Thursday, December 31, 2009

Enneagram And Beyond 2009

Dad & Mom (Ray & Susie)


Paul (Mug Shot)

Cheryl & Keri


Hardy & Christmas Elf

Rick, Erin, & Rodney



And Me!

My lovely case manager, Erin, and I, concluded our breakfast/case management session Tuesday morning by sending our names to Venus.
Or at least I did. Erin used a pseudonym. "I don't trust the Japanese," she said.
She was referring to the Japanese Venus Climate Orbiter, nicknamed "Akatsuki," which of course means "Dawn," when Venus shines most brightly as the first graying of dawn appears in the east sky just prior to sunrise. The mission, designed to study the atmosphere of our sister planet, including surface imaging with an infrared camera and experiments designed to confirm the presence of lightening, and determine the existence or otherwise of current surface volcanism, is set to launch in May of next year, and enter Venus's orbit sometime in December. The Japan Aerospace Agency is taking the names and short messages of those who wish to submit them, to be placed on the orbiter, which will circle the planet for at least 2 years.
"It's a good thing it's an orbiter," I told Erin, as she printed out our certificates of participation.
"Why is that?" she asked.
"Because the surface temperature of Venus is around nine hundred degrees, the atmospheric pressure is ninety times that of Earth's, and it rains sulfuric acid. Our names would last, oh... maybe a good five minutes or so before being fried."
But her names not going as she didn't give it. My case manager is very weird.
Yesterday I took it upon myself to include Leah's name on the orbiter, Erin's roommate, my sister Cheryl's, and my niece Keri's, my cousin's Kathy and Janet, and my friend Shannon's name as well.
I don't like to travel long distances by myself.
You to, dear readers, can send your names to Venus by following this link:

But hurry, as they'll stop accepting names on January 10th.
At one o'clock, Erin, Paul (back from Detroit safe and sound), Hardy, 2 guys from some other hotel, and myself attended our last yoga class of the decade with our esteemed teacher, Beth. We did a lot of twisting and stretching, with some Bridge, Downward Dog, and Warrior poses thrown in for good measure.
My mat was next to Erin's and I had to keep resisting the urge to tickle her bare feet whenever they were within easy reach and just crying out to be tickled. Beth would have disapproved though. She had already chastised me and Erin for doing some unsupervised shoulder stands as she entered the building.
I don't think Erin would have approved either.
After class I consumed a quick and nutritious Bologna, cheese, lettuce, mustard and mayo sandwich, before heading down for the Drama Free Support Group in the case manager's office. It was good. I wish I had one right now. Oh, I still have those ingredients! Please excuse me while I have another sandwich.

Em, that was good. Now let me wash that down with some fresh peanut butter juice. Eemm... sticky.
Erin and Paul thought it would be fun (and time consuming) to subject Hardy and myself to the Enneagram online personality rest. I don't know why. Something to do I suppose.
Erin let me use her computer, while Paul read the questions to Hardy who verbally answered them. I don't know why Paul did that as Hardy was perfectly able to read them himself, but I'm glad he did, because if he hadn't Our Support Group would have been completely silent for the twenty or so minutes it took to take the 120 or so, question test.
Questions like, "Rules annoy me," with the possible answers of "Yes," "Partly," or "No." And "I want to observe and think, without giving myself away, before I go into action," with the same choice of answers. 120.
Erin had taken the test earlier and had discovered that she registered more points toward personality type 4: The Individualist, which states: "People of this personality type tend to build their identities around their perception of themselves as being somehow different or unique; they are thus self-consciously individualistic. Fours tend to see their difference from others as being both a gift and a curse - a gift, because it sets them apart from those they perceive as being somehow "common," and a curse, as it so often seems to separate them from the simpler forms of happiness that others so readily seem to enjoy. Thus, Fours can manage to feel superior to others while also secretly harboring some degree of longing and envy. A feeling of being a member of the "true aristocracy" alternates with deep feelings of shame, and fears of somehow being deeply flawed or defective."
Very nice.
When I finished answering all of the questions, and clicked on the results screen, Erin got rather annoyed.
"What the... did you answer the questions honestly?"
"Yes," I told her. "Of course. Why?"
"Because... because, I've never seen results like this before, that's why."
"What results?"
She showed me my scores, which were listed for each of the 9 different personality types, and my top three scores were all 7.3, for personality types 2, 4 (like Erin's) and 6. This irritated Erin to no end.
"This irritates me," she said. The complexity of my mind is an enigma to her, which I find delightful.
Besides testing positive for personality type 4, I was also a 2 & 6. 2 being, The Helper: "People of this personality type essentially feel that they are worthy insofar as they are helpful to others. Love is their highest ideal. Selflessness is their duty. Giving to others is their reason for being. Involved, socially aware, usually extroverted, Twos are the type of people who remember everyone's birthday and who go the extra mile to help out a co-worker, spouse or friend in need."
And 6 being, The Loyalist: "People of this personality type essentially feel insecure, as though there is nothing quite steady enough to hold onto. At the core of the type Six personality is a kind of fear or anxiety. This anxiety has a very deep source and can manifest in a variety of different styles, making Sixes somewhat difficult to describe and to type. What all Sixes have in common however, is the fear rooted at the center of their personality, which manifests in worrying, and restless imaginings of everything that might go wrong. This tendency makes Sixes gifted at trouble shooting, but also robs the Six of much needed peace of mind and tends to deprive the personality of spontaneity. The essential anxiety at the core of the type Six fixation tends to permeate the personality with a sort of "defensive suspiciousness." Sixes don't trust easily; they are often ambivalent about others, until the person has absolutely proven herself, at which point they are likely to respond with steadfast loyalty. The loyalty of the Six is something of a two edged sword however, as Sixes are sometimes prone to stand by a friend, partner, job or cause even long after it is time to move on."
When Hardy finally finished it was determined that he had a type 9 personality, The Peacemaker: "People of this personality type essentially feel a need for peace and harmony. They tend to avoid conflict at all costs, whether it be internal or interpersonal. As the potential for conflict in life is virtually ubiquitous, the Nine's desire to avoid it generally results in some degree of withdrawal from life, and many Nines are, in fact, introverted. Other Nines lead more active, social lives, but nevertheless remain to some to degree "checked out," or not fully involved, as if to insulate themselves from threats to their peace of mind. Most Nines are fairly easy going; they adopt a strategy of "going with the flow." They are generally reliable, sturdy, self-effacing, tolerant and likable individuals."
When Paul took the test after Hardy, he was determined to be a 9 as well.
I don't think you can find two people any more different, personality wise, than Paul and Hardy. One is mild mannered, thoughtful, sensitive, while the other is cantankerous, easily irritated and outspoken. But who am I to find fault with the Enneagram?
This may be some comfort to my dear friend Erin: yesterday I took the test again, twice, up in my box, and scored a big 7.7 points for Type 1, The Reformer: "People of this personality type are essentially looking to make things better, as they think nothing is ever quite good enough. This makes them perfectionists who desire to reform and improve; idealists who strive to make order out of the omnipresent chaos."
The difference in results from one day to the next leads me to believe that this test has little value, and is in fact a great big bunch of crap.
It does pass the time though.
You to, dear readers, may waste your time by taking this test at this location:
A rainy day on Wednesday. I had no scheduled events and could have stayed nice and dry in my box (which suffers no leaks I'm happy to report), but I decided to go to the library and pick up a book they were holding for me, "Asimov's Guide to the Bible," which seems to be bigger than the book it examines. Freaking Isaac, he never knew how to write a short book. My umbrella jumped out of my coat pocket while on the bus, which I found rather annoying. Fortunately I have a back up.
Upon returning to the hotel I found Erin in the kitchen heating up some kind of soup in the microwave, which was a good thing as I wanted to chat with her.
"Hi Rick," she said to me. She almost always says the same thing when she first sees me.
"Hi Erin. I wanted to ask you a question about tomorrow's Cooking Club (we would be making pizza, which I had suggested)."
"Does the oven at the Olympia work?"
She reflected on this briefly before replying, quite artfully I may add, "Shit burgers!"
We had had the oven in the Las Americas repaired just before Thanksgiving. The Olympia had broken their oven right after Thanksgiving. Pizza requires a working oven in order to prepare it, as far as I remember, so there may have been a need to relocate the club from the Olympia to the Las Americas, which I had just brought to the attention of Erin.
She told me she'd find out.
This morning I was pleased to receive an Email from my dear friend, the lovely model, television/radio personality, and singer, Odalys Garcia (we've never met, but have corresponded, and I feel that we are kindred souls) who replied to my Email wishing her a Happy New Year. "Hi, thanks very much. Whishing you the best for next year and always." She mistyped the word wishing. Isn't she adorable!
The only other piece of business left to do this decade was the Cooking Club at 11:30. Pizzas!
Paul was out sick again, so it was up to Erin to facilitate. I cooked the hamburger. Hardy, now bald for some reason (I kept calling him Lex Luther) chopped various vegetables, as did several others from the Olympia. Yes, we were at the Olympia despite my urgent warning to Erin about the oven.
Young girls are so resistant to change.
It didn't take long really to get everything ready and the pizzas in the oven, 1 hamburger pizza, and 2 veggies.
All 3 in the oven at 450 degrees.
We waited. We waited. After a while... we waited some more.
"I'll be right back, Erin. I'm going go pay my cable bill," I told her.
I walked over to the check cashing store on 7th, paid my bill, then walked back just in time to wait a while longer.
"Maybe we should put it on broil for a while," I suggested. Earl agreed, and set the oven on broil. After 5 minutes the broiler kicked in, and our pizzas were finally ready after about 4 minutes more.
They were good, and we consumed them greedily.
I wished every one a Happy New Year and took off.
Now tonight I'll meet with my friend Crystal, then we'll attend the End of Year Service at Higashi Honganji, before heading to North Hollywood to Rusty's Mexican Restaurant, where we will meet more friends to share Mexican food and sing karaoke (Led Zeppelin for me) until the wee hours. Hopefully, no fires will ensue.
And from all of us here at Joyce's Take (pictured above), we wish everyone a Happy New Year, and a better tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Salvation Diary 14

