The Lifestyle to Which I’m Accustomed
by Rick Lupert

I hit the big time making five dollars a week
pulling weeds at Lily Robin’s house in
Temple City, California.

I would take the bus there after high school
on, I suspect, Wednesdays, walk the half
block to her house and then

take to the dirt. She taught me about nutgrass.
How you’d need to use the thin tool to get the
nut attached to the root out, and

not just the leaf, or else it would grow back.
Every nut-less blade pulled was a failure –
a waste of everybody’s time.

It didn’t take me long to realize five dollars
a week wouldn’t get me the lifestyle I
imagined I should be accustomed to.

So, I got her to give me ten. A precedent was set.
I’ve tried to get every employer since then to
double my salary. It hasn’t worked out.

It took twenty-four months under Lily Robin’s
persimmons before I made the move to the
fast-food industry.

By October of that year I was Crew Member
of the Month at the Temple City McDonald’s.
I could afford my own Commodore Vic 20

and was flush with after-market french fries.
Lily told me she didn’t understand why a
little boy needed a computer.

I think of this, three decades later, as my
fingers on a keyboard make these words appear,
as my bank account grows simply

because I moved a mouse from one place
to the other. The battle with the nutgrass is
ongoing. I pass the sacred knowledge

on to the person who maintains the plants
at the house I own. This is an ongoing heritage.
I dream of anything that only costs five dollars.

IMAGE: “McDonalds, Painterly” by Wingsdomain Art and Photography. Prints available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Sadly photos from the original McDonald’s era are nonexistent. But as you can see from the photo above, the circa-1986 Crew Member of the Month Jacket still fits. (Note original ketchup stain.)

Rick Lupert
 has been involved with L.A. poetry since 1990. He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Distinguished Service Award and was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets for two years. He created the Poetry Super Highway and hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading for almost 21 years. His first spoken word album — Rick Lupert Live and Dead, featuring 25 studio and live tracks — was released in March 2016. He’s authored 20 collections of poetry, including Donut Famine, Professor Clown on Parade, Romancing the Blarney Stone,  Making Love to the 50 Foot Woman (Rothco Press, May 2015), The Gettysburg Undress, and Nothing in New England is New, and edited the anthologies Ekphrastia Gone WildA Poet’s Haggadah, and the noir anthology The Night Goes on All Night. He also writes and draws (with Brendan Constantine) the daily web comic Cat and Banana and writes the Jewish Poetry column “From the Lupertverse” for He is regularly featured at venues all over the world. Visit him on facebook.

Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher.