Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Erin Meets The Hippie Kitchen

While walking with my lovely case manager, Erin, last week, from Yoga Class, she expressed a desire to check out the Hippie Kitchen.
"I want to go to the Hippie Kitchen with you sometime," is how she put it.
"It's open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, from nine thirty, to twelve," I told her.
I later Emailed an invitation to go next Tuesday, and asked her what time she wanted to go.
She replied, and asked, "How about nine o'clock."
I replied, "We could go at nine, but we'd have to wait thirty minutes for it to open. Why don't we go at nine thirty? It would be so much easier."
I'm such a smart ass.
I collected her at her office yesterday morning promptly at nine-thirty.
"Ready for some beans and salad?" I asked her.
"Oh, don't they have something else for breakfast?"
"No, I'm afraid they don't. It's pretty much beans and salad all the time."
We walked west on Sixth the short distance to Gladys, passing a group of Hispanic school children who for some reason were standing near the parking lot where the Metro Transit Authority employees park their cars. They couldn't have been more than four or five years old, dressed in their school uniform, and escorted by their teacher.
As we passed they all smiled and waved at Erin, ignoring me completely. Erin smiled and waved back.
"I thought you didn't like kids," I said.
"I like ethnic kids, and kids in other countries. I just don't like bratty American kids."
"Huumm, neither do I."
We have so much in common.
Walking with Erin is harder than walking with my friend Ron because I have to keep up my end of the conversation. Fortunately, Erin is so nice, honest, and open, that I enjoy talking with her very much.
"How far is the Hippie Kitchen?" she asked.
"Not far. It's just across the street from Gladys Park, where the elite homeless hang out. You must have passed it when walking back with Julia." (see, "The Price Is Right")
"Man, we had to walk so far that day. The bus stopped and everyone got off, and we just sat there..."
"And the driver said, this is the last stop."
"Yeah. We asked the driver, don't you go to Alameda? And he said, no I don't. But we have to go to Alameda, we said. Julia asked him, can't you go there just this once, giving him her cute, pouty smile. And he said, no, I can't. Just walk straight down this street and you'll get there.Eventually."
I had to chuckle. Erin and Julia were not familiar with the ways of the MTA, and that most of the drivers were demons, straight from the bowels of hell.
We arrived at the entrance to the Hippie Kitchen in short order, and took our place in line. Erin liked the little parakeets in their cage, who greet all the patrons by chirping and flying about. The water hippie asked us if we wanted some water. We declined.
The Hippie Kitchen made a liar out me by serving tuna and noodles that day. And salad. This is only the second time I've seen them serve something other than beans and salad.
Hippie bastards.
I gave Erin an oven mitt I happened to have on me, as the plates of food we were about to receive at times get too warm to hold on to comfortably.
"You go first, so I know what to do," Erin commanded.
I dutifully entered the kitchen and received a plate of noodles and tuna, Erin followed. I moved down the line and got my salad, and then my pre-buttered bread and a plastic spoonfork. Then we went outside.
It was crowded, the garden area filled with all types of indigent individuals. Erin followed me as I found two stone benches to sit on.
"They have some salt, pepper, and hot sauce over there if you want," I told her.
"I think I want mine plain," she replied. "This is good," as she began to eat. "I like this salad."
Homeless people walked around us, some eyeing Erin suspiciously.
We talked while we ate. Erin was inquisitive today.
"Have you ever been married, Rick?"
"Yeah, twice."
"How old were you when you got married?"
"Wow, that's young. Why did you get married at eighteen?"
"Young, and stupid, I suppose." At the time it seemed like a good idea.
"How long did it last?"
"Two years."
"What happened?"
"The same thing that's happened to all of my relationships... alcohol. Then somehow I wound up living with her aunt, and we goy married..."
"You married your wife's aunt!?"
"Yeah, mainly for convenience, so she could get money while I was in the navy. She looked like Ann Margaret."
"Who's that."
Oh, the young. "She was an actress."
"What did your first wife think about you getting married to her aunt?"
"Well, we had been living together for a while before we got married, but by that time my first wife was already married to one of my friends."
"Wasn't it awkward at family gatherings?"
"We didn't have any family gatherings."
We continued to eat and talk.
"My friend Ron volunteers here sometimes."
"You met him at the VA clinic?"
"No, actually I first met him while I was the residence manger for the Salvation Army in Pasadena. Ron had been the residence manager here, just down on Seventh Street, which is now closed. He got caught using, and was given the choice to either re-enter the program, or get thrown out. He choose to re-enter the program, but in Pasadena, rather than here, where he'd be in a program with people he had just had power over."
"Humm, I've had experiences with alcoholism in my own family, and they mean drunks."
"Well, I was never like that. I just wanted to party all the time. In fact I don't understand people who don't drink. There was a great line Jack Lemon said in a movie called Under the Yum Yum Tree. He said something like, "I can't understand people who don't drink. They wake up in the morning, and that's as good as their going to feel all day!"
She smiled.
"How old were you when you started drinking, sixteen?"
"Oh, younger than that. My dad owned a liquor store right across the street from Universal Studios, and we made delivery's in there all the time. That was fun. After he passed away my mother sold the store to someone, and I used to hang around there after school. One day I took a half pint of booze home, put it in some Kool Aid, and my world changed forever."
"Do you think you began drinking because your father died?"
"I don't know. I witnessed his death. We lived in a small apartment, and one night I heard weird noises coming from my parents bedroom, so weird that me and my sister got up to investigate, and my dad was having a heart attack. My mom was trying to get a nitroglycerin pill into him... well, by the time the ambulance got there it was too late."
"But I was lucky," I continued. "I had the best parents in the world."
"How old were you when he died?"
After a while she said, "I'm full now."
She had almost finished her whole plate.
"I've had enough of these macaroni's. Thank you for bringing me here. I might not have to eat my lunch now."
"It was entirely my pleasure."
We disposed of our plate in special receptacles devoted to receiving them. A man named Rocky came up to us and introduced himself, and told us a story of how he had just avoided a fight. We shook hands and thanked him for the information. He may have been a tad inebriated.
As we walked back, Erin said, "Oh, I remember why I'm mad at you..."
"I didn't do it." Always deny.
"I read about that "Two Dollar Bill Ploy..." (see, The Price Is Right, again)
"And I was thinking, I would have bought your coffee anyway. I'm going to get some lavender tea, and I'll buy you some coffee, from right over here." She pointed to the deli on Central.
"It's my turn to buy."
"No, no, you bought my breakfast, I insist."
So we went inside the small deli, and sure enough, she bought some lavender tea for herself, and I picked something called a red eye, coffee with espresso on top. Fancy smancy.
And we returned to her office, our adventure completed.
I had to go rest up in my box. We still had Yoga Class and Support Group to get through.

No comments:

Post a Comment