Sunday, April 19, 2009

Salvation Diary

"Salvation" Artist Amanda Milke

The following is the first installment of a book sized memoir that I wrote in 1990 when I first entered the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Pasadena California. It appears in a diary like form and covers an entire year.

Salvation Diary

Richard Joyce

After the Spanish-American War, when the United States War Department took over the chore of governing the Philippine Islands, it inherited a whole system for licensing narcotics addicts and supplying them with opium legally-a system established under Spanish rule…
For many years, Britain had been criticized for shipping opium grown in India into China; indeed, two ninteenth-century “opium wars” between Britain and China had been fought over this issue. Many Chinese saw opium from India as unfair cut-rate competition for their homegrown product. American missionaries in China complained that British opium was ruining the Chinese people; American traders similarly complained that the silver bullion China was trading for British opium could better be traded for other, perhaps American, products (some American traders also sent opium into China on a small scale. Some of New England’s world-renowned “china clippers” were in fact opium clippers). The agitation against British opium sales to China continued unabated after 1900. Thus the United States State Department saw a way not only to solve the War Department’s Philippine opium problem but also to please American missionaries and traders. President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, at the request of Bishop Brent, called for an international opium conference, which was held at The Hague in 1911, and out of it came the first international opium agreement, The Hague Convention of 1912, aimed primarily at solving the opium problems of the Far East, especially China.
It was against this background that the Senate in 1914 considered the Harrison narcotic bill. The chief proponent of the measure was Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a man of deep prohibitionist and missionary convictions and sympathies. He urged that the law be promptly passed to fulfill United States obligations under the new international treaty.
The supporters of the Harrison bill said little in the Congressional debates (which lasted several days) about the evils of narcotics addiction in the United States. They talked more about the need to implement The Hague Convention of 1912. Even Senator Mann of Mann Act fame, spokesman for the bill in the Senate, talked about international obligations rather than domestic morality.
On its face, moreover, the Harrison bill did not appear to be a prohibition law at all. Its official title was “an Act to provide for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue, and to impose a special tax upon all persons who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away opium or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes.” The law specifically provided that manufactures, importers, pharmacists, and physicians prescribing narcotics should be licensed to do so, at a moderate fee. The patent-medicine manufacturers were exempted even from the licensing and tax provisions, provided that they limited themselves to “preparations and remedies which do not contain more than two grains of opium, or more than one-fourth of a grain of morphine, or more than one-eighth of a grain of heroin… in one avoirdupois ounce.” Far from appearing to be a prohibition law, the Harrison Narcotic Act on its face was merely a law for the orderly marketing of opium, morphine, heroin, and other drugs-in small quantities over the counter, and in larger quantities on a physician’s prescription. Indeed, the right of the physician to prescribe was spelled out in apparently unambiguous terms: “Nothing contained in this section shall apply… to the dispensing or distribution of any of the aforesaid drugs to a patient by a physician, dentist, or veterinary surgeon registered under this Act in the course of his professional practice only.” Registered physicians were required only to keep records of drugs dispensed or prescribed. It is unlikely that a single legislator realized in 1914 that the law Congress was passing would later be deemed a prohibition law.
The provision protecting physicians, however, contained a joker-hidden in the phrase, “in the course of his professional practice only.” After passage of the law, this clause was interpreted by law-enforcement officers to mean that a doctor could not prescribe opiates to an addict to maintain his addiction. Since addiction was not a disease, the argument went, an addict was not a patient, and opiates dispensed to or prescribed for him by a physician were therefore not being supplied “in the course of his professional practice.” Thus a law apparently intended to ensure the orderly marketing of narcotics was converted into a law prohibiting the supplying of narcotics to addicts, even on a physician’s prescription.
Many physicians were arrested under this interpretation, and some were convicted and imprisoned. Even those who escaped conviction had their careers ruined by the publicity. The medical profession quickly learned that to supply opiates to addicts was to court disaster.

