Friday, September 8, 2017

Happy Birthday Peter Sellers!















“If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.”

Does Your Dog Bite?


Picture Legend

1. Peter Sellers
2. Southsea Beach
3. Row of wind-pruned Huntingdon Elms, Southsea Common
4. Peter’s birthplace on Castle Road, Southsea
5. Kings Theatre in Southsea, where Peter made his first stage appearance
6. Young Peter
7. Alexandra Palace
8. Artist portrayal of Shub-Niggurath
9. St. Aloysius College
10. Drummer
11. Waldini
12. Geoffrey Rush and Charlize Theron in 2004‘s “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”
13. Peter (top), Spike Milligan (left) and Harry Secombe (right), three of the cast of the “The Goon Show”




   This morning it is my great pleasure and honor to give a Joyce’s Take birthday shout out to one of the greatest comedic actors who ever lived, Peter Sellers!
   Mr. Sellers would have been 91 years old today. Unfortunately he passed away in London just after midnight (12:26am - British Summer Time), after being in a coma for more than 30 hours,  on July 24th, 1980, at the age of 54.
   Peter was born as Richard Henry Sellers at a very early age in 1925, in Southsea, a suburb of Portsmouth, at the southern end of Portsea Island, Hampshire, England (50° 47′ 6″ N, 1° 4′ 12″ W).
    Southsea is located to the south of Portsmouth city center and to the east of Old Portsmouth. It originally developed as a Victorian seaside resort in the 19th century and grew into a dense residential suburb and large distinct commercial and entertainment area, separate from Portsmouth city center itself.
   Southsea Common is a large expanse of mown grassland parallel to the shore from Clarence Pier to Southsea Castle.
   The Common is home to a remarkable collection of mature elm trees, believed to be the oldest and largest surviving in Hampshire, which have escaped Dutch elm disease owing to their isolation. The majority of the larger trees are Huntingdon Elms planted in the 1920s, but nearer the entrance to the Skate Park there is a fine example of a hybrid of the Siberian Elm Ulmus pumila. Huntingdon Elms once lined the Ladies' Mile—an avenue through the center of the Common—but many were lost in the Great Storm of 1987 and replaced by the Dutch hybrid elm cultivar 'Lobel'.
   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best known for his Sherlock Holmes stories, once lived in Southsea, and played soccer there, what the English humorously call football, as a goalkeeper for the  Portsmouth Association Football Club, an amateur, under the pseudonym A. C. Smith.
   Rudyard Kipling, the author of “The Jungle Book,” and “Kim,” lived in Southsea when he was six to twelve years old.
   The writer H.G. Wells, best known for his works in science fiction, like “The Time Machine,” “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” and “The War of the Worlds,” also lived in Southsea.
   So a lot of good writers lived in Southsea. Many others who were or are not writers have lived there as well.
   Although born Richard Henry Sellers, his parents, Yorkshire-born William "Bill" Sellers (1900–62) and Agnes Doreen "Peg" (née Marks, 1892–1967), called him Peter, in remembrance of his older brother who was stillborn. Peter remained an only child.
   He grew up in an entertainment family. He made his first appearance on stage when he was two weeks old at the Kings Theatre in Southsea. The audience sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," to him, which made him cry, then he was shot out of a cannon.
   Ha, ha, ha. Just joking. It was actually a catapult.   
   The family was always on the move, touring as entertainment people often do, which affected Peter in a negative manner.
   He was much closer to Peg, than his dad, who rarely encouraged his son in his efforts to carry on the family business, just the opposite of his mom.
   Some of his friends observed that he may have been a little too close to his mother, allowing her to dominate his life. 
   Well what can you do? Moms are moms.
   When he was ten the family moved to North London and settled in Muswell Hill (a suburb of north London, in the London Borough of Haringey and the London Borough of Barnet. It is one of the more expensive suburbs in London situated near to Highgate, Hampstead, East Finchley and Crouch End, (where the divide between our world and an alien, demonic world is somehow lesser. Crouch End is the home of Shub-Niggurath, who is often associated with the phrase “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.” There are still strange occurrences in Crouch End, and that, very occasionally, people are known to "...lose their way. Some lose their way forever."). Muswell Hill is the home of the Alexandra Palace (designed to serve as a public center of recreation, education and entertainment).
   Although Bill Sellers was Protestant and Peg was Jewish, Peter attended the North London Roman Catholic School St. Aloysius College in Highgate, two miles south of Muswell Hill. The college was and is run by the Brothers of Mercy of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (The institute was founded in 1839 by Canon J. B. Cornelius Scheppers (1802 - 1877) for the instruction and care of prisoners and of the sick. Cardinal Manning invited them to London in 1855, where they have undertaken the care of the prisoners in Catholic reformatories and the education of the children of the poor).       
   “I was never a good scholar, Perhaps I never settled down to it,” Peter recalled in 1962. “Perhaps that’s what was wrong with my education. But I didn’t dislike it at  St. Aloysius. I’ve sometimes been back to see the people there...”
   While at school Peter began to develop his improvisational skills. He and his closest friend at the time, Bryan Connon (April 5 1927 to September 4 2007. Bryan became a successful writer and biographer), both enjoyed listening to early radio comedy shows. Connon remembers that "Peter got endless pleasure imitating the people in “Monday Night at Eight.” He had a gift for improvising dialogue. Sketches, too. I'd be the 'straight man', the 'feed', ... I'd cue Peter and he'd do all the radio personalities and chuck in a few voices of his own invention as well."
   When World War II began in 1939, the students at St. Aloysius were evacuated to Cambridgeshire, 61.5 miles from Highgate, and famous for it’s bomb shelters.
   Peg would not allow Peter to go, so his formal education ended when he was fourteen.
   The next year the family moved to the seaside resort town of Ilfracombe, 229.9 miles west of Highgate, where Peg’s brother lived, and who managed a local theatre. 
   That’s where Peter got his first job when he was fifteen. He started as a caretaker (janitor) for ten shillings a week (maybe about £70.78 in 2016, which is about $93.45 U.S), and was steadily promoted, becoming a box office clerk, usher, assistant stage manager and lighting operator.
   Working backstage gave him a chance to study actors such as Paul Scofield and Mary Clare.
   He became close friends with another boy his age, Derek Altman, and together they launched Peter’s first stage act under the name "Altman and Sellers," which pretty much consisted of playing ukuleles, singing, and telling jokes (they also began their own detective agency (Selman Investigations Inc. as they were fans of the novelist Dashiell Hammett, creator of the fictional detectives Sam Spade and the Thin Man).
    “We’re Altman and Sellers
      The younger generation
      We always sing in the best syncopation
      And we hope we make a big sensation
      With you - ooh - ooh!”
      It was during this time that Peter learned to play the drums (he had no patience for the piano) and was so enthusiastic about them he thought he might do it professionally.
   “It was the drums I was really keen on in the early days. I suddenly went mad about the drums. I spent months learning from a professional drummer. And I was pretty good.”
   Good enough to appear twice in Waldini’s (Waldini, Wally Bishop, was the founder of Waldini‘s Gypsy band, and many others) “Symphony in Colour,” in August of 1941. 
   Peter joined the Royal Air Force in September of 1943. He was probably drafted as Peg tried unsuccessfully to get him deferred on medical grounds.
   He wanted to become a pilot but was rejected for poor eyesight.
   He got bored with ground duties and auditioned for Squadron Leader Ralph Reader's RAF Gang Show entertainment troupe. Reader accepted him and Peter toured the UK before the troupe was transferred to India. He also served in Germany and France after the war.
  Back home Peter continued his career in entertainment, with limited success. In 1948 he wrote to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and was given an audition. As a result, he made his television debut on March 18th, 1948 in “New To You.”
   His act was well received and he was invited back the next week.
   However, Peter’s personality was such that he was determined to make it in the entertainment business and he felt his career was advancing too slowly.
   Accordingly he called BBC radio producer Roy Speer, pretending to be Kenneth Horne, star of the radio show “Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh.”
   When Speers discovered it was Peter who telephoned him Speer called Peter a "cheeky young sod" for his efforts, which is pretty strong language in Britain, but that prank got him an audition (which is depicted by the wonderful Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush, in 2004's “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” with the lovely and talented Charlize Theron). This led to a brief appearance on “ShowTime," on July 1st, 1948, which led to more work on “Ray's a Laugh,” with comedian Ted Ray.
   In October of 1948, Peter was a regular radio performer, appearing on the “Starlight Hour,” “The Gang Show,” “Henry Hall's Guest Night,” and “It's Fine To Be Young.”
   By the end of  the year the BBC Third Programme (a national radio service produced and broadcast by the BBC between 1946 and 1970) began to broadcast the comedy series “Third Division,” which starred, among others, Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine and Peter. One evening, Peter and Michael visited the Hackney Empire (a theatre on Mare Street, in the London Borough of Hackney, built in 1901 as a music hall), where Harry was performing, and Michael introduced Peter to Spike Milligan.
   And thus these four founded and constituted the cast of “Crazy People,” which appeared on British airwaves for the first time on May 28th, 1951.
   Subsequent seasons had the title changed to “The Goon Show.”