"Salvation" artist, Amanda Milke

February 26 Tuesday Day 167

Up nice and early for work this morning.
After dropping off the morning paperwork, picking up some janitorial supplies for Schimmele, and making a brief dorm inspection, the residence seemed to be functioning smoothly so I took some time to write.
Later I talked to Richard, my counselor. We discussed the two Frankl books I had read. I told him that I planned to visit Pasadena City College (P.C.C.) next Monday, and hopefully talk to a counselor and enroll for the upcoming summer semester. Richard let me know that P.C.C. had 8 week courses during the summer, and to complete a 3 unit course one had to attend class five days a week, 3 hours a day.
My work schedule will not allow me to do that, so I may have to wait until the fall. We shall see.
At 12:30 the tutor came, and I let Kevin Rockoff go get tutored. I had the desk all to myself. I handled it. I began reading a book that Ron Collins had picked up for me "Zen, and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," by Robert M. Pirsig.
After work I changed clothes and hung around the lobby, looking at people with unguarded suspicion.
I like to do that.
Jill was almost on time this evening. She looked ravishing as usual. She seemed to have the sniffles, and was squinting delightfully out of one eye. She explained to me that she had the sniffles because apparently she was allergic to everything, and she was squinting because she had only one contact lens on. And she explained that because of her allergy it hurt her beautiful eyes to put both lenses in.
She's so cute and vulnerable.
We went through our normal weekly goals routine. Jill asked everyone if they had completed their assigned goals, everyone except me again. This time however, I refused to be ignored.
"Don't I get to talk about my week, Jill?"
"Yes, of course, Richard. I didn't know if you wanted to participate, or were only here as an observer."
I let her know that I indeed wanted to participate, and I proceeded to tell everyone about all of the wonderful things that had happened during the last week. I discovered that Jill had also seen "The Silence of the Lambs." I must congratulate her impeccable taste in film viewing habits.
I had felt tired and drained earlier, and had thought about going to my room and lying down, dismissing once again the idea of attending an outside A.A. meeting. But after Jill's group counseling session I felt all energetic and decided to go.
Robert drove us to the St. James Church in South Pasadena. Everyone crossed themselves as they emerged from the van, still in one piece.
This is my favorite meeting in the Pasadena area. A nice, cozy, informal get together.
One of our group, Andre Laws, was randomly asked if he would care to be the evening's 5 minute speaker. He readily agreed.
Andre, at 22 years old, a handsome black kid, is just that, a kid, very child like. His main interest in life seems to be involved with the physical coupling with as many white females as humanly possible. I don't know how successful he is, but I can imagine his handsome childlike appearance, his slow blinking eyes, his halting voice, could sucker in a few girls. I do know that when any reasonably attractive woman comes to the residence, Andre, as if he can smell them, appears out of nowhere and hovers nearby until he gets a chance to introduce himself, or otherwise make his presence known. We regularly have to chase him out of the small dinning room every Tuesday night when Jill visits, and by the time tonight's meeting started, 15 minutes after we had arrived, Andre made sure that every single looking white female knew he was there.
It's a good thing that they hadn't asked Andre to read anything, because he would have had a little trouble with that, but we were all proud of him for getting up and sharing (despite the chance that this was simply another lecherous ploy of his). He did manage to insult almost everyone with his opening line, "I really don't know... ah, what I'm going to be talking about. I've never spoke to an older group like this." And his choice of verbs was touching. "I started on moonshine... then procrastinated on up to the hard stuff." All in all, he did pretty well.
I watched the news on TV when I got back to the residence before going to bed. The allied cause seems to be progressing nicely. At one count, 30,000 Iraqi troops have surrendered, or been taken so far. Maybe this madness will end soon.
My God I hope so.

February 27 Wednesday Day 168

Pandolfi opened my door and stuck his head inside. "It's five o'clock, Rick."
I shifted in my bed and looked at him judiciously. "Arro etta royum?" I asked.
"Yeah, but Crawford didn't go get the donuts." He left.
I got out of bed, showered, and made my way downstairs.
A tad overcast this morning, either a rain storm is coming, or the locusts have arrived.
After completing the morning's paperwork, and inspecting the dorms, I wrote for most of the morning, and on into the afternoon.
Did I say the weather rarely changes around here? It began raining at 1:06, and never stopped. California is in it's 4th or 5th year of drought, so we could use some rain. It will help to clear off some dust at least.
One thing about rain, it always lets you know where your leaks are. I hear there are some over in the warehouse, but that doesn't concern me too much. The residence, however, is another story. Water is finding its was past the rear door of the roof, down the back staircase, and collecting at the entrance to the laundry room. We studiously applied a bucket. We hope it works.
The biggest leak is in the basement, on the west wall of the barbershop, and ruining the carpet in the clinic. I utilized a large garbage can, getting it close to the wall, and the flow, as it's shape would allow. I applied duct tape to affix the trash can to the wall itself, thereby diverting the flow into the can, in in the process, avoiding certain disaster.
Clarence Orion, our Chaplin and intake officer, stole my umbrella after chapel this evening. Well, he didn't actually steal it. Clarence Bliss gave it to him. I had stashed it away between the file cabinet and the office wall, just so no one would think that it was theirs. Pattie, Clarence Orion's wife, had left her umbrella in my office. Her's was a different color than mine, a red umbrella. Mine was a brown umbrella. Most people who have umbrellas around here have brown ones, just like mine. That's because they were the umbrellas that the Salvation Army gave to us for Christmas last year, and unless one had placed some kind of identifying mark on their umbrella, they of course were impossible to tell apart.
Unknown to me, Clarence Orion must have left his umbrella in my office as well. A brown one just like mine. I think Major Johnson took his. The Major had a brown one too. After chapel, while I was busy in the Transition Group, Clarence must have asked Clarence for his and his wife's umbrellas. Mr Bliss, ever so helpful, proceeded into my office and ferreted out mine and Pattie's umbrellas, and gave them to Clarence, and that was it! Off into the night it went, quite possibly never to be seen again.
After Transition Group ended I returned to my office and discovered my umbrella was missing. I asked Eddie Gillespie about it, and he let me know that Clarence Orion had taken it.
"You let Clarence take my umbrella?" I asked.
"The funny thing about it," Bliss volunteered, "was that I gave it to him."
I really wouldn't have minded so much if were not for the fact that I would eventually have to spend about 30 minutes in the midst of the unrelenting downpour while putting up the stupid bar in the thrift store parking lot!
Jill popped in for a talk with Ed Reitz. It's always so nice when she pops in. Dennis Smith walked up to her and asked if she had come to wish him a happy birthday. It wasn't his birthday today, but it is in the month of February, and tonight was the big birthday dinner night, and he was one of the celebrants. He thought Jill might be interested in his birthday because I had told him that I thought Jill had given him the old eye last night in group. I had in fact witnessed no such display, but told Dennis that just to start some trouble. I also suggested that he should wink at her at every opportunity.
So he was being real nice to Jill as she visited. All smooth and charming and all. I didn't notice if there was any winking going on.
At 10:00PM we heard word of a cease fire in the war in the Persian Gulf. Clarence Bliss, Eddie Gillespie, and myself, feel a cosmic connection with this event. A little Deja Vuish. For it was on a Wednesday night shift, when all three of us were together, that the air war began six weeks ago.
Hussein is still in power, but Iraq has agreed to all 12 U.N. conditions for a cease fire to occur. Allied forces have taken upward of 50,000 Iraqi troops as prisoners in 4 days. Approximately 80 U.S. soldiers have died in the war, or war related activities. Anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 Iraqi solders have lost their lives. General Norman Schwarzkoph, Allied Commander, revealed that Allied troops had been within 150 miles of Baghdad, and could have taken that city at any time with minimum effort, if that had been his intention. Kuwait is once again in the hands of the Kuwaiti's.
They reentered their capital city on their traditional Independence Day, comparably like us retaking Washington D.C. on the 4th of July.
If Iraq does indeed keep it's promise of meeting each of the 12 conditions this war is effectively over.
A short war.
The best kind.

