Thursday, July 16, 2009

Salvation Diary 9

"Salvation" Artist Amanda Milky

January 1, 1991 New Years Day Day 111
New Year’s Day! Another beginning for me. Hopefully 1991 can be my first full year without drugs. And if everything goes right, maybe without cigarettes as well. A year starts with a day though, and I must make the best of today before anything else.
I had Pandolfi wake me at four-thirty, and I actually got up at five-ten, and got to the desk by six.
Major Johnson was down there, pacing back and forth between the dining room and the desk. There were about a million Salvation Army officers, ranking from Captain to Commissioner (Captain – low, Commissioner – way up there) mooching breakfast, walking around, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Major Johnson was worrying about everything going smoothly, as he was the host. I imagine it was a little nerve racking for him.
He was sweating the proverbial load.
Mr. Vasquez, although technically off duty this morning, was out in Red Shield 4 at the time. He had gotten up earlier than I had, so he could pick up the special order of donuts from Tastee’s. He probably would have been back by the time I got to the desk if it wasn’t for all those police barricades, even though he was equipped with a special pass.
All the officers and their families soon sat down to breakfast, wanting to get an early start, and get to their parade seats on time.
Mr. Vasquez finally made it back after explaining to the police that there would be about 200 irate Majorettes around here if the donuts didn’t get back to them right smartly.
Major and Mrs. Johnson did not eat breakfast until all of their fellow officers had cleared out. Even then, the Major went outside to see his guest off, while I talked to Jenny at the desk. She was looking at him through the window, and said, “Come on Johnson, I’m hungry. Quit wheeling and dealing. You’re too old to be a Colonel.”
The warehouse was used as a formation point for a marching band from Illinois. Robert was sent to make another run for more donuts, and sanitary napkins.
I, of course, did not get to personally see the parade, as I was working. I have never seen the Rose Parade in person. Thirty two years in southern California and I’ve never once gone. When I was much younger I may have wanted to see it, but I don’t anymore. I used to walk in parades all of the time while I was in Boot Camp. That’s all we did mostly, walk in parades, and pretend we knew what we were doing when asked to put out fires. And make our beds neatly.
It’s good to know how to put out a fire when living on board a ship. Or a boat. I never got the chance, though.
When I walked in parades in Boot Camp, I had the distinct honor to carry the flag of the proud state of Idaho. It was heavy. These days, I’m quite tired of parades.
I did catch a glimpse or two of the Rose Parade on television, and I could hear the different marching bands play from the residence.
During the later parts of my shift I did manage to get some writing and reading done. I began, The Treatment of Alcoholism, by Edgar P. Nace, M.D. This book is intended to be of use to drug treatment professionals, psychiatrists, psychiatric residents, and medical students. Maybe even psychologists. Not being any of those I will still attempt to muddle through it.
I was a bit tired after work, so I laid down in my room, while watching, “Zorro, the Gay Blade,” on T.V. I feel asleep.
Uncharacteristically, I stayed in my room most of the evening, only going down for a quick cheeseburger around six-thirty. I even forgot about bingo, for heaven’s sake.
I watched Roman Polansky’s (and Robert Town’s), “Chinatown,” with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. What a great movie. Jerry Goldsmith’s music score was extraordinary.
My father’s name was Roman. Roman Raymond. Unlike Mr. Polansky, he didn’t have many terrible things happen to him in his life, except World War II, and his own death.
I read some more, and then fell asleep.
I also did not have a cigarette all day. That’s probably why I hid in my room all night. I just wasn’t very good company.
January 2 Wednesday Day 112
I awoke at a little after five to the frightening visage of Wolf Pandolfi looming over me, saying, “It’s five o’clock, Rick.”
He was right, of course.
I said, “Thanks Wolf.”
He said, “Okay,” and then left.
I came down at six, did not eat breakfast, but did enjoy a cup of decaffeinated tea with some milk in it.
I felt good. It felt good to have one day of not smoking already behind me, which led me to begin thinking about smoking, which I did not want to do. So I started to think about something else. I began thinking about horseradish for awhile, which led me to think about how much I liked horseradish along with a nice, free radical laden, steak, which made me start thinking about food in general, which made me hungry, which made me want to eat food, which I was trying to cut down on, so I attempted to think of something else.
I thought about how good a cigarette was right after eating a good meal.
I decided I should just stop thinking for a while, which is usually good advice on almost any occasion.
Now it was time to choose who had the best dorm, best bed, and cleanest area. I was tired of giving it to dorm 41, which Tommy Bommarito (who suspiciously happened to reside at 41 E) being the residence laundry man, had all day to make all of the beds real nice, and get the dorm smelling good. So I gave it to 33, which being their laundry day, looked absolutely wretched. Clarence Bliss, my fellow deskman, who was asleep in his bed when I looked in, added to the general clutter.
I wrote, then managed to read a couple of chapters of the “Treatment,” book.
Mr. Vasquez was nowhere to be found. I think he slept for most of the day up in his room.
Major and Mrs. Johnson did not show for Wednesday night chapel. I guess they were too tired after all of the activities yesterday.
Still, we had over a hundred guys here needing to have their respective souls saved. Oh well.
I hope they soon recover.
When Mr. Vasquez finally did come down, he immediately began to clean both of the recently vacated apartments, cleaning up after those Salvation Army slobs.
He is compulsive concerning the cleanliness of those apartments. I don’t know why.
As I gave Tommy Bommarito his insulin, I said, “Hey Tommy, we have a little extra laundry for you in the morning.”
He had expected it. “Yeah, from the apartments.”
“Yeah, the lower apartment.”
“What about the upstairs apartment?” he asked.
“I don’t know about that yet,” I answered. “All I know is that there are three pillowcases filled with dirty laundry, waiting for you in the lower apartment.”
“Really?” he lisped. Tommy lisped because he has hardly any teeth, which he explains, hurts the formation of his speech pattern. This condition has come about mainly due to a combination of bureaucratic hesitancy, and a display of frustration because of it. Claude Hudson, the very same institution where I shall have my teeth looked at, in its wisdom saw fit to relieve Tommy of his upper choppers in anticipation of implanting brand new false ones. Unfortunately for Tom, the installation date has been repeatedly postponed, for one reason or another, for almost six months now.