-Edward M. Brecher, and the Editors of
Consumer Reports
Licit and Illicit Drugs

This book is for those that don’t yet know that it’s possible to get even one day

And my Mother

Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions?

Who hath babbling?

Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?

They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine…

At the last, it biteth like a serpent, and stingth like an adder.

Proverbs 23

Imagine a terrible disease striking America, a disease of unknown cause. Suppose that this disease is so harmful to the nervous system that eighteen million people go insane for periods lasting from a few hours to weeks or months, with the madness recurring and getting worse over periods ranging from fifteen to thirty years. If untreated, the victims go permanently insane, or die. They commit suicide at a rate up to seventy-five times higher than that of the general population. Imagine that those afflicted by the disease itself and the other illnesses it causes already occupy more than half the hospital beds in the United States on any given day, and that last year the illness killed nearly 100,000 Americans. Suppose further that those out of hospital, during their spells of insanity, commit acts so destructive that the material and spiritual lives of whole families are in jeopardy, leaving many millions of other people cruelly affected. Work in business, industry and professions is faulty, sabotaged or left undone. Finally, imagine that this disease so alters its victim’s judgment, so brainwashes them, that they cannot see that they are sick at all: Their view of life has become so distorted that they try with all their might to go on being ill.
This dread disease is already among us. It has been with us for centuries. It is, of course, alcoholism.

Now me thinks on a sudden I am wakened

As if it were out of a dream, I have had a raving fit, a phantastical fit,

Ranged up and down, in and out, I have insulted over most kind of men,

Abused some, offended others, wronged myself:

And now being recovered and perceiving mine error;

Cry “Solvite me!” pardon that whixh is past.

-Richard Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy

The Salvation Army is a branch of the Protestant faith founded by William and Catherine Booth (although in official literature Catherine is never mentioned as a co-founder) in 1865, in East London, England. It is evangelical in nature, and its clergy assumes the use of a military structure, its leaders known as “Officers,” and their seniority and position within the organization denoted by their respective rank, General being the highest (whose duties are analogous to those of the Pope for the Catholic Church), down through Commissioner to Lieutenant. The church’s laity are labeled “Soldiers.”
When the average person thinks of the Salvation Army, Christmas kettles and temperance movements may come to mind. Any officer though, when asked, will say that the Army’s real mission is to “reach people with the Gospel of Christ expressed in word and action.” This the Army accomplishes with much enthusiasm and vigor, expanding forcefully from its humble beginnings, to today’s membership of over 3 million worldwide, serving in over 90 countries, participating in a wide variety of social programs, ranging from disaster relief, to locating missing persons, providing care for the infirm, and maintaining drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers for indigent men and women in many urban and rural locations around the globe.
The following account transpires within one of those drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, while I attempt to describe the people, events, and my own state of mind, within a set period of time. I regard the Salvation Army itself, with much affection and gratitude, for the real chance it provided to me, and those addicts who come to it seeking help… to find for themselves a new and wonderful way of life.
I also feel nothing but love and respect for all those mentioned herein, officers, staff, beneficiaries, and civilians alike, myself included, no matter what silly things we may do.