To be continued

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day 4












Labor Day. This weekend, as you enjoy a day off and the remaining days of summer with friends and family, it’s important to remember what Labor Day is actually celebrating—the incredible progress of workers’ rights. When unions are strong, they are able to boost all workers' wages—regardless of whether they are members of a union, reduce poverty and strengthen the middle class. But the fight for workers’ rights isn’t over. Workers across the country will be on strike this Labor Day to demand $15 and a union. Unions are under attack by corporate interests, and many workers still aren’t paid fair wages. So this Labor Day, let’s honor those who have fought so hard for weekends, fair compensation, paid leave, and more by standing up for those who still need more protections in their jobs.

Last Thursday a Texas federal judge struck down an Obama-era rule that would have provided overtime protections for over 4 million workers throughout the country. Ben Olinsky, the vice president of policy and strategy at the Center for American Progress, noted that this decision “is a huge loss…[and] Secretary  of Labor Alexander Acosta and President Donald Trump should stand up for workers by appealing this ruling immediately.”

 “The good news this Labor Day: Jobs are returning. The bad news this Labor Day: Most of them pay lousy wages and low if non-existent benefits.” -Robert Reich, Former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September, that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. It was first nationally recognized in 1894 to placate unionists following the Pullman Strike. With the decline in union membership, the holiday is generally viewed as a time for barbecues and the end of summer vacations. -Wikipedia

Labor unions are legally recognized as representatives of workers in many industries in the United States. Their activity today centers on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership, and on representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions. Larger unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level. -Wikipedia