February 28 Thursday Day 169

Up early again for work.
Hopefully today would not be as hectic as yesterday, and as busy. I didn't get a chance to read at all last night.
At 9:00AM the Waverly Street Nursery School, two doors east of the residence, gave me a call and asked if we might help them out. They had experienced some flooding during the night and needed some big strong men to place sand bags in strategic locations to prevent further inundation. Sounds sexist to me, but we have no lack of big strong men.
In my mind I pictured scores of little moppets floating away on the high tide. I called Ed, and he volunteered 3 hefty guys, and we went to the school to check things out.
It wasn't too serious. Just 3 or 4 waifs sloshing about. I hope we were of some assistance.
Ed and Robert, quite effectively I might add, screwed up the ADx urine analyzer. So even though we have plenty of samples, we can't run them. This unfortunate development allowed me the opportunity to take about an hour off in the afternoon, time enough for a short nap.
The rain continued, although not as heavily as yesterday. The trash can I had attached to the wall in the clinic last night had filled.
Lots of mud slides and traffic accidents in the news. Even some tornadoes touched down here and there. Very rare. Tornadoes haven't happened around here since 1987.
The rest of the day went fairly easily. I didn't even have to write anyone up for missing Substance Abuse, or the A.A. panel.
A cute blonde lady came for the C.A. panel. I fell in love with her.
And I had lots of time to read during the evening. I read about opiates, and journalism in Tennessee.
Not that the two have much to do with each other.

March 1 Friday Day 170

This morning I got to sleep in a little, and didn't come down until after lunch.
I had intended to do some writing in the lobby, but as soon as I sat down the Abbott tech rep arrived to check out the ADx analyzer. Mr. Vasquez was no where in sight so I volunteered to take him on up to the sample room.
As he looked over the analyzer, I sat down and wrote. It didn't take long for him to find the problem, and then to correct it. Mr. Vasquez came in as the tech was making some final adjustments, and Robert wanted to know exactly what the problem had been (the boom calibration was off. The boom could not lower itself enough to collect the samples from the sample tray). After the rep explained, we went ahead and ran some of our samples just to make sure everything was in order.
It was. In fact, we noticed that one of the client's cannabinoid level had risen from "Low," reading, to a 10.6. The machine does not detect anything lower than a "Low." I mean the machine will register a 0.00 before it registers a "Low," so this client has ingested something of a cannabinoid nature since the 20th of February.
We of course cannot rule out the possibility of this man's being accidentally locked into an air tight room in which marijuana smoke was continuously pumped which he was forced to inhale.
It can happen.
In any case we shall keep a steady eye on this particular fellow. If he had registered 25 or above he wouldn't be here any more.
By the time we finished with the samples it was time to go to work.
Mr. Vasquez picked up Edward Taylor from the Huntington Memorial Hospital just after I began my shift. Ed had been in there a while, with all of his internal organs seemingly dying on him. The truth be known, we thought we had lost him. Even his family had given up hope and had come to pick up his things. But he's pulled through.
We're tough bastards, us alcoholics and drug addicts.
After New Client Orientation, things started to settle down to the point that I could enjoy a nice cup of coffee and read.
I had begun the book, "Illicit and Illicit Drugs," by Edward M. Brecher, and the editors of Consumer Union Reports. It was published almost 20 years ago, but for my purposes, is still extremely relevant. If one wishes to learn about addiction no better family of drugs could be picked to study:

"Opium is a raw natural product - the dried juice of the unripe capsule of the opium poppy. Morphine is the chief active ingredient in opium; each grain of opium contains about one tenth of a grain of morphine. Heroin is produced by heating morphine in the presence of acetic acid (that found in vinegar). The heroin is promptly converted back to morphine in the body. Codeine is also found in small quantity in opium, and there are numerous other opiates."

Naive that I am, I had always thought that drug addiction had been a fairly recent phenomenon. I was terribly wrong. Laws against drugs had been what was most recent, thus bringing drugs into the limelight.

"Opium was on legal sale conveniently and at low prices throughout the nineteenth century; morphine came into common use during the Civil War, and heroin was marketed toward the end of the century. These opiates and countless pharmaceutical preparations containing them 'were as freely accessible as aspirin is today.'"

Physicians dispensed them, drugstores sold them, grocery and general stores as well as pharmacies stocked and sold opiates. There were countless patent medicines on the market containing opium and morphine: Ayer's Cherry Pectoral, Mrs. Winslows Soothing Syrup, Darby's Carminative, Godfrey's Cordial, Mr. Munn's Elixir of Opium, Dover's Powder, on and on.
And if that weren't enough, opiates could be ordered and delivered through the mail!
I ask myself this question: when wasn't this country drug orientated, or an addicted society?
Because of the evil reputation some of the opiates have received within the last half century, I found it interesting to learn there were hardly any deleterious effects upon the human body upon ingestion, or even when addicted to these drugs. After decades of consistent use constipation seems to be the only effect they have on our physiology. Besides being extremely addictive that is. By comparison, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are 1000 times more harmful.

"For example, the narcotics addict is properly portrayed as lean, gaunt, emaciated. A subgroup of 100 addicts out of 861 in the Philadelphia study was maintained on adequate doses of morphine and intensively examined and tested while thus maintained. Only 4 of the 100 were grossly underweight - emaciated. 6 of the 100 were grossly overweight - obese. The group as a whole weighed two tenths of one percent of the norm for their height and age as determined by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company standards. . Yet these addicts before hospitalization had been taking on the average 21 grains of morphine or heroin per day - more than 30 times the dose of the New York City street addict in 1971.
The explanation for the weight findings, which could hardly be more normal, is quite simple. The addicts in the Philadelphia study had ready access to both hospital food and hospital morphine. Under these conditions they ate well and thrived. The emaciated addict usually described in other studies is one who starves himself to save money for black market drugs - an ordeal he is able to bear more easily because of the tranquilizing effect of the drugs."
It is Mr. Brecher's opinion, and from experience and a small application of common sense, I also believe this to be true, that the harmful effects of opiate use stem not from the use of the drugs itself, but rather from the narcotics laws, and the heroin black market flourishing under those laws.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Now that we are approaching the end of the year every other Email I receive is asking me for a tax deductible donation. Now I subscribe to a great deal of political, scientific, social, and animal rights advocacy groups, from Think Progress and Common Dreams, to Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Amnesty International, to The Planetary Society and SpaceRef, to UNICEF, Children's International, and the ASPCA, and a host of others, and do what I can to support these fine institutions.
I also like to hug sequoias, and have suggested planting a couple in our garden out back, but no one takes me seriously.
However, I'm getting requests for year end money from people and organizations that I've never even heard of before, nor subscribed to, nor know anything about. I just checked my Email account a minute ago and the 3 in my In Box were all asking for cash, and I've never dealt with any of them. Oh yeah, about half of them use the old "contribute now and a matching donation will double your gift," ploy. Ploy #548.
Leave me alone. Isn't it enough I had to suffer through endless broadcasts of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?" Now for New Years I get this! Oh, how I long for January 1st, and back to some semblance of normality.
But I bitch too much, me thinks.
Speaking about getting back to normality, my lovely case manager, Erin, has returned to us safe and sound. I know this because I saw her yesterday when she called me a son of a bitch.
She's so cute and adorable.
I was standing by her office door waiting for her to come out of the restroom when I first saw her. She came walking up to me with her Iphone glued to her left ear. "Hi Rick," she said to me.
"Hi Erin," I replied, quite appropriately I think.
We entered her office and sat down. She said, "I'll call you back later," to whom ever it was she was talking to.
"How are you doing, Erin?" I asked.
"I'm doing great, Rick. I had a good time back home..."
"Oh, that's right... you were gone last week. I thought something seemed amiss, but just couldn't put my finger on what it was."
She knew I was teasing her, and laughed.
She briefly told me of her trip, which she seemed to have enjoyed very much. She liked looking out the window to see all of the snow that had fallen during the "Storm of the decade." She didn't like going out in it, but looking at it was just fine.
I had brought several items with me, some for Paul, who had not returned from his vacation as of yet. Perhaps tomorrow, which is actually today, as I write this.
I had brought Paul back the copy of Don DeLillo's "White Noise," which I had finished reading, and requested that Erin remind Paul that this was the second book of his that I had read, to his zero of mine that I had recommended to him.
"Even Beth said, 'He won't read "Slaughter House Five?"... It's such a little book,'" I told Erin.
"Okay, I'll tell him."
I also left him a DVD of "It Might Get Loud," a documentary concerning a get together of famous guitarists, including my favorite, Jimmy Page, and a DVD of Bruce Lee beating the crap out of everybody for two hours. Paul had expressed an interest in seeing it.
I had given one to Erin as well, so now she will be able to defend herself against the likes Chuck Norris and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
I also gave Erin some DVDs, just for the pure sweet hell of it.
"What are we going to do for Garden Club, Rick?"
Well Erin, Hardy, and myself went out on that slightly overcast morning and raked up leaves, and generally cleaned up the back yard area. Daryl, Glen, and Lester made appearances, trying to hijack Erin into conversations that did not involve gardening. I had to physically intervene at times.
At one point Erin was chastising them for not attending Yoga class, saying, "And where were you last week for yoga, Hardy?"
And, "Where were you Lester, last week for yoga?"
I called out, "And where were you, Erin?" Of course she had been in New Jersey, looking at all of the snow.
She looked at me. "You son of a bitch, Rick. You know I meant two weeks ago."
I had to remind her this morning, after she had surprise captured me into a monthly case management session, that during the 17th century, being called a son of a bitch was cause to be challenged to a duel to the death.
"I'll shoot you, Rick," she said happily. "Just give me a gun."
Thanks for all of your support Erin.
I was already slightly annoyed with her this morning after I learned that she had deleted the comment I had made earlier on her Facebook page. We were eating breakfast burritos that I had made at the time. Eggs and mozzarella cheese, with chopped orange (rhymes with "door hinge") bell peppers. Yummy!
She had made this entry yesterday, "I'm insatiable," with no further explanation. Of course she must have been referring to the 1980 pornographic film, "Insatiable," starring Marilyn Chambers, and Serena, which I was completely unfamiliar with. So I asked her if this was what she was referring to on her wall.
"No! It was not what I was referring to, and your comment was not in the context of what I was trying to convey, so I deleted it, as well as another a friend of mine made."
Oh Erin, you're such a little control freak.
She tried to act all case managerish on me this morning as well, asking for her files what I have been doing with myself lately, and if I had made any progress.
"Progress? As compared to what?"
"You know... progress in making improvements in your life, and reaching goals..."
"Nope! No progress whatsoever, by golly. As a matter of fact, I refuse to make any progress just as a matter of principle."
"Bullshit," I think she said, or something of similar effect. "I know you're making progress, and I'm going to document it whether you like it or not."
"What kind of progress have you made..." I asked her.
"Oh no, we're talking about you! Okay, almost two hundred entries on your blog, getting out and meeting people, going to the Buddhist temple, mustache is coming along nicely..."
"Gee, might as well throw in winning the Pulitzer Prize while you're at it."
Paul isn't the only one whom I've loaned a book to to read. Erin at one time expressed a desire to learn more about Japanese culture, so I gave her James Clavell's masterpiece, "Shogun," which she has since refused to pick up. It's sitting on a bookshelf in her office right now... has been for months. It's sitting right alongside, "Slaughter House Five."
"You know, Erin, the story in Shogun involves a great love story," I had previously told her in a desperate attempt to get her to read the historical novel, as women tend to be interested in love stories. I don't know why.
It's true, the novel does involve a great, and tragic love story.
"I don't believe you, Rick. I think you're telling me that just to get me to read it."
"I would never do that Erin."
"Yes you would. I've got too many other books I'm reading right now," she said.
She was referring to the Twilight series of novels that are now currently in fashion with young people, young girls especially, and the two movies of the first two books of the series.
"I've seen both movies now, Erin, and I know why every teenage girl likes them so much, and why the last one has made over six hundred million worldwide."
"Oh yeah? Why?"
"Because every girl likes fantasizing about having these handsome vampire and werewolf guys fighting over them even though they're not all that hot.
"Yeah... vampires and werewolf guys with their shirts off."
"You may be right."
"I liked the first one, but not the second one at all."
Yes, really. The first film told the tale of a new girl in town trying to integrate into a high school environment, and becoming romantically involved with a hot vampire guy, who is supposedly a "perfect predator," and invincible and all that. Except when it came to other vampires, where he's portrayed as a bit of a wimp. The second film, which is currently in wide release, is... well I don't what it's about really, as the film doesn't have all that much of what you could call a plot, except that the gorgeous vampire guy (Erin thinks he's gorgeous. I think he looks like a heroin addict coming off a six month binge... who wears lipstick) leaves the girl for no good reason, but then keeps popping up in her life as some kind of ghostly figure, telling her not to do things. Oh yeah, and she hooks up with a lot of shirtless werewolf guys. And by the end of the film she's back with the vampire guy, who promises to turn her in to a vampire someday. Every girls dream.
"Yeah. I alternated between falling asleep and wanting to shoot myself in the head while watching it."
Erin laughed.
"You know Erin... In Shogun... there's a lot of Japanese teenage vampires in it."
She laughed again. "You're such a liar, Rick."
Well you can't blame a guy for trying.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Skid Row's Memorial