Richard Joyce
July 1994

The Park

The disheveled man sat at the picnic table, seemingly lost in thought, while in actuality his mind attempted to sift through the thick fog of a self induced stupor. He shifted slightly, letting his gaze fall around different areas throughout the Park that he found himself in. How did I get here, he wondered. How do I get out?
Staring at the monstrous and majestic Castle Green, thirty yards directly in front of him, thoughts of fairies and goblins entered his consciousness, only to be displaced with sweet, sad remembrances of the innocent times when he had first read the Tolkien stories, filled with elves and orcs, radiant princesses and gallant kings, and of an evil so great it defied description.
The man gathered his filthy trench coat closer about to protect him from the oncoming coldness of the night. It’s funny how cold it gets here at night when each day reaches over one hundred degrees, he thought. Nothing he could do about it, of course, but live with it. It was getting late, his bottle was almost empty, as was the Park itself. He’d have to leave soon, or the police would come and hassle him, something he was tired of and avoided if possible.
He closed the thick paperback book in front of him and placed it in one of his coat pockets, then looked around again. Bright lights shinning up from where Raymond met Colorado Boulevard, lots of pretty people walking around over there, even on a Wednesday night. People with things to do and places to go. Behind him was the stillness of the vast Park, empty now, or almost empty, he thought, feeling the same way, feeling lost and old and sickened. Little pools of light fell on various areas, over the asphalt pathways that meandered through the Park, like capillaries delivering precious blood to oxygen-starved extremities. He couldn’t see anybody moving, but he knew they were probably out there, in the many dark shadows that overwhelmed the little pools of light that shined on the asphalt pathways. There were people out there, all right, people like himself, who didn’t have things to do or places to go. People who’s main concern and occupation was to escape the present at any cost, to temporarily slip into some other reality, to a nicer place, a softer place, a place where no harm will dare come, and truth never concedes to bitter corruption. A reality that should be but never is. A child’s dream.
The people of the Park used different means to reach the reality they desired; sex, drugs, violence, sometimes preying on luckless victims who happened over the border of this lonely place. The man at the picnic table avoided all of them, or tried to. Sometimes the people of the Park gathered amongst themselves to generate some sense of humanity, to share joy and laughter, to feel needed and highly regarded by others even when the others were just as miserable as they were. Sometimes they would boldly ask the man to join with them, but he would always politely refuse preferring to wallow, and take shelter within his own substantial misery, braving life on his own, and distantly praising himself and thinking himself better for doing so. Sometimes they came to him unexpectedly while he was sitting at his table (for he thought of it at times as being his table), talking in different but familiar languages, or brutal and coarse dialects of his own, wanting him to join with them in their false gaiety, in their melancholy songs, or sharing their point of view. The man would just acknowledge their presence with a thin smile, denoting neither partisanship nor superiority. It wouldn’t be prudent to offend these people. Most times they would continue to carry on, leaving the man to himself.
It was strange, he thought, desiring to be left alone when the only thing he could really feel was heart rendering loneliness and alienation.
The man drew a long breath and turned his back on the dry, green, evacuated lawns of the Park, and summoned his attention to the lackluster present, to the bottle resting in the inside pocket of his coat. He took it out, placing it between his knees, looking around for cruising police cars. Out of another coat pocket he extracted a pack of cigarettes, Marlboro Red, hard pack. He took out one and lit it, inhaling deeply, placing the pack back in his pocket. Reaching down into his lap, he unscrewed the bottle cap, and took a final look around. All was clear. He hurriedly brought the mouth of the bottle to his lips and drained the last of the light brown rum in two swallows. He suppressed a slight urge to cough by gasping once or twice, then took two quick drags from the cigarette. Now that the bottle was no longer useful to him he had no reason to keep the incriminating evidence of his activities about, and so, with some nostalgia, dumped it into a nearby trash container.
He finished his cigarette, then stood up, stretching as he did so. He had been sitting for a long time.
Walking across Raymond Avenue, he passed the big yellow, Rider Rental trucks, and continued over the large, empty parking lot to Arroyo Parkway. He glanced at the Mobil gas station while waiting for the traffic light to change, noticing the scarcity of customers and being somewhat more at ease because of it.
Stopping inside the door of the small convenience shop attached to the gas station, the man looked over the refrigerated food section, giving it his most assiduous attention. He placed himself between the glass door and the Iranian looking gentleman behind the counter , attending to the cash register. It was now past ten o’clock, and there were no others in the store, but the cashier had seen the man many times before and didn’t pay any particular attention to him.
It was easy to make the play. The man simply grabbed two Monterey Chicken and Cheese burritos, transferring them to the microwave oven in the corner, popping them both in, still keeping himself between the merchandise and the cashier. While waiting for the food to heat, the man casually looked at the many medicinal items available for sale nearby, trying to look inconspicuous and small. A woman entered and paid for gasoline, and while the cashiers attention was sure to be elsewhere, the man quickly opened the oven and placed one of the warm burritos in the over large front pocket of his trench coat. He then wrapped the other in a paper napkin and went to the register, waiting for his turn to pay.
The criminal mastermind left the store quickly, not wanting to stay overly long at the scene of the crime. Crossing the street and walking back past the lot, he opened one of the small plastic packages and began to eat the warm food, the only food he would have this day. It tasted good to him, and he ate fast. Coming up to the unattended rental trucks, he sat on the tailgate of one and finished his dinner. It didn’t take long. He lit another cigarette, the day’s last, and sat and thought, looking around occasionally. He was silent for there was nobody to talk to. A patrol car passed, heading north on Raymond, but the officers had their attention focused into the Park and they did not notice him. He remained motionless until they were gone.
He finished his smoke and began inspecting the trucks nearby, finding one unlocked. He didn’t know why the Ryder Rental daytime attendants usually left one or two of their trucks unlocked. A passive attempt to keep homeless people from breaking in perhaps.
He rose the sliding door, then looked back at the Park a last time.
“Maybe tomorrow,” he whispered, then dove inside, closing the heavy door behind him.