 
   You see that first picture above? The one that says “Labor Day,” with the four flags. It looks pretty patriotic doesn’t it?
   You can even find pictures of naked ladies with the American flag strategically draped over them denoting that Labor Day is a very American and an important holiday, although one has to wonder exactly what kind of labor they’re advocating for.
   Most politicians wouldn’t mind seeing labor unions go the way of the dinosaurs, including those that live in the White House. Republicans traditionally resent labor unions and do what they can to curb their influence. The right wing media villainize unions and their members as parasites upon society, and unfortunately those who listen to their dribble, tend to carry on and live with that idea as if it were their own, and resent those being represented by labor, those who might make a decent living and enjoy pensions and health benefits, and think of them as overpaid and unnecessary burdens placed upon the rest of the country.
   Unless of course they happen to be members of unions themselves.
   As did my own sister who worked in the gaming industry in Laughlin, Nevada.
   For one reason or another she had a negative view of unions and refused to take part in efforts to unionize the worker in casinos.
   I still don’t know how she feels about unions in general. I do know she was summarily fired from her long standing job as a black jack dealer when she developed severe back pain and wasn’able to stand for lengthy periods of time. She was let go without a pension or benefits of any kind. The casino just used her up and discarded her when she couldn’t meet their expectations, something that a union definitely could have helped her with.
   In any case, regardless of how unions are perceived, “Study after study has come to the same conclusion: When workers come together in unions, they can help make things better for themselves, and indeed most Americans. Joining together enables workers to negotiate for higher wages and benefits, and when unions are strong, these benefits can spill over into other nonunion workplaces. Unions of working people also help ensure that government works for everyone—not just those at the top—by encouraging people of modest means to vote and by providing a crucial counterbalance to wealthy interest groups. Their ability to improve conditions in the workplace and in our democracy means that unions play a critical role in building the middle class.” -David Madland and Alex Rowell of The Center for American Progress action Fund.
   Democrats are traditionally seen as pro-union, pro-labor, and have indeed benefited by receiving major campaign contributions from unions as a result, which is another reason the Republicans hate them... unions that is (they hate Democrats too, as seen by their childish refusal to call the Democratic Party by their real name... the Democratic Party. Instead they call it the Democrat Party, a pejorative reference, one that sadly has infected many democrats and media anchor people, who should know better).
   I was a member of a union at one time. The Communication Workers of America,  representing about 550,000 members in both the private and public sectors. I didn’t have a whole lot of exposure to it, and my pay was hourly and not expansive, and I don’t recall how much the dues were, but it did help me by making it difficult for AT&T (I was working as a long distance operator at the time) management to fire me when I was absent from work for extended periods of time due to illness. And my health benefits, which the union promoted and protected, allowed me to enjoy hospital care when I needed it, medical attention I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford.
   Being in that union was also psychologically beneficial, knowing I had a whole bunch of people whose only job it was to look out for my interests. I had worked too many jobs where that wasn’t the case, and the boss could fire me at their whim, for any reason, or none at all.
   Unions tend to even out the power structure of the working place.
   Lately, as the second and third paragraph above suggests, unions have been in decline in this country. “With the decline in union membership, the holiday is generally viewed as a time for barbecues and the end of summer vacations.” Wow, what a sad declaration. A day set aside to celebrate the average worker's contribution to the country to one that designates it’s a good time to cook some hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, or maybe get that vacation to Ogallala, Nebraska in before autumn comes and the falling leaves begin to blanket the roads.
   Labor unions and the laborers that make them up originally proposed the idea of a national holiday devoted to labor. A machinist, Matthew Maguire, while serving as secretary of the CLU (Central Labor Union) of New York, proposed the idea in 1882, way before my time... or even yours (others say it was Peter J. McGuire of the AFL (American Federation of Labor) that same year, after attending a “labor festival” in Canada. I have no idea who was actually first, so we’ll let the two duke it out amongst themselves). However, it was the states who took up the idea way before the federal government got on board.  The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21st, 1887. During the next year four more, the states Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York created a Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By 1894, 30 states had adopted the holiday.
   And that was the year that Congress passed legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday, 1894, and the President at the time, one Grover Cleveland (no relation to the city. He is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885–1889 and 1893–1897)), who was definitely pro-business. A Democrat, as a matter of fact a Bourbon Democrat (a Democrat who only drinks whiskey made of a grain mix of at least 51% corn), who opposed high tariffs, Free Silver, inflation, imperialism and subsidies to business, farmers or veterans. Today’s Republicans would have loved him (although when a “Railroad Bubble” burst at the beginning of his second term, causing a national depression he was unable to alleviate, allowing the Republicans to dominate the government which ironically ushered in the “Progressive Era,” a period of social activism and political reform that flourished until the 1920s).
   Grover signed Labor Day into law more than likely as a political sop to the existing labor organizations and unions due to his intervention in the Pullman Strike (second picture above), in which thousands of United States Marshals and some 12,000 United States Army troops intervened in a strike by workers of  the Pullman Palace Car Company, which made railroad cars, causing the death of 30 strikers,  and wounding 57 others. He signed it into law just six days after the strike ended.
   In 1987 President Cleveland opted to celebrate the new national holiday in September, as the unions favored, rather than on May 1st, which was synonymous with, or linked to, International Workers' Day, which celebrated labor forces internationally, but was also linked with the nascent Communist, Syndicalist and Anarchist movements of the day.
   For a time unions flourished and fought for the rights of all workers, whether unionized or not.
   In 1938, in the midst of the “Great Depression,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law, which introduced a maximum 44-hour seven-day workweek (the United States Adamson Act in 1916 established an eight-hour day, with additional pay for overtime, for railroad workers. This was the first federal law that regulated the hours of workers in private companies. The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act in Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917). The Fair Labor Standards Act, as enacted applied to industries whose combined employment represented about twenty percent of the U.S. labor force. In those industries, it set the maximum workweek at 40 hours, but provided that employees working beyond 40 hours a week would receive additional overtime bonus salaries), established a national minimum wage, guaranteed "time-and-a-half" for overtime in certain jobs, and prohibited most employment of minors in "oppressive child labor,"  all in the face of considerable opposition and criticism from large business interests.
   Despite projections to the contrary, the Sun still shined, the world still existed, and the country somehow survived.
   This is one reason today’s right wing, and modern conservatives hate FDR and everything he stood for (Rush Limbaugh: "Roosevelt is dead. His policies may live on, but we're in the process of doing something about that as well."), and wish to repeal all of his legislative efforts. (in May of 2013 and 2017, House Republicans passed a bill that would end the 40-hour work week (it would be nice if we could get Congress to actually work 40 hours a week), dismantling an important component of the Federal Labor Standards Act, which made into law would hurt middle-class families across the country. Sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby (AL), in 2013, and Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) in 2017, the dubiously-titled “Working Families Flexibility Act” (H.R. 1180) would remove the requirement that employers pay a cash premium for overtime work and instead allow them to offer employees compensatory time off. The effect would be a Federal Labor Standards Act that is undermined of its only incentive against excessive hours and a cheaper way for employers to demand mandatory overtime. Eileen Appelbaum, a senior economist with the Center for Economic Policy and Research, says the bill’s major effect would be to hurt workers, “likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.” The Bill was passed in the House May 2nd, 2017, and sent to the Senate in April where it was sent to committee. Repealing Child Labor Laws are also on the Republican agenda).
   There are many and varied arguments against unions and unionization, many of which are born from economic theory from the likes of the economist Milton Friedman, which the Republican Party has adopted in it’s efforts to stymie the advancement of the labor force and higher wages. Some of these arguments are valid, as in the case of the corruption in unions and their leadership (the case of Jimmy Hoffa comes to mind) and the mistaken assumption that higher wages, and by extension, a living minimum wage, are harmful to the overall economy in that they will discourage job formation.
   Well there is corruption in unions. There’s corruption everywhere! The United States enjoys a 2015 Corruption Perception Index of 76 (0 being the least corrupt and 100 being the most), with only Denmark, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Australia, Iceland, Belgium, and Austria being less corrupt.
   The passage of Citizens United v. FEC insured that massive amounts of money could and would be injected into the American election process. Who needs Russian hacking when politicians can just be bought and paid for? And if Citizens United were not bad enough, members of Congress spend at least half of their time soliciting funds for their next election. It would seem that the interests of congress is  not to do the people’s business, but to stay in power. So to the question, is our Congress corrupt, I would have to refer to Joyce’s Take’s own exhaustive investigation.     
   Corruption is a problem everywhere, and should be dealt with accordingly any time it is detected... unions don’t need to be singled out.
   As to higher wages being responsible for poor employment, that is a right wing myth. As a matter of fact just the opposite is true.
   Some people, like Mike Patton writing for Forbes Magazine, imply that an “increase in annual pay would be approximately $40.8 billion. If we exclude all taxes and assume 100% of the increase was spent on various goods and services, it would equate to 0.23% of total U.S. GDP ($40.8 billion / $18 trillion). Here's my point. This increase, even if completely spent (which is doubtful), would not be very significant. Therefore, in my view, the economic benefit "argument" is a red herring.”
   Assuming his numbers are correct I take issue with his conclusion. A $40.8 billion injection into our economy is a good thing and not to be belittled (and a higher wage for workers has the added, and not insignificant affect of bettering the lives of American workers, reducing poverty and homelessness, etc.).
   Unions fight for this, and for doing so directly interfere with the interests of most politicians, which is to shovel all available funds to powerful people and business interests, therefore insuring their own ability to stay in power. 
   Please, enjoy this almost hypocritical celebration of labor on this day. Grill some hot dogs, hamburgers, and maybe some ears of corn. Take a vacation.
   Celebrate the fact that Labor Day Weekend is the top holiday for those who legally sell marijuana!
   I’ll let the independent Senator from Vermont, and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have the last word:

   We must rebuild the American labor movement and make it easier, not harder, for workers to join unions. Forty years ago, more than a quarter of all workers belonged to a union. Today, that number has gone down to just 11 percent and in the private sector it is now less than 7 percent as Republican governors across the country have signed anti-union legislation into law, drastically cutting labor membership in this country.
   It is not a coincidence that the decline of the American middle class virtually mirrors the rapid decline in union membership. As workers lose their seat at the negotiating table, the share of national income going to middle class workers has gone down, while the percentage of income going to the very wealthy has gone up.
   The benefits of joining a union are clear. Union workers earn 27 percent more, on average, than non-union workers. Over 76 percent of union workers have guaranteed defined benefit pension plans, while only 16 percent of non-union workers do. More than 82 percent of workers in unions have paid sick leave, compared to just 62 percent of non-union workers.
   In order to revitalize American democracy we must overturn Citizens United, move to public funding of elections and end voter suppression.
   We must demand that the wealthy and large corporations begin paying their fair share of taxes.
   We must break-up the large Wall Street financial banks and make sure that no institution in America is too big to fail.
   We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $15 an hour, and end the unconscionable and inequitable pay gap that currently exists between male and female workers.
   We must re-write our disastrous trade policies and make sure that trade agreements benefit workers and not just CEOs of large corporations.
   We must rebuild our crumbling infrastructure with a $1 trillion dollar investment and create up to 15 million good-paying jobs.
   We must pass a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care system and guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.
   We must make public colleges and universities tuition free for working families so that everyone can get a higher education regardless of income.
   Today, on Labor Day, we must recommit ourselves to bringing all working people together in the fight for a just and humane world.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Renovation 5




































Picture Legend

1. Church of the Gesù, Rome Italy
2. Hardy
3. Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple
4. Beth and her yoga
5. Martian Mouse Trap
6. Mongolian Man Eater
7. African Land Snail in the restroom
8. Michael Deutsch and Michael H. Parsons
9. Pictures
10.    ^
11.    ^
12.    ^
13.    ^
14.    ^
15. Grand Park, where I was
16. People at Grand Park
17.               ^
18.               ^
19. My view
20. More Fireworks
21. Mike Alvidrez
22. “The Beguiled”
23. My room
24. Arclight Theater
25. Cinerama Dome
26. Sister Kate Micucci, Sister Alison Brie, and Sister Aubrey Plaza
27. The mist
28. Lovely Emi and her yoga enthusiasts
29. Claudia Christen
30. One of Claudia’s memes
31. My coffee


Rome, Italy. Church of the Gesù. June 23, 2017

   Inside the office of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father General Arturo Sosa was speaking with the Provincial of the California Province U.S., Fr. Michael F. Weiler. They spoke in furtive and guarded tones.
   “Well, he does know the background. He’s been on site... how long now?” Sosa asked.
   “Five months.”
   “How much time does he spend actually in the hotel?”
   “As little as possible. We want to keep his exposure to a minimum,” Weiler replied.
   “Good,” Sosa continued. “I doubt there's any danger in just having him assist when the time comes. There should be a psychiatrist present, anyway.”
   “And what about the exorcist? Any ideas?” Weiler  asked.
   “How about Kirinan McCalister.”
   “McCalister? I thought he was over in Uzbekistan. I think I read he was working on a dig somewhere in the Kyzylkum.”
   “That's right Mike. But he's finished and came back around two or three months ago, He's in Los Altos now.”
    “What's he doing there? Teaching?”
   “No, he's working on another book,” Sosa said.
   “Don't you think he's too old, though? How's his health?”
   “It must be alright. He's still running around digging up tombs,” Sosa replied. “Besides, he's had experience.”
   “I didn't know that.”
   “Ten maybe twelve years ago, in Africa. The exorcism supposedly lasted for months. I heard it damn near killed him.”
   “Huumm, okay. I’ll get in touch with him.”
   Weiler stood up and kissed the hand of Sosa.
   “Goodbye Father Superior.”
   “Goodbye Mike.”
   Weiler turned to leave.
   “Oh Mike...”
   Weiler turned around.
   “Yes?”
   “We want to keep this as quiet as possible. There is little benefit in antagonizing SRHT.”
   Weiler shivered at the mention of the organization.
   “Yes,” he said. “I understand.”

Los Angeles. June 23, 2017

   I told Tommy about the elevator shaft. He didn’t say it but I knew he thought I was crazy.
   Cliff didn’t remember last night’s incident at all. He thinks I’m crazy too.
   Maybe I am.
   Am I slowly losing my mind like Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s novel “The Shining?” Would I start mumbling to myself and typing “All work and no play makes Rick a dull boy,” over and over again. Will I stare dazedly off into space for hours at a time, start drinking, and throw tennis balls against the walls. Will I turn against my friends and family at the bequest of that which now inhabits the soul of the Las Americas, and go at them with an ax and crowbar?!
   Nah.

Southeast 1 Construction Notice
To: Las Americas - All 2nd & 3rd Floor Units
From: Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff
Date: June 23rd, 2017

Re: Window Work

Dear Residents,

You are being notified that in-unit work has been scheduled for your unit. Los Angeles Building & Safety regulations require safety bars to be installed on each 2nd and 3rd floor window. These bars are designed to protect against accidental fails. They will not impede the windows from opening.

The contractor will need access to your unit on either Monday, 6/26 or Tuesday, 6/27 for approximately 30 minutes from 8am to 4pm to install safety bars in your unit. You will not need to vacate your unit when the contractor arrives to do the work, but you will need to allow them to enter.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the work. We appreciate your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff

   Screw this! I’m getting my shotgun out and will put a load of saltpeter up the butt of the first contractor who tries to get in here!
   “Accidental fails.” I assume they meant accident falls.
   I’ve spent the last 13 years in my room with no urge whatsoever to take a running header through my window to the forecourt below. There’s no way I could, or anybody else, accidentally fall out of the window.
   What they are doing, however, is denying us 2nd and 3rd floorers one possible way to get out of the room in case of an emergency, let’s say a fire or rat attack.
   They’re trying to keep us in here.
   Why?

June 24

   I saw another young and pretty black lady sleeping on the street nearby. She was lying down at the 18 bus stop on 6th Street between Central and Alameda. She had a little dog, a miniature poodle type thing, tied to her by a leash.
   The dog looked at me briefly, then returned to sleep.
   That was at 5:30am. I was on my way to the Try and Save supermarket to buy some groceries. I bought as much as I could carry back to my room, about $60 worth.
   And 10 tacos from the Jack that lives in the Box.
   The kitchen was still closed at that point. When I went down to water the thirsty plants at 5:30pm it was open. It’s a big room now, with two ovens, a sink, and nothing else.
   The sink has a garbage disposal now. It didn’t used to.
   It’s not plugged in though. I didn’t see where it could be plugged in as there’s no receptacle nearby.
   I’m sure that will be worked out in the distant future.
   There’s a big 3 by 4 foot rectangular hole in the wall right above the sink. On the other side of the hole is a one floor drop into the basement below... where the rats live.
   For some reason once I saw this hole I felt an urge to jump through it.
   I think it needs some safety bars.
   I’ll ask Tommy to put the common TV in the kitchen so Hardy will have something to do other than sit outside in front monitoring the traffic.
   Perhaps Tommy will.