One week ago today, December 21st, 2009, At 10:00AM, I attended a unique memorial service at the James M. Woods Community Center, located at the corner of Fifth Street and San Julian. It was sponsored by Skid Row Housing Trust's sister organization, the Single Room Occupancy, or SRO Housing Corporation. The memorial was for all of those who passed away during the previous year in the various organizations, like SRO and SRHT, that cater to the local population in and around Skid Row in Los Angeles. Mention was made of those who did not have the chance, or choose not to participate in these programs and opportunities, and died while living on the streets, their number unknown for 2009, but it stood at 60 last year, excluding murders and suicide.
Of course those who died because they were murdered or committed suicide should be remembered as well, we just didn't know who they were, which is very sad in itself.
The event was hosted by the Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director of SRO, Anita U. Nelson, lovely woman, who handed me a program after I entered the building. The official title of the event was this: "National Homeless Person's Memorial Day." I don't know how "National," this is as it appears to be a local event, which I'm told takes place every year on the winter solstice, no matter what that day may happen to fall on. Why? I'm told because on that day the northern hemisphere experiences the longest night of the year, which must have some symbolic significance to the sponsors, which would explain the poem found on the back of the program entitled, "The Longest Night." Author unknown.

On this longest night
No winter chills my bones
No sorrow fills my thoughts
For I am now at home.

Solace I give to thee
Teardrops that fall today
Shall shatter on the grounds we walked
Of which we paved the way.

For they looked my way but only saw
The outer shell of a being
They closed their eyes, and turned their head
Then stepped right over me.

They looked my way but you did not see,
a way to ease my plight
They closed their eyes, and turned their head
And left me to the night.

But stars that shined so brightly
Even under darkening skies
Will light a path audaciously,
On this longest night.

Forget me not this winter
Nor summer, spring or fall
My thoughts may keep you safely
From winters cruel cold arms.

My laugh will give you summers
My tears drop August rain
And on your darkest night
My smile will guide the way.

Forget me not this winter
But make my life your plight
No sympathy, don't weep for me.

I'd never been inside the James M. Woods Community Center building before, although I pass it on a regular basis, either when walking, or taking the bus. It's a modern looking, two story, steel and Formica affair, surrounding a large, 150 or so capacity meeting area, with a small stage along the north wall. It's my understanding they show movies in there for the local community on a weekly basis.
Coffee, hot chocolate, little pieces of cake, brownies, cookies, and fresh fruit were served before things got started, and the room almost filled to capacity. Representatives from SRO, SRHT, Union Rescue Mission, Los Angeles Catholic Worker (Hippie Kitchen), The Woman's Action Coalition, and the Lamp Community (a nonprofit organization that works to permanently end homelessness, improve health, and build self-sufficiency among men and women living with severe mental illness, so their web site states. For some reason Lamp's list of deaths were not included on the program). One wonders if it is true that the Los Angeles Mission, Midnight Mission, and the Fred Jordan Mission, as well as a few other organizations, suffered no deaths within their facilities during the past year, as their exclusion on the program would imply.
The ceremony began by being welcomed by Anita, then a client from the Union Rescue Mission, Shalonda Sims sang us a song, "I Surrender All." The CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, the Reverend Andy Bales spoke briefly, his main point being that by next year everyone who wants housing on Skid Row should be able to get it. I agree. Then the Reverend, along with the Unity Praise Team, sang a couple of more songs, including "Amazing Grace." And then representatives of the organizations present got up on stage and read the names of those who had passed. Yvette, from the Simone Hotel, who we've met before during our beach outing, and the opening of the Carver, represented SRHT, which this year had the longest list of them all:

From the Hippie Kitchen (the Hippie Kitchen does not provide housing, so the following people must have been very well known by the volunteers there, who became aware of their passing): Regina M., Marie McGuire, Issac Craig, Candy or Bear, John Baronovic, K.K. & Tommy, Big Sister (Sissie) Holly, John Alex, Joy Whitmore, Robert (Shorty) Burns, Teresa at the Regal, Josephine at the Regal, Sonia Tauanuu, and Terri Koenig.

Woman's Action Coalition: Deloris Blevins, Regina Mosley, Josephine Ippalito, China, and Red.

From the Union Rescue Mission: Mary Jane Erspamer, and Parrish Reed.

SRO Housing Corporation: Buren Elias, Carol Taylor, Dwayne Luke, James Williams, John White, Joseph Jimenez, Reginald Payton, Sharon Smith, Stephen Farrell, Tommie Hayes, and William Franklin Watt.

And from Skid Row Housing Trust: Albert Bracket, April King, Larry Martin, Luke Dwain, Hollis Slah, Jose Macinas, Thomas Birdsong, Sterling Hines, Rowena Brow, Henry Winters, Kelly Worrel, Ruffus Dailey, Jesse Tumblin, Mary McGuire, Jose Montoya, Patrick Rizzo, Virginia Santillan, Oscar Puente, Steven Prenosil, Debra "Shy" Stom, Marvin Washington, Margaret Holloway, Ida Blank, Dumas Duffy, George Kenney, and Agusta Hicks a.k.a Gusie.

And Lily Belle Burk, age 17, who was murdered on July 25, 2009.

"...and all those who crossed our paths who weren't named."