September 13, 1990 Thursday Day 1

September, an odd month. I don’t believe I’ve ever done anything significant in September.
I woke up. I didn’t want to move, but my back ached so I shifted slightly. The floor was hard and I was cold. I looked around the empty truck interior and noticed it had begun to get lighter outside. I could see the early morning light from the crack where the sliding panel door came down near the truck bed floor. I looked at my watch, six o’clock. I still had about an hour and a half before I had to get going, if I got going. I thought about what I had to do today, then turned over on my side and tried to go back to sleep, to reach the escape it would give to me. My brain, my mind, my thinking began to race as it often did at such times. A paradox of intention. I considered not going in today. Put it off, wait until Monday, and again on Tuesday. Always putting it off until tomorrow. Yesterday I had finally mustered enough… something, to call, and had talked to an intake counselor--Clarence. He had told me to come in at eight.
So that was it.
The pros and cons of finally leaving the Park went through my mind. If I stayed, I wouldn’t have to go to work, or any A.A. meetings. And I wouldn’t have to face the fear of possibly being turned away. I wouldn’t know what I would do if that happened.
If I got off my butt and went I just might get my life together.
Inaction is so attractive when your depressed, but I did have some other things to consider.
If I stayed in the Park it would be harder to do what I wanted to do, which was to drink rum and smoke cigarettes. Each day I stayed out here I became dirtier and dirtier. Not being a very good homeless person, an amateur really, I didn’t know where to take a shower or get my clothes washed. I hadn’t done either since last Saturday night at Ed’s apartment. My shirt was grimy; I looked bad, eyes glazed, a beard growing. I had broken my disposable razor somehow, and was unable to shave. And I stank, no doubt about it. Being so downtrodden made it increasingly difficult for me to shoplift rum and cigarettes, which I needed on a daily basis to help pass the time in the Park. One must look clean and prosperous in order to be a good thief. The way I looked, I might as well have had a sign around my neck saying, “Homeless, shoplifting person-please arrest me!” And the thought of getting caught and going to jail, once again, was not appealing. I had already been to jail twice within the last month, and jail, although providing a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in, was very, very boring. Very.
Besides, you meet nothing but riff-raff in places like that.
Obviously, if I had to resort to shoplifting, I didn’t have much money. I don’t particularly enjoy stealing things, and would rather pay for them when I can. But I needed the booze, and I needed the cigarettes, and an occasional book to read. These were everyday expenses that would not go away, and I couldn’t afford them, so I stole. The little money I did have I used to feed myself at night, after polishing off the rum. I had been eating at least one meal everyday, so far, so I wasn’t too sick, and felt relatively okay. But I only had one dollar and some pocket change left, with no real prospects of getting any more money, so getting food over the upcoming weekend would become harder. I could eat in a restaurant, and leave without paying, again, but as I’ve mentioned, the worse I looked, the harder it is to do stuff like that.
If I stayed in the Park until Monday, I’d probably have to explain why I hadn’t come in to the Army today, like I said I would. That would be a count against me, and I couldn’t afford too many counts against me.
I knew I had to get out of the truck soon. The attendants might come, lock me in and drive off to Milwaukee. That’s the chance one takes when one sleeps in Ryder Rental trucks.
Not that I have anything against Milwaukee. I don’t. I’ve never been there. Laverne and Shirley seemed to like it well enough.
Not able to get back to sleep, at seven-thirty I rolled out of the empty truck and shook the night from my body. It was cold now, but soon the sun’s heat would be searing. I looked at my reflection in one of the truck’s side view mirrors, and tried to comb my hair. I looked terrible. I then made my way across the railroad tracks, and Raymond Avenue, to the Mobile station, and used the unisex restroom they keep open for the public. The toilet was working this morning, which eased my mood a bit. I bought a cup of coffee from the station’s store, then continued east, on Del Mar, toward the Pasadena Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC).