Tommy thus far has reacted violently to the news of this unfortunate situation on at least one occasion, resulting in security guards being called to the dentist’s office in response to his displayed outrage. The guards removed the verbally abusive, lisping young man, negating his then current appointment, requiring a new one be made, and prolonging his discomfort for at least a month, further insuring that Tommy would be unlikely to see his new teeth before the end of January.
“Could you remind me,” Tommy asked, continuing about the extra laundry, “tomorrow morning at devotions? Because I’ll forget.”
“At devotions?”
“Okay, but then I might forget. Could you remind me to remind you, so I won’t forget to remind you?”
“Yeah, sure. Good idea.”
While making my rounds, I overheard on the television that Brandon Tartakoff, president of NBC entertainment, had been seriously hurt in an automobile accident. Mr. Tartakoff is more or less responsible for choosing what shows will be shown on the NBC line up, and on what night, and at what time they will be shown. I saw a picture of his lovely wife.
I don’t watch a whole lot of television anymore, not really, and when I do, it’s either “Star Trek,” “Married with Children,” or old and new movies. I sincerely feel, or heavily lean towards the opinion that programming on the three major networks is stupid beyond endurance. So I am not what you would call a big fan of Mr. Tartakoff’s.
But I have certainly never wished Tartakoff, or anyone in his profession any ill will, and I do hope that he and his family recover fully and quickly. But my thoughts as I heard this story, of this accident was… so what? He was involved in a car crash. Just like a hundred or a thousand other people this time of year. Do those other people warrant air-time on the nightly news. No way. What about Joe Nacardo, who lost his whole family? Is that story on national television? Or Walter Wilks who died? Sometimes I get miffed that so little attention is paid to the people who really matter. Who do real things in their lives. Who are.
Charles Peary was two minutes late getting back tonight. I let him in anyway. He didn’t even say thank you.
Wait until next time, Charlie!
After work, I went to my room and read part of, The Milagro Beanfield War, then went to sleep, adding another day to my life, in which I learned something, enjoyed myself, talked and laughed with others people, ate in moderation, did not drink, and did not smoke. And maybe even helped someone with something.
It will be my great pleasure if I can do as much tomorrow.
January 3 Thursday Day 113
I did not love someone though. Maybe that will come back into my life someday.
I feel very good. Since I’ve stopped smoking, I find I have a lot more energy, so I tend to get a lot more things accomplished, and sleep doesn’t concern me as much.
It’s raining today. It does that around here sometimes. Not too bad in the morning, moderate to heavy later in the day, and constant.
I took the paperwork over while it was still drizzling. That done, I farted around the residence for most of the morning and afternoon. With my newfound energy, I worked out briefly (very briefly). I wrote, and on two occasions braved the downpour, and crossed the street to search for clients in need of counseling.
I forgot to mention that I saw my old friend, or boss, or acquaintance actually, Carlos Noble, yesterday, who I had once worked for on the dock at the Canoga Park ARC. He was standing in the foyer of the front office, trying to be admitted, and looking quite distressed.
After two years of sobriety (cocaine), Carlos had relapsed, and for one reason or another, had made his way to Pasadena. Just like I did. Carlos is thirty-three years old. A short, bright and witty, thin black fellow, a musician who used to wear a sporty ponytail. He had been employed by Capt. Strickland to supervise the dock, and help on the phones in the office when needed. After relapsing he had hid in his apartment, not talking to anyone, not answering his telephone, isolating. People worried about him called, and he would not answer. He even knew who was calling him because they would announce themselves over his answering machine. He never called them back. I’m sure he felt ashamed, his self-esteem non-existent. Not wanting to face the fact that he had relapsed after two long years he submerged into his addiction, the one thing guaranteed to take the pain away, and at the same time make it one hundred times worse.
He didn’t even talk to his own girlfriend.
Capt. Strickland called his machine one day, and told him to get his ass back to work. That’s when Carlos came to Pasadena. He couldn’t face going back to Canoga Park. I knew how he felt.
Carlos had arrived here too late to be admitted. Clarence made him stay at Union Station for the night, and he returned today. I gave him a bed in my old dorm, #14A, right near the door. I told him I was glad to see him, and glad that he had gotten out of the rain. I also told him that I knew how he felt, and things would get better.
Nobody wants to hear that crap though.
He was someone I had looked up to as a person who had succeeded in the program. Something to aspire toward. Now he was still an inspiration, although in a different way. He reminds me that all we have is a daily reprieve. That the disease that I suffer from is insidious, and is even now growing in power through potentiality, and I that I must be constantly vigilant if I am to retain what little I have now, and keep the promise of the future. One day at a time.
Rudi also called today. He let me know that he had relapsed again. Big surprise. He wanted to know if his clothes were still here. I assured him we would keep his stuff for at least thirty days. He wanted to know if I knew of any programs he could get into. I had Kevin talk to him about Union Station.
Rudi and Carlos knew each other at Canoga Park. I knew Carlos from Canoga Park. I knew Rudi from Van Nuys. We alcoholics travel in tight circles.
January 4 Friday Day 114
I had put in a wake up call for five. Art Svensk woke me at five-twenty eight. I got up at nine-fifty seven. I went to the weight room, with all of my newfound energy and enthusiasm, and worked out briefly again, then went upstairs to shave, brush my teeth, shower, meditate, shampoo and condition my flowing locks, and dry off. Then I got dressed.
I read from the “12 & 12” in the lobby (The 12 & 12 being a thin book published by A.A., detailing the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions utilized by Alcoholics Anonymous), and learned all about the Forth Step in order to prepare myself to confront my character defects.
The Fourth Step goes like this “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
Easier said than done.
I ate too much spaghetti for lunch, but was still able to make out to the lobby to write.
I felt good again today. I’m very proud of myself that I have now gone without cigarettes for three days. The hardest part of quitting should now be over. Actually, the hardest part is to stay quit.
Unfortunately for me, when I feel good like this, that’s the time I most crave a cigarette. If I actually smoked a cigarette, I know I would automatically feel like an itty bitty little piece of dog poop that’s been stepped on, then run over by a truck. Plus, it would start that whole addiction cycle once again. So I must keep 100% alert, like Mr. Vasquez, and guard against slip-ups and relapse.
