Café for a couple of brews and talked to my friend Stacy about maybe going back to Toledo for a while.

"But you'll never come back if you do that," she said.

I left the Blue Beet and walked back to the park, glancing over my shoulder at the ocean every now and then. I noticed a few people standing in front of the bulletin board and walked over to find the deadbeats list gone, ripped off the board, tacks and all. They looked at me; I stared back at them. Then I turned and walked away—smiling.

It was 3 a.m. when I pulled out of Marinapark, the Chevy Caprice crammed so full that the wheel wells nearly touched the rear tires. My guitar, though, sat beside me in the passenger seat with a seatbelt around it.

And then I was back in Toledo, after the car overheated and I gave it to some kid at a gas station; after I rented the truck; after the cop stopped me in Indiana, put me in back of his police car and had his dog sniff the truck for drugs.

Welcome home!

I've been here for a month now. I've been helping my uncle with his custom stump-cutting business. It's pretty challenging, artistically using a chain saw all day. I'm slowly readjusting to the Midwestern dialect; I heard my mom's neighbor say, "You ain't jumpin' in no pool" followed by, "Go inside and gitcha som' t' drink."

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