I arrived at 8:04 a.m., and gave my name to the not-so-friendly looking receptionist, who in return, requested my driver’s license and Social Security card. She and I were separated by a Plexiglas window, and I had to pass my paperwork through a small hole near the bottom. I suppose the Plexiglas was in place to protect her from insane street people who might attempt to over run the center. Or people like me, if I so happened to run amuck. It looked to me though, that she could hold her own in most situations, and would break me in two if I so much as sneezed incorrectly.
I sat in a small waiting room and watched the cars drive by on Del Mar Boulevard through a plate-glass window. I was soon joined by two other young men, who were also seeking admission. One black, one white. I didn’t feel much like talking, so I listened to the two men exchange information. The black’s name was Rico, and he had just left another program in Santa Monica to come here. The white guy was making another attempt at admission, having failed an initial breath-a-lizer test two times before. Both were worried about not getting in. The white guy for good reason. He would fail the test again today, and be asked not to come back.
I waited and waited, finally feeling justified to pull out my Tom Clancy novel, and began to read. Patriot Games. I didn’t mind waiting around at all. The longer the better, actually. The more time I spent in this office going through the admission process, the less time I would have to work out in the hot sun, on the dock (if admitted). Everyone either gets assigned to the dock or the sorting room when they first come in. On two previous occasions, at different ARC’s, I had been assigned to the dock. I guess I look like a dock kind of guy.
At 9:30, an inner door opened, and a middle aged, pox-marked, Hawaiian type face, with glasses, poked out, and asked me to come with it. This was Clarence, the center’s Intake Counselor. Once behind the door he stuck a small black box with a white plastic tube aligned horizontally on the top, in my face and asked me to blow through it. After I had done so and he was satisfied with the results, I thanked the God of Alcoholics that the fumes of rum from last night had dissipated. We, Clarence and I, sat at a table and he asked me what it was he could do for me. I told him that I needed to get into a program. He asked me what was going on in my life (obviously, not much), and what my problems were. I told him I was an alcoholic and that I was homeless. He nodded. He heard stuff like this all of the time. It seemed like he was in a hurry, and after a while, said, “Okay,” and got up disappearing into an office briefly, stuck his head out, and asked, “What’s your name, again?” I gave him this information, and he ducked back inside. After a moment, he came back with a pile of papers for me to fill out, which took about fifteen minutes. Then he photographed me four times, placing one of these pictures on card, which he then laminated. There was a clip on the back of the card, which made it a badge, and which I was told to wear at all times. The picture on the badge looked like a diseased, wild-eyed, Hungarian fur trapper, recovering from a thirty-year LSD trip while losing his way in an intense blizzard, and set upon by three packs of crazed, carnivorous, scavenger beavers.
Clarence sat with me once again and recited a prayer for my salvation. He asked me if I believed Jesus Christ could make a change in my life. I said that I hoped so. He then directed me through the warehouse, across the street, to the residence.
I had been in the Canoga Park and Van Nuys centers, but Pasadena’s facility was much larger and newer than either of those. I had passed by the residence many times while on my way to the supermarket to procure my daily supplies, and I had always been struck by the beauty of the building, and had looked forward to living there.