Speaking of Mr. Vasquez, he let me give out the weekly gratuity today. I did that in the small dining room. As the men came back from work I had them line up, sign for it, then handed each a manilla envelope containing their weekly allotment of cash, and canteen cards. I did this for approximately seventy-five guys. Everything went smoothly.
Six new clients to orientate, including Carlos. So far, he seems to be spending most of his time bowling. He still has not contacted his girlfriend.
Once again, Charles Perry barely made it back in time before curfew. Eleven-fifty eight.
I retired upstairs after work. Where else would I go? I put some medicine on my butt, and continued reading from the Milagro book. I felt very content, and wanted to smoke a cigarette desperately.
So I went to sleep.
January 5 Saturday Day 115
I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I made my way to the weight room and loosened up a bit. I didn’t left any weights, just loosened.
I had some porridge and gruel for breakfast, and then sat in the lobby while trying to decide whether or not I wanted to go to the Union Station Big Book study meeting.
I decided it wasn’t important whether I wanted to or not, that I should just get up off my soft, nicely rounded but hard muscled, complacent ass, and go.
So I went.
As always, and much to my delight, it turned out to be a fascinating experience. Not withstanding that the majority of those attending didn’t give two hoots about A.A., and are only there for the shelter Union Station provides. The ones who do care are what’s all about.
We read from the Big Book’s preface, this morning. Interesting. After one individual would recite a paragraph or two, they, and several others would share their opinions on what had just been read, and how it related to them. I had, until that very moment, had thought the prefix rather straightforward. But I was amazed by the various, and multicolored responses elicited this morning.
After returning to the residence, I wrote, then after being assured by Robert Vasquez that the Post Office outlet near Vons would be open today, I took Kari’s birthday package to mail it.
It was closed, of course, so I purchased a lotto ticket at Vons, and came back.
Then I took off again, and ran around the park a few times, until my side began to hurt. I stopped at the mini-mart on Raymond, and bought a pack of Newport cigarettes for Carlos, then returned to the residence for lunch.
Jack Crosley has decided that he would rather be a janitor than on the desk. As fortune would have it, we happened to lose a janitor today. Literally. Russell Star was last seen at approximately eleven a.m. All that remained of him was his locker key, which was found at the back end of the residence, on the loading dock by the kitchen.
So Jack was given his job. Another chapter in the life and times of Jack Crosley.
This turn of events had saved the janitorial career of Russell Burke. Mr. Vasquez had decided to send Russell back to work in the warehouse after catching asleep in his bed during working hours, a common habit of Russell’s. Mr. Vasquez had intended to put Jack in Burke’s spot, but since Starr disappeared, Jack was needed to fill that spot instead.
As of the moment, the residential janitorial staff consists of Jerold Schimmele, Jack Crosley, and Russell Burke, my spiritual advisor. Russell will move to the first floor position (better to keep an eye on him).
Eddie Gillespie joins our desk staff. An older, white gentleman, he has worked the desk before. This is his seventh time at the ARC, which is where he winters. He spends the rest of the year under the Arroyo Street Bridge. He tells me that he comes back to the Sally whenever his bath water starts to freeze.
By the end of my shift we had lost three more people. Victor Marlow (who had been my barber) blew a .07, and was given the boot. My old desk companion, Charles Perry gave me a ring to let me know he would not be able to make it back tonight. It seemed the local police required his presence for the weekend (he was in jail), for some unstated reason. And Art Martinez, the man who had sorted through all of the donated shoes, did not make curfew.
I wish them all well.
After work I went upstairs and started smoking again.
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
January 6 Sunday Day 116
It was hard to get and out of bed, but at the last possible moment I managed it. I took a look at myself in a mirror, and owing to the fact that my hair had remained relatively unbent during the night; I skipped a shower and dressed for church.
I got to the front desk just as Major and Mrs. Johnson came in.
Every time the Major comes in on Sunday mornings, he asks, “Well fellows, what’s the score?” What he means by that is, how many clients had we lost so far throughout the weekend. We usually lay out the client’s name cards for him to examine. Attached to the card is a photograph of that person. I would then explain to him the circumstances behind each individual’s departure. We had nine this morning.
Major Johnson seemed concerned that these men were somehow acting in concert, and had conspired together to create this mass exodus in an attempt to disrupt the warehouse operations. I explained to the Major that it was my considered opinion that these clients were acting independently of each other, considering that those ho had departed and left on different days and at different times, and that so far as I knew, none had ever associated with each other.
My assumption, I believe, was a safe one. Alcoholics and drug addicts rarely behave in any organized manner.
Even when they want to.
I did my usher routine, up at chapel. While we were singing, reciting some responsive reading, giving testimonies, and listening to the Major’s sermon, I was having sexual fantasies concerning the pretty, eighteen year old, guest piano player, in her tight, trim, Salvation Army black dress, which accentuated her shapely lags nicely.
After the service I was sitting in the canteen, enjoying a richly deserved cup of coffee, when my friend Carlos came by and told me that Doug Criswell, a mutual friend from the Canoga Park ARC, would be by in about a hour or so, to drop off some of Carlos’s possessions.
I said fine, that I would like to see him again.
I read for a while, up in my room, then went for a walk.
The day passed, as days do.
One day I’ll run out of days. That’s happened to every living human, so far.
I wondered what my last day would be like, and when it would come.
I lost horribly at bingo again.
I was loitering at the desk, looking through the TV guide we have there, trying to decide whether to watch “The New Twilight Zone,” on channel 7, at midnight, or “Tales from the Darkside,” on channel 5, when out of the corner of my eye (peripheral vision is a wonderful thing), I saw someone come in, and Clarence Bliss asked if he could help him.
“Yeah, I’m here to see Carlos Noble…and,” as Doug noticed me, “Richard Joyce.” We shook hands and embraced.
Doug is a tall, good looking Caucasian (honky) type person, with thick blonde hair, a mustache, and is very laid back and easy going, very smart, observant, and witty.
He works as a plumber, and now enjoys about fourteen months of sobriety; He and I were in the same group counseling class at Canoga Park, and I had always appreciated his quiet sanity and thoughtful observations. I could always sense his sincere desire to live free of the curse of alcoholism and drug addiction.
We found Carlos, and took them down to the atrium and showed Doug around a little. Carlos had not seen Doug since he had relapsed, and was acting a bit depressed and ashamed because he had screwed up. He will eventually get over that. Doug had seen me relapse as well, so actually I was feeling only marginally less anxious than Carlos. Doug is a good and decent man though, and it was genuinely good to see him.