June 25

   I attended the “Coffee and Dharma,” discussion group at Higashi Honganji this morning, then the weekly service, then a another discussion group as this was the last Sunday of the month, and they have discussion groups after the service on the last Sunday of the month.
   The discussion at one point turned to the divisiveness that permeates our political system these days, and some took the position that we might appease the Republicans by acknowledging that their positions are valid, we just disagree vehemently with those policies.
   I pointed out that that position sounds reasonable, but that it was hard to deal with people who live to advance their ideology despite facts that counter their core beliefs.
   “The legislatures in North Carolina, or South, one of the Carolina states, made rising sea levels... illegal. How do you deal with that?”
   No one had an answer.
   I ate two donuts during the course of these groups. I’m fat now.
   Fatter.
   Later I used reverse psychology on my beautiful and esteemed yoga teacher, Beth, by messaging her on Facebook and pleading with her not to read “Renovation 4,” while informing her that I had used two of her pictures in the post.
   “Bad things happen to people who read it,” I maintained.
   Then I provided a link to “Renovation 4,” with the adage “Don’t read it!”
   She’ll read it for sure now, maybe.
   The people must be warned.
  
   I received this response from Beth. “Oooooooo!”
   I wondered what that meant in Beth Speak.

June 26

   They boarded up the 3 by 4 foot rectangular hole in the kitchen. My urge to jump through it accordingly dissipated.

Southeast 1 Construction Notice

To: All Residents at the Las Americas
From: Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff
Date: June 26rd, 2017
Re: Kitchen Offline

This notice is to inform you that the kitchen will be closed from 8am to 4pm tomorrow (Tuesday, 6/27) while the countertops are installed. You will receive $64 cash per diem for the day.

   $64. They’re trying to buy my soul.

June 27

   I waited patiently for the construction people to come and put the “safety bars” in my window.
   They never came.
   And now the danger of falling out of my window continues.
   I feel unsafe.
  
   I received the following notice on my door today.

NOTICE TO ENTER DWELLING UNIT
(CCP 1954)
Pursuant to California Civil Code Section 1954, Owner does hereby give notice to access the dwelling located at: My address

The owner, owner’s agent or owner’s employees will enter said premises on June 28, 2017 during normal business hours between 10:30AM - 11:30AM for the reason set forth in the checked numbered item(s) below:

Pest Control Services

   So they want to control my pests do they!
   I hope they bring a whole lot of rat traps for the rats that live in the walls.
   They probably won’t though.
   They only concern themselves with cockroaches.
   We shall see.

   I don’t have cockroaches in my room. They’re downstairs though, on the first floor, the kitchen, and in the basement.
   And they’re getting bigger.

June 28

The exterminator came this morning at 10:30am. His entire extermination protocol consisted of placing a Catchmaster Insect Trap and Monitor, a little 3 by 2 inch cardboard thing, on the floor under my sink.
   After he left two two inch cockroaches came in through the wall, looked at it, and began laughing.
   Then they left.

   As I watered the garden this afternoon I noticed an influx of Martian Mouse Trap plants (Nepenthes spathulata) growing by the east chain link fence that separates the hotel’s property line from that of our neighbors.
   There were little mouse bones scattered near them.
   I thought about pulling them up but decided to confer with the garden ladies before doing so as I was not fully aware of the ramifications of killing them.
   I was quietly thankful that no Mongolian Man Eaters had infiltrated the garden as of yet.

June 29

   I found an African Land Snail in the restroom today and took a picture of it before taking it outside of the building and letting it lose.
   I don’t like killing things as my Buddhist teachings tell me to “have an unswerving kindness toward members of the animal kingdom.”
   I assume the cockroach bait has no affect on snails.
   I didn’t think much about it, except I was kind of freaked out by it’s size.
   I found a centipede, a real centipede, not one of those human things, in my kitchen once.

   Somebody is building something in the empty lot right next to our building. That lot has been empty for the 13 years plus that I’ve lived here and now somebody is building something on it.
   I don’t know what yet. Who ever is building it has dug long trenches on the dirt ground, and several vertical structures have now popped up in several places. Square structures that stand about three feet from the ground surrounded by vertical pipes.
   It doesn’t look like a refurbished parking lot to me.
   I don’t know what it is.

   I saw this story on the Internet machine today.
   "City rats are among the most important but least-studied wildlife in urban environments," the team of U.S. and Australian researchers and pest control experts wrote in the Journal of Urban Ecology.
   Michael H. Parsons, lead author of the paper and a visiting research scholar at Fordham University, is offering a "reward" of up to $1,000 for access to an appropriate rat-infested location in Manhattan.
   In return, the homeowner will get free, confidential extermination services — once the researchers are done studying the rats.
   We have rats here. I think I’ll contact Dr. Parsons and give him and his team free reign on our rats.
   Perhaps he can deal with snails as well.

July 1

   On my way to the Hippie Kitchen and Rite-Aid this morning I saw the same young black girl with her little dog sitting with her stroller in the sidewalk at the westbound 18 bus stop.
   There are literally hundreds of folks who live on the streets a few blocks west of where she was sitting. Many have makeshift tents that line the sidewalks, some just sit on the streets, some are sleeping, laying out.  
   Perhaps this pretty, young girl is trying to distance herself from them, but she’s picking a very odd and public spot to do it.
   Or perhaps that’s her plan, to be in a public space where there is less chance of others bothering or attempting to abuse her... and her dog.
   I feel sorry for her. I wish there was something I could do.
   There was a sale at Rite-Aid on Thrifty Ice Cream. Buy one 1.5 quart container and get one free. I bought some last Thursday after yoga with Beth, and I bought some more today. I now have six quarts of ice cream in my freezer.
   I’m fat now.
   Fatter.
   Later in the afternoon I took another look at some of the photographs taken by Gudrun G & Fatemeh B (9 thru 14 above), and couldn’t help but notice some of them seem to have changed in slight, almost imperceptible ways.
   This is not only strange but decidedly odd as well.
   What do you think?
   No one had access to these pictures but me.
   Who would do such a thing?
   Who?
   Or what?

   We received a notice today that the laundry room is now open. It only took them a year and a half to renovate it, a year and a half of dirty, stinking clothes and residents.
   Ha, ha, just kidding. I don’t think I’ll ever use it. I like the free coffee at the laundromat too much.
   That and the Spanish television.
   I don’t speak Spanish, but they always seem to having such a good time on Spanish TV. They sing and dance all of the time.
  
   The building’s power went off during the afternoon and evening twice.
   I don’t know why.

July 2

   No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. The Las Americas, SE1, not sane, stood by itself against its urban sprawl, holding darkness within; it had stood so for one hundred years and might stand for one hundred more. Within, walls continued somewhat upright, bricks met at times, floors were infirm, and doors sensibly shut themselves; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of the Las Americas, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
   
July 3

   All residents received a mysterious notice on their doors the other day. It informed us that the building’s power would be off from 8am to 5pm on Thursday the 6th and Saturday the 8th. Apparently the renovators were going to do some electrical work.
   There goes my ice cream.

   I wrote the following E-mail to case manager Henry today.