May they rest in peace.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Celebrate... The Shocking Conclusion

More locally of course we had our annual Christmas Party here in the lobby, which I've briefly described (see, State Of Affairs). What I was not able to describe was the employees, or staff party that took place afterwards, simply because the staff did not have the good sense to invite me. However, during the time since that day I have been able to garner much info on said affair, and am now able to reveal the shocking truth with a certain degree of accuracy.
I've stated before that I found our little party in the lobby a tad depressing, but I did not realize why precisely. Now I know.
I felt like when I was a small child and segregated to the "Child's Table" at holiday events, away from the adults at the "Adult Table," where all of the real fun was happening. I no longer feel this way.
Let's explore this systematically, shall we?
Our little soiree began when Erin threw me out of her office after I offered to help fill gift bags.
"You can't see what's in the bags, Rick." Like I gave a rat's ass what was in the freaking bags! I left the party even before they were handed out.
She didn't mind my helping bring out the chips, dips, cookies, pie, and soda though, which I dutifully placed on the counter just outside the kitchen which was where the food would be served. I was also given the job of slicing into pieces a giant chocolate chip cookie, and an apple pie, very delicate work which I handled with cool aplomb.
Paul soon arrived with two big boxes of chicken wings, one spicy, and one regular, which would be the main component of our forthcoming meal. Soon Erin's friend (I don't know her name because Erin didn't bother to introduce her to us, or if she did I didn't hear it, but she was here to play the guitar and harmonica (Bob Dylan fashion), and sing Christmas songs to us. She had come last year as well, and she was wonderful.
The flier inviting everybody from both the Olympia and Las Americas hotels explicitly stated there would be no resident meeting this month, and especially at this party. Paul ignored his own dictate however, and began by making several announcements, passing around a sign up sheet for those interested in going bowling and ice skating. I wasn't interested in either, having almost killed myself the last time we ice skated, and I'm about as good at bowling as our current President.
Paul finished with his business, and began serving the hot wings, asking everyone if they preferred spicy or regular. Priscilla, the manager from the Olympia served the giant cookie and pie I had cut, and one of new residents chips and dip. Erin's friend began playing Christmas songs, and Erin even joined her for a Christmas duet. Lovely.
Now if you know anything about chicken wings, dear readers, you know that they are very small. One has to eat a lot of them in order to feel well fed.
That day Paul gave out six or seven to each individual, just enough to get a person hungry for more. I ate my wings, had some of that cookie, and not being able to stand the excitement any longer took off and went to my box.
I'm almost positive that the festivities continued without me. Erin handed out her precious gift bags. I'm not sure exactly what the criteria was that allowed a resident to receive a bag, but I do know that Hardy got one. I told him not to tell me what had been inside it in order to maintain Erin's wish that I not know.
This two hour (the event was billed to last from noon until 2:00) "G" rated event petered out sometime before 1:30, because that's when I went out to do some shopping, and the party had dissipated, Hardy sitting alone in the lobby watching "Law and Order," with his freaking gift bag.
Okay, let's contrast that with the Skid Row Housing Trust's Staff Christmas Party, or the "Adult Table," in this comparison, which may or may not be viable according to one's point of view.
The following description has been related to me by several eye witnesses, exhaustive interviews with the restaurant's staff, local news reports, and police and fire department documentation. Still, because I was not there in person (thank God, it turns out) this account remains rather sketchy due in a large part to quality of the varying interviews and mental states of the witnesses at the time of the event.
It all began innocently enough at Yxta Cocina Mexicana, Mexican restaurant, on the nearby corner of 6th and Central. We here at the Las Americas can plainly see this establishment from our third floor windows, and indeed a crowd gathered when the fire trucks began to arrive.
Case manager Paul picked up his lovely fiance, Farida, from Union Station before joining the Employee's shindig, and arrived a bit late (The party was scheduled to begin at 3:00) after the appetizers and salad had been served, which was unfortunate as they are both vegetarians and the rest of the catered affair consisted mostly of meat dishes.
Most everyone concerned with housing and support services for Skid Row Housing Trust were present and seemed to be enjoying themselves. I will restrict my comments to those who I know on a personal basis. My lovely case manager, Erin, Paul and Farida, Tianna, our manager, Rachel and Demitri from the Abby hotel were all in attendance. Another Erin, a pretty, buxom redhead who at one time interned at the Las Americas, and who had participated in the Garden Club and Support Groups. Molly, the Event Coordinator; Evelyn and Craig, both Erin's and Paul's bosses were there, as well as their bosses, Andre, the Housing Director, and Mike, the Executive Director, the Big Boss, the Head Honcho, the Great Enchilada.
Speaking of Enchiladas, there were plenty of those in attendance as well. By the time Paul and Freida arrived the tables were decked out with enchiladas, chalupas, apple chicken quesadillas, chimichangas, tacos, burritos, empanadas, chipotle grilled chicken tortillas with guacamole, Baja bruschettas, chicken breast and mango salsa, chicken skewers with Chile and lime, tuna and shrimp Ceviche, Mexican Paella with chicken and seafood, taquitos, grilled polenta, spicy Mexican style chicken Chili Tikka Masala, fajitas, chips and salsa.
And we got freaking hot wings!
Alcohol was involved I'm sorry to say. Beer flowed freely. Margaritas, wine spritzers... there was no holding back. The food was consumed, the drinks absorbed liberally. The Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie was served for desert, but by that time the singing had started.
Karaoke I mean. And I genuinely resent this. I've suggested a karaoke party at the hotel for the last year with no results whatsoever. When I heard that the staff had enjoyed this particular activity, seemingly with a snap of their drunken fingers, I vowed to rent a karaoke machine myself, get a few pizzas and some soda, and have our own freaking party. No staff included again. Sorry Erin. You had your chance and you blew it.
Alright, back to the bacchanalia.
Paul got up and sang about five songs, most mild rock, finishing with a rousing rendition of "I Was Looking Back to See If You Were Looking Back to See If I Was Looking Back to See if You Were Looking Back at Me."
Demitri sang Country Western, a little Jimmy Buffett and Roger Miller, with an encore of "Velcros Arms, Teflon Heart," and another of, "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away."
The alcohol continued to flow freely. Erin consumed beer after beer, intern Erin a few more than that. Everybody else didn't mind a taste of two themselves.
By this time the senior management, being wise in such matters, had begun to take off, leaving the younger staff to continue their wild debauchery.
The two Erin's surrounded Paul's fiance, Farida on stage, in sort of a Farida sandwich, with her as the meat and the Erin's as the bread. Clearly inebriated, they began to sing out in a somewhat slurred fashion, "The Beer I Had for Breakfast is Coming Back for Lunch," finishing with Harry Nilsson's timeless classic, and I can't believe they had this in the karaoke machine, "You're Breaking My Heart," which of course continues with the lyrics, "You're Tearing It Apart... So Fuck You!"
Now things were beginning to get out of hand. Several fights erupted between case managers of the Rainbow and Boyd hotels. Intern Erin was seen making out with the female manager from the St. George. My Erin passed out on the bar. Someone knocked over a table with those Hurricane Lamps on it and a fire broke out. The restaurants staff called the police and fire departments.
And then the clowns arrived, carrying off Farida who has not been heard from since. They would have gotten Erin (they usually do) as well but she had fallen off the bar and was partially hidden from view.
Freaking clowns!
We here at the Las Americas were plainly horrified witnessing this distressing conflagration, black pillars of thick smoke billowing from the windows and entrance, police cruisers with their flashing lights dotted the parking lot, firemen rushing in and out, rescuing SRHT employees by the boat load. These images will stay with me for the rest of my days.
The whole unfortunate incident made the nightly television news, and morning papers. Erin's face (it doesn't matter which) was plastered across the Metro Section of the Los Angeles Times, grinning idiotically at the photographer, while trying to remove her blouse.
Interestingly, our lovely Erin was seen later that evening by Hardy, stumbling around the 1st floor hallways of the Las Americas dressed as Santa Claus.
Quite frankly I'm shocked and not a little bit appalled by the behavior of everyone concerned with this spectacle, and am ashamed to be associated with them in anyway. Disgusted really. Excuse me while I projectile vomit.
There... all done now. Boy it's going to take a while to clean that up. Shouldn't have eaten that abalone pizza. Well, I better get to it.
Good day to you all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Celebrate! 1