We were standing outside, saying goodbye, when first Warren, then Andre Laws walked by. Both knew Doug.
Doug left, saying he would drop by next week. I went upstairs to read.
I came back down eventually, and watched “Married with Children,” then went up to the sample room with Robert. He showed me a little of how the urine analyzer worked again. I then returned to my room and read some more.
After eleven, as I made my way back from the restroom, I overheard some of the guys talking about three more clients we lost this evening. Two A.W.O.L.s, Gerald Duepke and Jesurun Howard, and one for drinking, Warren Bahr.
January 7 Monday Day 117
I slept in a little this morning, until ten-fifteen. When I got up I chastised myself for wasting half the day, then took a shower and dressed.
I wrote in the lobby after lunch.
One disadvantage of hanging around the lobby is that I am quite often called upon to perform some service for someone, such as running an errand for Mr. Vasquez, or filling in behind the desk whenever the need arises. I usually don’t mind, and am happy to help out.
So when Mr. Vasquez went to the weekly Gratuity Board meeting across the street, I was not surprised when people, learning of his absence, began to come to me with their petty problems, concerns, and inquires.
Four new clients entered our domain this morning. Each of them would be required to provide us with a sample of their urine, so we could analyze it upstairs in the sample room. We do that to new guys to determine the baseline levels of cocaine and/or cannabinoids still within their system. If a later test were to discover a higher or equal level of either of these substances, it would be a good indication that the drug had been reintroduced into their systems, and probably not by accident or coercion (“They forced me to smoke it!!!”), thus we will usually ask them to depart in an expeditious manner.
I thought I’d help Robert out by labeling four sample cups with each new person’s name. I was doing this when Mark Tisdale came up to me and told me that Warren was upstairs sleeping on his bed.
Clarence Bliss had already told me that. He had found out from Mark also. Mark had told him just before he went across the street to vent his outrage at this procedural discrepancy to anyone who would listen to him. He probably didn’t find anyone who would listen to him, though, so he came back to the residence to bother me. No one would listen to Mark because he was perceived to be a sniveling, conniving, ratty, spoiled, little crybaby. The reason that he wanted me to know that Warren was sleeping upstairs was because I was the lead desk person, and whose job it was, supposedly, to go get Warren out of here.
He was right, I guess. It probably was my job to go talk to Warren, but I didn’t want to do it, thus I also ignored Mark. Clarence had already woke Warren up anyway, and reminded him that he needed to leave.
It was true that Warren needed to leave. He had to leave because he had been naughty last night. The only reason he was in the residence at all was so he could pack his stuff. He must have been hung over from all of the peppermint schnapps he had consumed last night (over a quart), and decided to take a little nap.
He had been up quite late as well, which I’m sure added to his general dilapidated condition. He had been ejected from the residence at twelve-thirty in the morning, after telling Robert how sorry he was for getting plastered.
After Clarence woke Warren, Warren being Warren, got up and took a leisurely shower, further enraging Mark Tisdale, who when all is said and done, did have a personal interest in seeing to Warren’s departure.
Warren after all, did try to kill him.
Among others.
I am told that after I last saw Warren yesterday, at around eight-thirty p.m., he got smashed. He picked a fight with Tisdale, threatening to kill him, pulled a knife on his roommate, Chris Carter, tried to pick fights with two X-ray technicians from the Breast Imaging Center (oh, how do I get a job there?) down the street, tore up one of his own fifty dollar bills, asked someone else’s girlfriend to drive him downtown where he could score some coke, and was witnessed generally stumbling around all over the place.
Mr. Vasquez wrote on the termination report that Warren had been, and I quote, “Acting in an unusual manner.”
Warren had somehow made it back to his dorm, where Mr. Vasquez finally cornered him, and got him with the breath-a-lizer. He blew a 1.7.
Today, after Warren had his shower I talked to him about what had happened. He told me that he didn’t remember anything from the night before. He hoped that he could stay with his mom for a few days. He would have to lie to her, of course, tell her that he had gotten thrown out for some other reason than for what he had.
He might be able to get an $16 an hour job in Palmdale, he told me.
He gave the addresses and phone numbers of his mom and sister. I gave him some bus passes, wished him well, and saw him on his way.
I have a feeling he’ll be back.
Sometimes it gets real hard to see this same sick cycle repeat itself over and over and over again. You meet someone, get to know them, maybe their families, become friends, then they relapse and they’re out of your life instantly, and more than likely, forever.
In Bible Study tonight, we discussed the Hebrews in the Old Testament. Seems there were a lot of them. I then went to my room and read, rearranged some new clothes I had acquired over the weekend, and went to bed.
There would be an Advisory Board breakfast in the morning, and I had a four-thirty wake up call.
January 8 Tuesday Day 118
I was woke by Mr. Pandolfi at four-thirty exactly, and actually got up at that time.
I reached the desk just as Kevin Rockoff announced the special five a.m. wake up call over the PA system. Everyone wishing to have breakfast needed to get up a little earlier this morning due to the Board meeting. Breakfast was served promptly at five-forty five, and the dining room was cleared by six-thirty, to give the kitchen crew time to set up for the forty or so, Board members expected at seven-thirty.
Mr. Vasquez came down at six-fifteen, and immediately shifted into a mad cleaning frenzy, which much like a shark’s feeding frenzy, can be a horrible thing to witness. Much of my morning was spent keeping out of his way.
The Board people arrived almost on time. All dressed nicely, trim and proper, as Board members should be, were directed to the dining room, where I could hear them chattering away. About one fourth were women. They discussed the general condition of the Pasadena ARC, and stuffed themselves silly with free food.
Meanwhile, in a hallway not far away, Jack Crosley was making as much noise as one could possibly make using a vacuum cleaner, merrily cleaning and slurping up vagrant dust to his heart’s content. The Major quickly came and closed a partition door, effectively muffling Jack’s enthusiastic endeavors.
When the meeting adjourned, those who wished too were invited on a tour of the residence and warehouse, conducted by Mrs. Major and Ed Reitz. Most declined the offer. They had seen the place before.
Mr. Vasquez relieved me early so I could catch a bus downtown for my big dentist’s appointment at the Claude Hudson Medical Clinic.