I walked through the glass front door and presented myself to the studious looking young man at the front desk. I learned his name was Jack Crossley and I gave him the papers Clarence had given to me. Jack gave me a dorm key, 14E, a bar of soap, a toothbrush, three canteen cards, and a razor. He called for someone named Victor Jackson over the building’s public address system, to come to the front desk. As we waited for Victor, Jack gave me a brief indoctrination on how things worked around the ARC. Victor took his time showing up, so I walked outside and smoked a cigarette. I was feeling a little apprehensive, but was relieved at having gotten into the program, and that I could start again towards a new beginning.
As I walked back inside, Victor arrived, a young, black man, apparently Jack’s immediate supervisor. He took me to the building’s one elevator, up to the second floor, where the dormitories were located. He showed me to dorm 14, where my bed and locker was, and showed me where the restrooms and showers were, and gave me my very own towel.
I was allowed to shower, shave, and get myself cleaned up, and felt much better, physically, and emotionally, after the process was completed. I made my bed too, generally dragging out the time as best as I could.
When I did make it back downstairs lunch was being served. Chicken patties! While waiting in line with about fifty other guys to get something to eat, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. I turned around and saw my old work mate, Rudy Johnson, smiling at me.
Rudy is a tall, black man, in his late twenties, very handsome. We had worked together in the phone room at the Van Nuys center, taking pick-up orders. I hadn’t seen him since the night he hadn’t made it back for curfew and had been thrown out of the program. It was good to see him, good to see a familiar face. Rudy was a nice guy, and talented too. He had played the piano during chapel services.
He was a little nervous, he told me, because he would be playing at this center’s service tonight for the first time. Rudy had a little problem with cocaine.
We ate lunch together, and talked about what had happened to each of us since we had last seen each other. After missing curfew, he had gone to downtown L.A., and promptly relapsed. Relapse meaning the resumption of drug or alcohol use by a recovering addict. While downtown, after he got tired of relapsing, he entered some program, but had become dissatisfied and left. He then came here, to Pasadena, and had been here over twenty days now. Good for him!
I told him my story, and how it was I had come to Pasadena. A sad tale. Very mysterious also. While at the Van Nuys ARC, I had left my locker unlocked one Sunday, while going off to dinner and an A.A. meeting with my then sponsor, Jeff. The next day, the man who had replaced Rudy in the phone room, dropped dead from a heart attack as he was walking to the kitchen to have lunch. The administrator, a Major Engels, mistakenly went through my locker, thinking it was that of the deceased, finding two empty bottles of Seagram’s VO within. Or so he said. I was summarily terminated from the program, and like Rudy, promptly relapsed.
I was actually innocent. There are very few times that I’m actually innocent, so they do stick out in my mind. I had not put those bottles there. I had not drank while at that center, and even had somewhere between thirty and forty days nicotine free when I was kicked out. I don’t usually drink whiskey, preferring tequila mostly, or rum when I can’t get tequila. I proclaimed my innocence to the Major, but his infallibleness prevailed and I was dismissed, essentially, come to think of it, for having two empty glass containers in my locker, which I never saw. It continues to be a great mystery to me as to who put those bottles there, one I will probably never solve.
I learned one thing though; there is nothing fair about life.
So, having been terminated, I was back on the streets with eighty dollars in my pocket. I fumbled around the San Fernando Valley, drinking heavily, making a nuisance of myself, not knowing where to go or what to do. For all intents and purposes this was the first time I had ever been homeless, and as I’ve said, I wasn’t particularly good at it, nor felt particularly good about it. I was amazed at how quickly this condition had come about. A few short months ago I had an apartment, a good job, a girlfriend, my very own VCR. Now I had none of those. My friends and family had abandoned me. My sponsor wouldn’t have anything to do with me because I was drinking, and drinking was the only thing that took away the fear, anxiety, and pain.
