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The Kid in the Candy Store

A TRUE STORY

A RADIO DJ LOSES HIS JOB AND ENDS UP LIVING IN A COLLEGE SORORITY

Work-in-Progress

It was August of 1988, I was living in my car trying to survive. I had recently lost a dream job as morning radio personality in Phoenix, Arizona. I didn't understand why I was let go. Still don't. I had garnered lots of publicity and the ratings were rising. What had happened? Still a mystery.

My money had almost evaporated along with my gas, but I had luckily made it to Berkeley, CA. I had moved there because the cost of living was cheaper than San Francisco where my ex-fiancée was just a stone's throw across the Bay Bridge in S.F.. Even though my relationship was on the skids with her,  I wanted to try to re-create the special magic we had in yesteryear, although my self esteem had virtually vanished with the loss of my career job, a fantasy job for many, nevertheless, I wasn't great company. I no longer had any reason to stay in Phoenix.Whether at the expense of my engagement or not, I had lived the radio dream, although it was almost as short as a dream. I wanted to try to work out my relationship with my ex, but she wouldn't have anything to do with me. I struggled to survive. I'd had barely enough money to perpetuate my stay even in my car in Berkeley.

I was forced to live in my car, and eventually, of course, in time, the gas dried up, and I was stuck. No where to go but down...more. My heart sighed. I wanted to fix my relationship, but how could I do it with no job and no money. I couldn't even take care of myself. How could I even consider having a healthy relationship at this time.

Weary of the out-of-work woes, I remember at times having hunger pangs more than I had ever experienced in my life. I soon learned Berkeley had a tolerance for the homeless, and actually, reached out to help them. One of the avenues the city and its residents help, would be to hand at free food at People's Park. Wow, so, I had sunk so low. No drugs. No alcohol. No addictions. Just stupidity had placed me on the street. Unbelievable, here I was a college graduate from the University of Oregon, and I was living on the street. Of course, I knew I wouldn't get any calls from the alumni association for donations.

Oh well, there I was starving and needing food. So, I mustered up enough humility and walked to the Park. There was a lengthy line for free food handouts. I got in line. One of the homeless men turned around to me and said "Hey, you're new here" and reached out his hand in friendship. Ouch. My friends were no longer the rich and famous of Phoenix, Arizona, I now mingled with Berkeley's men of misfortune, and I was among the rank and file of the homeless. I mumbled a hello, yet promised myself to rebuild. My slogan became "A Time To Rebuild". One of the charity workers gave me food and drink, like a voracious lion, grabbing at it like my conquered prey, I ghoulishly ate some and then coveted the rest of my baloney sandwich, orange but turned down the coffee. I never liked the black oil and wondered how people had swallowed it down, maybe it was the muffins to sweeten the flavor. I went and found a patch of grass to claim as my own and became the human Hoover vacuum as I sucked up the rest of the sandwich and orange, nearly whole. It quelled my insatiable appetite for a brief time. Now what? I had to think of how to rebuild my life. Truly, it was difficult to muster up energy. I felt as if I would burst into tears at anytime, but I buckled up and continued, not full speed ahead but ahead.

Having energy for the morning meal, I walked over to the UC - Berkeley campus. I picked up a campus newspaper and began to read it. Finally, I knew I needed to get housing and a job. So, I turned to the classified ads. I stumbled across ads to donate blood. No way, I thought, I get queasy at the sight of blood and don't like needles. The next ad was for sperm donations. Well, at 28, I certainly wasn't too modest to indulge my libido. I had been of course been a wild radio personality, but after I had thought about it for a bit, I mentally passed. Finally, I fell upon an interesting ad stating free room and board for minor household and kitchen chores. Wow. I could get shelter over my head as well as food for my malnuitrious body. I knew I had to call.

I got up immediately and began my trek to find a payphone. Oops. I forgot. I didn't even have a quarter. I paused momentarily and thought of one alternative. Panhandle. I had never panhandled, but this would be the first time. How embarrassing. Yet, I still I did it. I asked several people...everyone declined. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't even make a decent beggar.

Finally, I figured I would go to a church. Certainly, they, one of the church workers, would let me use the telephone. But I was wrong. Maybe I didn't look needy enough. Anyway, I entered this Christian church office and asked the secretary to use the telephone. She said "I'm sorry sir. We don't allow anyone to use our phones." I said the magic word "please." I proceeded to state my case and said I had to call this ad for a job. I showed her the ad. She didn't budge. I took a deep breath and ask for the person in charge. I had hope maybe God would walk out the door to greet me and console my personal pain. Well, the office manager came and briefly spoke to me, and he said we don't make this a habit, but you sound legitimate. He brought me to a back office, and I made the call.