I got there at one-thirty seven, for a two o’clock appointment. I was seated in the dentist’s chair at two oh one, and the horror that followed lasted exactly twenty-seven minutes.
I was there to have my teeth cleaned.
The tool that is used to clean a person’s teeth is not a drill, I know this. It is more like a vibrating jackhammer specifically designed to chisel away at plaque and tarter build up, ridding the oral cavity of enclaves where infection and tooth decay can promulgate. It is a deceptively safe and harmless looking device, that put into the right hands causes the maximum amount of discomfort to a patient, without actually requiring physical restraints in order to keep them still. The dentist will methodically search out the most sensitive areas for exploration, utilizing unnerving cunning and patience, all the while duping his helpless and unsuspecting quarry into a false sense of security and calm, the plunge his weapon, mercilessly and insistently with quiet determination and abandon. He will finish with a particularly tender spot, allowing his victim to dare hope that the worst may be over, only to return with a sudden vengeance, DIGGING, DIGGING, and DIGGING! He (or she, whatever the case may be) will gleefully proceed underneath the gums, causing them to bleed and get so sore that your mouth will be of absolutely no use to you for 4.7 days. He will deposit a siphoning device upon your tongue, theoretically to remove debris and excess fluid, but the instrument is designed in such a way as to immediately begin migrating towards the back of your mouth, down into your gullet, making you wonder if you ever see the light of day again. All the while said dentist will be smiling mischievously, suppressing a slight chuckle, but you won’t be able to see the smile because of the gauze mask he is wearing, and the chuckle will be disguised as sighs of concentrated effort, because he is stifling himself, and will never, under any circumstances, let known his true intentions.
Which are?
Dean Koontz writes in his novel, Twilight Eyes, of a race of demons, who disguised as humans, live and breed among us, and feed off of our fear and pain, who’s only goal is the complete destruction of mankind (womankind too).
I firmly believe that all dentists and lawyers are members of that race.
After my dentist finished he removed his mask, and said, “You were great! You didn’t scream once.” I could tell that he was sorely disappointed.
The truth be known, I was too petrified to move, let alone scream.
I kept spitting out blood as I made my way to the bus stop.
I got back to the residence just in time for dinner. Liver.
That figured.
It really made no difference to me what was served though. At right about that time my teeth and gums were beginning to seize up on me, and got so sore that I couldn’t chew a boiled marshmallow if my life depended on it.
That’s pretty sore. My mouth would remain that way for a long, long time.
In group tonight, with Jill, she asked us what our high and low points were since she had last seen us two weeks ago.
I told her that everyday that I remained sober was a high point.
I could tell from her immense yawn that she was impressed with my snappy revelation.
My low point had been at the dentist that afternoon, and seeing so many guys relapse and get thrown out.
Al Watts returned this evening for the Twelve Step Study group, in which we never go beyond Step Three. Tonight, Step One was on the menu. Again.
I wrote in the lobby before going up to my lonely room to read for as long as I could keep my eyes open.
January 9 Wednesday Day 119
At five a.m. Wolf Pandolfi entered my room to wake me. I said, “Thanks Wolf,” and promptly jumped out of bed at five-fifty one.
Another wonderful and glorious seventeen hour work day here at the Pasadena Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. I rubbed my hands together and smiled in quite anticipation.
I was at the desk by six-fifteen, and all was well.
While walking past the large screen television I learned from a news program that our Secretary of State, James Baker, and his Iraqi counterpart, Tarik Aziz, were scheduled to meet today, hopefully discussing ways to avert the impending war.
At least they’re doing something constructive with their time.
For my part, I kept fairly busy throughout the day, learning more of the maintenance and supply side of my job. I got to write a little as well.
At mid-week chapel, Major Johnson pointed out that the United States and Iraq may soon be at war. He told us that the peace talks broke down, and that the United Nations Security Counsel has set a January Fifteenth deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait, or else they will be expelled by use of military force. I think that both sides underestimate the amount of casualties they shall suffer. Iraq contends that if attacked, it will in turn attack Israel. The U.S. Defense Department is asking to mobilize one million more reservists.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in saying that this situation saddens me. I pray everyday for the continued strength that allows me to stay sober, for the health of my family and their friends, the ability, intelligence, and fortitude to help others if I can. I pray now for the U.N. forces, and the Iraqi forces (they are men and women just like us, and not responsible for the aggressive action of their leaders), for the innocents who will surely perish if war does transpire, for the entire human race, and for life throughout the universe.
Some may delude themselves, or be struck by temporary situations, but nobody really wants to die.
January 10 Thursday Day 120
Another long workday. Not an unusual one though.
Dr. Ed Reitz came over and wanted to do a dorm inspection. Specifically the kitchen dorms, 16 and 17. He wanted to do this because he happened to look in these dorms yesterday, and lived to tell the tale.
“It looked like a Claymore mine went off in there,” he said.
“All of my childish dreams of destruction and devastation are real,” I added, “they exist.”
Today the dorms took a 180-degree turn and passed inspection. Ed decided to go on and check all of the dorms while he was here. I had been handing out written warnings for messy areas and unkempt beds for the last few days, and the hint was taken, with all of the dorms passing Ed’s scrutiny.
“Next time we’ll take a look at the private rooms,” he said.
I shuddered.
I have not cleaned my room since I moved in it. I must admit I have though about it a few times, but have not been able to get past the initial planning stages. I need to correct this.
I passed by Rico in the lobby. He was talking to his new girlfriend on one of the pay phones. Her name is Tina. She’s married. They’re having what’s known as an extramarital affair.
I said, “How’s it going Rico? You all right?”
“Yeah, I’m all right, Richard. You all right?”
“Yeah. That Tina?”
“Say hello for me, will ya.”
“Richard says hello,” he said into the phone. “Hummm. Richard. The deskman. Hummm. She says hello back.,” he told me.
“Tell her that I love her and miss her. Ask her if she’s wearing anything that’s liable to give me an erection.”
“Richard says that he hopes he gets a chance to meet you.”
Later, I went out back in the alley, behind the kitchen, to check the fenced area where some of the guys lock up their bicycles. I wanted to see if the lock securing the gate to that area was still there, because Dan Aspell, my old roommate, took the key last night, just before he went AWOL. He left at ten-forty five, fifteen minutes before curfew, saying he was going to the store, and didn’t come back.