Imagine yourself, dear reader, displaced from your comfortable home, money, loved ones, friends, no place to go, nothing to do, and involved in a love-hate relationship with a toxic, addictive substance, that at once is a fleeting escape from all of your problems and worries, and at the same time, slowly and inextricably your very destruction.
Having been thrown out of the Van Nuys ARC, I thought I would have to wait thirty days, a suspension period, before being allowed to enter another, and the Salvation Army was the only place that I knew about that I could go to.
My sponsor drove me one day, after I had slept next to his car all night in his parking lot, into Pasadena, with the hope that I would be allowed in before said thirty days were over. I had made the mistake of coming to Pasadena on a Friday though, and soon learned that intake for the program was closed on Fridays. So I found the Park, instead. It wasn’t hard to do. Just a block from the ARC. And in the Park I stayed, longer than the thirty days I thought I needed.
I had been arrested twice in six weeks while living in the Park. Once after having fallen asleep in a gas station restroom (After the police had been summoned it had been discovered that I had an outstanding warrant for my arrest, issued in Burbank, for a misdemeanor hit and run I had been responsible for a year or so earlier. Fifteen days jail time for that, seven actually served). The other, a “Dine and Ditch” escapade, I had eaten in a restaurant without having the money to pay, and had been caught (ambushed, really). Ten days, three served.
The rest of the days in the Park were spent reading, drinking rum, smoking cigarettes, following the shade provided by the Park’s large trees as the sun passed over head (taking me from the west side of the Park on Fair Oaks Boulevard in the mornings, to finishing the day on the East side on Raymond), and avoiding homosexuals, who were the only ones who wanted anything to do with me (which I took advantage of from time to time, hence using the shower and getting my cloths washed at Ed’s apartment, then politely refusing to spend the night, as was his suggestion. I have nothing against homosexuals. That type of behavior just does not personally interest me. And Ed, if the truth be known, was being a bit predatory, and deserved to go unsatiated).
The scary thing about living in the Park is that I was starting to get used to it.
But now I was here, finally, in the Pasadena ARC. Lunchtime was over and I told Rudy I would see him later.
Victor directed me back across the street to the warehouse, and to ask for Frank Ortiz. He told me I should ask Frank for an emergency clothing voucher, as I needed clothes desperately, especially for the chapel service that evening.
The ARC is financed mainly from donations received, and then sold through its network of thrift stores. Old clothes, appliances, books, toys, anything really that can be resold with little or no processing. The warehouse is a cavernous building, directly across Waverly Avenue and the residence, where the donations are collected, sorted, repaired, if it’s feasible to do so, and then shipped to the stores.
I walked past the loading dock, where donations are unloaded from a fleet of white trucks decorated with a Salvation Army logo, a red shield and a little blue guy in uniform holding up a phone. Donors called the center and made appointments to have a truck come to their home, office, or apartment, to pick up things they couldn’t bring in themselves. Anything. Everything. Garbage mostly.
After asking around a bit I found Frank Ortiz. He seemed very warm and friendly, and I was glad of it. He was of Latin extraction. Regarding my dingy clothes, he assured me that I would be released from work early and allowed to look around the Pasadena thrift store for something to wear. He then put me to work on the dock, introducing me to the dock supervisor, a heavy set black guy, by the name of Robert.
My first job was to help three other guys shovel trash into a big trash compactor. There was a small mountain of garbage, so it took awhile. For the last two weeks the daytime temperature had reached over 100 degrees, and today was no exception. The refreshing feeling the shower had provided dissipated quickly as I began to work and sweat. None of us tried to work too hard, though. We paced ourselves, telling each other that we shouldn’t get exhausted in case there was some emergency trash to sort through later.