Tis the season to be jolly...
Well there's certainly a lot of that going around. Jolliness that is.
Yesterday of course was Christmas Day. Accordingly, my cable went out at around one o'clock. Not only my cable, but everybody's cable within the building, and probably the local area as well.
To be quite honest I didn't know whether to call up Time/Warner and bitch at them, or send them a letter of thanks, as do to the outage I was relieved of the temptation to watch "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," over and over again, throughout the entire day and evening on the AMC channel. Or "A Christmas Story," on TBS. Or "Night at the Museum," (the link this film has with Christmas is slightly unclear) on FX. Or "Bad Santa," on Spike. Or freaking "Dirty Dancing," on TVGN.
Dirty Dancing?! Beyond this films obvious connection to the Christmas holiday, it seems to be a staple of the TV Guide channel, as they are playing it twice today as well, with one airing of it's sequel, "Dirty Dancing Havana Nights," before spending the rest of the programming day broadcasting various hour long specials on the life and death of Michael Jackson. One swoons with anticipation.
Anyway, before I go on with chronicling the various celebratory events around here lately a couple of serious items in the news.
We are all extremely saddened at the news of the murder of Salvation Army Major Philip Wise, gunned down on front of his 3 children in an apparent robbery attempt, near Little Rock, Arkansas. I've had a love/hate relationship with the Salvation Army throughout the years and am currently banned from the ARC system (see, Skid Row Diary), but it saddens me deeply that this kind of thing has happened to one of its officers (or anybody, for that matter), who is so committed to helping others. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
My lovely case manager, Erin, is still in the winter wonderland that is New Jersey. Case manager Paul skipped yoga class last Tuesday to catch a flight to Detroit. It is rumored that he actually lived there at one time. Both are expected back sometime tomorrow.
Speaking of Detroit, yesterday, Northwest Airlines flight 253, originating in Lagos, Nigeria, by way of Amsterdam, upon approach to Detroit, experienced a small terrorist incident, at least that is how the White House is describing it. 23 year old Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab (must be some kind of foreigner) set himself on fire while trying to disable or destroy the airplane. Fortunately what ever incendiary device he managed to smuggle on board was ineffectual, and did not ignite as Umar had planned, and he was quickly subdued by some of his fellow passengers, who also put him out with a fire extinguisher. The ineptitude of Mutallab's attempt (he claims to have ties to Al Qaeda), plus the heroics of those passengers who neutralized him, undoubtedly saved the lives of not only those on board the flight, but also thousands of innocent civilians enjoying Christmas Day below, including our friend Paul.
We here at Joyce's Take salute the passengers and crew of Flight 253, and thank you for saving Paul's life, as well as possibly thousands of others.
This really is no joke. Those who took action remind me of the doomed passengers of Flight 93 on the 11th day of September, 2001. All are true American heros, and I get misty when I think about them all.
Okay, enough of current events.
As I've noted before, the streets of Skid Row were pretty much deserted yesterday, all of the Christmas celebrating having happened previously. We observed the holiday here in the lobby by having the traditional Christmas lasagna lunch (meat or veggie), served by our lovely resident manager, Tianna. Lasagna, salad, and a roll. Tasty.
Last Sunday morning as I walked to the Higashi Honganji Temple to participate in clean up activities, I noticed that the Fred Jordan Mission was up to it's old tricks, blocking off 5th St. in an effort to give away large amounts of food and toys. After leaving the temple (no one would tell me what to clean up, so I left), I returned to 5th St. and got in what I thought was a line to receive Christmas goodies, only to find out that it was the Dollar Man line. Yeah, I got a whole, crisp, new freaking dollar bill from the Reverend Maurice Chase.
Couldn't peal off one of those twenties I saw you had at the bottom of the stack, could you Maurice?!
The day before yesterday, that would be Christmas Eve usually, the Los Angeles Mission blocked off freaking 5th St. again, and served a nice, what looked like chicken dinner to hundreds of the areas homeless. The Midnight Mission, on the other hand, facilitated the dispersal of $10 bills to exactly 1,500 street people, for a total of $15,000. Not a bad deal if you had four and half hours to spare waiting in line. Two lines actually.
Tianna knocked on my door and told me what was happening, and wanted me to go there for some reason. "Don't let me down, Rick," she told me. "You stay in that line for as long as it takes."
So I walked over there and almost turned around and came directly back home as the line stretched all the way from 6th and San Julian, south to 7th, all the way back to San Pedro.
But my fellow resident, Nikita was there at the end of the line, so I joined him to hang out for awhile and see what would happen. I'd never done this in the 9 or so years I've lived in the area.
Two and a half hours later I approached the front of the line at the garage entrance of the Mission, on the west side of the building, and was fitted with a bage colored wristband, and told to come back at 1:15.
At that time, my neighbors Mike, Daryl, and myself returned only to stand in line yet again. We were told that the people with the money hadn't even arrived yet, so we waited and waited. At one point a truck slowly passed us on San Julian with the back gate open where several people began throwing out packages of sleeping bags. A crowd soon gathered around, and the situation became untenable, so the police came and put a stop to it.
Earlier a a car had passed throwing out one dollar bills, with much the same result.
At about three o'clock we reached the garage again, were herded into a single line, marched inside where our wrist bands were first examined then taken off. We next entered in a room where I shook hands with an older, grey haired gentleman, who wished me a Merry Christmas, then sent like an assembly line next to an elder grey haired lady who wished me a Merry Christmas while handing me a new $10 bill, then ushered out the front entrance of the Mission, and back on the street.
If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't.
I've been told that it was the famous Clancy I. of Alcoholics Anonymous fame who I had shaken hands with. To that I bellow to whoever can hear me: Big Freaking Deal! Why don't you have 6 or 7 people handing out the money so everybody doesn't have to stand in freaking line all day, you freaking egomaniacs!
To be continued.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

From all of us here at Joyce's Take: My lovely sister Cheryl and niece Keri; Lovely Erin and handsome Paul; Tianna, Hardy, Ron, Rodney, Mike, Daryl, in memory of Jose, and all the rest from Skid Row in Los Angeles, have a wonderful and loving day and New Year. Peace.
Rick Joyce

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Salvation Diary 13

"Salvation" Artist, Amanda Milke

February 23 Saturday Day 164

I made a dreadful error this morning. I got out of bed.
I got up because I wanted to eat breakfast and maybe do a little writing. But after I ate I got sucked into the office like a whirlpool.
One of the men had left last night without bothering to tell anyone. One of his fellow dorm mates asked what had happened to him, thus alerting us to his absence. Since Robert was no where around I needed to write a termination report on this fellow. When I was finished with that I walked out of the office, just looking around, right when a former resident walked in and demanded that I take him to the baggage room to retrieve some of his possessions. I took him down to the storage room. He had five bags, and wanted to browse through each one, take whatever he thought he would need the most (and could carry), and leave the rest.
He took his sweet time about it too.
As he was doing it I noticed that Dwight Hibbler had just sat down in the barber chair to get a nice haircut. Very commendable, but it did strike me as odd when I remembered that Dwight should have been upstairs at the time doing some Saturday morning extra work (for some slight previous misconduct). I reminded Dwight that he needed to be upstairs. He assured me he would return upstairs right after he was finished.
After my friend was done collecting his clothes I returned to the office and wrote Hibbler up for being A.W.O.L. from his extra work assignment, and one other person who I had seen leaving the building, skipping out on his work altogether.
When I finished all this I dashed up to my room, thoroughly exasperated that I hadn't gotten anything written. I was in such a lousy mood I decided to take a nap and begin the day all over again.
Having learned my lesson, when I woke I wrote in my room until it was time to get ready for work. I hardly ever write in my room, one reason being that there is no place to sit comfortably while writing. When in my room I almost always lie or sit on my bed. Today I felt I had no choice, so I wrote while laying on my stomach, still very stressed out.
Work went well though. After writing the notice revealing what the V.C.R. movie was for tonight ("The Quick and the Dead," a love story), and for tomorrow night ("Navy Seals," animal antics), I had the entire evening to read.
I delved into Frankl with enthusiasm. And I came across this passage:

Temporality and Mortality: An Ontological Essay

Viktor E. Frankl

Let me cite a taped-recorded interview I had with a patient of mine. She was suffering from a terminal cancer, and she knew that she was. When I demonstrated the case in class the following dialogue developed:

Frankl: What do you think of when you look back on your life? Has life been worth living?

Patient: Well doctor, I must say that I had a good life. Life was nice, indeed. And I must thank the Lord for what it held for me: I went to theaters, I attended concerts, and so forth. You see doctor, I went the with the family in whose house I served for many decades as a maid, in Prague at first, and afterward in Vienna. And for the grace of all these experiences I am grateful to the Lord.

F: You are speaking of some wonderful experiences; but all this will have an end now, won't it?
P: (thoughtfully) Yes, everything ends...
F: Well, do you think now that all the wonderful things in your life might be annihilated?
P: (still more thoughtfully) All those wonderful things...
F: But tell me--do you think that anyone can undo the happiness that you have experienced? Can anyone blot it out?
P: No doctor, nobody can blot it out!
F: Or can anyone blot out the goodness you have met in your life?
P: becoming increasingly emotionally involved) Nobody can blot it out!
F: What you have achieved and accomplished-
P: Nobody can blot it out!
F: Or what you have bravely and honestly suffered: can anyone remove it from the world- remove it from the past where you have stored it, as it were?
P: (now moved to tears) No one can remove it! (pause) It is true, I have had a great deal to suffer; but I also tried to be courageous and steadfast in enduring what I must. You see, doctor, I regard my suffering as a punishment. I believe in God.
F: (trying to put himself in place of the patient) But cannot suffering sometimes also be a challenge? Is it not conceivable that God wanted to see how Anastasia Kotek would bear it? And perhaps he had to admit, "Yes, she did so very bravely." And now tell me: can anyone remove such an achievement and accomplishment from the world, Frau Kotek?
P: Certainly no one can do it!
F: This remains, doesn't it?
P: It does!
F: What matters in life is to achieve something. And this is precisely what you have done. You have become an example for our patients because of the way you take your suffering upon yourself. You have made the best of your suffering. I congratulate you for for this achievement, and I also congratulate the other patients who have the opportunity to witness such an example. (to the audience) Ecce homo! (the audience bursts into spontaneous applause) This applause is for you, Frau Kotek. (she is weeping now) It concerns your life, which has been a great achievement. You may be proud of it, Frau Kotek. And how few people have been proud of their lives. I should say, your life is a monument, and no one can remove it from the world.
P: (regaining her self control) What you have said, Professor Frankl, is a consolation. It comforts me. Indeed, I never had an opportunity to hear anything like this... (slowly and quietly she leaves the lecture hall).

