Monday, March 16, 2009

Walking With Ron 1

I walked with my friend Ron last Saturday. He wanted my help with getting a loan on his gold ring so I told him I would meet him at the Hippie Kitchen at eleven o'clock.
I've known Ron for over fifteen years. We first met when I was working as the residence manager for the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Pasadena, a one hundred and six bed facility available to men who require and desire rehabilitation. Ron came to the center after a regrettable relapse in the use of cocaine. What is even more regrettable is that this relapse occurred while he was the residence manager of the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, right here downtown, on Seventh Street and Towne, which has since been abandoned. Faced with the option of re-entering the program (starting over again as a beneficiary and enter a six month long drug and alcohol program), or joining the ranks of the homeless, Ron decided on the former. Having had a good measure of power over those current beneficiaries then in the program, Ron quite rightly decided he would enter a program other than in downtown Los Angeles.
So he came to Pasadena and we met. He being a past residence manager, and me being a current residence manager at the time, we had a good deal in common, and thus became friends. We couldn't be more different, however. I'm a five foot eleven, one hundred and eighty pound white guy with thinning hair. Ron is a six foot four, one hundred and eighty pound black guy, who is bald, or at least he shaves his head to maintain his nice radiant, hairless head. I've lived in L.A. for all but eight years of my life. Ron came here in the early 1980's, having left his home and family in Baltimore, which he thinks is the country. He keeps referring to himself as a country person, as opposed to a city slicker, such as myself. He believes country people are superior to city people in general, I don't know why. Ron is a Vietnam War veteran. I am not. I am much to young and good looking to have been in the Vietnam War. I missed being drafted into that one by about two years. I am a veteran, having served in the navy for four years. But I chose a time to enlist when my country was not involved in a military engagement with another nation, which is the only time one should join the military in my opinion.
Once, while enduring a usual conversation with him at my place (where he likes to come and relax after work sometimes), which always involves a long, sometimes not completely coherent monologue (I often actually try to have a conversation with Ron, and attempt to provide some input. He will stop talking, looking sad at the interruption, wait until I stop speaking, and then continue at the point where he left off, as if I hadn't said a thing. This can at times be exceptionally annoying, but it does have its advantages, like not ever having to think of something to say), I asked him about his Vietnam experience. Apparently he was shot once, right in the ass. And he re-enlisted for a second tour of duty. He didn't at that time make it clear to me if he re-enlisted before or after he was shot in the ass, but I had to call him on this.
"Wait, wait, wait, a minute! You re-enlisted during a time of war! Having already spent a year risking your life, your life, you re-uped for another year?!
He laughed. "Man, I was having a blast. I was having the greatest time in my life." then he continued on with his narrative, not making it particularly clear why fighting in a war was so much good fun.
Ron enjoys talking... and arguing. He will consistently take the opposite position on whatever proposition I may propose. He'll even argue with me when I am agreeing with him. I think he likes me because I do not have the authority to shut him up, as do his coworkers at his place of work, where he tells me they often tell him, "Shut the f--k up, Ron!" I can tell him to shut the f--k up (which I never do for fear of being rude), but he'll just keep on talking anyway.
I can honestly say that he is the most hard-headed, stubborn individual that I have ever met, next to myself (but I'm usually right, so it's okay). It is often said that when people get older they get set in their ways. Ron takes this to the extreme. We have gotten into some serious arguments due to this inflexibility. Once we even went for several months without speaking, due to his rigidity. I've known that to get along with Ron is by taking him and cherishing him for what he is... my good friend. He is the only man I know that I can completely trust (in as much as one can trust anyone). He has consistently helped me whenever I've needed help, as I have done for him. He loans me money if I need it, as I do for him (he's the only person I'd ever loan money to around here, except my case manager, Erin, and she's not allowed to borrow money from me... and my sister, or niece), and we consistently pay each other back.
I was helping him last Saturday, as I was saying, which was the purpose of our walk.

To be continued.

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