After we were finished, I was told to run a dust mop through the warehouse. I took my time with this job also, wishing to be thorough. After that, I looked up some tire companies in the yellow pages, for Frank, a nice, easy job. The Salvation Army didn’t want me to hemorrhage something while detoxing. I also helped unload trucks at the end of the day.
Near 3:30 p.m., a short fellow with great hair, by the name of Ron Collins, collected me, taking me to through the backdoor into the thrift store, which ran adjacent to the warehouse. The store consisted of one large showroom filled mostly with racks of clothes, but almost anything that can be sold, large and small appliances, books, furniture, computers, toys, and decretive odds and ends, what the Army calls “Bric-A-Brac,” were offered to the public as well.
I never really cared all that much for shopping for clothes, too many decisions to make, and today I didn’t feel up to making a whole lot of decisions. All I really wanted to do was kick back physically and mentally. I had been very much alone in the Park. Being surrounded by people was exhausting. I did need the clothes though, so I toughed it out and wadded into the sea of pants and undershirts to try and find items that came somewhat near my size. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do it, either. Soon dinner would be served, and I wanted to eat a little something to get me through the night. And the mid-week chapel service would be held right after dinner. Busy, busy, busy.
Within forty minutes I had found for myself two pair of dress pants, two pair of work pants, two pair of socks (brown and blue), two dress shirts, two work shirts, one sport coat, two ties, and one brown belt. Besides the clothes just mentioned, my clothing voucher allowed me to select two pair of under shorts, two pair of under shirts, a work jacket, one pair of dress shoes, and one pair of work shoes, but at the time they didn’t have any of those.
I brought my new clothes back to the residence and to my room, then had dinner. Meatloaf. Afterwards, I put my clothes away while selecting the ones I would wear for chapel. . I also became acquainted with two of my new dorm mates, Gordon and Dan. There are five to a dorm, so I had two more to meet.
The chapel was located on the third and top floor of the residence. It is a beautiful room, really. Dark brown wooden pews and alter, with a plush red carpet throughout. It could hold 150 people easily. The large windows on the north side provided a panoramic view of the Green Hotel near the Park, Old (downtown) Pasadena, and the San Gabriel Mountains.
The mid-week chapel service is usually only thirty minutes long. At 5:30 precisely, the center’s administer, a Major Johnson, entered with his staff through a side door near the alter, and began the service. He said a few words in greeting, then turned the proceedings over to Clarence, who led us all in song, one chosen from the Salvation Army Songbook. People in the Salvation Army like to sing a lot.
Singing songs found in the Salvation Army Songbook is a vital part of their services. One would think that the officers, over a thirty year career, would get sick of singing the same 235 songs over and over again, but they keep singing their little hearts out, week after week. They make us sing too, whether we like it or not. Or at least we’re supposed to sing. About half the clients don’t bother. This ARC has the capacity to hold up to 106 clients, and all of them are required to attend these chapel services, but some were still working, and absent. I’d say there were at least 85 guys here tonight, which meant that about 45 of us were singing our little hearts out, along with the Major. I know I was. I don’t mind singing, although I really didn’t feel up to it at the time.
After the song, Frank Ortiz took over and introduced all of the new clients who had come to the center within the last week, which included myself. There were five of us in all. He then presented awards for the cleanest dorm of the week, the most improved dorm, and the best made bed and cleanest area (adjacent to the bed). Two canteen cards for the winners!

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