As I approached the kitchen’s back door from outside, I noticed an arm sticking out of it. It was hard to miss. A lit cigarette was held in the fingers of the hand attached to said arm, which it turns out, was attached to Ray Wittenburg, the weekend cook. Soon the entire Ray came out and began smoking. He thrust his other arm back into the kitchen so he wouldn’t be locked out. Ray is one of the few older gentlemen here, at around 55, or so, who truly believes in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and adheres to all of its tenets, sincerely desiring to make a change in his life and stop drinking. I admire his plasticity of mind and thinking. Most of the men his age who live here are rather set in their ways, and used to their bottoms, if you will, accepting as incontrovertible fact that their lives will never get any better than they are at present, and are just marking time, like my friend Mr. Schimmele, or the new deskman, Eddie Gillispie. They have no intentions whatsoever to stop drinking, even when they know full well it will eventually kill them. Eddie tells me that he’s just waiting for the Spring thaw, then he’s headed back to “the weeds.”
Such is their life.
Ray would be leaving in a few weeks to go back to work. He’s a plaster person. He plasters things, walls presumably. I began to talk to him about the importance of outside support systems since he would soon be leaving.
I don’t blame him for leaving. They only let him cook three meals during the week, and always the same. Fish on Friday, Polish sausages on Saturday, and leftovers on Sunday. This tends to stifle all of his creative instincts. Unbearable!
Ray is also one of the only two clients who have the luscious Stacy as his counselor.
Dennis Smith drove up on his forklift as we were talking. He wanted to smoke a cigarette also.
He asked me, “Am I really in your book?”
I said, “Yes, of course. So is Ray.”
Dennis seemed to be happy about this. He told me that he thought being in my book might somehow improve his chances of getting laid.
I kept falling asleep during the Substance Abuse seminar. I was sitting right next to Richard Bennett, who was giving the lecture. How embarrassing. I couldn’t help it though. I couldn’t keep my peepers open.
The beautiful Stacy returned to us this evening, back from a two-week vacation. She has such a nice smile. Women generally do. She reported that she had gone deep sea fishing while on her vacation, and that she had caught the biggest fish in her group. It had been a rock cod, she said.
If I were a fish, and had to be caught, I’d want Stacy to catch me.
She had caught another fish as well, she said. She couldn’t remember the name of it, but that it had been big and green.
I used to fish. I used to like it too. Then one day I got tired of killing things, even dumb little fish, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I was very tired by the time I got finished for the day, so went to sleep pretty quickly after I went to bed.
Before sleep did reach me I thought about my country being one day closer to war.
January 11 Friday Day 121
I slept in a little this morning. After lunch, I wrote, then got ready for work. Work went well, for me.
Mr. Vasquez had a rough time of it though.
At five-thirty I notice Ray Hunt passing by the desk. Ray is one of our truck drivers, who had recently strained his back, and was currently using crutches to help alleviate the pain he was experiencing. I asked him if he would mind sitting in on the new client orientation this evening. He gave me a puzzled look and asked why. I told him that I wanted to use him as an example of what happens to those who don’t follow the rules around here.
Near seven-thirty, the Night Crawler called me over the radio to let me know that their brakes had malfunctioned, and they were stuck in Tujunga. I had to go get Mr. Vasquez, who at that very moment had sent Reuben Smith down to get me because he had locked himself out of his room again, and was standing around in his underwear waiting for me to come up and let him back in his room using my master key.
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” was his reaction upon learning of the stalled truck.
He took Jack De Wilde, our mechanic, and Ray Hunt (the only available truck driver) to Tujunga in another truck to rescue Lee Franklin and Dennis.
When they arrived they gave the truck they had arrived in to Lee and Dennis so they could finish their route. Robert, Ray, and Jack stayed to try to patch up the brake system well enough to get the vehicle back to Pasadena. While making this attempt, Mr. Vasquez and Jack were working under the truck’s hood, having given Ray, who was behind the wheel, express instructions to not start the engine.
I guess Ray didn’t hear them very well, or had thought they had told him to start the engine, which he promptly did, which caused Robert and Jack to immediately be sprayed profusely with a gooey combination of brake fluid and motor oil.
Such is life. Sometimes it is our fate to be sprayed profusely with brake fluid and motor oil.
Eddie Acuna later came by and talked with me at the desk. He told me that I should follow his advice more often, and learn how to speak Spanish. He said that they only spoke Spanish in Heaven.
Nicky Paloma checked out. He had only been here a few days, and he seemed in a bit of a hurry to leave. Sam Varela did not return by curfew.
Mr. Vasquez locked himself out of his room once more.
And I would find out the next morning that someone had stolen my long time friend and advisor, Noah the Parrot.
January 12 Saturday Day 122
I slept in until lunchtime. When I came down I learned of Noah’s disappearance.
“We’re missing our parrot, and this is the prime suspect,” Robert said, holding Nicky Paloma’s file card for me to see. “That’s why I continue to say, check all bags! Coming and going. If these guys give you any trouble, tell me, and their outa here.”
“Somebody stole Noah!” I couldn’t believe it. “Someone would take a bird from its cage, stuff it in a bag, and walk past us and out the door?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what happened. He probably took Noah, bless her little soul, and sold it to get some dope, or to impress his little girlfriend he had over here the other day. He was seen tampering with the cage after Robinson put up the cover for the night. Gillespie tells me he was in a big hurry to get out of here, and that he was carrying a small bag. All the circumstantial evidence points to Paloma.”
I still couldn’t believe it! Of all the things that are worth something around here; televisions, VCRs, radios, office equipment, Stacy, items that are actually worth stealing, somebody instead had birdnapped my friend Noah.
To top it off the suspected theft had occurred on my shift!
I was really pissed off.
I remembered working with mistreated animals during a three year stint as a veterinary assistant. That got me really angry too. I remembered feelings of hatred for the owners of those abused creatures, and desiring to extract some type of revenge upon them. At those times my regard for human intelligence and self-awareness, the qualities that supposedly set us apart from, and one step above the rest of our animal cousins, was at an all-time low. During those times I certainly cared more for the lives and welfare of those defenseless, innocent, and trusting dogs, cats, and gerbils, than I did for those “humans” that were responsible for their care.
I did not feel kindly for Mr. Paloma. No one around here did. Noah was well liked.