A week later she died. During the last week of her life, however, she was no longer depressed but, on the contrary, full of faith and pride. Prior to this, she had felt agonized, ridden by anxiety that she was useless. Our interview had made her aware that her life was meaningful and that even her suffering was not in vain. Her last words were: "My life is a monument. So Professor Frankl said, to the whole audience, to all the students in the lecture hall. My life was not in

It is true, everything is transitory-everything and everybody, be it say a child we have produced, or the great love from which the child was sprung, or a great thought-they are transitory altogether. Man's life lasts threescore years and ten, possibly fourscore years, and if it is a good life it will have been worth the trouble. A thought may last perhaps seven seconds, and if it is a good thought it will contain truth. But even the great thought is as transitory as the child and the great love. They are transitory altogether. Everything is transitory.
Yet, on the other hand, everything is eternal. More than that: it becomes eternal of itself. We don't have to do anything about it. Once we have brought something about, eternity will take care of it. But we have to take the responsibility for what we have elected into eternity!
Everything is written into the eternal record-our whole life, all our creations and actions, encounters and experiences, all our loving and suffering. All this is contained, and remains in the eternal record. The world is not, as the great existential philosopher Karl Jaspers intimated, a manuscript written in a code we have to decipher: no the world is rather a record that we have to dictate.

This passage had a great impact upon me, producing a quiet feeling of peace and hope within my aching soul. Rarely am I affected in this way by such a short demonstration, a haiku poem from Basho perhaps, or some insight provided by Goethe or Montaigne. And even rarer will those inspirations detail some practical meaning, light a path in which one may direct and live with one's life. For so long a time my views concerning death had been disparaging, and I could find no intellectual escape from what I thought must surely be a painful and ignoble end. The above interview, like much that I find appealing and helpful in Zen literature, can help guide me on a day to day basis towards the goal of a fulfilling and meaningful existence, and better prepare me for the inevitable end of such.
This conversation between a doctor and patient, for me, is surely worth remembering.
In the Middle East, the President's deadline passed with no withdrawal being made by the Iraqi forces. One hour later Allied forces began their advance into Kuwait. The death and destruction will intensify now I imagine.
This is my 164th day of sobriety. I made it to this point once before, now that I think about it almost two years ago exactly. Two years ago, in or around this date, on the 165th day, I would come home from work with a pint bottle of tequila. I would drink the tequila while watching a pornographic movie (further delving into escape and fantasy), while smoking cigarettes. I would be drinking the tequila because I had run out of marijuana the day before. I would make sure the bottle was finished before Jan came home from her evening shift at AT&T. (it was funny how we always managed to work different shifts so that our time together would be minimal).
I would continue to bring home bottles of tequila and drink until one day Jan told me that she would be leaving me, that she had in fact already secured an apartment for herself, and our two tabby cats, Darla and Spanky. I would continue to drink for a while after she had left me, then sober up for as long as it took me to move into another apartment, one that I could afford.
So tomorrow at around three in the afternoon I shall break my record for not drinking, this time not using anything more psychoactive than nicotine and coffee.
That makes me feel pretty good I have to admit. It's new territory now. I'll have to watch my step.
Once again I finished another shift feeling much better than when I started. This work must agree with me.
I patted myself on the back three times, then went to bed.

February 24 Sunday Day 165

A Captain and Mrs. Hood showed us some slides taken in India this morning in chapel. They had just returned from a twelve year missionary assignment there, and the slides showed some of the work they had done, establishing a hospital in the village where they lived. Apparently Mrs. Hood is a physician.
The slide show was very interesting, not to mention a much needed break in our Sunday chapel routine.
I myself have never felt a desire to visit India. I'm a little tired of going to countries where English is used only as a second language, if at all.
I want to hear what they're saying about me.
In many ways though I envy the Hoods their experience.
I'm almost as sure that Mr. Vasquez would have enjoyed the show as well if only he had remained awake.
After the service ended I asked Dennis Smith if he would like to go to the movies with me. I had wanted to see the new film, "The Silence of the Lambs," starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Dennis had seen the trailers on TV, and also wanted to go.
We arrived at the theater twenty minutes before the box office opened, so we decided to spend some time at the bagel shop across from the movie house.
The inside of the small shop smelled suspiciously of bagels. Dennis ordered one toasted (twenty cents for toasting) with cream cheese and jelly. I had a cafe au la.
As he ate his bagel I asked Dennis about himself because he interests me. I asked him how long he had been in Southern California.
"About fourteen years now," he answered. "Almost never came back."
"Back from where?"
"Northern California. The job situation is better around here though, and I thought I could handle it... drugs I mean."
I nodded, letting him know that I knew what he meant.
"I told myself that I would only party on the weekends," he continued. "Unfortunately I came down on a Friday."
We both laughed. Other bagel eaters looked us over.
"That was the longest weekend I ever had. It lasted six months."
The movie was excellent. A fine part for Hopkins who has needed one for a while.
When I got back I took a little nap until four, dinner time. Tamales, and cold chile. Then back upstairs for a technically inadequate episode of "Star Trek, the Next Generation," entitled "First Contact." The first Star Trek film (in which I had always enjoyed for its large scope, despite the critical panning) was on afterwards, so I watched that as well.
I did some writing while listening to the news on TV. We seem to be winning the ground war fairly easily, taking 10,000 prisoners on the first day.
"Married with Children," then I finished the Frankl book, and began another of his. "The Unconscious God."
Then I went to bed and dreamt I went to bed.