A warm and friendly Frenchman answered the phone. He said "ALLO". I knew a little French and figured it out. That meant hello. I told the Frenchman I was answering the ad. The very friendly gentleman, a French chef, the house cook, told me of the responsibilities. Again, the duties included: washing the dishes, cleaning the floor, basically household and kitchen chores. He said it would be between 5 and 15 hours of work. Not bad, I thought to myself. So, quizzically, I asked him what is this place. It's a college sorority. My mouth dropped. It was a man's fantasy. From experience, people ask, "what's a sorority?" So, I would explain it, " it's where college women live while they attend college" Wow, this sorority had 70 women. One man...me Seventy woman. Whoa? I momentarily became queasy with mental ecstasy and excitement. But I wasn't hired yet.

The chef explained to me that I had to wait to be interviewed by the housemother who wasn't there. But he said he could make an appointment with her for me. There was no reluctance from me. "How's three o'clock," the chef asked. Without hesitation, I said I'd be there. He gave me the location and directions. I hung up the phone at the church office. I thank God and the manager and went hopping, skipping and jumping out the door until I realized I had taken a shower for a couple of days. Oh no, another problem to overcome, where was I going to shower.

I made my way to another church, a Catholic church, I figured I'm Catholic, I'm sure one of the priests would help me out. So, I walked about five blocks. I entered the concrete Catholic church office. I asked the secretary if I could take a brief shower because I had a job interview today. She said the church has strict policy of no showers for the homeless, only Thursdays. There just too many homeless in Berkeley. It was Friday. Her manager echoed the policy. They said Oakland has homeless shelters that I could shower there. Oakland? I thought I don't have any gas in my car. It's a least a half a day walk. On the verge of tears, I walked up to the Y.M.C.A. They had plenty of showers. It was after all a gym. I took a deep breath and walked in. I asked the woman at the counter if I could take a shower. She said a simple but clear NO. My eyes were about explode with tears. I tried to remain in control of my emotions. I asked for the manager. A woman came out and I explained my situation. I told her it would be quick. I said I'd take the faster shower I'd had ever taken in my life. With hesitation, the manager of the Y let make take the shower. I splashed and danced around the shower. Then, I quickly marched back up the stairs with a  proud and gleaming smile, I reported back to the YMCA manager as a young child who had just bathe himself for the first time. She nodded. I went out the door singing the Village People's YMCA song. Three p.m. was closely approaching, and I needed to make my way for the sorority.

I quickly made my way over to the sorority. As I approach the edifice, it looked like a mansion, a golden palace, painted in a golden hue with the the grounds manicured as if it were a Vogue or Cosmopolitan New York model, not nearly as garish as Beverly Hills' wealthy widow. I proceeded to the door. I had timed it perfectly. My watch showed 3:00 p.m. The housemother answered the door. "Hello, you must be Steve?"   Momentarily, I wasn't sure since I had just recently showered and shaved after my two day hiatus, I had felt like a new me. Of course, I replied "yes." You could tell each of us was sizing one another up. She was a regal aristocratic looking older woman. Obviously well polished and educated. She motioned me in to the palatial palace, and I entered a house fit for a king. I strolled through the foyer, pass through the opulent living with everything in its place, not a speck of dust anywhere seen to the naked eye. Just to my left there was beautifully majestic oversized fireplace, one fit for a castle. Finally, we entered into the large dining room with 14 mahogany tables with eight chairs each. No girls were present, we were the only two in the hallowed dining hall, although I could hear rumblings from the kitchen just off the dining room along with the clanging of the pots and pans. We sat down. I placed my leather portfolio with zipper on the table with all my radio photos and newspaper clippings of my triumph time as a morning radio personality.

I could tell in her eyes, she took her job seriously. She wanted the best applicant for the job, moreover, what was best for the girls. She opened her mouth, and she asked the typical interview question, "tell me about yourself." Not exactly lacking in words, I began to speak. I told of my times in Phoenix, and basically told her about the rise and fall of my Rome, me. A life which seemed lucky, had turned out to be unlucky. It had become a sob story. I was a man on hard times. I tried not to show my hunger pangs as I smelled the barbecue ribs cooking in the kitchen. I could see her eyes begin to soften as care and compassion for misfortune had rung a bell in her heart. As her mouth open again, her heart spoke as she, I truly believed, could feel my pain. She stated "all right, we will give you a try tonight. I'll introduce you to chef who you will be working with a majority of the time. Then, after dinner he and I will speak and decide whether we will hire you are not." The housemother proceeded to tell me of the duties, "you'll set the tables, wash the dishes and help stock the kitchen with supplies." Having listening intently to her explanation,  I profusely thanked her and promised her I wouldn't let her down. She took some of my newspaper clippings, radio resume, and photos to review. We got up from the table and made our way to the kitchen.

 

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