Noah was… is a fine and noble bird. A friend, confidant, a hell of a good listener. I will miss her sagely comments and kind chatter. Her substantial wit, and famine charm.
I hope she bites Paloma’s hand off.
Once someone made the mistake of sticking his nose inside of Noah’s cage. They came away minus a good chunk of that appendage. He never did it again.
Latter in the evening, Eddie Acuna and I, chased away some people who were helping themselves to some donated furniture near the trailer drop off. I wasn’t too happy about any kind of thievery today, and it made me feel a little better about losing Noah.
Also today, Congress gave its approval to the President to go to war if he should happen to think that a wise course.
It’s good to have permission.
January 13 Sunday Day 123
The Major chuckled when he heard of Noah’s theft. Either he couldn’t believe that someone would want to steal her, or he didn’t care all that much for the bird. I believe it was a little of both.
I have been told that once while the Major was escorting some VIPs around the facility, one of them, a Major’s wife, tried to coax Noah into speaking. The bird was stonily quiet however, as only she could be sometimes. Major Johnson, wishing to be a gracious host and brown noser, came to his guests aid and attempted to get Noah to say a few words. Dear reader, knowing Noah as well as you must by now, I am sure you can guess what transpired. The Major succeeded, much to everyone’s astonishment.
“Fuck you, baby!” Noah squawked.
The atrium cleared out immediately.
Major Johnson suggested that we call the police and make a missing bird report.
Later, I took a walk down Fair Oaks Boulevard. It really is wonderful living in Southern California. It was a warm, almost hot and sunny day. While most of the country was shivering and hiding under the covers, I had to take my coat off to keep from sweating.
The weather’s just too great. Who cares about the crime, gang warfare, drive-by-shootings, overcrowding, gamma ray bursters, pollution, and traffic problems?
When I returned I wrote a letter to my dear, sweat sister. To me, it seemed like a nice letter. Sometimes my sister and mother have a little trouble understanding, or coping with my sense of humor. I can’t blame them. After all, they are both relatively normal individuals.
I hoped my sister would like my letter.
I then did something I haven’t done for quite a while, for over a year actually. I sat down and watched and entire football game on TV. It was a playoff game, which made it especially interesting. My favorite team, the Los Angeles Raiders, beat the snot out of the sissy Cincinnati Bengals. 20 to 10.
Russell Burke walked by while I was watching it. He said, “Hi.”
It pains me to say that I don’t believe the Raiders will make it to the Super bowl. They’ll probably get creamed by Buffalo next week.
Suddenly it occurred to me that it was exceptionally odd, a luxury to be able to concern myself with such a trivial event like a football game. I felt some shame when I began to wonder what it was like for the people in Iraq, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait right now, wondering what they were doing to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon. What they were thinking about.
It occurred to me they might be concerned they would not be alive to see another Sunday.
I ate dinner with Mr. Vasquez, then helped Joe Najar pack his stuff. Mr. Vasquez had discovered an unexplained increase of cannabinoid by-products in Joe’s urine.
I watched “Star Trek, the Next Generation,” which seemed to be showing first run episodes again. This one was about a Vulcan traitor, and Mr. Data learning to dance.
I fell asleep watching “Married with Children.”
January 14 Monday Day 124
I had put in for a five-thirty wake up, but Clarence forgot to write my name down on the wake up list, so Pandolfi didn’t wake me, resulting in my sleeping, quite blissfully I might add, clear through till nine-forty five.
I had planned to go to Pasadena’s Municipal Court this morning, and take care of that little legal problem I mentioned before. I had even gotten a nice letter from Clarence Orion, describing the ARC’s program, and what a conscientious person I’ve become, and all.
I have hesitated until now, mainly because I tend to dislike putting my fate into other’s hands. I realize now that they really can’t do much to me for a simple drunk in public charge, and failure to appear, especially if I surrender to the court of my own free will. Or I hoped they couldn’t. I also knew I would feel much better after getting this cleared up, and it was no longer hanging over my head.
But since Clarence Bliss neglected to add my name to the wake up list, I didn’t go to court, and a fugitive I’ll remain.
For a little while at least. I feel a fond kinship with Richard Kimble.
As I was busy writing in the lobby the renowned Zulu Brothers passed by (Rico Montgomery and Reuben Smith) on their way to the small TV room, to watch their stories (“All My Children” and “One Life to Live”).
I took a walk, on another fabulously sunny day, to the post office, to mail my letter to my sister.
Upon my return I skimmed through the rather large and formidable looking book, 100 Years of the National Geographic, and also made myself useful by helping out at the desk.
We studied those Hebrews some more during Bible Study.
To top the night off I attended an outside AA meeting. There were a lot of pretty girls there. I suppose the fact that the meeting was held at the Casa de Los Amigos, a woman’s recovery home, had something to do with that.
I fell in love three times.
January 15 Tuesday Day 125
Back to work!
I had the opportunity to talk to my counselor, Richard Purdy. I tell him the same thing every time I talk to him, which must be pretty frustrating for him. I tell him about how ell I’m doing, that I’m not having too many problems, that I’m continuing to work the program, that I get along with almost everybody, and that I’m getting used to, and comfortable with my new duties at the desk.
He says, “That’s good. That’s nice.”
Then he tries to create problems for me.
He wants me to rush into school.
I do want to go to school, but I’m not interested into rushing into anything right now.
He tells me things like, “You can’t live here forever.”
I tell him things like, “I haven’t even finished the program yet!” and “Right now I’m taking it pretty slow, day by day.”
It may seem that I’m having an easy time at staying sober.
I am.
Only because I’ve put myself into a situation where it is fairly easy to maintain sobriety. Further, I have the advantage of knowing exactly what would happen if I took a drink or drug. Personal devastation would happen. I know this because I’ve relapsed so many times in the past. I think it’s finally gotten through to me that I cannot ever drink or use drugs. It’s just not for me. It’s for other people, not me. I understand that now, I accept that, and I don’t make a big deal of it. I don’t even think about that much anymore. I don’t mind people who drink or use drugs, some can get away with that I guess, and it doesn’t seem to hurt them, or mess up their lives. Great! More power to them.
It’s just not for me. I can’t do it anymore.
I’m deathly afraid of relapse. Of hitting bottom again. Of the Park. It’s easy to stay sober, to do something like sobriety, when you’ve that kind of fear.