February 25 Monday Day 166

My old non-drinking record is now officially broken now.
So I go to court and try to do something constructive today.
The weather doesn't change all that much around here. Again it's a beautiful day in Southern California, and I enjoyed the walk to the court house thoroughly. Lot's of people running around Pasadena today.
I passed the blanket lady, and old friend from my days in the Park. She was just doing what I had always seen her do before, pushing her shopping cart filled with blankets and sleeping bags down the street, seemingly with no destination in mind. She is a heavy set black woman, not old, no not old, maybe thrityish, and what she does with all of her blankets, besides lying down on one or two of them occasionally on the sparse grass of the park, I can't imagine. She must have at least twenty blankets and quilts of different shapes and colors. Once, not too long ago really, I asked her if she would sell me one of her blankets to use to keep from shivering awake at night. She told me no, that she needed every one of her blankets. I made do.
At the court house, at eight thirty, I saw the same video with the same big, fat, bald judge, explaining my rights to me.
At nine I entered the court room of Division 3, in the Pasadena Municipal Court Building. The cast included an attractive brunette type lady, with short hair: the court reporter. An older black lady with graying hair: the clerk. A tall, distinguished, white honky type, male individual: the D.A. man. An unprepossessing, longish haired man with dark features: the public defender... my attorney.
And the bailiff, an older Chicano sheriffs deputy. He brought everybody to order when the judge walked in, a man who looked remarkably like Judge Harry Stone of television's "Night Court."
He got right to work, case by case.
It was really fascinating. I like to watch this kind of stuff. Justice in action. Though usually I don't care to be so personally involved.
I began to feel a little queasy when at one point the judge remarked, "I can't seem to get my head together." And when the public defender took off, stating he was needed in another court.
When no more cases could be heard because there was no public defender the judge called for a recess.
You have to understand my state of mind. I, like most alcoholics (like most people generally, I guess), like to be in control of things around us. Or like to believe we're in control at least. By coming to this court I was relinquishing control to it. If the judge went all crazy on me (which is not without precedent), I might wind up in jail. No matter how briefly I may be incarcerated I would be listed as A.W.O.L. from the center at 11:00 tonight. I would probably lose my job, and be forced to reenter the program from the beginning, if they elected to have me back at all.
I was a little anxious.
But as the court proceedings resumed I could tell that this particular judge was okay. I was here to deal with one count of drunk in public, and one count of failure to appear for the drunk in public charge. I was not overly concerned with the initial charge. It was my first offense of this nature, deserving a mild slap on the hand at best. The failure to appear bothered me a bit more. One never knows how a judge will react to a failure to appear charge. They tend not to like it when you don't come when you say you will.
This judge had been handing out sentences of 4 days of community service for each failure to appear brought before him. I could live with that. Especially since the Salvation Army was listed as a community work area, and I could do my 4 days working at my regular job using the 17 hours of overtime I usually work each week.
So I began to relax a little.
The judge called for another recess. "No more than ten minutes," he said.
He came back 45 minutes later, about half an hour before lunch time. He directed all of us with bench warrants (me) to come back at 2:00.
I went back to the residence and asked Harold Eversley for an emergency bag lunch. After writing a little in the lobby, I was back in court b y 1:55.
At 2:50, the judge returned and resumed his duties.
I was called at 3:00 exactly.
I had talked to the public defender just before lunch, going over the charges against me.
"It says here," he said, "that the police were called to the Exxon station, and that they observed you asleep on the floor of the restroom. When they asked you to get up, you did so... then fell down again, after which they arrested you, helping you into the back of the police cruiser. They found a half empty bottle of Jack Danials on the toilet stand, and you had a strong odor of alcohol about you. Does this sound like what happened?"
"Yeah, that sums it up pretty well."
I showed him the letter that Clarence Orion had provided stating how conscientious I was, and all. The P.D. said he would bring it to the judge's attention.
"Alright," the judge said, "drunk in public. Pretty straight forward. Two days time served. We'll credit him with that. How do you plead?"
"Guilty." No doubt about it, I was guilty as hell.
"Mr. Joyce has brought a letter, your honor," my P.D. volunteered. "He has been in a treatment program with the..." looking at the letter head, "Salvation Army, in case you were concerned..."
"Is that right?" the judge asked.
I nodded my head up and down.
The judge looked at me. "Well how's it going?"
"Pretty well, sir. I have one hundred and sixty five days sober today."
"Are you kidding!?" he asked. "That's fantastic. For that I forgive the warrant."
I melted.
"Had to hit your bottom, huh. A lot of creative, otherwise responsible, outstanding people are alcoholics, and will be for the rest of their lives."
Profound insight.
"Well, keep up the good work, and good luck. That's it. You can go now."
I mumbled thank you, and skedaddled.
I felt very good about this, to say the least. This was the first instance of my sobriety, my decision to stay sober, working for me in any materialistic way. It just goes to show that it pays to be an alcoholic and drug addict. I felt so good that I thought about getting drunk to celebrate. Instead, I ran back to the residence where I thought I might be reasonably safe.
When I got back I told everyone what had happened. They seemed happy for me. Mr. Vasquez let me know that if he had been the judge he would have given me 5 years.
I had a nice spaghetti diner, then disappeared into my room. I watched the news (still winning the war rather easily, although the Iraqi's did manage to get one of their Scud missiles through. It landed on top of a barracks housing a quartermasters unit from Pennsylvania. Someone must have been asleep at the Patriot missile defense system switch. The Scud killed at least 25 of our men, and was the most devastating Iraqi attack of the war. So far), while finishing the Frankl book.
Knowing that I had to get up early for work in the morning, I went to sleep near midnight.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I know exactly the last time I went to the movies besides last Saturday. It was on the 5th of July, my late friend Jose Montoya's 42nd birthday. Now Jose was a Jehovah Witness, or trying to be, and apparently they don't celebrate most holidays, including their own birthdays, but by an amazing coincidence that was the one day that we happened to go to the one movie that we ever went to.
We went to breakfast first at a little Mexican restaurant that I frequent right near the corner of Fifth and Broadway in downtown, Los Angeles. I think we both had huevos rancheros, light on the salsa for Jose, as that substance bothered his ponderous stomach.
It has taken me a while to remember what picture we saw that day, and now that I have remembered I know why, "Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen." Here is one of the more kind reviews supplied by the lovely Tricia Olszewski, of the Washington City Paper, "Will insult your intelligence, hurt your eyes, and offend your sense of decency until you worry that your skull might explode while your brain trickles right out of your ears." Oh my!
Jose had already seen the film but didn't mind seeing it again. The only reason I agreed to see it was because we would have had to wait an hour or more to see any other decent film. However, I'm glad we went and I was able to share that experience with him.
I received 25 Fandango Bucks as a birthday present last October from a case manager who will remain nameless due to the fact that she might get into trouble if her employers ever found out that she did that. And as an interesting aside, when I presented this same case manager with some DVDs for a Christmas present last Thursday, she said this to me: "Oh Rick, you can't do that! You're not allowed." When I reminded her that I do lots of things I'm not supposed to, she greedily opened up the package and went through what I had given her, and I got a nice hug for my efforts.
I'm a hug monster. I got a Christmas hug from my esteemed yoga teacher, Beth, yesterday. Don't tell her husband, Seth!
Anyway, I finally decided to use some of my Fandango bucks to go to the movies once again to see the new CGI epic by James Cameron, Avatar (by the way future gift card givers, I wouldn't recommend giving away cards, or certificates like these, although I appreciate my present very, very much. You see, the problem is this, movie tickets these days are around $10 apiece. $12 for IMAX theaters. Fandango also will charge $1 to $2 respectively as a "Convenience Charge." Convenience Charge? CONVENIENCE CHARGE?! Might as well call it "Blatant Rip Off Charge." Okay, so Fandango reaps $1 to $2 right off the top. Lets say you buy 2 tickets for $11 apiece, which leaves $3 on the certificate. How do you recoup, or utilize those $3? The answer is you can't. So Fandango gets back a cool $5, plus whatever it cost to buy the certificate to begin with. What a racket! A Visa Gift Card solves these kinds of problems, and there is no freaking "Convenience Charge" associated with them).
Now the term Avatar originated within the Hindu religion and refers to a deliberate descent of a deity from heaven to earth, and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," and is mostly used to refer to the God Vishnu. To us in the west the term most often is used as a computing reference as a graphical representation of a user, or player. I believe James Cameron can make a good case for claiming that the title of his film can incorporate both references.
I choose a noon screening at the CityWalk AMC theater at Universal Studios in North Hollywood, as it is easy for me to get to utilizing the Metro Red Line from downtown. And I know the area well, my father having owned a small liquor store just down the street on Lankershim Blvd, and we lived in a two bedroom apartment nearby which no longer exists, where he sadly passed away when I was eleven years old.
I secured my ticket, was directed to theater #1, and took a central seat, ready to be amazed.
But first I had to sit through a long, and in my opinion, insulting recruiting commercial for the National Guard. These people are shameless, making it look like if you're a young person who doesn't sign your life over to them you're automatically some kind of traitorous bastard. The screen fills with images of stoic, seemingly proud young men and women, stern in face, who would rather be doing nothing else than running around sparce desert landscapes and shooting at the enemies of our nation, or those in support of those running around sparce desert landscapes and shooting at the enemies of our nation. They are promised educational benefits, experiences that they will receive that they'll not find anywhere else (that's for sure), and the pride associated by serving one's country. They forget to mention the very real possibility that you can get killed relatively easily by serving in a time of war, that we shouldn't be at war or occupying these countries to begin with, that the current economic situation within the United States is a big factor involved with the successful recruitment of young men and women from medium to low income families, that our daughters face a significant chance of being raped or sexually abused by their fellow troops (ABC News reported that there are about 60,000 female military personnel who have been sexually abused while serving for the United States military. Also please investigate the tragic case of Pfc. LeVena Johnson: These ads don't mention these inconvenient truths, and they are an affront to anyone with half a brain.
If the military needs more troops so badly, as seems to be the case considering all of this advertising, and the nefarious tactics used currently by recruiters to make their quotas, I suggest we begin the draft, and bring this debate out into the open where it belongs. If I had a son or daughter who was seriously contemplating joining the service at this time, for these unnecessary conflicts, I'd rather chain them up in the basement rather than they take the chance to lose their lives for nothing. As I say to myself every time I see the ad that claims, "You make them strong, we'll make them army strong," "You make them strong, we'll make them army dead."
Please excuse my rant.
Okay, the film Avatar is a technological masterpiece simply put. Cameron held off making the movie for many years (it's been 12 years since Titanic was released) stating that he needed the technology to catch up with his vision, and it appears the wait was worth it.
The plot, a lot of people believe, and I agree, is almost exactly the same as that of "Dances with Wolves" (a man from one culture becomes indoctrinated into that of another, foreign or alien culture, and soon learns that cultures virtues, and begins to prefer them rather than his own, is woven into the alien society, abandoning his own to the point that he defends his new heritage violently against his former colleagues), with a bit of "Pocahontas," "At Play in the Fields of the Lord," and "The Emerald Forest," thrown in for good measure. The main plot point, why humans are on this planet which orbits Alpha Centauri A, our closest stellar neighbor, just 4.37 light years from Earth, is mostly ridiculous. 200 years from now they are there to mine a substance called, appropriately enough, "unobtainium," worth "20 million a kilo." Accordingly some evil corporation ships a bunch of mercenaries and miners to said planet over interstellar distances to secure this substance against the wishes, or welfare of the indigenous, sapient population. Well interstellar travel will be extremely expensive at anytime in the future, many more times expensive than what could be expected to be returned by mining some exotic substance that could be much more economically obtained by nuclear transmutation processes right here on Earth.
Be that as it may, the film is breathtaking. The producers estimate that 60% of the movie is completely digital, and 40% live action. The thing is that 60% digital doesn't look digital. It looks like a real, new, phantasmagorical world, with strikingly strange and unusual plants and creatures to explore. It's so real that when there are scenes where the camera appears to edge over a high precipice, or when the characters are flying about, my vertigo kicked in and I felt a twidge queasy. And the technology is getting so good that the facial characteristics of the alien, Na'vi, look exceptionally real and genuine. Pretty soon they'll be able to do the same with human characters and the Screen Actors Guild will have a hell of a fight on it's hands.
Of course it being a James Cameron film it's action packed, revolves around a wonderful and engaging love story, with a villain worthy of the fate he finally receives.
Yes I recommend this movie. Now all I have to figure out is where to use my remaining Fandango bucks.