To: Henry N. Jul 3 at 7:49 PM
Dear Henry,

If you're still alive (we haven't seen you for awhile and miss you very much) we could really use some blank tracking sheets over here at the Las Americas. Usually LaShunda would handle something as complicated as this but she seems to be on vacation. If you could bring some over that would be just swell, as many on the Shelter-Plus -Care are starting to go crazy because they don't have any tracking sheets being afraid they'll get kicked out of the program for non-compliance.

  Thank you,

R

I received this reply:

Your message to henry@_ _ _ _ _ _ _.org couldn't be delivered.
henry wasn't found at _ _ _ _ _ _ _.org.

Original Message Details
Created Date:    7/3/2017  7:49 PM
Sender Address:    rickjoyce@_ _ _ _ _.com
Recipient Address:    henry@_ _ _ _ _ _ _.org
Subject:    Tracking Sheets

Error Details
Reported error:    550 5.1.10 RESOLVER.ADR.RecipientNotFound; Recipient not found by SMTP address lookup

   WTF?!

July 4    Independence Day

   I spent the day watching Marilyn Monroe documentaries and a NOVA special about why sharks attack.
   Because they’re hungry?
   At 7pm I left the Las Americas and made my way to Grand Park downtown. A fireworks display was to occur precisely at 9 and this was the only way I had available for me to celebrate the day.
   Myself and about thirty five thousand other celebrators (according to KTLA News).
   To enter the park I first had to pass through a checkpoint wherein I had to empty my pockets and submit to an electronic wand scan.
   I knew how these kind of things operate and prepared accordingly.
   I hid my M4a1 carbine, Mk 46 machine gun, M9 Beretta, MK 12 Mod 1 SPR sniper rifle, M136 AT4 rocket launcher, M224 60mm mortar, Ontario MK 3 Navy knife, karambit, Strider SMF,  Ka-Bar, body armor, cigarette lighter, and twelve 40mm grenades about my person in such a way as the security guy conducting the wand scan would just register my pants zipper, my belt buckle and my jacket zippers as the only metallic entities upon me. I even had to put two of those grenades up my butt to get them all through, but that’s the price one pays when taking preparatory precautions before advancing into a large crowd of unknown individuals.
   It’s good to be ready in case of emergencies (I was forced to leave my old M9A1 flamethrower at home as it was just too bulky).
   As I approached the entrance I was told to take everything out of my pockets. I dutifully got my keys, wallet, cell phone, and a half empty pack of cigarettes I happened to have (I was smoking at the time).
   As I got near the check point a small black security lady looked at the things I was holding.
   “You can’t bring those cigarettes in here,” she said.  
   “What?”
   “You can’t bring those cigarettes in here, or a lighter if you have one.”
   “You’re kidding?!”
   “Nope.”
   “I suppose I can’t bring in my blunts and eight balls either!”
   “What?”
   “Nothing.” I turned around and walked away in disgust.
   Then I walked over across the street to another entrance line, kept my damn cigarettes in my pocket, and entered the park.
   After decorously pulling the grenades out of my ass I headed to the gourmet food trucks to get something to eat, it being the 4th of July and all.
   There were long lines at every truck. I checked out some of the menus. There were Japanese, Argentinian, Hispanic, Turkish, Indian, Burger, trucks, and many more.
   But I noticed the prices were just outrageous. $16 for a freaking hamburger. All of the trucks were just as expensive. Even ice cream was like $8 for whatever it was they were selling.
   If I was with a girl, or woman actually, then I guess I’d be forced to buy this crap and feed her, not wanting to appear cheap and all.
   And I imagine many of the men there were caught in that particular trap.
   But not me. I decided I wasn’t that hungry and moved on.
   I walked through the crowd as inconspicuously as possible, trying to figure out where the fireworks would be discharged from and situating myself in the best possible spot to see them.
   And that seemed to be the northern end of the park, near the water fountains (picture 15. I was situated on the stairs to the right).
   I waited there for about an hour, watching the people wade through the waters of the lower fountain, sit on structures then told to get down by security people, eat, listen to the deafening music coming from a DJ to the south.
 I saw people everywhere and doing all kinds of things.
   But not smoking.
   Promptly at 9pm the fireworks began. It seemed like they were being deployed from the roof of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (34° 3′ 23″ N, 118° 14′ 55″ W) on N Grand Ave (pictures 19 & 20).
   The show lasted for 15 minutes, at which point I spent 30 minutes getting out of the park, which dumped me near Hill St and 1st. I continued downtown to Broadway and 5th, to Rite-Aid where I bought some milk and ice cream (my refrigerator should keep it cool if I don’t open the freezer door during Thursday’s power outage), I then bought a carnitas quesadilla from a Mexican food place run by Asian people on Spring and 6th.
   I went home and ate half of my food while watching Robert Wise’s 1971 “The Andromeda Strain.”

July 5

To Richard Joyce    Today at 11:52 AM

Dear Ricky

   After 27 years at Skid Row Housing Trust, including 13 years as Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, I have decided to step down as CEO next year to allow new leadership to advance the Trust's mission.
   I have made this decision with a sense of fulfillment that many of my professional efforts have been realized. The public perception of supportive housing has forever changed thanks to our partnerships with renowned architects to design beautiful residential and community spaces that foster reconnection, healing, and dignity. Housing First, a model that Skid Row Housing Trust began piloting in the early 2000s, is now a nationally-recognized best practice for serving homeless individuals that many once thought to be "unreachable." And the Trust's affiliate Property Management Company is a model of blended management that puts a premium on keeping our formerly-homeless tenants successfully housed long term.
   Additionally, there is increasing public awareness of the value that permanent supportive housing brings to our communities. Skid Row Housing Trust advocated strongly for the passage of both Prop HHH and Measure H, which will provide significant local support for both capital development of supportive housing as well as the intensive wraparound services needed to help stabilize the lives of formerly-homeless people in permanent supportive housing. Nevertheless, the disheartening increase in our region's homeless population is a call to action to redouble our collective efforts to end homelessness, and today the Trust is well situated to answer the call.
   It is time for me, the executive team, and the Board of Directors of Skid Row Housing Trust to plan a successful transition of the Chief Executive Offer role.  I have communicated to our Board that I will stay on as CEO for at least another year so that a succession plan can be finalized and a thorough, intensive search for the most qualified person to assume the role of CEO can be accomplished.  It is the Board's and my joint decision to continue to stay on at the Trust as an ambassador after the successful succession.
   It has been the honor of my professional life to lead such a wonderful organization that is unafraid to take on one of the most challenging issues of our time - ending homelessness.  Skid Row Housing Trust has become known for its innovation in housing production and services delivery, its thought leadership, and its commitment to finding decent and humane solutions to homelessness.  Without reservation, I am supremely confident that the Trust will maintain its leadership role in the coming years.
   The Trust will send out public notifications when it is ready to accept applications for the CEO position.  In the meantime, I am looking forward to an exciting final year as CEO and in making a successful hand-off to my successor.
   My deepest gratitude to everyone who has supported my efforts and those of Skid Row Housing Trust. Thank you helping us touch the lives of tens of thousands of homeless and low-income men and women with your generous confidence and support.