Maybe that constant anxiety and fear helps me to appreciate each and every sober day, and the joy of life unclouded by the mists and befuddlement of alcoholism and drug addiction.
I know through experience how irresistible the first drink can be, and how easy it is to go ahead and drink it. And after that all is lost.
I feel that is unlikely that real alcoholics will remain sober for any significant length of time on their first try. Some do, I know this, I have met them, but I believe they are few, and the exception. I would not be succeeding now if I hadn’t failed so many times in the past.
All in all, the total, whole experience of staying sober, of learning to stay sober, is not easy.
But well worth the trouble.
Jill and I actually talked tonight during group, and afterward. How exciting! She asked everybody how their week had been. I told her the same thing I told Richard, that everything was okay, that I was progressing. She said, “Good, that’s nice.”
Like a good short story, counselors need conflict and drama to keep happy.
I told her of my low point during the week, that someone had stolen Noah, the Parrot. She seemed really interested and concerned, even angry. She wondered about the type of person who would steal a poor, defenseless, somewhat innocent, 10 inch tall, green shaggy looking parrot.
I told her who.
Apparently she knew Nicky. She said that the next time she saw him, she would ring his neck.
Now I know for certain that Jill is a nice person, besides being infinitely gorgeous.
Next I attended the Twelve Step Study, where I learned all about Step Two. Again.
Afterwards, Jill caught me reading an encyclopedia in the lobby. She said that she liked the idea of me reading the encyclopedia, cover to cover. She asked if I was good at the game, Trivial Pursuit. I told her I guessed I was (how lame).
I stink at Trivial Pursuit.
Everybody does. Except Jeopardy contestants.
She thought my reading was significant enough to mention it in her counseling notations, in the much guarded counseling books.
Again, we at the desk are by no means authorized to read what is in those books. It’s just our job to guard them.
I myself, read everything they put in there. Items pertaining only to myself, of course. I already know how everybody else is doing.
I had finished reading the Tom Clancy book, A Clear and Present Danger, a few days ago. I thought the premise very interesting. The President of the United States wished to be reelected and had promised to do something about the importation of illegal drugs into the country. He decided to treat Medelin cartel, in Colombia, as a sovereign state which had committed an act of war by smuggling drugs into the U.S., thus disrupting our society and economy. As the title suggests, the president decided the drug trade presented a clear and present danger toward the American people, and began covert military operations within Colombia.
The last time I checked, in 1983 alone, alcohol, drug, and mental disorders cost the American taxpayers about $116,000,000,000.00, directly and indirectly. The trade in illegal drugs has only increased since then. I would certainly agree that the drain that amount of money puts on our economy annually, coupled with the cost in lives and human tragedy, would certainly constitute a clear and present danger to the United States. But unless we are willing to invade Colombia, Peru, Burma, Afghanistan, and a whole lot of other countries, it remains unlikely U.S. efforts to stop the drug trade at its source will succeed. History backs my up. We have never been able to significantly curtail the amount of illegal drugs crossing our boarders, never.
We certainly don't have the backbone, or where-with-all, to make illegal drugs legal, and thereby taking the trade away from foreign cartels and criminal enterprises, as we did when we repelled prohibition, thus being able to control the problem with some measure of rational intelligence. That has been political suicide for anyone who seriously dared to propose the idea. That's why we only hear about legalization from those politicians who have already retired and have nothing to lose.
Maybe Clancy is right and we should use the military to invade Colombia, Peru, Burma, Afghanistan, and a who bunch of other countries. That might just be the answer. The United States has rarely shied away from using force to settle minor difficulties.
And that's how we've treated the drug problem in this country, as a minor difficulty.
Our government is much more concerned about oil. That's a major difficulty.
At nine o'clock this evening the United Nations Security Counsel's deadline for Iraq to pull out of Iraq passed.
The Iraqi army is still there.
January 16 Wednesday Day 126

It had been a fairly normal 17 hour work day as I came out of the upstairs restroom, near three-forty five p.m., when Jerry Schimmele told me that Kevin Rockoff had heard over the radio that United States military forces had attacked Iraq.
It seems that my country is now at war with a relatively small Arab nation (although the military powerhouse of that region. We were now killing people in the Garden of Eden.
The war doesn't affect me very much, personally. I have no friends or relatives over there to worry about. My routine for the day would not change very much. I continued to Give Tommy Bommorito and Ruben Perez their insulin when they needed it, made dorm inspections, did paperwork, peddle canteen cards, make announcements, go to chapel, see that people got counseled, put up the damn bar in the Thrift Store parking lot. The only noticeable difference in my routine was that I watched the T.V. a little more in the evening, and felt sick.
While in mid-week chapel I wanted to get up and testify for the first time since I lived here. I wanted to thank the God I don't believe in for my life and self-awareness, for my families health and well being. For my continued sobriety. And for a quick resolution to the conflict in the Persian Gulf.
But I couldn't. I just sat there.
When I went to bed I cried for those already dead.
January 17 Thursday Day 127
Another day.
The networks are broadcasting constant coverage of events in the Middle East. Some of the guys in the residence are complaining, telling me they are missing their favorite morning cartoons, such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. I tried to sooth them, agreeing that the war is indeed, very inconvenient for all.
I hate war. Or killing, violence, and brutality, in all their manifestations. That does not mean I don't believe this particular war to be necessary. I do believe it to be necessary only because the situation was allowed to progress to this point. The United States was buddy-buddy with Iraq and Saddam a few months before the invasion of Kuwait. The CIA should have anticipated Iraq's intentions before they occurred, and taken steps to counter them.
I believe we wouldn't be in this mess if it were not for the fear our leaders have that our nation's supply of oil will be affected by Iraq's invasion. That's the only reason that makes any sense. True, we will also be liberating the Kuwaiti's from the cruel mistreatment they are sure to face under Saddam's influence, but our nation has no history of coming to the rescue of other nations under duress unless we've been provoked (Pearl Harbor), or our national interests were in some form of jeopardy (WW I, or the perceived threat of world domination of communism). Is the high price of oil worth dying and killing for? Apparently it is, according to President Bush. True, Saddam Husain is a sociopathic mass killer, but that didn't bother us when he was at war with Iran. Hell, we supplied him with weapons! But threaten our oil supply, and look out...

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