Very Truly Yours,

Mike Alvidrez
Chief Executive Officer

   In order to prepare us for the big power shut off tomorrow the building’s power turned off then on three times today, which meant of course I had to reboot my TV and computer three times.
   I get the feeling the building is laughing at me.

July 6

   I was up early and finished my morning routine (check E-mail, read from “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Don Quixote,” Finnegans Wake,” “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “Sold,” “Young Man Shinron,” “Human Trafficking, Human Misery,” Naomi Klein’s “No is Not Enough,” And “How to Clear Your Home of Ghosts & Spirits: Tips & Techniques from a Professional Ghost Hunter,”  two hours of vigorous yoga/calisthenics, 400 meditation breaths, and a six mile run.. and shower) by 7am.
   I had noticed the young black girl and her little dog sleeping at the bus stop again and thought I’d do something for her.
   I went to the McDonald’s on Central and 7th and bought her a deluxe breakfast consisting of 3 pancakes, hash browns, eggs, a sausage patty, 2 strips of bacon, and an English muffin. I bought her dog 2 breakfast burittos (not normally known as dog food, but they don’t sell dog food at McDonald’s... or do they?). I bought myself 2 breakfast burittos and hash browns, and I bought her and myself coffee.
   I returned to the bus stop and woke her up.
   “Miss...” I said.
   She looked up at me, looked at the bag I was holding out to her, smiled, and of all the possible things she could have said to me (“Thank you ,” “Oh that’s so nice of you,” “Take me!”) I did not expect “I don’t eat McDonald’s.”
   I returned home and ate her breakfast.
   She was right of course. No one should eat McDonald’s.
   They didn’t even give me any syrup for the pancakes.
   I turned my computer and T.V. off at 7:45, allowing them to shutdown properly.
   The power was supposed to be shut off precisely at 8, so they shut it down at 7:56.
   I laid down for awhile, then near 9am went to the building’s entrance and waited for the garden ladies.
   Chris (the lady on the right in picture 10) and Fatemeh (the lady on the left in picture 13) showed up. Hardy was there.
   The lovely and vivacious Fatemeh brought cookies. I returned to McDonald’s and bought coffee.
   We didn’t get much gardening done but we had a good time.
   After they left at 10 I walked to the post office on 7th and inquired about my toaster that had been delivered to the Las Americas at 7:16 the previous evening when naturally no one was there to receive it.
   The postal guy said I would have to go to the annex on N Alameda near Union Station to get it.
   I briefly stopped at the Hippie Kitchen before going to yoga with Beth at the Abby Hotel on San Pedro and 6th.
   After yoga I walked to a check cashing place on Broadway and 6th to buy a roll of quarters to be used for bus rides and laundry. I put them in my backpack.
   Then I walked to the Regent Theaters LA Live 14 on Olympic Blvd near the 101 freeway.
   I had wanted to see “Baby Driver,” with Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx, but the Internet machine had lied to me telling me that it would start at 2:15pm. I arrived at the theater at 1:39 and discovered that “Baby Driver” didn’t start until 3:15.
   I saw Sofia Coppola’s version of “The Beguiled,” instead as it began at 2pm.
   This was the first time I’ve been to a movie theater in about six years. It cost me about $30 to get in and for popcorn and coke (the popular drink, not the white powdery substance).
   I don’t think I’ll be coming back anytime soon.
   The power was back on when I returned to the Las Americas at 5. I watered the plants and went to my room.
   I chased two rats out of there before noticing a notice on my door from the SE1 Renovation Staff. They were going to postpone Saturday’s power shut down until Monday.
   I watched “The Exorcist,” before going to bed and dreamt of being molested by Sac spiders.

July 7 2:33pm

   John Miller, the tall SRHT representative, gave all of the residents of the Las Americas 20 inch Lasko floor fans today, which was really nice of him.
   I suppose the Trust feels guilty that the in-room air conditioners are not yet on line, and that Los Angeles is currently experiencing ambient temperatures in the 90s.
   They don’t want any heat related deaths to occur now do they.
   It wouldn’t be good publicity.

July 10  Monday 8:03am

   The power throughout the building went off. The sound of my three fans which I usually find so comforting, dissipated and then died out all together. Even the large grandfather clock in the northeast corner stopped functioning, which was odd as it doesn’t run on electricity.
   I briefly panicked, feeling alone and without resources.
   The encroaching heat drove me out of my room, and I took my office chair out to the little hallway next to the fire escape door where there was a slight breeze and read from Naomi Klein’s wonderful book (all of her books are wonderful, thought provoking, and terrifying) “No is Not Enough,” until 10am when I left the Las Americas.
   I mailed a letter to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) as I hope to volunteer there as a Hotline Advocate.
   There’s a pretty good chance that I won’t be accepted due to my colorful past, but all they can do to me is say no.
   I next walked to the library where it was nice and cool.
  At 1pm I left and took the mighty Red Line subway to Hollywood’s Hollywood and Vine station, from which I walked south to Sunset Blvd. and the famous Arclight theater, which is adjacent to the famous Cinerama Dome where my dad and I watched “Thunderball” together a long time ago.
   I was there to see “The Little Hours,” staring three of my favorite actresses, Alison Bree, Kate Micucci, and Aubrey Plaza.
   The film also features performances by Dave Franco, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman (who in the film walls up his wife along with a dog and a boar. One would think being walled up was enough) Fred Armisen, and Molly Shannon. 
   The story concerns a young servant (Franco, the youngest of the infamous Franco brothers) who flees from his master (Offerman) and takes refuge at a convent full of 14th-century horny nuns.
   This film is not your typical nun story, and not for the faint of heart.
   The following is part of a review by Rev. Alexander Santora:
   “Medieval nuns Alessandra (Alison Brie), Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and Genevra (Kate Micucci) are the leads in this story inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio. In the opening scene when they encounter the gardener looking at them, they berate him in expletives that would make potty-mouthed comedians Wanda Sykes or Amy Schumer blush.  It was so shocking that the audience of some 50 mostly young adults burst into laughter. These nuns speak in 21st-century shock language with accents that are more Manhattan than Bologna.”
   “The sisters have been known to physically attack people,” warns Father Tommasso (Reilly).
   I enjoyed the movie very much. I wish I could watch it again right now.
   I also enjoyed my popcorn and soda.
   The film was only 90 minutes long and I was out of the cool (bordering on cold) theater by 2:30. The electrical guys had until 5pm to finish up, but last Thursday the ended early, so I headed back home after buying two gallons of milk from Rite-Aid.
   The power was still off at 3:30 when I returned.
   I continued to read Naomi’s book, becoming terrified.
   The power resumed at 4:33. I powered up my computer and television, both having been shut down properly that morning. Everything was running nicely when the power abruptly shut off.
   It stayed off until 5:27.
   This is just another example of the renovators attempts to drive us residents stark raving mad.
   My grandfather clock began working at midnight.

July 11  6:12am

   A thick white mist began to manifest itself over the construction sight next to the west wall of the Las Americas.
   I went outside and looked at it. The site had a chain link fence surrounding it and the fog, or mist confined itself just outside of it.
   I returned to my room. The mist would remain next door throughout the day when the sun’s heat should have dissolved it.
   The media came and took pictures then left.
   I felt uncomfortable near the mist. Somehow it felt sinister to me.

July 19 5:32pm

   We were given another notice that someone would come fix the fire alarms in our rooms sometime between 8am and 4pm on either Friday the 21st or Monday the 24th.
   Instead of a nice, blinking fire alarm on my ceiling, I’ve had a plastic rim with electrical wires hanging from it. It’s been like that for about a year now.
   It will be comforting to be protected again.

July 24  5:00pm

   The fire alarm people never showed up.
   It’s almost as someone, or something, wants all of us to die in a blazing inferno.
   I don’t feel comforted.

July 25 9:23am

   I received a notice on my door this morning dated July 24th.

   Dear Residents,

   You are being notified that there will be a temporary electrical shutdown this Wednesday, 7/26 for approximately 2-3 hours.

    The electrical shutdown is part of a city required inspection of the building. The power should be shut off for no more than 3 hours.

   We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

   Sincerely,

     -Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff

   What possible inconvenience could a 3 hour power outage cause?
   That aside, this notice was totally unacceptable.
   I immediately E-mailed my lovely case manager LaShunda the following message:

   Hi LaShunda! It was nice seeing you yesterday.

A construction notice was placed on my door this morning alerting me to the fact that there will be an electrical shutdown tomorrow for approximately 2 - 3 hours but it does not say when this will begin. Residents like myself need to know that so we can shut down our computers and other delicate electronic devices. Saying there will be a shut down at some point during the day is not sufficient information. 

I don't have John's e-mail and I'm waiting for a new phone, so if you could please contact him about this matter and get back to me I would really appreciate it.

Thank you

R
  
   She made a timely reply:

I truly apologize, you can maybe reach him in the office 213-683-0522 ext. 150

   To which I also replied:

That's the thing LaShunda. I don't have a phone right now. Mine was stolen, and I'm waiting for a new one which should be here in a week.

   To which she replied:

   Okay. Regarding this matter go downstairs and speak with Tommy the Property Manager he should have more information regarding the shut down..

   To which I replied:

   What matter?

   No, what I really wrote was:

   Tommy always says he knows nothing about nothing concerning construction. Never mind. I'll borrow someone's phone. Sorry I bothered you.

   She replied:

   No worries, sorry you could not get the information you were looking for…

   Tommy somehow got in the mix and he replied, rather formerly I believe:

   The electrical shutdown will start between 8:00am and 10:30am it should not last no longer than 2:oopm.

   The difficult syntax aside, Tommy’s pissed off at me since I busted him and the case managers pilfering 3 of our pizzas yesterday at one of our resident meetings rather than offering second helpings.
   I was just trying to help him. I’ve seen men go to state prison for less.
   He’s also upset that SRHT made him move back into the Las Americas. He had been living the good life over at the New Genesis on 5th and Los Angeles for the last year.
   Anyway, the information he provided wasn’t very helpful, was it? I still don’t know when I should shut down my delicate electronic equipment. My computer, my TV, the surveillance hookups I use to monitor Tommy’s, Lashunda’s, the SRHT and mayor’s offices. You can’t play around with this stuff or it goes bust real fast.
   Sometime between 8am and 10:30. Well, it’s a good thing I have yoga tomorrow with my lovely Italian friend Emi at 11 (I know what you’re thinking... I’m cheating on Beth, right? Well, you’re absolutely right. Men are pigs. They’d do yoga with mud if they could). At least I’ll have something to do during this horrible time.
   But what could cause my usually helpful case manager to be afraid to simply make a phone call to John?
   What terrifies this normally stout young woman?

July 26  Wednesday 10:21am

   The power shut off abruptly at 10:21. Fortunately my computer was shut off at the time, so as far as that was concerned there were no problems.
   I used the time wisely to walk over to Joshua House (Christian Health Center) on Winston St, right behind the L.A. Mission, to make a dentist appointment (Lovely Emi contacted me earlier and told me she had lost her voice this morning and would not be holding her class, allowing me to remain faithful to Beth... for the time being).
   I then walked to the VA Clinic on Temple to make a regular doctor’s appointment. From which I walked to the Central Library on Bunker Hill, as I needed to turn in some books which were due to be turned in.
   I bought some milk at Right-Aid on Broadway and 5th, then walked back to the Las Americas.
   It’s a good thing it was only 84 degrees outside today.
   The power was back on when I arrived at about 1:30. That was good.
   Apparently it had been off for less than an hour, according to my neighbor, so I hadn’t really needed to walk around all that much, but I got some good stuff done, burned a few calories, and had some nice milk to drink. 
   I noticed on my Google Calendar that the actress Claudia Christen’s birthday was coming up, August 10th to be precise, so I decided to start working on a birthday tribute to the lovely lady.
   I’ve enjoyed her work throughout her career (“The Hidden,” “Babylon 5,” ”T.J. Hooker”), but more than that, she’s a wonderful and funny person. I follow her on Facebook, and anybody who follows Claudia will periodically receive memes that more often than not will make those people laugh, like picture #30 above.    
   She’s the only person I know who does this, so I was very happy to begin this project.
   While I work on this I have a picture of Claudia on my wall. She stares at me all of the time.
   She’s dong it right now!
   At 6:30 I walked over to Higashi Honganji for the by-weekly study group, wherein Rev Peter Hata (a master jazz musician) teaches us students about Pure Land Buddhism, or Shin Buddhism to be exact.
   Everyone was getting ready for the big Obon Festival this weekend, so we were kicked, unceremoniously I might add, out of our usual meeting place, the conference room, and into the actual Hondō, or main hall, where the Sunday services are held.
   There instead of studying this time, we practiced chanting. We chanted and chanted.
   Shin Buddhist’s like to chant a lot.

July 27 Thursday 4:38am

   I had begun my morning routine and at about 4:38 I made my first cup of coffee of the day. I looked down at it when it was ready, then took a picture of it. Picture number 31.
   That wasn’t good, I told myself.
   The Garden Ladies didn’t show. Me and Hardy were waiting outside the hotel’s front entrance at 9:00 for them to arrive, but they never did.
   At 3:00pm we got tired of waiting and went back inside.
   It’s as if the universe... or something, had plucked them out of existence.
   At 7:23pm Hardy knocked on my door to tell me I had some visitors downstairs.
   “Visitors?”
   “Yeah.”
   “Who are they?”
   “Hell, I don’t know, man. Go downstairs and find out!”
   I had never had visitors before. Who could they be?
   On the first floor I found several dark men wearing fedoras, black overcoats, and gloves. It looked like they had stacked several boxes of, of, I don’t know, some kind of tools or equipment in the lobby.
   “Can I help you?” I asked.
   One of the men, tall, with black eyes, mustache and goatee, came up to me.
   “Mr Joyce?” he asked.
   “Yes.”
   He held out his hand. “I’m Mike Parsons. I hear you have some rats.”


To be continued